CONFIRMED DEAD Former NPA spokesman Gregorio Rosal speaks at a press conference in Mountain Province on Jan. 8, 2004. Also known as Ka Roger, Rosal was confirmed dead by the Communist Party of the Philippines on Sunday, October 09, 2011. PDI PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC
LUCENA CITY—I often ate breakfast with Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal “over the phone” when he was still alive and active as spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
In the early 2000s, it was my routine to call Rosal on his mobile phone every morning to get his reaction to the latest statement from the military or any reported events the previous day which I deemed had importance to the revolutionary movement.
Most often, our conversation ended with both of us asking about the breakfast fare we were having as we were talking on the phone.
Rosal loved to have kamote (sweet potato) for breakfast with a cup of kapeng barako (native coffee brew). Though he often longed to also have a bite of hot pan de sal.
As we were both having our morning meal, Rosal often requested this correspondent to read the day’s copy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer since his copy had yet to reach his hideout in the boondocks.
In exchange, this correspondent always had the next day’s scoop straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.
In our common desire to protect our lines of communication, we even agreed to have a password in case one of us lost his cell phone.
The password proved useful when Rosal lost his phone during his escape from the lair of the New People’s Army (NPA) on the boundary of Quezon and Bicol provinces.
The military at the time had been trumpeting that Rosal could have been seriously wounded and that government forces were scouring the area to find him.
Rosal was able to give me a call through my number, which was written on a piece of paper tucked in his wallet, to belie the military report. As proof that he was really the one calling, Rosal gave the agreed password before he issued his statement over the phone.
My regular phone talk with Rosal ended sometime in late 1996. He sent word that the CPP had forbidden him from using his mobile phone as part of safety measures.
I expected Ka Roger to personally call me after a failed ambush on me in April 2007. But he did not and instead just issued a statement condemning the ambush. However, he often sent me his warm regards through my contacts in the rebel movement.
I first met Ka Roger in Mansalay, Mindoro Oriental, during the release of an NPA captive, Army Lieutenant Noel Buan, in 2001.
I was then having a conversation with then Justice Secretary Silvestre Bello III in the middle of a dry river when he spotted Rosal leaping from one boulder to another as he was approaching us.
When I introduced myself as an Inquirer correspondent, he gave me a tight hug and said: “At last, we met each other in person. It’s my pleasure meeting you.”
“So do I, Sir, so do I,” were the only words I could mutter.
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