This time, former Huks get spotlight on Araw ng Kagitingan | Inquirer News

This time, former Huks get spotlight on Araw ng Kagitingan

/ 07:22 AM April 09, 2019

This time, former Huks get spotlight on Araw ng Kagitingan

GUERRILLAS Ascene from “Aria” shows Kumander Liwayway and Huks heading home after prevailing in a clash with Japanese soldiers. —PHOTO FROM THE CENTER FOR KAPAMPANGAN STUDIES-HOLY ANGEL UNIVERSITY

ANGELES CITY, Philippines —For this one time, Filipino, American and Japanese soldiers are not the focus of the Araw ng Kagitingan commemoration on Tuesday by the Center for Kapampangan Studies (CKS).

Government and private groups have held many memorials, built monuments and made movies about their nationalism, bravery, sacrifices, friendships and animosities in the last 77 years, as recorded by war historian Ricardo Trota Jose.


Break with tradition


The CKS, based here, broke with tradition and began preparations more than a year ago.

It put the spotlight on the Huks—short for fighters in the anti-Japanese Army Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap)—by making the period film “Aria.”

“Our soldiers do not have the monopoly of bravery, patriotism and self-sacrifice. After [Filipino and American soldiers] surrendered in Bataan, who picked up their arms and continued their fight for freedom? It was the guerrillas,” said Robby Tantingco, CKS executive director and the movie’s writer.

The Huks claimed liberating many towns before American forces returned.

Usually, aria is the show-stopping solo number in an opera.

But Tantingco’s “Aria” refers to the lead character’s song of freedom from personal imprisonment as well as the nation’s song of freedom from invaders.


Resistance army

The film begins with the struggle of an old female commander to get back her pension, before it rewinds to the lives and perils of those who joined the homegrown resistance army.

The movie was inspired by Tantingco’s visit to the sickbed of Huk squadron leader Simeona Punsalan, then 94.

That dramatic start reflects the injustice Huks went through. Of the guerrillas in the country, the Huks of Pampanga province and Central Luzon were recognized and compensated the last because of their leaders’ affiliation with communism and socialism.

“Thousands of Huks were peasants and did not even know what the ideologies meant. Yet they got their hospital benefits only in 1974, their small pension later, and until now, no monuments like the ones in Bataan and Capas (Tarlac province) for our soldiers,” Tantingco said.

They were punished as well. A Huk squadron was massacred by Americans in Malolos, Bulacan province, after World War II, and their leader, Luis Taruc, was arrested.

Some Huk commanders like Bio Aquino of Tarlac felt betrayed because he had saved many American soldiers.

Composite characters

“Aria” is no documentary but Tantingco created composite characters from real-life characters. The cast features not one star, but all volunteers, many of whom have no training in drama, according to director Carlo Enciso Catu.

“Aria” has been screening in commercial cinemas and schools since November 2018. The Metro Manila Film Festival showed unprecedented support by holding special screenings.

“I wish every Kapampangan and every Filipino could watch and appreciate ‘Aria,’” Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of the Diocese of Caloocan, said after viewing the two-hour film.

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Tantingco said he hoped the national government would include the Huks in the next celebrations of Araw ng Kagitingan.


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