On page 12 of the Sept. 13, 2006 issue of Sun.Star Cebu was the report on the death of Bibiano Rentillosa, alleged secretary general of the New People’s Army North Leyte Front. Rentillosa and three others were killed in an encounter with government troops in Barangay Libertad, Kanangga, Leyte.
The report momentarily brought back memories of three college friends going through a life-changing ceremony inside a cottage in one of the beaches of the then town of Talisay (now a city). That was in 1980, a few months after we were recruited and became active in the national democratic struggle.
There were several others there (I could not recall the number and their names) in what can be considered a marathon session. For the first time, we were introduced to Marxist theories–dialectical materialism, historical materialism, political economy–and the constitution of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
I said that was life-changing because it changed our view of society and the world. From then on, the dream of a society free from oppression and exploitation, where wealth is equally distributed to all and people are free to pursue higher concerns–in short, heaven–became our guiding force.
I can still recall the culmination of that rite of passage. The rays of the rising sun had pierced through the holes in the nipa roof of the cottage and the cracks in its bamboo walls. We were given one bullet each, symbol of our acceptance of armed struggle or revolution as a means to achieve our goals. Then followed the raising of clenched fist as we recited the pledge.
Through it all, one man took the lead. He was every inch what we imagined a revolutionary to be, calm, mysterious, steeped in Marxist theory and practice. He was brown-skinned, muscular and wore simple clothes. I remember him telling us that since he went underground, he had not bought clothes for personal use, relying solely on the generosity of comrades.
That was the first and the last time we saw the man. I went full time in the underground several weeks later, then a year after went to the countryside where I stayed until I was arrested first in 1987 and then in 1988. I would only hear stories about him, but not much, considering the security policy of the revolutionary movement.
That man was, of course, Bibiano Rentillosa. I may have long given up the fight, but I have to give it to somebody who steadied the course for more than two decades. When you last that long in the revolution, then you must either be fortunate (for not being killed or arrested) or strong-willed or both. I think he was both.
I therefore salute this man. One may consider his participation in the revolution objectionable, but let it not be said that he did not pursue his dream to the end.
Goodbye then, comrade.
–Candido O. Wenceslao
September 15, 2006