A friend from the old days recently informed me that Poloy had died from bone marrow cancer. I no longer bothered to ask her what Poloy’s legal name was. It was enough for me that once in our lives our paths crossed and that the times that we were in provided memories that I would cherish for long.
Poloy was half of what can be considered the Mutt and Jeff tandem of the party in the late seventies until well into the eighties. The other half was Nicol, who died in 2006, from lung cancer. “Mutt and Jeff” was primarily about physical stature, Poloy was tall while Nicol was short. But their partnership provided the old party with a leadership that was committed as it was humble.
I first met Poloy I think in 1980, when I was a young student so brimming with idealism I decided to leave my family behind and pursue full time the struggle for freedom and equality. His language betrayed his origin: while he eventually learned to speak Cebuano, the Tagalog accent was unmistakable. Nicol, also a Tagalog, was a later acquaintance.
The two were from the respected and secretive HO (short for higher organ), whose decisions determined the direction of the struggle in Cebu at that time. When I was in the CS (countryside), there was also for a time Ruben and his wife Perla. When you are young and clueless, you look up to the members of the HO for guidance and learning–and in the process view them with both reverence and awe.
These people planted the seeds that would later blossom into what can be considered the “golden years” of the struggle in Cebu. Expansion of the organization, both urban and rural, was fast and the movement played a big role in the fight against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the locality. That achievement still has to be approximated by the province’s new generation activists.
I could not be definite now how many years Poloy and Nicol became looming figures in my fulltime activist days. Seven years? Eight years? When you work with people that long, and considering the difficult circumstance the struggle has always been in, you don’t forget. It’s just sad that we never got to meet again after many of us returned to mainstream life.
Poloy, Nicol and the others like them may not have died a martyr’s death but their contribution to the struggle can never be forgotten. In this sense, new generation participants of the struggle owe something from them.