Thursday, April 7, 2011

THE LAST BRAVE STAND: The Communist Party of the Philippines' Tribute to Comrade Billy Berana (Ka Toklai/Ka Ebyong)

The Communist Party of the Philippines' Tribute to Comrade Billy Berana
(Ka Toklai/Ka Ebyong)*

Regional Party Committee
CPP-Far Southern Mindanao
February 1, 2011

"Withdraw now to safety while I take care of the enemy!" These were Ka Toklai's last final words as he bravely faced a platoon of 73rd IB contingents who were on a surprise patrol in the hinterland barrio of Malapatan, Sarangani Province about 2 pm of 26 January 2011. Together with Red fighters in ambush position, he bravely fought with his m16 rifle, hitting seven soldiers, two of whom were later pronounced dead in the hospital. When Ka Toklai fell, the other comrades who were with him had already escaped to safety and were out of reach from the marauding Scout Rangers of the AFP.

Billy Berana or Ka Toklai (also known as Ka Berka, Ka Ebyong, Ka Goyot, Ka Zero and many other names), who bravely offered his life to save his companions, gives us a glimpse of the heroism and selflessness of the people's true warrior. He was the quintessential revolutionary who lived and died serving the people wholeheartedly. He had dedicated the greater part of his life with the Lumad and peasant masses, braving the odds, giving practical solutions and humor to the most difficult situations. He was 44 and had worked as an exemplary revolutionary for close to 30 years.

He was an organizer par excellence. Through his able leadership and dint of painstaking mass work, the comrades were able to build a relatively large mass base in Compostela Valley, Cotabato, Bukidnon, Davao and Sarangani. He was North Cotabato's "recovery king" who penetrated many unchartered territories in the past decade by using many unorthodox methods. For he was naturally talented and creative and he could pass for a lumad, a farmer, a student, a pastor, a last-two usher, a fish vendor, a handicapped polio victim, etc. He could also speak so many dialects and could mimic the accent of the masses in the area. Once, in order to penetrate the hostile areas of North Cotabato, Ka Toklai easily posed as a teenage girl in search of her relatives and thus was able to build contacts and organize peasant groups which eventually became the initial mass base. He was a chameleon revolutionary who blended with his surroundings so fully; his true identity was unknown up to the very end. The enemy never knew who he was until the time of his death.

And how the people loved him! Wherever he went, Ka Toklai was received as a son, a brother or a friend. People ran to him to solve their myriad problems-- land conflicts, work conditions, interpretation of the law, medical problems and even the marital problems. Little children revolved around him for friendship, comfort and fun. On many occasions he saved orphaned children from the tragedy of hunger or death by finding them a home. Coming from the family of a poor peasant himself, Ka Toklai would remind everyone that "while poverty is a reality we have to live with, we must always take care of the children, especially the peasant children."

While he was attentive and gentle with the children, Ka Toklai was a fierce Red warrior who initiated and participated in many tactical offensives against the enemy. His long experience as a guerilla, plus his sharp analysis and no-nonsense hard work were important components to the success of many tactical offensives such as the successive raids in Magpet and in Dangcagan and Quezon, Bukidnon from 2005 to 2007, and the disarming operations in Malita, Davao del Sur.

Despite a chronic back ache, a urinary tract infection, arthritis, sinusitis, and occasional undiagnosed seizures, Ka Toklai was never sick. His energy was boundless, and his enthusiasm infectious--so infectious that his wife and three grown sons were inspired to join the movement and give their fair share of revolutionary work. He never stopped consolidating his family, deepening their understanding of the revolution, teaching them the values of working for the people's struggle. "Kasamang Derpa" his children would lovingly talk about him and his 'escapades'-- proud and happy revolutionaries themselves whose dedication to the cause became a shining beacon to many revolutionary families in the region. "Bilib man gyud mi sa iya, bisan sa iyang pagkaamahan (We are very proud of our father.)," texted one of his sons to the people attending his wake.

For all his achievements, Ka Toklai was a humble revolutionary who was open to criticism and suggestions. He admitted his mistakes and shortcomings easily and tried hard to rectify them. He also listened to everyone, young and old, and had the capacity to laugh at himself. His light-heartedness and good humor made the seemingly impossible possible. He had no vices, no luxuries, no whims, and no caprices. He was simply Ka Toklai, the hardworking, funny, peasant revolutionary who has laid down his life for us and will forever live in our hearts as a beloved hero and a great leader.

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