Last May 5, during the 23rd anniversary of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), comrades and friends paid tribute to a living hero, staunch nationalist and tireless fighter for human rights, retired navy captain Danilo Vizmanos. Ka Dan is also the beloved chair of victims group SELDA and was also formerly the chair of Bayan from 1994-98. Ka Dan has served the people’s movement for decades now. He fought the Marcos dictatorship, fought for the indemnification of human rights victims, fought the US bases, the Visiting Forces Agreement and the US war on Iraq and Afghanistan.
We held the tribute at the University of Makati, a very nice venue with good facilities. Mayor Binay was kind enough to let us use the place.
As if to mirror the adversities of Ka Dan’s own life, tribute organizers had to face a major problem in the venue when it turned out the air-condition conked out. It’s summer and there was no way we could hold the program there without air-conditioning. The problem was fixed by 4pm, and so the start of the program had to be moved 30 minutes later.
Ka Dan arrived at the venue riding his new car he said was made in China. We got him to a wheelchair and on to the mini-theater. First thing he thanked us for was for preparing the wheelchair which would made it easier for him to move from one place to another. To make things comfortable for Ka Dan, we prepared for him a reclined chair so that he wouldn’t strain himself from sitting in an upright position throughout the program.
The program hadn’t started when Ka Dan felt this surge of emotion and already started to shed tears when he saw his friends from the anti-Marcos underground as well as the current crop of activists who all came together to pay tribute to his contributions.
Friends of Ka Dan viewed a short film outlining the life and struggles of Ka Dan. It was done in a very light but informative manner. It wasn’t a straight documentary. But the producers kept it very real. His life was narrated as if he was just narrating stories to his grandkids. That’s exactly how the film started off, Ka Dan interacting with his grandkids.
After the film, Ka Dan’s grandkids took the stage. If they were a bunch of naughty kids in the film, they were quite the opposite during their performance. All of them cried as they began to sing Gaano Kita Kamahal, (ikaw lamang ang aking iibigin….magpakialanman).
There were also performances from leaders of various organizations, poems, songs, testimonies.
Ka Satur Ocampo recalled that Ka Dan’s realizations and initial progressive ideas were from his own efforts. These were to be later reinforced and affirmed by the organized forces of the Left during the Marcos dictatorship.
At the end of the program, Ka Dan gave a response and thanked everyone there. He told us that during detention, he did not shed one tear, yet during the moving tribute, he could not help but cry. He thanked comrades past and present, even those who were no longer alive. He reminded that the fight against the Arroyo regime is just tactical and that the bigger fight is changing the system. I always knew Ka Dan as a firm believer of the socialist vision of the national democratic struggle. He knew that a better world is possible, one that is not marked by unjust wars and class exploitation.
In the end, he told us that the tribute he got from the movement was more important than any medal he had gotten during his stay in the Armed Forces.
Ka Dan stays at his home in Makati. I think he still appreciates visits, especially from old friends and even from the younger generation of activists. His books are available at Ibon and Popular Bookstore.
He is for us, the original rebel soldier. He is also a mentor and a fighter for national and social liberation.