By Kimberlie Quitasol

A first-quarter storm (FQS) activist in Baguio City, Rudy Liporada, recalled that he was against the Kabataang Makabayan (KM), the organization of youth activists during the period. He said that the priests and nuns from his high school told them that KM members are “violent communists.”

“We did not call it red-tagging then, red scare was what it was back then,” he said.

Liporada, who spoked during the commemoration of FQS’ Golden Anniversary on February 2 at the Teachers Camp, Baguio City, reminisced his experiences. He narrated his great awakening and participation in the storm that swept the social consciousness of the youth of their time.

What made him realize that the priest and nuns were wrong about KM? According to him, it was a lady, a “pretty communist.”

He shared that he attended a discussion on the “miseducation of the Filipino people” because the “pretty communist” invited him. In the middle of the forum, he walked out. It was hard for him to understand why Andres Bonifacio should be the national hero. All his life, he was taught that Jose Rizal deserved the title.

It was until gangsters’ extorted money from his father, then the manager of Strike and Spare bowling alley at Mabini Street, that things started to change. That night, his father “literally wet his pants” when one of the gang members forced his father to give them money at gunpoint. His mother, who was running a canteen at the bowling alley, gave her income for the night so the gangsters could buy “pulutan.”

“I became like a sponge, the pretty communist related crime and poverty being engendered by the semi-feudal and semi-colonial situation of the Philippines, which must be eradicated,” Liporada said.

From then on, he became a proud member of KM. As a member, he actively participated in discussion groups and rallies, integrated with workers and peasants, supported workers’ unions, and joined pickets. He remembered his near-death experience when they lay down on the street to prevent trucks from leaving a cement company to deliver products.

“The pretty communist I talked about was Jennifer Kintanar Carino; she died in the mountains of the Cordillera in Northern Luzon, she was a KM,” Liporada said.

Second Propaganda Movement

According to Liporada, the FQS was the second propaganda movement.

“We did not have computers, wifi and cellphones then. If the pen is mightier than the sword, our typewriters were our bazookas,” he recalled.

He described how they used stencils and mimeographing machines to make manifestos from the wee hours of the night until dawn. These manifestos, distributed during the rallies, contain discussions on the pressing issues on police brutality, high tuition, and escalating prices of commodities.

He said that manifestos then were not signed by anyone. But most of these manifestos were written by Jose Ilagan, whom he fondly called Pepot, his mentor. He said that more than learning writing styles and technical skills, Pepot gave him a more profound understanding of society. His friend and mentor explained how pressing issues and how they were rooted in the semi-feudal and semi-colonial situation of the country.

Pepot, he said, was among those who started the FQS movement in Baguio City. Vividly he shared how Pepot led some 20 youth, including him, trooped to the Camp John Hay gates one day. He said that it was that time when a guard in Clark Air Base shot dead a scavenging child and later said that he mistook the child as a “baboy damo”.

“We carried placards saying down with imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism; I personally held a placard saying down with high prices,” he said.

He said the police came and violently dispersed them, with him thrown into a truck when the police hauled as many protesters as they could and brought them to jail. This experience made him realize that the police were not their protectors but were the protectors of the interest the powers that be.

But even when they were already on their way to the city jail, they were still shouting against police brutality, which caught the attention of everyone they passed by.

Inside the jail, while most of them wore worried faces, he remembered Pepot’s “strange, almost wily smile.”

Later that day, another protest would rock the city, as students from the different universities, colleges, and even high schools converge at the city hall grounds. They were protesting the police brutality and called for the release of Liporada and his companions. The speakers lambasted the police for their cruelty and the mayor for his inutility.

Liporada said the protesters, too, were violently dispersed. Authorities first flushed them with water cannons; then, the Philippine Constabulary closed in and hit them with truncheons.

“I will never forget the wily smile of Pepot then, when the armed forces blasted the protesters, his smile reached from ear to ear, he knew all along, the 20 of us who sacrificed at the bastion of US imperialism in Baguio City; beaten, smashed and all, will not only multiply,” he said.

According to him, they were released that night. In the following days, the KM organized various discussion groups in different schools. Many of those who attended the became KM members. He added that a number went to the countryside to join the armed struggle.

Pepot, too was a KM. He passed in 2003.

They were the youth of their time. Fifty years ago, they were the “woke” youth of their generation. They fought against the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

And the “woke” youth of today are up against the same ills of society under President Rodrigo Duterte, who seems to be a fan of Marcos.

Liporada said that for as long as there are youth activists, then the dream for a better world will surely be realized. He said that like KM then, the youth activists today serve as catalysts in the struggle of the oppressed in the country and the exploited in the world.

“And in the context of historical materialism, the dream of liberation for the oppressed of the world will surely become a reality for you are here, like the KM, and you are the nightmare of imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism, for you are the future not only of the motherland but of the world,” Liporada said.

Liporada may no longer be in his youth today, but he certainly is still a proud KM.

“Yes, I used to be a KM, Kabataan Makabayan; I am still a KM, Katandaang Makabayan,” he said. #

Liporada wrote for various publications and has authored several books. Among his works are the books Unholy Allied Mountains, Unauthorized History, A Russian Poker, and Cordillera Red Sun Rising. He is also a columnist of the Northern Dispatch. He graduated from the University of the Philippines, Major in Economics and Minor in Sociology. nordis.net

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