Ka Bel’s death is as heavy as the Sierra Madre

Here’s one of the many tributes and solidarity messages for the great Ka Bel from friends and comrades abroad.

Truly, Ka Bel’s death is as heavy as the Sierra Madre.

Long live the spirit of Ka Bel!


Dear Comrades, Friends and Family of Ka Bel,

It is a good fortune for many of us in the Taiwanese social movements to have met courageous Philippine fighters like Ka Bel in the past years. But we are not as fortunate as our Philippine comrades who have worked with him, day in and day out, for years and decades. Even so, our sporadic encounters with him have always left deep, indelible impressions.


I personally met Ka Bel in 1999 with a Taiwanese youth group on our exposure. He was the chairman of KMU at that time. Even though we are not some big-shot honored guest, Ka Bel took the time and came to where we stay to give us an introduction of the situation of Philippine labor movement.


In appearance, Ka Bel surely looked like a respectable elder. Befitting his sage-like demeanor, his analysis and his answers to our questions were sharp, succinct, and always to the point. But like all Philippine activists we have met, he told hilarious jokes that were difficult for me to translate, and one can quickly feel the warm friendliness glowing around him. The age gap dissolved in no time.


The most unforgettable thing is this: When the time approached 4 pm. The voluble Ka Bel abruptly ended our exciting conversation, and apologized that he had to leave, because it was his turn that day to hand out leaflets to employees of a certain Shoemart store during the change of shifts. So away he went.


“So old comrades like Ka Bel also do things like leafleting?” we asked our host, with huge surprise.

“Sure,” she replied in a matter-of-fact tone.

“But he is the chairman. People of his position in our country don’t do this kind of rookie’s job.”

“It’s the decision of KMU that every leader be given tasks in grassroots organizing work so that they keep in touch with situation on the ground.”

“So he also does house calls, education sessions, and things like that?”

“Sure,” she said, as if there was nothing special about this.


For me, that was the moment that the whole strength of the Philippine movement was expressed in a tiny act. Recalling this, I have the feeling that Ka Bel must have left us with peace and confidence at heart, for as great as Ka Bel was as a fighter, there are hundreds, thousands of Ka Bels, and eventually there will be millions of Ka Bels in the Philippines, and hopefully in all corners of the world, too.


So while we bid farewell to Ka Bel and honor his marvelous deeds, we, here in Taiwan , will strive to do the same thing you do in the Philippines , that is, keeping Ka Bel’s fighting spirit alive and growing.


In solidarity,


Hsin-Hsing Chen

Taiwan Committee for Philippine Concerns



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