“PHOTOGRAPHS and memories, Christmas cards you sent to me, all that I have are these, to remember you,” thus goes the song of the late folk singer, Jim Croce.
This may be so “burgis” to the grieving patriots and ‘national democrats’ (NDs) all over the land, but those lines probably best describe the mixed feelings I have these days over the passing of CPP spokesman, Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal.
The CPP, on Sunday, finally confirmed that Ka Roger, aged 64, had died by heart attack last June 22 inside an undisclosed guerrilla zone.
That we spent some good times and memorable days together are indeed borne by those photographs I managed to save, the risks to life and limb, notwithstanding.
There were Christmas cards too that he and the other “boss tsip” of the STRPC regularly sent to me over the years coinciding with the CPP anniversary every December 26. As for the memories, below are a few of them that I am sharing with you, dear readers.
Our first “group photo” (with two other reporters whom I brought along with me) was taken in 1990 during an interview at their lair in the Sierra Madre, between the boundary of Laguna and Quezon.
Aber, kasamang JP Lopez ng Malaya, over two decades have passed, yet that “photo ops” was still fresh in my mind.
Sa sobrang tuwa kasi ng isang reporter na makunan ng litrato kasama si Ka Roger, nadapa, at ’yung dulo ng hawak niyang AK-47, na “props” sa litrato, tumama sa gulugod ni Ka Roger! ’Yun ang paliwanag kung bakit “mapakla” ang ngiti ni “Tatang” sa litrato — dahil sa tinitiis na sakit, hahaha!
The next decade, between 2000 and 2006, I probably visited him about 20 times, the longest one in December 2005 when I stayed for about a week to celebrate the New Year with him and other “comrades.” Naturally, these visits resulted into more photographs and more memories.
If this is a record of sorts for the most number of visits to Ka Roger by any journalist, I cannot say. Admittedly though, I enjoyed the news scoop and the thrill that always go with that sort of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and adventure.
To spend times with the country’s most wanted man is an experience that also gives one a better insight as to why ordinary people like him finally found the courage to take up arms and challenge the combined might of the government and U.S. Imperialism.
Ka Roger never finished college although he briefly studied at the Guzman Institute in Quiapo, so he told me. Yet, there was never any doubt his effectiveness as a spokesman and as “poster boy” of the Philippine communist revolution.
He was always abreast with the news, showbiz “tsismis” included. Always slung over his shoulder was a portable radio transceiver so he can always monitor the news, 24/7.
I even gifted him with a similar Sony portable radio when his own broke down. Heck, he never told me the small, 5-band radio would cost me some P8,000!
Among the witty remarks of Ka Roger that I remember he uttered was sometime in 2003 when I asked him why the NPA is only blowing up the cell sites of Globe Philippines over its refusal to pay “revolutionary tax.” He said: “Hindi kasi sila ‘smart!’ Hehehe!
Several days after my last visit to him in January 2006, he called me up to say that his beloved mother finally died. “Ka Paul, namatay na ang nanay ko,” he sadly informed me.
“Ganun ba, bosing, condolence… maghihiganti ba tayo,” I asked.
“Hindi! Sa sakit siya namatay,” he corrected. He then inquired if I could go to their house in Ibaan, Batangas, to pay my respect and to check on his family.
I readily agreed, taking along with me the flowers and cans of biscuits sent by then Calabarzon regional police chief of staff, Aaron Deocares Fidel. “It’s the least we can do to express our condolence and sympathy,” Fidel said when I passed by the regional police camp on my way to Ibaan.
Afterwards, Ka Roger called me up again. “Anong balita? Kumusta sa bahay?” he inquired. “Ayos naman bosing, may nakilala ako ‘dun, magandang bata.”
“Talaga? Sinong kamukha, kamukha ng tatay ano?” To which I replied jokingly: “Bosing, kamukha siyempre ng nanay! Isipin mo naman kung naging kamukha ng tatay, kawawa ‘yung bata, hahaha!”
That’s how human and “ordinary” Ka Roger was. In the flesh, he was just like anyone of us, cracking jokes, worrying about his family.
And yet, he is more than anyone of us. For only those who have principles made of solid steel and who have found the inner calm to sacrifice everything they have in life for the sake of a greater calling — social emancipation — can behave that way.
I could go on and on but for now, I again pay my respect to Ka Roger, an ordinary man who ended up living a truly extraordinary life.
Tuloy ang laban para sa isang tunay na malaya at masaganang Pilipinas!