Reading Bong Austero’s column on Nanay Mameng in Manila Standard Today brings to my mind Bayani “Ka Bay” Abadilla, Pinoy Weekly’s associate editor, who is now battling cancer. Like Nanay Mameng, Ka Bay is also an oldie, a lifelong activist. He is also a journalist and a scholar of the Filipino language, aside of course from being a fictionist and poet (taking after his father, the pioneering Filipino Modernist poet Alejandro G. Abadilla or AGA). Ka Bay has spent much of his life writing and working against oppression and tyranny, from the Marcos dictatorship to today. Last year, he published his first collection of poetry, Sigliwa Kamao, a testament to his invaluable contributions to the movement for freedom and democracy as it is to his poetry. Like Nanay Mameng, Ka Bay did not expect anything in return for his activism, even now as he battles the disease that has emaciated his body as much as his wallet. Nevertheless, we in Pinoy Weekly have been among those campaigning to raise funds for Ka Bay’s medical needs. We owe a lot to Ka Bay and his generation of activists who had embraced frugal lives and never expect to live in comfort. The least that we could do is to ease their suffering during these very trying times in their lives.
I had wanted to make a response to Austero’s column, but activist Rosa Jitana was quicker to make an eloquent one. She starts her piece as an immediate reply to Austero:
Sadder still that the 80’s movement Bong Austero speaks so highly of had not succeeded in instilling the admirable qualities of ka mameng in all of its children. Many are lost in romantic recollection of their activist years, thinking society was already transformed by their single act of bravery. Some, thinking themselves the superior lot, scoff at the current crop of activists, young and old, and find no virtue in what these people do, but find nothing wrong with embracing a moribund social mainstream in exchange for some forgettable name and a few thousand pesos. Let’s not even talk about knowing what’s in the news, or being there in the heat of the action. Every journalist worth his/her salt would surely look before leaping, because to do otherwise would be being nothing but a frog.
Sure, the movement cannot provide for Ka Mameng’s needs. The movement never claimed nor promised her it can, and I am pretty sure that Ka Mameng, the genuine revolutionary and patriot that she is, never expects to live a comfotable life while in the movement. That’s why there are noble people like her, and the rest of us, well, just plain mortals, with others being plainer and even more forgettable.
But is it really more abominable that the movement can not provide for its emaciated members, or that obese criminals in power, e.g. the Fat Gentleman, can live, on stolen money, more extravagantly than kings, then expect some mercy when they have a heart attack? I do not mean to be ruthless, but I am looking for some sense in all these.
The 80’s did produce admirable people. So did the 90’s. So will the current generation give birth to good sons and daughters of society who will give up all comforts and security, even their lives, for the sake of truth and justice. As long as oppression exists in this country, there will always be people “marching in the scorching heat of the sun”, not to mention those who will bear arms. And well, unfortunately, there will also always be those who will simply pass into oblivion, because well, they chose to do so…