Welcome appalling difficulties. He proved he could take it. They called it a first installment. But here’s how they were tested; how Jo-Jo was tested. To use Stalin’s words, “Communist are people of a different mold.” During sessions of criticism and self-criticism, each person was subjected to a roasting and had to confess their weaknesses. Then having been condemned and severely criticized, they’d often weep and express their shame in an acceptable way. The long discussions gave an opportunity to ferret-out potential opportunist, or actual traitors, some of whom were executed for crimes against the revolution.
They all knew the need for revolution and the problems with living the old way. Jo-Jo used riddles and questions to challenge fellow comrades. “What would happen if American capitalists no longer made a profit?” The tiger shark symbolized the American capitalistic imperialist. This analogy served its purpose but never totally worked, anymore than totally embracing Marxism did. But formalities broke down when old friends recognized each other. Indoctrination was put on hold.
Jo-Jo liked to sit on the high ridges of Mount Arayat, which dominated Central Luzon. It gave him a view of busy Clark Air Base. From these heights, he also saw rice and sugar-cane fields, a vast sea of green broken only by a network of roads and towns. The American airplanes that came and went fascinated him; but he knew that neither the planes nor the base assured peace to the only home he ever knew.
His parents were the ones who gave him a social conscience. His mother took him with her throughout Pampanga as she called on the sick and delivered babies as a midwife. Faith helped them survive the war and the political seesaw that followed.
In the mountainous forest, Jo-Jo collected edible ferns for meals. It was almost impossible to imagine the hunger and the other hardships they endured. Some rebels died from fighting among themselves, the same as children over rats and snails. Everyone was weak and numb to the bone. The rain made for a night of misery. Tom fools in the rain and always wet, stabbed by thorns and bitten by leeches, their feet were raw and swollen. Faced with attacks, often backed by air raids, they were always on the move. T he forest didn’t offer them a sanctuary. It became the same as a sieve, and government troops pour in at will, and the government had its informers.
The sheer will power it took to survive, the unexpected capacity to endure, this test gave them the strength to hang on. It took more than courage. It was tenacity and the knowledge of having made it before. The struggle kept the revolt going. In swashbuckling fashion, they clambered up huge boulders and this was the same for them as joining the people of China in their fight against capitalist dogs. The truth emerged when they looked at America, touted as a showcase, and saw how America masqueraded as a benevolent society. Most Huk cadres would say “cut an American down to size and what’s left is a Conquistador in jockey shorts.”
Huks had their most precious possessions…. life, honor, children and wives….wantonly desecrated. The government should’ve anticipated a reaction. Its scorched-earth policy of looting and burning created hatred and drove effected peasants into the arms of the rebels. The Huks organized barrios in an area of over 40,000 square kilometers, which extended across the borders of four provinces. People pretended loyalty to the government while they secretly worked for the liberation movement.
Fighters attacked from the mountains and slipped around during the night. Villagers were willing to take considerable risks, and close friendships often emerged. Of course, no leader could stop their men from having love affairs with local women. None really tried, though they knew carelessness men died needlessly.
Jo-Jo asked nothing in return for his participation. He didn’t want to be treated differently than anyone else. Had he not objected, his friends would’ve made his life easier. He, who should’ve been rejected, soon was given rank. Determined not to shirk his load, he picked up a rifle, but it shouldn’t be assumed then that he shot Americans. He unavoidably, however, became entangle in precisely the cruelty and the ruthlessness he deplored. The ruthless demands of the struggle hardened him. Rotten to an extent, it was glorious in other ways.
Jo-Jo made the Huk struggle his war. He wouldn’t be able to extricate himself from it, nor did he ever repudiate his socialist convictions. His flirting with Communism was his way of grappling with the problems he saw. Friends of his since childhood had clearly been victimized, and he saw and understood that, understood imperialism from the Filipino perspective. He hated imperialism and saw how it effected everyone.
The army used trench mortars and 75-mm. guns to soften the resistance. S helling peasant houses preceded each assault, which largely accounted for the strength of the enemy. They covered up their mistakes and blamed the looting and the burning on the Huks, or the villages were caught in the crossfire. Even before they entered an area, people knew what to expect from them. Therefore, few people stuck around; and the army rarely captured anyone.
There was panic everywhere. Generally guerrillas couldn’t easily be identified. Peasants and the very poor (who never had enough for themselves) supplied the army with rice, vegetables, and cigarettes, and so on, hoping then wrongfully that they would be left alone. Whether they called this stealing or called it taxing, confiscating or contributing, it amounted to the same thing: highway robbery. Such was the army’s method.
The success of the spectacular attack of San Pablo City gave the Huks the feeling that the tide had turned in their favor. They felt as if they had the government on the run. But soon victory would lead to defeat, because Manila was busy engineering a dazzling coup. The revolution would soon suffer many setbacks. Many Huks would be killed.
Jo-Jo never understood their defeats. To fight discouragement, he told the men the Russians or the Chinese were coming. No one really believed him. Instead, the peasants were all anxious that their landlords wouldn’t let them back on the land. As the uneasiness grew, many of them obtained permission to return to their families. So to avoid shame, no request was denied. Had they asked for the moon, they probably would’ve gotten it.
Containing Jo-Jo’s group to Mount Arayat, government troops controlled all the water holes. Water had to be collected drop by drop from stems and vines. With artillery, armored cars, and foxholes, the ring of steel of the government left few gaps. Clashes were inevitable. Jo-Jo insulated himself from this misery by falling for a communist gal.
Facilitating the flow of intelligence between Manila and the mountain, this aristocratic beauty served as a courier. Intelligence gathering required freedom of movement, so her responsibilities kept her on the move. Faced with the ever-present danger of sudden death, Jo-Jo’s communist girl was perfectly willing to have sex with him. Following revolutionary concepts, she engaged in sex without attachment or love. But Jo-Jo with his Christian upbringing had a problem with that. As his conscience and sense of decency got in the way, he had a hard time. Rather than just accept human nature, poor Jo-Jo became angry when she gave herself to several other men. Yet he believed in the Communist dictum concerning women, which said only class enemies try to mold women into preconceived niches and a profession of love often is a form of slavery.
Jo-Jo slowly moved forward with the men. They broke camp before daybreak. Intuition or premonition was all they had to go on. The decision seemed risky, but they stuck to the plan. Danger was ever present. No one balked. In hopes of somehow breaking through, they left the hills behind, hoping to cause enough pandemonium for success. What they knew about war they learned from experience. There was no rhyme or reason why, regardless of caution or skill, one person died and another lived. One could never explain why he or she was spared when a grenade exploded a few feet away and blew away a comrade or two, or why some lived only to surrender and spend ten years in prison.