Guerrilla leader, land reform champion gets place of honorBy Tonette Orejas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
SAN LUIS, Pampanga—The late Huk supremo Luis Taruc—renowned guerrilla leader, agrarian reform champion and socialist—is this farming town’s new hero.
A municipal ordinance describes Taruc as a role model for the youth and has named a public park after him on his birth centenary. Taruc was a native of Barangay Sta. Monica here.
The town also unveiled a plan to build a museum for Taruc’s memorabilia.
The son of a poor corn farmer and fish vendor, Taruc was one of the founders of the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap), which fought the invading Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.
He became the leader of an agrarian uprising that the United States helped quash. He was elected congressman in 1946 but was unseated, along with five other lawmakers, due to alleged election fraud and terrorism.
He again pursued armed struggle, but he surrendered in 1954. He was jailed for 14 years until his pardon by the dead dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1968. He was a primary advocate for agrarian reform since his release.
He died on May 4, 2005, at the age of 91.
“Ka Luis, in fighting for the peasants of Pampanga and the whole Philippines, has made a distinct solid contribution toward the advancement of the interest of the agricultural working class,” Bishop Nilo Tayag of the Philippine Independent Church, former chair of the militant Kabataang Makabayan, said during the recognition program.
Vivencio Tizon, an 80-year-old World War II veteran, shared accounts of Taruc as a charismatic leader among peasants. At the age of 8, Tizon served as a courier in the Hukbalahap.
He said Taruc held meetings with the Banal regiment in the Tizons’ home in Barangay Lourdes in Minalin.
The province’s leading poets, Eufrosinia Peña and Frank Guintu, paid homage by reading their works on Taruc’s hard life as freedom fighter.
“The Hukbalahap supremo was a very important example to our youth,” Representative-elect Juan Pablo Bondoc said in the program.
“This monument reminds us of the sacrifices of Ka Luis but his contributions are beyond Pampanga,” Bondoc said.
The pork barrel of outgoing Rep. Anna York Bondoc-Sagum funded the construction of the park three years ago.
From being the “nest of the revolution,” San Luis is now in a better state, boasting a zero-crime rate, Bondoc said.
Gov. Lilia Pineda said Taruc’s fight for social justice through agrarian reform was unfinished.
“The high cost of inputs and usury makes life hard for our farmers,” she said, announcing the provincial government would help farmers pay amortization to Land Bank of the Philippines.
“Let us be proud of Ka Luis and let us not forget the struggle of the masses to rise from poverty,” Pineda said, vowing that her second term would focus on agricultural development.
Hero of the masses
Ferdinand Llanes, commissioner of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, said Taruc was not an intellectual but was popular with the masses.
He said Taruc and the late labor leader, Felixberto Olalia Sr., opposed the “retreat for defense” policy of the merged old Communist Party of the Philippines and Socialist Party of the Philippines.
“The challenge for historians is to return to these personalities who became popular leaders among the masses,” Llanes said. “It is important for our youth to remember them and their contributions to the making of the nation.”
Taruc’s only son, Romeo, said he was overwhelmed by the tribute and honor given to his father.
“In his time, he never received any recognition because he was a rebel,” Romeo said, clarifying his father “always insisted he was a socialist and not a communist.”
Romeo told the audience that the Hukbalahap already liberated Central Luzon even before the Americans returned a few years after the Fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942.
Romeo, who was also a guerrilla, said the Huks also freed Americans imprisoned by the Japanese army.
Tayag said: “I feel elated because it is really high time that we recognize the contribution of people like Ka Luis Taruc to the revolutionary movement in the country. Whatever their ideological differences, what is important is they were able to mobilize the masses.”
“The agrarian laws we are enjoying today, although inadequate, [are] a result of this struggle. They had to struggle and fight for it. That’s why the Hukbahalap and even the New People’s Army had contributed to the legislation of agricultural reforms,” he said.