‘Ka Roger’ is finally home in Batangas
IBAAN, Batangas—A boy, around 10 years old, proudly sported a Mao cap the way the man, whose face was printed on his shirt, wore his shiny, red star.
“Should I cover my face, too?” he asked a girl, just slightly older than him, before hopping out of the slow-moving jeepney.
The boy pranced around the “paragos,” a carabao-drawn carriage, that carried two metal urns. The cart was guarded by men and women in red and green “camisa de chino,” their faces covered with either red cloth or paint, marching with wooden rifles to the Left-wing anthem “Internationale.”
Vehicles gave way and residents stepped out to catch a glimpse of the procession.
By sundown on Thursday (March 31), the funeral cortege reached the St. Mary’s cemetery here, where hundreds paid their final respects.
The urns carried the ashes of Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal and of his wife, Rosario Dumanais.
For decades, Rosal, who appeared in media interviews wearing his Mao cap, was the face of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).
“I’ve said before that the time would come for them to be buried here. That moment has finally come,” said Rosal’s younger sister, Fely Inandan, 66.
Rosal, at 63, died of heart attack on June 22, 2011, in a guerrilla zone somewhere in northern Luzon. The CPP announced his passing four months after his death.
Dumanais, or “Ka Soly,” a native of Camarines Sur province, was killed in an encounter in 2011 in Quezon province. She was 62.
“It was also the first time, after several years, for them (Rosal and Dumanais) to be together,” said Diego Torres, spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Tagalog.
Details as to how and where the bodies were buried and exhumed were not disclosed, but Torres said the cremation had only taken place “recently.”
Members of the National Democratic Front (NDF), the umbrella organization of progressive groups, had organized a series of tributes for Rosal, the first time these were held publicly, in Metro Manila and at the University of the Philippines campuses in Diliman, Quezon City, and in Los Baños town in Laguna province days leading to the interment in Rosal’s hometown here.
Asked why it took them five years to honor Rosal, Torres said it was only at this time that “conditions had become favorable” to bring the ashes back home.
The public tributes also coincided with the NPA’s 47th founding anniversary on March 29.
Rosal, a son of sugarcane farmers, was described by his childhood friends as the quiet boy in class.
“Walang imik ’yan (He barely spoke),” said a former classmate and longtime friend, Mateo Guera.
Rosal, known to his friends in Ibaan as “Goring,” graduated with academic honors from Ibaan Elementary School and St. James Academy in high school. He took up commerce at Golden Gate Colleges in Batangas City but dropped out on his second year to join the underground youth movement.
Aside from helping out in the farm, Rosal peddled mosquito nets, Inandan said.
Rosal, she said, loved to listen to the radio and play the harmonica.
In 1973, he was arrested while in a sugarcane farm and was detained at Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna. He escaped five months later.
Relatives, friends, supporters and strangers joined the funeral march to where the Rosal couple’s granddaughter, Diona Andrea, was also buried two years ago. The girl died two days after Rosal’s daughter, Andrea, gave birth in detention in 2014.
“Why would we be afraid [to be associated with Rosal]? He just wanted equal rights for everyone,” said Rosal’s cousin, Bernard Magnaye.
Ibaan Mayor Danny Toreja acknowledged Rosal for all the help he had extended to the town and his town mates.
“If we encounter any problem, Ka Roger was there to help us,” said Toreja, although he did not specify what kind of help Rosal had given them.
“To those saying that nothing has come out of his cause, that’s not true,” Guera said. “He did what he had to do to keep Ibaan peaceful for years, unlike today when there are a lot of outlaws here.”
When Rosal’s mother died in 1982, a “supporter” sent the family P100,000 worth of grocery items. Rosal, who communicated with his family through letters, asked that these be given away to poor residents in the town, Inandan said.
“A person’s importance need not be physically seen. Sometimes, we feel him in our hearts,” said Guera, who last saw his friend in the 1980s.
At the tribute, Guera read a letter from Rosal, dated May 18, 1989. It was about Rosal thanking Guera, who stood as Andrea’s godfather, for looking after his child.
Andrea failed to attend the funeral due to security concerns, Torres said. But in a video clip shown at the tribute, she thanked her parents for raising her.
“Since we were children, you made us understand what you were fighting for. I am proud of you,” Andrea said.
In another video clip, NPA rebels gave Rosal a 21-gun salute from an undisclosed location.
“I believe [in his causes] but joining [the armed movement] was not for me,” said Inandan, who last saw her brother in 1997. “He’s gone now, but he left behind many who supported his cause.”
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