By IVAN EMIL LABAYNE
1. It was in the student publication, Outcrop, that I met Finela. She was then a junior taking up Language and Literature while I just got into college, part of the same program as hers. In the publication’s Consolidation weekend activity, she would be given something like the Wallflower Award. Like a small plant peeping out of ugly cemented walls, Finela’s presence is hardly noticeable. Maybe we were not just looking hard enough.
2. Years later, the small plant would grow rifles and solid commitment, nurtured by countryside sun and the heartfelt greetings of community people, the meaningful beckoning of the mass base. Like pothos, or sayote vines, the plant grows, reaching new territories, suspiring for new areas to cover.
3. In Outcrop’s Consol activity, we conduct what is called TBS, Talambuhay sharing. I recall Finela sharing some ‘trivia’ about herself, I think, as a response to the final question in the prearranged flow for TBS. She said that when she goes to movie houses to watch films, she leaves even before the movies are over. Instead of watching how the films end, Finela prefers imagining how it would conclude, creating scenarios in her mind, fabricating possibilities as to what would happen to this or that character, how this or that storyline would develop. Most of the Outcrop people were awed by what Finela shared. People were in good spirits before opening the free-for-all Q&A, the last part of each individual’s turn at the TBS, where others, maximum of three, I guess, could ask anything to the one on the hot seat. It was 2007, Finela was a junior taking up Language and Literature, a second liner in the publication’s Culture section.
4. I learned about what happened to Finela the day after the encounter in Ilocos Sur. It was Valentine’s Day, and a friend, also an Outcrop alumnus and even served as its Editor-in-Chief, shared to me the link to the news article reporting the incident. I was then beating a deadline, but reading the news made something else in me skip a beat — the certitude of days, the sudden proximity of past friends and colleagues who pursued lives greatly different from mine, the utterance of a revolution, raging for half a century, reminding us, in a single, seemingly innocent day, of its continuation, away from the cities and illusions of cosmopolitanism.
5. Having told my partner Jesa how I have known Finela, however little, we process the event together, asking questions, sharing, or recalling incidents when we have crossed paths, perhaps shared in the accomplishment of tasks. After hearing the story about Finela leaving movie houses before the endings, Jesa thought of how Finela seems to be so “at ease,” someone who can take the absence of a sense of closure, someone who is not uncomfortable with uncertainty. And does this not square with the very possibility that Finela put to the test in the decisions she made after graduating from college? The armed revolution is filled with uncertainty—how do you go about it with scarce resources, how can you continue despite the internal tensions, how can you go on lending your life to a seemingly improbable cause? But Finela was at ease, and I do not know where such certitude and commitment came from, how did they blossom into a kind that puts less value to dying than the living which makes the death weighty and full of worth.
I can only guess: with the people in the countryside, with the masses she chose to integrate herself in, Finela saw and held onto inklings of certitude and ease. This time, it was not just a movie whose ending she missed; it was a real struggle whose conclusion is less important than those who continue acting on it, living their lives in the service of what they think is just and more humane.
6. For Finela, there will be not just rolling credits where her name will appear, and her commitment will be commemorated. More importantly, there will be salutes and programs that will give her honor, fortifying a vow to continue what she committed to, seeing in her death the continued persistence of a living revolution. # nordis.net