By FRANK FERNANDEZ
NDFP Negros Island Chapter
The revolutionary forces and allied organizations of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in the island of Negros convey their warmest solidarity greetings to fellow revolutionaries, friends and guests attending today’s book launch of Louie Jalandoni: Revolutionary, An Illustrated Biography by the contemporary progressive writer Ina Alleco R. Silverio, and also the celebration of the 42nd founding anniversary of NDFP.
Let us take this occasion as an opportunity to further strengthen our unity and resolve towards the realization of the national and democratic aspirations of the Filipino people.
In truth, giving a message about the life of Ka Louie poses a great difficulty. For it might be wanting in portraying the greatness of a man so well-loved by the masses, especially the peasants, farm workers and mill workers of Negros sugarlandia, respected and emulated by the Church people, and much reviled by the class enemy.
Knowing the life of Ka Louie would give us valuable lessons what it means to serve the people wholly and entirely.
I was a young seminarian in the late 60s when I first came to know Ka Louie as Father Louie Jalandoni. He was then a newly ordained priest and just designated by the charismatic Bishop Antonio Y. Fortich as head of the Social Action Center that served as the leading arm of the diocese in its pastoral program in response to the prevailing social condition.
The chronic crisis of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal ruling system in the country was profoundly reflected in the local situation of Negros, aptly described by Bishop Fortich as a social volcano about to explode.
The comprador and landlord classes subjected the peasants, hacienda farm workers and sugar milling central workers to intolerable exploitation and oppression. Their crying need for justice was deafening but no hope was found within the system, leading them to the path of struggle for genuine social transformation.
The unfolding of the national democratic movement in the national capital and later on nationwide, and the Catholic Church’s teachings through the Vatican Council II and various social encyclicals had facilitated the diocese pastoral option of taking side with the exploited and the oppressed.
With the blessing of the good bishop, Father Louie and his Social Action Office immediately embarked on a pastoral program that brought the diocesan clergy, other religious people, seminarians and lay leaders in close link with the struggle of the people for justice.
Among those who whole-heartedly responded to the groundbreaking efforts of Father Louie in bringing the Church people to the struggle of the masses in building a truly just and humane society was a nun from Silay, Negros Occidental, named Sister Coni Ledesma.
As their commitment and involvement with the people’s struggle intensified and soared to greater heights, they grew closer and eventually fell for each other. Later, they got married, at a time when the fangs of open fascist rule by the US-Marcos regime began to show with the growth of the people’s mass movements
Father Louie’s ministry for the poor afforded him with a living education about realities of social inequality in an unjust social system. His world outlook drawn from his landlord class origin and bourgeois influence was constantly challenged and diminished by his constant contact with the struggling peasant masses victimized by landgrabbing, sacadas cruelly treated and deprived of their meager wages, mill workers suffering from union busting and unpaid labor, and other victims of social injustice.
His closeness with the suffering masses and his encounters with despotism and state repression would further sharpen his political education about the realities of social classes and class struggle, and the necessity of the national democratic revolution especially when its second propaganda movement had spread throughout the country and had exerted influence in the Church.
Father Louie Jalandoni’s fight for justice was highlighted in the much talked about incidents where the antagonistic confrontation between comprador-landlord despotism and the struggling masses was sharply focused.
Until now, the stories are retold by the masses about Father Louie Jalandoni who fought closely with the ranks of striking mill workers in Victorias Milling Company, Negros Occidental; the awakening and struggle of the farm workers of sugar plantations that gave birth to the National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NFSW); the rising peasants in Barangay (village) Hiyang-hiyang of Cadiz, who dared to challenge Congressman Armin Gustilo, then the most notorious warlord of Negros. While the masses of the exploited and oppressed accepted Fr. Louie as their own, the landlord class maligned him and wished him crucified.
As a priest, he helped pave the way for the Church people to connect the Gospel to the current realities of our country and became active participants in societal concerns. As an activist, he was at the forefront with the masses in various struggles, concerted actions and campaigns, not lording over them but befriending and learning from them and sharing their woes, hopes, dreams and aspirations.
He has contributed in many ways in the advances and development of the revolutionary movement. As a peace advocate, for years he toiled for the peace process to advance. As a people’s diplomat, he represented par excellence the revolutionary movement and the Filipino people in proto-diplomatic affairs and people-to-people relations around the world.
To celebrate Ka Louie’s profound, meaningful, colorful and enthralling life in one book may not be enough. But it’s a good start. To know the man whom the masses of Negros fondly remember as Kaupod Louie.
I wish Ka Louie good health and more years of service to the people and the revolution. And also, I would like to congratulate Ina Alleco R.Silverio for her commendable work. Thank you. Mabuhay tayong lahat. Sulong kag padayon tubtob sa kadalag-an!