By CHERYLL D. FIEL
MARIHATAG, SURIGAO DEL SUR – This coastal town in northeastern Mindanao would have been as humdrum and sleepy as any ordinary day but the red letters on the railing of a bridge along the national highway broke the monotony: “Mabuhay ang ika-41 nga anibersaryo sa Partido Komunista sa Pilipinas! (Long live the 41st anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines).”
About eight kilometers away from the bridge, gathered 2,000 people. They were a mix of peasant folks, youths, non-government organization workers, some public officials and members of the media. Ribbons printed with a hammer and sickle were pinned on the guests. Giveaway packs containing t-shirt printed with hammer and sickle, a sticker, cap and button pins bearing the emblems of the revolutionary group were provided.
A big mural served as the backdrop of a huge stage jutting out across a portion of logging road. The mural showed a wave of people marching in the same direction of the three flags, one of which showed a hammer and sickle.
Bright smiles and firm handshakes greeted the guests who started pouring in. A man sporting Ho Chi Minh’s goatee and a woman, feisty-looking despite her fragile frame, welcomed the guests with brimming smiles. They were Ka Oris and Maria Malaya, two revolutionaries whose graying hair spoke of the number of years they have been in the revolution.
An emcee took to the stage and announced the “parade of colors.” Soon, a bivouac of young men and women marched in. Wearing Mao caps, they were firm and intent-looking as they held their firearms high, simultaneously in command, to the applause of the crowd. They were about a company-size of NPA fighters, fearlessly showing themselves to the public and to the hungry cameras of the press.
This was the army that Philippine government vowed to decimate by the year 2010.
Ka Oris, the spokesperson of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Mindanao, pointed out that elsewhere in the country that day red flags were also being waved high in various guerilla bases. He thanked the guerilla front unit 19 of the northeastern Mindanao for hosting the event.
He said there are 139 guerilla fronts in the country and not one of them was destroyed by the government’s anti-insurgency drive “Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL),” implemented since the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took power in 2001.
He said that counter-insurgency drives waged by the state only strengthened the “revolutionary movement.” This early, he said, the NDF Mindanao has already declared OBL “a failure.”