Archive for the ‘Floro E. Balce’ Category

Celebrating All Saint’s Day

October 31, 2008

Death – the last sleep?
No, it is the final awakening.

~ Walter Scott

The lines calmed my senses when my mother died a few years ago. I thought death as a final awakening could be an epiphany which brings a lot of hope.

Each time I remember a departed soul and I read the words, I feel peace and consolation. I come to think of dying not in ghastly terms, but something glorious, as resplendant as the second coming.

On Saturday November 1, 2008, is All Saints Day. It is the right time to read the lines again. We remember those who passed away—the departed members of the family, our friends and neighbors who mean a lot to us.

In gratitude, we pray for them and celebrate their lives. We recall how much they share— the fleeting joy and the lustful bliss of the earth.

We relish the muffled laughter, the rustle of the gossamer curtain, and the glowing moments of light under which we had fun together. They are all framed in memory which makes the departed truly present within us: comfy warm, intimate, and alive.

In loving remembrance of ten (10) UP Ibalon members who passed away, here is what each of them must be telling us:

Call me by my old familiar name…I am but waiting for you.

Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away in the next room. I am I and you are you: whatever we were to each other; that we are still. Call me by my old familiar name; speak to me in an easy way which you always used.

Put no difference into your tone: wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile. Think of me; pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effort, without the ghost of a shadow on it. Life means that it ever meant.

It is the same as it ever was. There is absolutely unbroken continuity. What is this death but a gateway? I am but waiting for you— for an interval somewhere very near around the corner. “ —Anonymous.

IN MEMORIAM

1. Rebecca (Bebeth) Espeso of Tulay na Lupa, Labo, Camarines Norte; by vehicular accident in Baao, Camarines Sur in April 1976; on her way to Legazpi City with UP Ibalon members to join Kami Minagalang, a humanitarian project of the organization for the Don Susano Memorial Mental Hospital in Cadlan, Pili, Camarines Sur.

2. Floro E. Balce of Daet, Camarines Norte; succumbed to a fatal single excruciating gunshot belly wound from an automatic carbine; in an encounter with the military in Tigaon, Camarines Sur; on July 30, 1978. As Ka Manding, he served selflessly to the cause of helping the poor and the disadvantaged.

3. Manny Raposa of Naga City; a victim of random stabbing in 1978 after stepping out of Max’s in Baclaran with his sweetheart; in Pasay City. A promising Philippine Science High School graduate (PSHS,) his death remained unsolved, one of many in the roster of clueless crimes in the police blotter.

4. Thor (Og) Aldea, from Ligao City, Albay; died of ruptured brain aneurysm in 1983; his 25th death anniversary was recently commemorated by friends at the CSWCD in the UP campus.

5. Siegfredo (Fred) Salva, from Naga City; was run over by a car in a 1989 traffic accident in Makati, Manila. His memory is honored by his Ateneo de Naga High School (AdeN) batchmates thru a scholarship named after him.

6. Juliet (Jake) Repomanta-Siron, from Guinobatan, Albay and Manila; a feminist-activist and a committed women’s rights advocate; worked with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST )where she served as its employees association president; suffered a fatal heart attack while undergoing kidney dialysis about 10 years ago.

7. Karen Canon, died in a vehicular accident while working in line of duty for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) nearly 10 years ago. UP Ibalon Grace Princesa-Escalante, her boss, took charge of the funeral services only to know of Karen’s membership with Ibalon later.

8. Joni Cadiz of Naga City; a loving father; bravely fought colonic cancer till his untimely demise; brother of UP Ibalonians Joel Anselmo and Jose Fabian.

9. George Evangelio, of Daraga Albay, an engineer-contractor and devoted family man; among those killed in a bus smash-up in Pamplona, Camarines Sur in July 29, 2008 on his way from Manila with his wife who had treatment for cancer.

10. Lourdes (Bajing) Roco, from Naga City, contracted severe unrelenting autoimmune disease (systemic lupus erythematosus,) proximate to finishing school in UP; suffered adverse effects chronic disease and medications; succumbed to a relapse; the admirable youngest sister of Sen. Raul Roco. Sources: A. Baylon & Totie Mesia)

NOTE: The ten UP Ibalon members who passed away will be remembered in a holy sacrifice of the mass on November 2, 2008 at the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Ditmars Street, Astoria, New York 11105.

==================RESQUIESCAT IN PACE==================

Photo (Credits: headlesspider; noricum; svf1972; yadnus; pathenson;__)

Floro E. Balce: Iskolar ng Bayan (Last Part)

July 7, 2008

“Nahirapan talaga kaming intindihin ang personalidad ni Floro, ‘he was really a study in contradictions,'” ani Bing.  Isipin mo, ang sipag gumanap ng mga trabahong alam naman niyang bahagi ng ND movement, pero pag kinulit mo tungkol sa pormal na pagpapaloob sa ND organization ay ayaw naman.  Ang sabi pa niya, mas advantageous daw ang ‘non-card bearer’.”

“Naisip nga namin, siguro dahil may kapatid siya sa military, kaya nagdadalawang-llob sa pagsapi sa ND movement.  Sumuko na nga ako pagkatapos ng apat na buwang walang humpay na pangungumbinsi.  Kaya nang marecruit namin siya sa natdem noong Setyembre 1975 at pumaloob sa Partido Komunista noong November 1976 ay apaw talaga ang galak sa puso ng mga kasama.  Isipin mo, mula 1974 namin siya inumpisahang organisahin.”

Vintage Floro…hindi conventional mag-isip.  Matagal magproseso ng desisyon ngunit masinop.  Mahirap kumbinsihin, pero pag nakumbinsi at sumagot nang oo, ay di umaatras.  Iyan si Floro, na noong Pebrero 1978, nasa ika-apat na taon sa pag-aaral ng BS Electrical Engineering sa UP ay nagpasyang tumungo sa kabundukan at maging mandirigma ng bayan na ikinabigla ng maraming kaibigan at kamag-aral.

“Totoo na aktibong-aktibo siya sa mga gawain sa kilusan.  In fact, malaki ang naging papel niya sa KM organizing sa hanay ng mga Bikolanong estudyante sa UP noong 1975-76, naging miyembro siya ng Bikol Liaison Group/STU sa Kamaynilaan noong 1976, at naging ‘full-time cadre’ siya noong 1977.  Pinagtiyagaan niya mula 1977 hanggang early ’78 ang pinakamainit na Bikol-STU group sa Manila-Rizal,” paglalahad ni Bing.  “Pero hindi ko rin ini-expect na kagyat siyang lalahok sa armadong pakikibaka.  Inalaska ko pa nga, na baka naman broken-hearted lang siya kaya aalis.  Hindi raw…sigurado at desidido siya.”

Maging ang mga magulang at kapatid ni Floro ay nagulantang nang malamang sumapi na ito sa New People’s Army.  Sabi nga ni Gerardo, nagpaalam pa sa kanya si Poloy na uuwi sa Bikol…pagkatapos ay nabalitaan na lamang niya na nasawi ito sa isang engkuwentro.

Marahil ay si Floro lamang ang higit na nakauunawa sa kanyang desisyon.  Sabi nga niya kay Bing, “I have come to terms with my life, my questions regarding the revolutionary struggle have been sufficiently answered, I know what I want…to be with the masses in the hills.”

Pagdating ni Floro sa Bikol noong Pebrero 1978 ay idineploy siya ng pamunuan ng rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa rehiyon sa Partido area.  Naging kasapi siya ng Mass Work Team, isang semi-legal team na ang pangunahing gawain ay balikan ang lumang base sa Camarines Sur nina Kumander Tangkad/Romulo Jallores.

Masikhay na nakipamuhay si Floro sa mga magsasaka ng Partido area.  Masigasig na ipinagpatuloy ang kanyang gawaing pag-oorganisa at edukasyon sa hanay ng mga magsasaka’t magbubukid sa teritoryo.

Ang mga samu’t saring kuwento ng mga kasama at masang nakasalamuha niya sa sonang gerilya ay nagpapatunay kung gaano kasigasig si Floro sa pagganap sa kanyang mga gawain at tungkulin sa kilusan…na hindi nito ininda ang mga ‘petty bickerings’ sa kolektibo niya…na lagi itong masaya at nagbibiro.  Natuto rin itong magluto na dati ay di niya type gawin.  Nakahiligan rin nito ang pagsusulat ng tula at binabasa tuwing may programa sila, di nga lamang naitago ang mga ito.

Sa isang sulat niya kay Bing ay nasabi nitong sa hinaharap ay nais niyang magtayo ng paaralan para sa mga bata sa bundok.  Ani Floro: If I can teach little children the values of kindness and nationalism, then that would be pure happiness on my part.”  Kung noong araw ay hindi siya mapakanta sa Ibalon, sa bundok ay kumakanta siya habang tinuturuan ang mga bata.

“Maganda ang relasyon ng yunit na kinabibilangan ni Floro sa masang inoorganisa sa teritoryong saklaw nila.” paglalahad ni Bing.  “Malakas ang suporta ng masa sa kanila.  Kaya nga lamang, ang Partido area ay kinonsentrahan ng military operation ng AFP.  Ang policy na ‘supression and encirclement’ ay ginamit sa kanila.  Kasabay nito ay nagpakawala ng ‘ahente’ o espiya ang AFP sa lugar at sino mang makapagturo ng NPA ay binibigyan ng pabuya.”

Bunga ng sunud-sunod na operasyon ng kaaway at kasalatan sa gamit-military ay nadepensiba ng husto ang yunit nina Floro hanggang matirhan na lamang sila ng tatlong baryo sa boundary ng Tigaon at Goa.

“Sa kalagayang ‘compromised’ na ang seguridad ng yunit ay nagreconcentrate sina Floro noong Hulyo 30, 1978 sa isang lugar sa boundary ng Tigaon-Goa,” ayon pa kay Bing.  “Nagpulong sila at nagpasyang magmove-out kinabukasan.  Ngunit bandang alas sais ng gabi ay nakubkob sila ng PA unit na pinamumunuan ni 1Lt. Malali, isang Muslim officer na dating kasapi ng MNLF.”

Isa si Floro sa tatlong NPA na tinamaan sa naganap na pangungubkob ng militar.  Siya ang unang tinamaan ng bala dahil kalalabas pa lang niya sa payag (kubo) na pinagpupulungan nila.  Nakuha ng mga sundalo ang kanyang sugatang katawan at dinala sa kampo nila sa Bgy. Caraycayon, Tigaon, Camarines Sur.

Namatay si Floro sa pagitan ng alas otso at alas nuwebe ng gabi noong Hulyo 30, 1978…sa mismong araw ng kanyang kapanganakan sa edad na 23 taong gulang.  Bago siya nalagutan ng hininga ay naibigay niya sa mga sundalo ng PA ang kanyang tunay na pangalan, pangalan ng kanyang mga magulang at lugar na pinanggalingan.

Matapos ang isang araw ng pagbuburol sa munisipyo ng Tigaon ay ipinalibing ng mga sundalo ang bangkay ni Floro sa Tigaon Cemetery.  “Hinawak-hawakan pa raw ng Mayor ang kamay ng anak ko…sinabing sayang, bago pa lamang ito sa bundok.”

Pagkalipas ng tatlong taon ay saka pa lamang naiuwi ang labi ni Floro sa Daet, Camarines Norte…

“Noong 1981 lamang namin nakuha ang labi ni Poloy sa Tigaon Cemetery.  Ayaw kasi itong ipahukay at ipadala sa mga kapatid niya noong puntahan ito noong Agosto 15, 1978.  Nangangamoy na raw dahil 15 araw nang nakalibing.  Pero kung kasama ako noon sa pagkuha ay hindi ako papayag na di madala ang bangkay ni Poloy dito sa Daet para mabigyan namin ng maayos at marangal na libing.  Kung nalaman lang sana kaagad namin ang pagkamatay niya.” ang sabi ni nanay ni Floro.

“Huwag ka nang malumbay Inang Pilipinas                                                                                                 Kahit na may ilang anak kang malagas                                                                                                       Moog nating bakal sa kubling likuran                                                                                                         Ang mga bukirin ay isang katiyakan                                                                                                           Uring mapang-api ating ibabagsak                                                                                                             At mailalatag ang mapulang bukas,”

(Mga may-akda: Antonio A. Ayo, Jr. at Ma. Leny E. Felix; halaw sa “Pulang Hamtik”)

A Hurried Comet Blazing In The Night Sky

July 6, 2008

Thirty years after the fatal shot which took his young life, UP Ibalon recalls Floro E. Balce. Those who know and love him ponder on the evanescence of his time, the greatness of his sacrifice and the humanity of his dream. They pay tribute to Ka Manding, one among the heroic braves who died in the pitch-blackness of the night— of yet to be won battle, before the sun comes up for a better day. The noble cause he embraced remains contentious—that which draws others to learn and admire his lofty path. –Totie Mesia

In an ill-descript spot along EDSA highway in Manila, there is Bantayog ng mga Bayani, a memorial of remarkable human beings whose lives are weightier than the heavy stone on which their names are engraved. Etched on a simple black slab of concrete is the name of UP Ibalon’s Floro E. Balce, a Bicolano hero who died from gunfire which blew an excruciating rugged hole on his belly, leading to his agonizing death. It happened in July 30, 1978, in Tigaon, Camarines Sur on his birthday.

A man of strong principles and unbridled dreams, Floro was my roommate at Molave Residence Hall in UP Diliman. He was a bright idealistic electrical engineering (EE) student, a National Science Development Board (NSDB) scholar from Daet, Camarines Norte—- my indulgent friend and math mentor in the dorm.

In the same room with us was Larry Ajel, our buddy from the Ilocos who dreamed to work in a hospital as a medical technologist. Larry shared our provincial plebeian background. He was our big brother who taught us the urbane ways of the campus. His stay however was cut short by a decision to migrate to America.

Rudival Cabading was another roommate. The rambunctious guy felt the state university wasn’t his piece of cake, so he moved to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA.) He became a military officer who never saw me stepped out of our dormitory to become a physician.

Bakit dito sa UP, ang mga estudyante, nagsasalita ng Espanyol?” I recalled Floro asking me on our first day of school inside the Arts and Science (AS) building. Feeling my way on the unfamiliar ground, I was as naïve and perplexed as he was.

“Why? What did you hear?” I asked.

Que hora es,” he said with a spark in his eyes.

Having survived his early years in UP, my soft-spoken buddy transformed into an assertive, knowledgeable, and brave gentleman. But he kept a low profile, humbly sharing his private thoughts with the people he knew and trusted.

He also trusted me, but perhaps, he didn’t feel it was a good idea to let me know too much of his leftist leanings. His linkage with the New People’s Army (NPA.) was something I suspected, but I didn’t ask. The guy had this palpable intolerance against injustice which was nurtured in campus. I knew he was opposed to the corruption of the Marcos, drawing him to join protest marches and rallies.

Had I shown enough sympathy for his cause, he might have led me deep into the sanctum of his beliefs and the core of his convictions. Yet, he was considerate, respectful, and even protective of my own safety. He didn’t want me to be distracted, for he knew I was hell-bent to become a doctor.

We talked about poverty and inequity when we were supposed to be focused in our studies—if not fiery hot, pursuing girls in campus. Setting aside school work at night, we discussed social issues that otherwise wouldn’t have bothered the care-free college students we knew.

At semester’s end, there was silence that pervaded the dorm before the residents left for the school break. For us, nothing triggered so much adrenaline release and worry when the last days of class wore on. The teachers were sternly aloof and the final exams they gave were difficult. We were all preparing for the killer tests that would dictate which way we’d go in our studies.

“How was your exam?” I asked Floro after he took his test.

“I submitted my blue book empty,” he said wryly. “I didn’t answer any of the test questions. They were hard. I wrote my teacher to explain why,” he continued.

That worried me. In my mind, if he failed the test, that meant he’d lose his scholarship; at worst, he’d be kicked out from the college and be forced to return home to Bicol. I would not see him again just like some of my friends who drifted away from college.

Convinced by his honesty, the teacher gave him a chance to retake the test. It was hard for me to believe that there was such a teacher in UP who would be so kind to a troubled student. I knew I needed such kindness too. While Floro fought to keep his scholarship to earn an engineering degree, I was in rabid pursuit for higher grades to get me into medical school.

But life seemed to have taken a different turn. The social cause he pursued was eating up his time and he started acting as though finishing college wasn’t that important anymore. Although he returned to the dorm late from meetings with people I didn’t know, it never crossed my mind that he was mulling to go full-time as Ka Manding in the NPA movement.

I was with him for so long that I’d quickly recognize his low-toned voice if he called me from heaven. In ROTC, we bonded together in that green military uniform and combat boots during practice marches, lectures, and GT’s (graded tests.) We belonged to a jolly platoon of fellow-Ibalonians with Ray R.G. Rayel, Julius A. Lecciones, and Arnel V. Malaya. Our group’s tail-scout, Floro guarded our backs during a bivouac. He was our loyal sentinel when we took surreptitious rests under the cool shade of acacia trees.

I still kept the image of Floro as an active student catholic action member (UPSCA ) waiting at the dorm door for our Sunday mass to hear the socially-charged sermons of Fr. Unson in the campus chapel. Gratitude was on his face as I lent him cash sometimes when he didn’t have time to travel to far Bicutan to pick up his NSDB stipend. His steady gaze was transfixed on my face, as he pointed on social issues at Mrs. Rodrin’s cottage during our lunch together.

In a soiree, we had a good laugh donning our sartorial best at the alumni center, sipping cold beer to be with the most beautiful Bicolanas in campus. In a fond conversation, I naughtily poked on a pretty Ibalonian Rebecca Espeso wearing that orangey ethereal “kulambo” blouse which made Floro twinkle.

“Magayonon!” I whispered on his ear. He reacted with those jerky convulsions on his shoulder; his elated radiant eyes were as thin as the coin-hole of a lucky slot machine. He chuckled loud as though I heard Brad Pitt laughing somewhere.

A fine human being who truly cared for the poor and the disadvantaged, Floro was a hurried bright comet blazing in the night sky. He was fast on his trail to let the world know of his mission. Martyrdom he must do, for he couldn’t wait to hear more of the cries of the poor without doing something.

In Molave, my friend, the shining gem in the sky had this old alarm clock, a brother’s gift, he told me, which sounded like a time-bomb. He laughed in earnest when Mario Genio, another Bicolano and I kidded him of the noisy white clock.

I borrowed this funny time piece to wake me up at midnight in order to study. When the alarm rang, I thought I saw Floro’s shadowy figure in that rickety chair fronting his table, deep in thought, as if something heavy was in his heart. I wondered if God was there speaking to him by his side. Maybe that moment was his epiphany. In the pitch blackness of midnight outside, it was his time to illumine the sky. =0=

Abangan!

July 5, 2008

A hurried bright comet blazing in the night sky

“Thirty years after the fatal shot which took his young life, a UP Ibalonian recalls Floro E. Balce— the evanescence of his time, the greatness of his sacrifice and the humanity of his dream.”

“This is a tribute to Ka Manding, one among the heroic braves who died in the pitch-blackness of the night— of yet to be won battle, before the sun comes up for a better day. The cause he embraced remains contentious, yet noble—that which draws others to learn and admire his lofty path.”

“In our fond conversations, I naughtily poked on a pretty Ibalonian Rebecca Espeso who made Floro twinkle-eyed.

Magayonon!” I excitedly whispered to his ear. With jerky convulsions on Floro’s shoulder, his elated eyes were as thin as the coin-hole slits of a piggy bank. He chuckled loud as though I heard Brad Pitt laughing somewhere.”

Part II: The Mighty Guy of UP Ibalon

He isn’t called strong or powerful for without a reason. Battle-scarred, insightful and mellowed, Apolonio “Mighty” Baylon who feels tenaciously united with Bicol, continues his thoughts on his love—the UP Ibalon. More than 30 years after he successfully rallied Bicolano students in Diliman campus to establish an organization, here he is—still loyal, ponderous, and unexpurgated.

Floro E. Balce: Iskolar ng Bayan, Part II

“An incisive account of Floro’s involvement with Pulang Hamtic as a selfless cadre of the New People’s Army. In a hallowed memorial of Bantayog ng Mga Bayani, his name is etched with another intrepid Bicolano, a former Naga Parochial School student, Alexander Bellone II.