ALAMINOS CITY, Philippines--The Communist Party of the Philippines marks its 39th anniversary Wednesday, but few residents of this bustling coastal city in western Pangasinan know that the CPP was born in one of their upland barangay or villages.
Mayor Hernani Braganza, a former member of the Kabataang Makabayan, a leftist group that went underground when martial law was declared in 1972, said he learned about this fact only in 2001. He was then the agrarian reform secretary and member of the government panel engaged in peace talks with the CPP's political arm, the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Braganza said it was CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison who told him about it during a meeting in the Netherlands, where the latter has lived in self-exile since the late 1980s.
Sison, the chief political consultant of the NDF, confirmed in an e-mail to the Inquirer that it was in a "barrio" in Alaminos where the CPP "congress of reestablishment" was held on Dec. 26, 1968.
According to Braganza, that barrio is the remote Barangay Dulacac at the tri-boundary of Alaminos and the towns of Bani and Mabini.
Sison said the meeting place was a hut near the house of the Navarettes, the parents-in-law of Arthur Garcia, one of the CPP founders. Garcia died in 1969.
"We did not use the Navarette house [for the congress] but a smaller type of bamboo house used for rest from farm work," Sison said. "We had to walk for some 30 minutes from the Navarette house to the smaller house."
Sison said the CPP founders arrived in Alaminos by Pantranco bus from Metro Manila on Christmas Day in two batches, and walked from the bus terminal all the way to the site.
The place was chosen because "it was safe, secluded and distant enough from Manila," Sison said.
He said Garcia's in-laws and wife were not aware of the nature of the meeting: "They must have thought we were having a picnic."
A total of 11 delegates attended the congress, including Sison, Garcia, Carlos del Rosario and Noli Collantes, and two lookouts from a Manila trade union.
"I [will not] mention the names of the living because I do not have their permission to name them," Sison said.
Braganza said the only means of transport to Dulacac at that time was the kalesa (horse-drawn cart) or on horseback.
He said politicians campaigning for election had to use the dusty uphill road to Dulacac, and "it took them a day to get there."
The road has since been paved, and travel time has been reduced to 30 minutes by car.
Alaminos, home to the Hundred Islands National Park, is now also a popular tourist spot.
But except for the paved road, Dulacac has not changed much since 1968, Braganza said. It is still a sparsely populated farming village surrounded by thick vegetation.
"I was never able to go back to the place," Sison said. "Thus, after 39 years, I have forgotten [its] name. We have long [referred to] the place...as 'somewhere between Central and Northern Luzon.'"
Sison suggested that Braganza develop the site into a tourist spot and reconstruct the hut where the CPP founding congress was held.
"Since 39 years ago, the CPP has become the revolutionary party of the proletariat and the Filipino people and has been an undeniably major force in Philippine history," he said.
Braganza agreed that the CPP was "now part of our political history." He said a "marker" could be put there to indicate that the party was "born in that area."
Recalled Sison: "There should still be a tree there because one of the lookouts fell asleep on a sturdy branch and fell. I do not remember what kind of tree [it was]."
Can't stop it
The lookout was trade unionist Mariano (Ka Duma) Lacsa, who became a leading cadre of the CPP's Northern Luzon Regional Committee. He died in Isabela in the early 1970s, Sison said.
In a statement issued to mark the CPP anniversary, Sison said the Arroyo administration could not stop the "armed revolution," which he described as a "just cause."
"The Arroyo regime cannot destroy but unwittingly causes the armed revolution to advance... It is currently the best recruiter of the armed revolution," he said, adding:
"It is, therefore, understandable why this armed revolution is indestructible and has successfully persevered against the Marcos fascist dictatorship and the subsequent pseudo-democratic regimes."
Saying that the CPP's armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), was "gaining strength and advancing," Sison belittled the capacity of the police and military in preventing the spread of the armed revolution.
He cited "many keen observers" in saying that the military and police could occupy and control only 10 percent of Philippine territory, and that "government troops could not concentrate their maneuver units on more than 10 percent of the NPA's guerrilla fronts at any given time."
Sison said the CPP was confident that its revolution would "continue to gain strength as massive corruption in government forces the masses to join the communist underground movement."
He said three factors were contributing to the "indestructibility and success" of the CPP revolution:
The alleged failure of the system of government, which had supposedly been aggravated by globalization and the war on terror.
The Filipinos' "desire" for revolutionary change, which purportedly resulted from their alleged view of President Macapagal-Arroyo as "the paragon of social, economic, political and moral bankruptcy."
The CPP's "resolute and effective leadership" of the movement.
The CPP-NPA, through party spokesperson Gregorio Rosal, had earlier declared a four-day holiday ceasefire.
He said the NPA would not launch attacks against government forces during "the traditional holiday celebrations."