Way back in the 1960s when I was at the height of my “latagaw” (wanderlust)  adventures, when I had full faith and confidence in my self as ‘master of my fate, captain of my soul’,  when no other voice was audible in my waking and sleeping hours but the sweet melody that issued from the lips of my “barkada”,   I had a close buddy and constant companion named Omar.  He was half Tausug and half Bisaya and he ate pork and drank to the limits of his sovereign personhood.

One day he asked me, having developed a kind of deference to my educational attainment as a college dropout and was therefore a kind of leader among us ’all equals’  in the barkada hierarchy: “Bay, unsa ba gyud nang demokrasya?”   At that time of my relative ignorance of social systems the easily available definition was  “It is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people”.     

And that was the starting point of an interesting discussion that lasted for hours with bottomless gallons of “tuba”  as the sustaining energy with which we manifested  whatever presumption of intelligence and logic in our  discourse as we tackled engagingly the subject.  Omar’s curiosity  must have been motivated by his perception of the relationship that obtained in our barkada government.  Until the “ergo  point” in crass syllogism  popped up like the subdued sound of a coca-cola ‘tansan’ opened by the magic strength of one’s molars.

“So, naa bay demokrasya  sa sistema sa atong  gobyerno?”  (So, is there democracy in our government system?”)

Dodong V , son of the Aglipayan church parish priest  promptly hypothesized,  “Siyempre! Unsa man diay nang bugnong lugaynon diin kitang katawhan maoy nagpili sa atong mga opisyales sa gobyerno gikan president hangtod sa mayor?”   (Of course!  What can you say to the electoral contest whereby we the; people are the ones electing our government officials from the president down to the mayor?” )

“Ug mao nay esensiya sa demokrasya ?” (And that’s the essence  of democracy?)  Omar asked almost sarcastically perhaps to  pursue  whatever it was that caused  him uneasiness of mind. And the bubbling tuba fueled the heightening level of discussion, everyone showing eagerness to brandish his opinion.  The mind-grappling, true to its free-for-all character, rose to noisy scramble for space for every one’s argument to prevail, even drawing a motley crowd of  market vendors and bystanders who found the ongoing forum a venue for determining who among the out-of-school “ istambay sa merkado” was the brightest and smartest.   In that era of seeming peace and stability of the  early 1960s.

And so it was that democracy got the better of us, the question was never resolved and a near fistfight ensued with Omar and Dodong as main protagonists.

But only four months earlier, I was  in UP Diliman , not as a student, but as a vagabond.  And in that wide wide lawn behind the UP Admin building was held that year’s Commencement Exercises with Senator Claro Mayo Recto as speaker.  I did not listen to his speech.  I was busy chatting with friends and siblings of my Cebuano friends  who were my erewhile classmates when I dropped out of school.   And there was this newsletter scattered on the lawn which bore  the headline: “God is the creation of Man”.  And I got curious and picked up a copy and in the inside page, I came upon a poem which described the sexual act.  One of the more intriguing  lines I committed to memory and still remembers today— do  not speak and  do not cry when I down and when I rise.  And I pocketed that piece and brought it to Cebu  to be shown to my writer friends who were yet too timid —  or prudish?— to tinker on such delicate human phenomenon as sex.

Now, while  the country is again in the midst of  social crisis, and commemorating  Gat Andres Bonifacio’s birthday—not his death day, mind you!—I  recall the question that Omar brought to the fore in our  rowdy sociological forum in a little tuba store in my hometown.  And whereas I had no answer to his question way back, now I can very confidently articulate and elaborate on the subject with the authority of experience s a participant in the struggle for genuine democracy.

No!  We are not a democracy, no matter the label instilled in our consciousness ever since we were conceived in the womb of our mothers. And with our public officials carrying wreaths of flowers to honor the plebeian hero at the foot of  his monument, all of our country’s grassroots  masses are still enduring the mockery of  this “false democracy”  installed by the colonialists and cherished by the very social class who slew Andres Bonifacio with the most wicked, cruel act of  treachery ever done to a  genuine lover and icon of democracy.

Democracy entails a just sharing of the economic resources of a society. . . necessitates a political arrangement whereby the majority classes— in our case, the peasants and Indigenous peoples (Lumads)  and the workers and  petty capitalists—are supposed to have the majority representations in Congress. . . encompasses a culture that not only promotes the interests of the majority classes, but serves as nurturance for the over-all prosperity of  all the peoples ;in society.  Democracy abhors exploitation and oppression of the many by a few.  It  is the staunchest enemy of poverty and misery.  Democracy is an engine for progress, scientific advancement,  and human development.  It engenders an egalitarian social order. It is a humanizing social system.  As such it is a condition that releases and  harnesses boundless  human energy and  enthusiasm for the humanization of the world human society.

Gat Andres Bonifacio showed us the way.  But the traitors in Filipino society  prevailed. Now, this same class of traitors  still abound in the government  bureaucracy,  propping up their structures of exploitation and oppression with  hypocrisy, lies  and deceit.  And they are easily recognizable in the hierarchy of  power relations from top to bottom.

In the theory and practice of the struggle for freedom and democracy,  the imperatives of  giving due course to democratic principles are  enshrined in the rules of discipline among the political activists  and  revolutionary cadres.  More so, in the armed contingent of  the revolutionary forces.  Under no circumstance are the masses belittled and ignored.  Unlike the sloganeering pretensions of the Noynoy Administration  nauseously brandishing  the abominable  “matwid na daan”  that leads the masses to misery and the country to  disaster.

Among the political activists whose internalized  self-injunction is “service to the people”  the experience of Andres Bonifacio’s Katipunan—ang even that of Dagohoy’s rebellion!—  was an authentic concretization of the principle “the masses are the real makers of history”.  It is the wellspring  from which is derived the activists’ fighting slogans– “Serve the people”   and  “from the masses to the masses”.    It was from such guiding thought that I was able to create a song way back  as a reminder to my self and to all comrade  revolutionists in our  daily actuations –  Hinunmdomi sa Kanunay—in the thick of struggle or in the comfort zones of our lives–

Hinumdomi sa kanunay ang masa                                            Remember always the masses

Nagapos pa sa kaulipnan                                                             They’re enchained in slavery

Bisan asa ka paingon, itanom                                                     Wherever you go,  let it be seed

Sa imong kasingkasing                                                                 In your heart
Hinumdomi sa kanunay ang masa                                            Remember always the masses

Naunlod  sa kaalautan                                                                 They’re  mired in misery

Bisan asa ka itanom, alimbukad                                                Wherever you’re planted, bloom

Sa  buhat nga dalaygon                                                                to worthiness all your deeds
KORO: Ayaw hikalimti                                                                Don’t you ever forget

Nga sila ang tigmugna                                                                 That they’re the true makers

Sa kasaysayan sa                                                                           Of the history  of

Nasod ug  katilingban                                                                  The nation and of society

Ay ay ay ay ay ay (2x)                                                                   Ay ay ay ay ay ay  (2x)
Hinumdomi sa kanunay ang masa                                            Remember always the masses

Sa pagdangat  sa panahon                                                           When the hour comes

Sila ang tinuod nga mga bayani                                                 They’re the true heroes.

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