Countless times in the past, has it been proven that even death cannot kill a beautiful mind and a compassionate heart? Witnesses to the truth of this are not a few among people who have been touched by the fine leadership qualities filled with kindness and simplicity of Joel Virador (JV as he was fondly called by family and friends) whose life was offered to the very least and voiceless among workers, peasants, professionals and every struggling Filipinos he had served most of his waking moments.
It was not as if he was born an activist, as stories from his close friends in his hometown, related that at the outset, they never expected he would be the staunch human rights fighter that he had become. A friend recalled with amusement that during the height of activism in their youth, he gathered some of his friends and had a prayer meeting when rallied to join a protest action.
He was more of a spiritual ‘warrior’, so they say. Yet, coming from Joel himself, his Lolo’s life was the turning point that opened his eyes to society’s realities. During our last ‘silent’ conversation some weeks back as Sr. Celi, Missionaries of the Assumption sister and I got the chance to visit him engage his beautiful mind, he wrote his thoughts down with strong strokes that emphasized the clarity of his mind. He stated thus:
My involvement, aside from the foundation I got from the teachings of the Church, was due to my first account experience with my poor tenant Lolo who was about to be slapped by the administrator of his tenanted land because of the delay in giving the share to the landowner. Dugay man nauga ang gibulad nga kape kay ulan-ulan man to, mao nga dugay pud naremit and share sa landlord. (The coffee beans did not dry on time because of the rainy days, hence the landlords’ share was not immediately remitted.)
My questions about why did that happen were answered when I got involved deeper in the struggle with the people. I don’t think God has punished me because the foundation in serving the people was my molding as a student of a Catholic institution and through the teachings of the OMI priests. That is why I can reconcile my faith and my ideology.
With these thoughts, JV debunked the myth and misconceptions that the status quo continuously spun since time, about the so-called ‘leftists’ and ‘communists’ as ‘godless’. The enemies of genuine change in the current administration and its predecessors that spread lies and fake news to discourage people from seeing the real situation on the ground have been proven wrong each time, and often than not, the real workers and defenders of Human rights and dignity who are at the receiving end of their smear campaigns are even more emboldened to continue the struggle.
Hence, even if his life was lived in pure humility, as he preferred not to sit in Congress longer than one term as a representative of Bayan Muna partylist, and chose to be with the workers and the masses on the ground, still, he admitted that his illness was a “humbling experience” for him. He saw clearly that it was not ‘punishment’ from God because though he missed “rituals and some doctrines” of his Catholic faith, but that he had served God’s people.
What else can be more concrete a manifestation of one’s faith is this? Having no regrets as he pondered on his life as it might have been flashed before him for the last time, JV knew exactly where he stood.
On the first tribute given by many among his colleagues and followers in Davao City, stories of how JV had responded to the cries of the poor farmers, workers, teachers, and the voiceless among the people overflowed. There were testimonies about the kind of person he was among the very least, and even among government and corporate workers whom he had worked with to bring peace and understanding in conflict situations.
I, too, had been given that opportunity to see how he handled critical situations with ease and calmness so typical of him during several occasions when he had to respond to some calls for help. At one point when I and several mission volunteers from different sectors went to remote barangay Binondo in my hometown in Baganga, Davao Oriental where the eye of storm Typhoon Pablo ravaged, and the mission was held hostage by some crazed military personnel belonging to the 67th IB.
JV was among those who immediately responded and went with a team to rescue the beleaguered group. Relief washed over several anxious faces upon seeing JV’s team who came, but not after several among the mission volunteers have already drunk unclean and contaminated water from the spring that resulted to some members contracting amoebiasis including me.