Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fighting for a damned cause: The (mis) adventures of an NPA rebel

In this photo, Gilbert Llandelar (left), shares his life story during our meeting in Sipocot, Camarines Sur in 2009.

Gilbert Llandelar is a typical Pinoy promdi in the countryside. He is shy but  respectful. He is not used to mingling with people.

He was born on 05 December 1982 in the sleepy town of Lupi, Camarines Sur. He was the third among  eight children raised by his poor parents.

As a young boy, he vividly recalled the day when he learned to hate his own father. The latter who molested his sister.

Feeling betrayed, his mother had his father arrested by the police for the crime he committed against his own family.  Due to this incident, Gilbert became bitter and angry.

He dropped out of school when he was in Grade 3  when his mother decided to send two of his siblings for adoption.

 To help his mother sustain the family, he started working as a farm laborer at a very young age.

 They survived one day at a time, using his earnings to buy food provisions for the family. In many occasions he couldn't help but cry in bed due to his frustrations.

He cried because he envied his classmates who were about to finish their elementary education. In many occasions, he met them while on their way to school, while he was heading towards the farm to plow the field.

As a school dropout, he knew that he was facing a bleak future. He can barely write his name and he had a hard time reading.

He was quite aware that illiterate people have little chances at improving their economic status.

Though he had always wanted to go back to school, he can’t do it. At times, his family could not even eat three times a day. Also, his mother suffered a lingering ilness, rendering her very weak.

Through the years, he helped his mother in sustaining the family. He did not have any close friends and he always felt like an inferior person.

He was fortunate to have met a girl named Lyn who would become his special friend. They shared almost the same experiences. She was the only person who could make him laugh.

During spare times, he would accompany Lyn to their favorite spot in the farm where they spend their leisure time chatting about their future. She became her girlfriend after three years of friendship.

Love or war?

The communist insurgency in Camarines Sur was at its peak during his teenage years in mid 90s. He first heard about the adventures of two of his closes relatives who had joined the rebel movement.

It was his brother Rowell who joined the rebel group ahead of him, following the footsteps of their maternal uncle who was one of the CPP-NPA’s field commanders.

His uncle, Ka Omeng, later became the  Secretary of Front Committee 74, a post that he occupied in 2009.

Lyn did not favor of his intention to join the New People's Army and she threatened to end their relationship once he insists in becoming a 'red fighter'.

Deep inside him, he yearned to experience the war stories narrated by his brother. To think deeply about his options, he stayed overnight in a secluded farmhouse.

He was left with two options: his beloved Lyn or his quest for adventures.

He was deeply bothered by his conscience. He can feel the pain of leaving the apple of his eyes who was very good to him all throughout.

Later, in the morning, he decided to be with his sweetheart instead. Later, he proposed to marry her and start his life as a family man when he was only 19 yrs old.

Life's challenges

He had a very simple dream for his family but he also yearned to send his children to school and become better persons. He did not want them to experience the same hardships that he went through as a young man.

But, with his small earnings, he couldn't possibly achieve even his simple dreams. He weep in anger everytime he remembers that all their properties were sold by his father.

He despised his father for everything that happened in his life, and he didn't want to be identified with him.

One time, he questioned if there was God. He questioned Him for being so cruel to his family, and for all the difficult trials that he suffered.

When his second son was born, he felt the hard times. There were times that he couldn't buy enough provisions for his children.

He also felt that he was enslaved by the farm owners who control large parcels of land, while poor laborers like him only had the small lot where his nipa hut was erected.

During their most difficult times, his wife always comforted him. There were times that she was begging for food so that they have something to fill their empty stomachs.

One day in April 2004, he received young, good-looking visitors in his home. They were accompanied by an elementary classmate who was an NPA rebel.

His visitors talked eloquently about social issues. They seemed to have all the answers to his problems.

It was the first time that he heard about the so-called instant justice.

He was told that with the heinous crime that his father committed, he could have been shot by the NPA rebels instantly.

His anger was re-ignited and he promptly said, “Wow, I would have liked to do  that!”.

The NPA recruiters were quick in  grabbing  the opportunity to lure him, using the hatred he had for his father. 

 He was also  promised a share from the land that will be distributed by the communist group to its members.

“NPA members are given priority on land distribution,” said the lady recruiter.

 “If you want to join us, we will issue you your firearm right away!”

 Instantly, he felt like an important person. “Someone is now giving me an opportunity to save my family from the shackles of poverty,” he said to himself.

He was also excited that he will be issued a firearm immediately. He had long wanted to become a warrior like his cousin.

 When the visitors left, he consulted his beloved wife about his plan to join the rebel movement.

 “Who will take care of us?”, she replied, demanding an answer. 

 “Please don’t leave us. We can't survive without you,” she pleaded, wiping off tears.

He was confused that he was not able to sleep that night. He was thinking about the future. He knew that he couldn't probably sustain his family with his present job.

He wanted to till his own farm and raise his family through decent income but he didn't know where to start.

After two days, he was approached by his recruiters when he was returning home from farmwork.

“We will let you decide by now,” the man who introduced himself as Ka Nestor said.

 He was thrilled about the prospect of becoming a warrior as he was shown the Cal .45 pistol that was meant for him. He wanted to mimic his favorite movie actors by becoming a hero  in his community.

Since then, he vanished without a trace as he decided to join the rebel movement. He didn’t even care to inform his wife about his decision.

 He was brought to the hinterlands of Lupi where he was introduced to the life of a regular NPA fighter.

 There were about forty of them during that time. He felt the sense of pride by joining them in their constant “hide and seek” with the Army soldiers.

Days later, he  received his M16 rifle.  He was taught on the basic military skills including rifle marksmanship. 

He realized that life as an NPA rebel was indeed full of thrills. They had had lots of clashes with the government forces.

He was so proud everytime he received commendations for his heroic actions, notably after an offensive action against PNP personnel somewhere in Cam Sur. He felt like a hero and a true-blooded warrior.

Life in the rebel movement was also full of adventures. They slept on hammocks and transferred from one place to another.

Though he missed his family, there were no means that he can establish communications with them. He tried his very best just to erase them from his thoughts.

A damned cause

As time goes by, he learned much of the true character of the communist movement. He noticed that they don’t have any religion.

He was told that there was no God, contrary to the beliefs he learned from his mother who taught him the Novena and the Holy Rosary.

“He is just a man who fooled us all,” said Ka Leon, his commander, referring to Jesus Christ.

  He nonetheless continued to pray in silence whenever he was alone.
One time, he was also sent to collect “revolutionary taxes” from a private contractor who constructed the road project in the town of Pamplona. He was given a big brown envelope full of cash but wasnot allowed to open it.

Returning back to their temporary camp, his commander received the money but he pocketed them all.

He felt betrayed by the action of his commander. He learned from another comrade that Ka Leon was already a rich man, and his children were studying in exclusive schools in Manila.

He also learned that Ka Leon had a palatial home in the town while most of the followers like him remained poor.

“Our commanders are educated people”, his close buddy said.

“They are receiving big financial incentives because of their educational status”.

He can’t believe what he learned. During recruitment, he was told that in communism, everyone will be equal and the country will become a classless society.

 He was told that there will be no more masters because everything will be owned by the state.

As a warrior, he was promised to be given lands, making themdifferent from the rest of the people. Reality had gradually dawned on him day by day.

One day, he was allowed to go home to spend his vacation.

Be with your family because the Army is now intensifying its operations against us”, said Ka Leon.

 So there he went to his home where he was  met with a very tight hug. They both cried.

However, he became frustrated when his two children ran away when he tried to hug them.

 “I am your Papa!”, he told his son who was hiding behind the door.

Seeing that situation, he realized that be became a complete stranger to them.
He spent the whole night watching his children as they slept. He began asking questions  if indeed he treaded the correct path.

Returning to the boondocks with his comrades was becoming much more difficult this time especially by the time that he already had 4 children.

 His mother-in-law had always disliked him for his “irresponsibility”.

He was bothered by his conscience. In the past, he was blaming his father for his own irresponsibility. Now, he is also accused for the same negligent act he despised of.

When he was finally back with his comrades, his wife had constantly tried to look for him. She visited friends and relatives in remote barangays to ask for him where she would leave  her phone number so that he can contact her.

One day, he was told about the attempts of his wife to locate him. He was hesitant to contact her. He knew that she wanted him to surrender to the Philippine Army. He was so scared about his life. 

He had heard about the summary executions implemented against alleged traitors of the communist movement. His buddy has told him about his plan to surrender too. Like him, he was too afraid to leave their group and return to the folds of the law.

When his fourth child was born, he managed to be with his wife. She was already pleading for his surrender. 

“I heard about the Social Integration Program of the government,” she said.  “We can live a normal life together”.

The knowledge about the NPA's assasination of its former members who surrendered to the government scared him. Ka Leon had always reminded them about the targeted killings against the traitors.

He became so scared. He was told that the publicized surrender of their former comrades were all propaganda.
“It is not true that there is livelihood program for the former NPA rebels. The fascist government of PGMA want to create divisions in our ranks,” said Ka Leon.
Confused and undecided, he started communicating with his wife who persistently told him about his “contact” in the military who wanted to help him. She gave him the cellphone number of the military officer.

One day, he received a text message from the military officer.

 “I want to help you and your family. I understand your situation,” the sender said.

 He was very afraid to reply. He didn’t know what to do.

It  took him one week to muster enough courage to finally make his decision. He sent a reply to the military officer.  “I want to peacefully surrender. Please secure my family.”

That was the start of his constant communication with his friend in the military.

 His family was already transferred to a secure place. Everything was provided to them. He was relieved of some of his woes. He provided the military authorities with all information that they needed. 

He had prevented the burning of the heavy equipment used in the construction of roads and bridges somewhere in Ragay town.

In one instance, he himself cut the wire which would detonate the landmine that was designed to annihilate the whole convoy of military personnel.

After that incident, he received a congratulatory message which read: “Thanks for saving the lives of our soldiers led by our CMO officer. You did a good job!”.

He was so happy. He had saved someone’s life. He is considered a hero by his friend.
On April 21 2009, Gilbert finally surrendered to the 31st Infantry Battalion. He could not contain the happiness that he felt when he saw his whole family waiting for him.

Though his two youngest children could not comprehend things around them,  he had a hard time explaining things to them.

He was surprised to hear the unforgettable words uttered by his son, “Papa, tabi ka sa akin matulog mamaya? (Father, will you sleep beside me tonight?)".

 “Opo, di na kita iiwan anak," (Yes, I won’t leave you anymore)

 Tears began rolling down his cheeks. He has already found real happiness that he was looking for.

 He regretted that he had wasted some years in his life in his quest for adventures, realizing that he  made his own family suffer while fighting for a damned cause.

He finally opted to tread the correct path towards peace.

He rejoined his family for good and rebuild the lost opportunities with them.

1 comment:

  1. Ranger C,

    I also hear stories about this. The trending story was with an ex NPA girl who managed to become part of the Army. Moving story...

    But I also hear that once you are confirmed a traitor by the reds. You will be on the hitlist.

    Quite scary.

    Best Regards,
    Drey Roque