I found this write up in my old blog and realized that this is the realization of my ultimate dream when I was young (when my interest in Journalism, people and places started).
Once in a lifetime experience indeed.
X. SEARCHING FOR THE REBELS
(Blank Production’s experience)
Walang sinuman ang nabubuhay para sa sarili lamang, walang sinuman ang namamatay, para sa sarili lamang.
No man is an island. It is indeed a fact that no matter how hard we try to detach ourselves to the world we’re living in, we are simply attached to it, piece of it, and significant to its growth. We may simply keep away from our attachment to it and think about ourselves for awhile but sooner or later, we’re going to face the reality that all we’ve done and we’re doing affect every creature, culture and history.
So I think it is sensible to say that every little thing that the media is doing, broadcasting and publishing affect the life and growth of every individual and every nation. And the responsibility of culture formation and progress largely depend on the people that compose the media industry. Hence, the maturity and growth of our people depend on the way the media treat and present each and every issue and idea.
Growing up in the land with several mountains and fields, I am so accustomed to with gossips on terrorism side by side. I grew up wanting to hear their voice and fathom every meaning that they’re putting in their every action. I grew up wanting to do a documentary on the Bagong Hukbong Bayan or New People’s Army (NPA) and share it to other people who are confused, also wanting to understand them and to those who are afraid to seek for the truth and just accept everything given to them.
September 27, 2003, when the Police Headquarters in Lopez, Quezon was bombed, several policemen and civilians were killed and wounded, and the whole town witnessed how bullets fly like kites and balloons in a wonderful day. It was done allegedly by the New People’s Army. From then on, NPA became the town’s enemy and in many instances, while in different towns or provinces, the town’s people were stereotyped as NPA. I experienced being called as one, but unlike other people in my town, I didn’t see it as negative, the zeal to learn what these people, the NPAs, are fighting for and why they’re striving to continue sacrificing for their ideologies started at that point. They are living in my town, and as their folk, I opt to believe that I have the responsibility to know them and explain to others the reason of their existence. I always love to live peacefully, I always miss my old hometown where I can go out to learn, play with brilliant kids and enjoy fresh air whenever I want. But I understand that living peacefully will never take place if there are things that are bothering me and I’m not doing anything to understand them.
And now, I courageously started my mission to understand them. I know I could never devote my whole life trying to explain to the world what they’re fighting for, because in reality, I’m still striving to know them to be able to advocate fair treatment for them. I understand that they’re mean in their actions sometimes, and I still can’t explain why. But I also understand their genuine objective making this country fair to every idea and every individual.
Since I am wholly aware of their existence in my own hometown, I didn’t feel much fear in doing a documentary about them. The pre-production phase of our documentary seemed to be so jovial and trouble-free. But during the production phase, which is the data-gathering phase, I was trembling. I thought of the two UP students who are still missing because of the investigation they did, I thought of the future that I planned, I thought of my childhood memories and I thought of the many possibilities to lose my life. I was scared. I got confused but our group’s goal to search for truth and share what we’ve learned to our classmates kept me back on track.
This stage of my life is not just an application of everything I’ve learned in De La Salle University-Dasmarinas for four years as a Broadcast Journalism student; this is also a treasured accomplishment and this is what I’m made of.
Many articles say that the New People’s Army is a terrorist group, which promotes war and divide the Filipino nation. Gossips say that they kill each other in the group, they kill other people, they’re bad, troublemaker and useless in the society. Many people say that they have connections in the government and they’re aiding them.
We didn’t use paper trail or documents though we came across some documents on the Sept 27, 2003 attack during our data gathering in the Lopez Police Headquarters. We maximized human resources.
When we were still in Manila, we contacted friends who we think could help us find active members of NPA. We made plan A, B and C. We thought of coordinating with the 76th Infantry Battalion, since they have the anti-terrorism campaign, to help us look for former NPAs that could probably give us some details about the organization but due to several reasons, we didn’t get to them. We tried to ask several people in the town, the people who conducted anti-terrorism campaign, professors, allegedly NPAs, and priests for us to get different angles of the story. We went to Lopez Police Headquarters and interviewed policemen n their knowledge on NPA. We went to several barangays and the data gathering lasted for two days simply because people don’t want or maybe afraid to give us information. We tried to gather and collect documentaries done about them, but due to lack of time (some, simply don’t want to help us) and electricity (because we went there after Typhoon Milenyo), we didn’t get anything. We interviewed a former NPA that is currently working on the municipal hall. He scrutinized us, asked every detail about us, and asked about our documentary and data gathering. It was the first time I experienced talking to someone whom I was hiding some information that I learned. There’s actually nothing wrong if we went to the Police because we’re trying to get both sides, but we understand that if the NPAs will learn about it, we could not control their thoughts and I’m wondering if they’ll still let us explain our side. I couldn’t look at his eyes completely though I tried to pretend that everything’s fine. Now I experienced the feeling of being an investigative journalist, the feeling of trying to keep information and trying to solve the puzzle all by yourself because the topic is so sensitive that every move and word connote life or death, failure or success. After hours of negotiating, we gained their trusts and asked us to go to their camps at 5 in the afternoon. I felt my mom’s fear and my dad’s perseverance to show courage to me. I was scared. We were scared. We rode in a van going there. Silly, the NPAs talked to the AFPs face-to-face during the checkpoint in a very remote town in Quezon province. My heart seemed to jump from time to time, my mind entertained memories and wonderful thoughts, my body was paralyzed, and my soul consistently begged for the Lord’s guidance. All the parts of my being seemed to work together towards one goal– to be alive, find the truth and make a difference.
We sneaked in the bushes, walked for about two hours and kept our minds and eyes alert for we never know whether the military is spying or not. What we were thinking that time was to hide because the military will never believe that we were just there to do a documentary and we were not connected to them.
WHAT WE LEARNED
We experienced their lives as No Permanent Address. We experienced how they endure sleeping in mountains without good houses, the alert way of sleeping, their discipline in the camp and the way they respected each other. Unlike what many people say, they are friendly and very accommodating. They believe that everything has its own place that’s why they have time and place for everything. They’re starting their day so early and starting it with “Balitaan,” in which they tell stories about their nights and the current events in our country. They’re so updated with what’s happening in our land, and they make sure to give time for discussion about these current events. They never stop studying. They have their own books, developed their own website, and have their own special occasions. Their food is great. Haha. Their songs are so relaxing and tranquil. Living with them is just like living with ordinary happy people who know whom they are for. They know the consequence of being a member of NPA and they’re ready to sacrifice their lives for what they’re fighting for. They believe in Lenin, Marx and Mao TseTung’s philosophies and they believe that they’re fighting for the rights of the majority of the Flipinos, the farmers and the poor. They’re against the American imperialism, Feudalism and bureaucrats. How do they survive thinking that they don’t have jobs? Simply with the support of the masses. They help the masses in their problems; conduct activity for the masses and the masses loved them. It’s adulating that they opt to have patience and talk to people that are stereotyping and insulting them and the fact that they have high respect to ‘love’ and courage. And that’s the reason why they know the reason of their existence and why they’re fearless of death.
I admit, I didn’t see the whole picture of the New People’s Army, but I opt to believe that I tested a hypothesis, I proved that they are not someone to be afraid of because they know how to respect people who respect their ideologies and some people in the government support their living.
I’m still on the process of seeking for the larger truth, but I feel like I already answered one question in my mind. Like what I. A. Richards said in his theory “Meaning of Meanings,” we, humans, are the one giving meanings to everything and every meaning came from our experiences. So it is important for us, humans, to know that we don’t have the right to judge any individual unless we know him or her completely and we know every person they met, every place they’ve been and every decision they made. We can judge the act but never the person’s being.
I am now applying what was written in the book, “If the source said that it’s off-the-record, make sure that you’ll not reveal his or her identity even after the investigation.” And I’m proud to say that I applied during the data gathering everything I learned from my Investigative Journalism and Special Cases & Problems classes regarding ethics in media.
Several stories inspired us during the conversation with them; several things made us understand that the world is manipulating our thoughts and truths in some ways; there times that they asked as to be honest in the professions that we’re going to choose; but in the whole experience of being with the ‘outcasts,’ there are two things they left me to ponder about and keep in mind: who am I really for? And that the world is a very big laboratory where we can learn wonderful things each and every second of our lives.