The Communist Party of the Philippines today announced the passing of an icon of the Philippine revolution, Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal. According to the announcement made by the CPP, he died in a guerilla zone in June 22, 2011 due to a heart attack. According to the statement, the belated announcement was due to difficulties in first informing his next of kin who were in highly militarized areas.
Youth and student activists of the 1990’s fondly remember the radio and TV interviews of Ka Roger. Whether it was discussing the policies of the revolutionary movement, explaining NPA tactical offensives, releasing prisoners of war, or discussing the Second Great Rectification Movement, Ka Roger’s distinct voice and simple language brought the news of the revolution to the entire nation.
Somehow Ka Roger appealed to youth activists in the 90’s. Maybe it was the critical and creative surge coming from the rectification movement which swept entire mass movement. Or perhaps it was Ka Roger’s simple yet profound ways of explaining issues to ordinary people, a skill that is sometimes lost on many intellectuals. Or the fact that Ka Roger himself was once a student activist from the Golden Gate College in Batangas, and a member of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM).
The man who would become the voice of the Philippine revolution came from humble beginnings, from a middle peasant family according to the statement of the CPP Central Committee. It was from this life of poverty that he would come to know of the national democratic alternative and struggle.
“At a young age, Ka Roger was witness to poverty under an oppressive and exploitative system. He worked hard even as a child in order to help his family. From grade school to his second year in high school, he was for eight years a servant at their landlord’s household. He became an avid radio listener and read comic books as a pastime. Poverty forced him to stop his schooling for several years. To continue his formal education, he peddled mosquito nets and other goods that he bought on credit from loan sharks. He traveled far and wide to different provinces. Wherever he went, it was the same face of poverty and oppression that he saw”. – Statement CPP Central Committee, October 9, 2011
He would join the ranks of the revolutionary forces of the CPP-NPA-NDF in the area known as Southern Tagalog. He would gain national prominence as spokesman of the Melito Glor Command. After two decades, he would become CPP spokesperson in 1993.
Ka Roger inspired a generation of Filipino youth activists to serve the people in the countryside. Some of them are known today as martyrs of the revolution. Many continue their revolutionary work in various capacities. Activists in the 90’s were awed by pictures of Ka Roger in a mountain camp working on his laptop computer and reading the latest newspaper, before giving interviews to the media.
Activists were thrilled to hear news of huge gatherings to commemorate the anniversary of the CPP. His December 26 statements on radio were mini “national situationers” that also gave updates on the status of the revolutionary forces. Activists followed Ka Roger’s radio interviews, especially his lively interactions with DZRH anchors Joe Taruc and Deo Macalma. Ka Roger’s on-air duet of “Lumang Simbahan” with Tiya Dely is now the stuff of broadcast legend.
Many educated youth responded to Ka Roger’s call to the masses to send their best and brightest sons and daughters to join the revolutionary struggle. He helped them understand the need for thoroughgoing social transformation. He challenged them to study Philippine society beyond the confines of the classrooms.
Next to CPP founding chair and NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Ma. Sison, Ka Roger was perhaps the most recognized face, the most photographed figure, of the Philippine revolution.
That Ka Roger died not in enemy hands but because of an illness, in a way, shames the reactionary armed forces. It is no secret that they have tried but failed to arrest Ka Roger on many occasions as the recent CPP statements show. Till the end, Ka Roger eluded capture by the AFP.
During the past years, the AFP alternately spread rumors of Ka Roger’s demise while offering him medical assistance. As the cliche goes, rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated by the AFP. Ka Roger’s 2011 New Year’s Day message was another rebuttal of those rumors
The CPP said that if ever Ka Roger died, it would not be kept a secret. He would be given the highest honors for his work in the revolutionary movement. A look at the CPP website will show just that. A grayscale image of Ka Roger, his name and the years 1947-2011, are now splashed on the homepage. In perhaps the first of its kind, all units of the New People’s Army nationwide will be in formation to give Ka Roger a gun salute on 12 noon of October 15.
The national democratic movement and the masses have lost one of their best and brightest sons with the passing of Gregorio Rosal. It is however to Ka Roger’s credit that he inspired a generation of Filipino youth who will carry on the unfinished tasks of the Philippine revolution. ###