Guest speech at Alternative Classroom Learning Experience (ACLE) Program, Philippine Collegian, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Q.C., October 15, 2015
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
I am delighted and grateful to be invited by editor-in-chief Mary Joy Capistrano and the Philippine Collegian to the Alternative Classroom Learning Experience program in order to share my experiences regarding revolutionary art, my views on the current state of the art and how artists and creative writers can serve the people and the country through their works.
I. My experiences regarding revolutionary art
As a grade school boy in my hometown of Cabugao, Ilocos Sur, I first became aware of revolutionary art in the form of statues of leaders of the Philippine revolution. At the southern end of the poblacion stood the figure of Andres Bonifacio with an upraised bolo and at the northern end the figure of General Antonio Luna on horseback. In the most central part of the town, was the figure of Dr. Jose Rizal, the martyred reformer.
The short stories that I read in the Ilocano vernacular magazine Bannawag and that were most interesting to me were patriotic ones about the Filipino resistance against the Japanese fascist invaders in World War II and romantic and populist ones about pairs of lovers coming from the rich and the poor and overcoming objections arising from the social divide. But the first story I wrote in Ilocano at the age of nine was about the romance of a poor boy and rich girl, which led to tragedy because of the social divide.
As a third and fourth year high school student at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran, I wrote short stories and poems critical of social injustice. My knowledge of the Marxist-Leninist analysis of classes and struggle was close to nil. I had a smattering of it only as a result of reading an anti-communist book which made the mistake of quoting extensively from the texts of Marx and Engels. The quotations were more impressive to me than the anti-communist thesis of the book.
While I was an undergraduate student in the University of the Philippines in 1958, I matured as a progressive liberal, fully appreciating the old democratic revolution that began in 1896 and won victory in 1898 under bourgeois liberal leadership against Spanish colonialism. I had gobbled up the anti-colonial and liberal works of Profs. Teodoro Agoncillo and Cesar Adib Majul and about the Philippine revolution and the two novels and essays of Dr. Jose Rizal and the essays of Marcelo H. del Pilar and Isabelo de los Reyes.
Within the same year of 1958, I made a great leap to understanding the need to continue the unfinished tasks of the Philippine revolution and to carry out the new democratic revolution under proletarian leadership against US imperialism and the local exploiting classes. I started to read Marxist works in earnest and to adhere to Marxism-Leninism. I gained access to Marxist works hidden in the basement of the UP Main Library and to the private collections of professor friends. I gorged on the available works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, the novels written by Soviet writers like Maxim Gorky and Mikhail Sholokhov and American Left writers, like John Steinbeck and Howard Fast in the 1930s and the writings of Manuel Arguilla and Carlos Bulosan.
I tried to learn the basic principles of the great communist thinkers and leaders in philosophy, political economy and social science and what constituted social realism and proletarian art in the novels and other literary works that I read. I associated with fellow campus writers like Petronilo Bn Daroy, Luis V. Teodoro and others who were somehow influenced by various aesthetic theories and literary works opposed to such currents as art for art’s sake, petty bourgeois self-titillation, mystical flights or art supposedly transcending classes but truly within the bounds of the exploiting classes.
We took the stand that literature and art must serve the exploited and oppressed people and necessarily the new democratic revolution as the way to their national and social liberation. We appreciated Salvador P. Lopez’ 1940 essay, Literature and Society, his advocacy of proletarian literature and his demand for socially significant content in creative writing against the sect of art for art’s represented by Jose Garcia Villa.
We formed the Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines (SCAUP) in 1959. We were determined to propagate the national democratic line and the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism. We were challenged to renew the revolutionary movement that had been crushed in the early 1950s. It was clear to us that it was necessary not only to propagate revolutionary ideas in discourses but also to express them in various literary and artistic forms.
We were among the most prolific writers of political and literary pieces for the Philippine Collegian and the Collegian Folio against foreign and feudal domination in socio-economic relations, politics, culture, and literature and art. We also published a series of daring but financially unstable little magazines like the Fugitive Review, Cogent and Diliman Observer from 1959 to 1962 until we could put up the relatively more stable Progressive Review.
Among the earliest Marxist works that I read were the Communist Manifesto, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Dialectics of Nature and Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. The latter book equipped me well in my debates on logical positivism with Prof. Ricardo Pascual. But the Marxist works that I found most engaging in connection with Philippine society and literature were those of Mao which analyzed the classes and class struggle in semicolonial and semifeudal society and which presented literature and art as weapons of the revolution.
I benefited from conversations with patriotic and progressive colleagues and professors on a wide range of political, social and cultural issues. The SCAUP, together with the UP Journalism Club, the Philippine Collegian, most fraternities and sororities, stood with them in fighting against the anticommunist witchhunt undertaken by the Committee on Anti-Filipino Activities. I learned much from the Peasant War in the Philippines published by my professor friends in the Philippine Social Science and Humanities Review. I studied aesthetics and poetics in graduate school and Prof. Leopoldo Yabes who seemed to enjoy letting me explain at length the Marxist theory of literature and art after he noticed my interest in it.
In the early 1960s, I had the good fortune of becoming friends and conversing frequently with Amado V. Hernandez on revolutionary politics and art and reading his works Isang Dipang Langit, Mga Ibong Mandaragit and Luha ng Buwaya. He was pleased with my first collection of poetry, Brothers, published by Filipino Signatures of our mutual friend Andres Cristobal Cruz. He enjoyed most satirizing the exploiters and oppressors and narrating his experiences as a guerrilla intelligence officer and as a labor leader.
We established Kabataang Makabayan as the assistant of the revolutionary proletariat. In seeking to develop the revolutionary mass movement along the national democratic line, my comrades and I responded to the call of Claro Mayo Recto for a Second Propaganda Movement. Under the banner of Kabataang Makabayan, we also called for a cultural revolution of the new democratic type. We underscored the role of creative writers and artists in the various art forms. We advocated a national, scientific and mass culture.
We favored the national language as the principal medium of education and literary development even as we respected the various languages and cultural heritage of the people in the provinces. We encouraged university teachers to use and conduct discussions in Pilipino; and writers in English to learn how to speak and write in Pilipino. Propaganda and agitation were done unavoidably among the toiling masses in Tagalog and other local languages.
Kabataang Makabayan, particularly its Cultural Bureau, was most active in engaging creative writers and artists in various art forms like graphics, music, dance and stage play. The signal act to avail of music was the request to Felipe de Leon to compose the anthem of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in 1964. The poem of Amado V. Hernandez, ¨Kung Tuyo na ang Luha mo, aking Bayan¨ was set to music and often featured in cultural presentations during protest rallies. We also revived the singing of the Internationale and other revolutionary songs of previous revolutionary movements in the Philippines and abroad. Cartoonists were in demand for publications and posters as well as effigy makers for mass actions.
Social investigation and mass integration teams of Kabataang Makabayan doubled as cultural performance teams when they went to factories, urban communities and farms. Revolutionary literature and art flourished with the upsurge of the mass movement of the workers, peasants and youth. Cultural performance groups arose in the latter years of the 1960s to present solo and choral singing, instrumental music, poetry recitation, dances and skits and to create illustrations on publications, posters and walls in order to enliven and invigorate the meetings, mass protests and workers’ strikes.
Towards the founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968, we did ideological, political and organizational work and we created revolutionary literary and artistic works to inspire ourselves and the masses that we sought to arouse, organize and mobliize. As soon as we started the people’s war in the countryside, we deployed and coordinated armed propaganda teams, cultural teams and medical teams.
When the First Quarter Storm of 1970 broke out, such organizations for cultural performances as Panday Sining of Kabataang Makabayan, Gintong Silahis of Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan and Kamanyang of the Philippine College of Commerce (now named the Polytechnic University of the Philippines) became outstanding among youth organizations in Manila and became models in the provinces.
I had the honor of sending messages in 1971 to the formation of two major cultural organizations of far-reaching significance. The first organization was Nagkakaisang Progresibong Mga Artista at Arkitekto (NPAA). It was composed of artists from the College of Fine Arts and Architecture of the University of the Philippines and from other schoolsl. The artists had previously given comprehensive artistic support to the legal mass movement. I discussed the arts as a weapon of the revolution. The second organization was the Panulat Para Sa Kaunlaran Ng Sambayanan (PAKSA). It brought together creative writers in both Pilipino and English, who were determined to serve the Filipino people with revolutionary literary works. I discussed the tasks of cadres in the cultural field, especially in literature.
When martial law was proclaimed and fascist dictatorship was imposed on the people, many creative writers and artists joined the underground and armed revolutionary movement and created more works about the dire social conditions, the sacrifices and struggles of the Filipino people. Literature and art flourished most among the propaganda and cultural teams of the New People’s Army and the masses in the countryside. The central and regional publications of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines published songs, poems, short stories and illustrations Cultural organizations published, performed or exhibited the literary and artistic works of their members.
It was futile for the fascist regime to detain creative writers and artists in order to silence them because they continued to produce creative works even in prison. Prisons became revolutionary schools and centers for creating songs, poems paintings, drawings, carvings, handicrafts and other art works. These were circulated and sold outside prison in the spirit of antifascist solidarity, These were also distributed and sold to support groups in Europe and North America and to a lesser extent domestically among allies and friends.
To mention a few outstanding songs created in prison, Aloysius ¨Ochie¨ Baez composed the lyrics Kay Taas ng Pader, Jose Luneta Awit sa Kasal and Luis Jorque the music of Andres Bonifacio’s Pag-ibig saTinubuang Lupa in Bicutan. The Bicutan political detainees also wrote and performed plays on the struggles of the workers, peasants and the urban poor. They staged under direction of Behn Cervantes Bonifacio Ilagan’s Pagsambang Bayan, the Sinakulong Bayan or street version of the Passion of Christ and Aurelio Tolentino’s Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas.
Anthologies of literary works and songs were published in the Philippines and abroad, under the direction National Commission on Culture of the CPP. The Instityut sa Panitikan at Sining ng Sambayanan (IPASA) published: Akdang Pandigmang Bayan, Ulos; and Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win, 1973; Hulagpos, 1981 by Mano de Verdades Posadas; Mga Tula Rebolusyong Pilipino 1972-80; and Mga Kanta ng Rebolusyong Pilipino, 1984, issued by the Special Committee on Culture of the CPP Central Publishing House (reissued by IPASA with the title Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa, mga Kanta ng Rebolusyong Pilipino in 1995).
There was no way the fascist regime could stop the creation of literary and artistic works.
Literary works circulated among the people. Lightning cultural performances were held even in city centers. Protest graffiti, periodikits and sticker-posters of various sizes were posted on walls, waiting sheds, and inside buses and jeepneys. A collective of creative writers and illustrators was able to produce the illustrated version of Philippine Society and Revolution.
When I was under maximum security detention and under constant electronic surveillance from 1977 onwards, I composed poetry like other political prisoners in bigger political prisons. I recited the poems even as the guards were taperecording the recitation. I was able to smuggle out my poems and have them published by Prof. Epifanio San Juan and included in the Pintig anthology. A committee openly dedicated to seek my freedom was able to publish in Manila my collection of poems, Prison and Beyond in 1985, before the overthrow of Marcos.
When the mass protest movement resurged in the urban areas from 1981 onwards and even more so, from 1983 after the Aquino assassination, protest and revolutionary art also resurged in the schools and communities, in workers picket lines, in the meetings of mass organizations and in the street mass protests. Many more literary works were published in the alternative legal press, among them Midweek and New Progressive Review; as well as campus publications that proliferated, including Philippine Collegian and Diliman Review.
Many types of protest visuals mushroomed, from T-shirts with slogans and creatively designed placards and streamers, to huge murals at the head of big marches and rallies. Protest music and street theater became widespread and popular through many small musical and theater groups based in unions, urban poor communities and schools, and through the more regularized or professionalized ones such as PETA. The resurgence of revolutionary art in the urban areas ran parallel to the constantly rising of artistic and other cultural activities in the countryside.
2. On the current state of revolutionary art
Prof. Alice Guerrero Guillermo has written the most comprehensive survey and analysis of protest/ revolutionary art in the Philippines, from 1970 to 1990, and has continued to observe its further development to the present. She attests to the vibrant continuity and growth of revolutionary art. But there is yet no survey of literary and artistic works extending to the current decade of the 21st century. That is a project still to be fully undertaken even as I now try to scan and assess the current state of revolutionary art, with much info feed from cultural activists, creative writers and artists. After the delivery of this speech I intend to gather more information to fill in gaps in the current presentation.
Prof. Gelacio Guillermo has been able to collect in Muog (Ang Naratibo ng Kanayunan sa Matagalang Digmang Bayan sa Pilipinas) the most outstanding literary narratives and poems in the countryside that he could collect from various regions from the period of martial law to the 1990s. With the Muog anthology and his other notable works “The New Mass Art and Literature” and “Ang Panitikan ng Pambandsang Demokrasya”, he shows how the revolutionary creative writers and cultural activists make use of literary forms, including poems, narratives, songs, instrumental music and dances, that we learn from the masses, including the indigenous people.
Rogelio L. Ordonez presents comprehensively the development of revolutionary literature in the national language from the 1960s to the 1990s in his essay, “Literatura ng Uring Anakpawis”. Lilia Quindoza-Santiago has chronicled and analyzed much of the protest and revolutionary poetry in the 1970s. I recommend for your reading and study Nationalist Literature: A Centennnial Forum, edited by Prof. Elmer A.Ordoñez and published in celebration of the Philippine Revolution of 1896. The collection of essays here shows you the continuity and advance of revolutionary literature.
The richest source of literary and artistic works done by revolutionary writers and artists are the central and regional publications of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front. They publish songs, poems, short stories, illustrations and comic strips, aside from disseminating news and information about the revolutionary forces and the people in their respective areas. They have literary journals that are focused on literature and art.
The best known central publications are: Ulos (literary journal of ARMAS-NDF), Sine Proletaryo (video production-CPP Information Bureau), Kalayaan (Kabataang Makabayan), Liyab (KAGUMA) and Malayang Pilipina (MAKIBAKA), ).
In Northern Luzon: Baringkuas (Cagayan Valley), Dangadang (Northwest Luzon), Ramut (revolutionary edication and culture -Norhwestern Luzon) and Rissik (revolutionary cultural journal-Cagayan Valley). In Central Luzon:Himagsik (Central Luzon), Inang Larangan (cultural anthology, Central Luzon), Lakas ng Masa (Central Luzon), Dyaryo Pasulong (Revolutionary People of Mount Sierra Madre),
In Southern Tagalog region: Dagitab (ARMAS-TK), Diklap (South Quezon-Bondoc Peninsula) and Alab (a revolutionary publication for the masses in Mindoro), In Bikol region: Gerilya (NPA Bicol Regional Command) Punla (literary publication-Bicol Region), Silyab (CPP-NPA in Bicol), and Ang Kusog (Masbate)
In the Visayas,Ang Panghimakas (Negros Island), Ang Budyong (Leonardo Panaligan Command-Central Negros), Daba-daba (Panay), Pakigbisog (Central Visayas), Sublak (revolutionary cultural magazine-Panay) Pakigbisog (Central Visayas),
In Mindanao: Pasa-bilis (NDF-Southern Mindanao). In Mindanao, Ang Kahilukan (NDF in Northern Mindanao), Asdang (NDF-Far South Mindanao), Lingkawas (CPP-Northwestern Mindanao), Pasa-bilis (NDF-Southern Mindanao), Sulong! (NDFP-Mindanao).
To this day, popular works in literature and art have flourished. They are in the form of songs, poems, short stories, cartoons, poster and shirt graphics, graffiti, playlets and skits, short monologues, dances, effigies and short films. They are displayed or performed during meetings, marches and rallies. They are created and performed by organizations which are devoted to cultural work or focused on literature or any of the arts. These are affiliated with any of the major mass organizations or independent of them. There is a wide variety of cultural groups identifiable by their cause orientation and territorial scopes.
There are various cultural groups of creative writers and artists. They belong to Artista at Manunulat ng Sambayanan (ARMAS) of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, to commands or units of the New People’s Army and to mass organizations of workers, peasants, fisher folk, women, youth, teachers and others. There are also cultural groups which are independent of single mass organizations but which serve all or any mass organizations that invite them to mass actions, celebrations and other events.
Since 1983 the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (then a mass campaign base) and MASKARA and since 1985 Artista ng Bayan (ABAY) and Luna have fulfilled the visual art requirements of mass actions by making murals, streamers and effigies in Metro Manila. Theatre groups under Bugkos (the national center for arts and literature) have also organized and staged street plays and flag dances. Yearly during Holy Week, Sining Bugkos together with Bayan Metro Manila and Kalipunan ng Damaang Mahihirap (Kadamay) hold the Kalbaryo ng Maralita to depict the suffering of poor Filipinos. Since the late 1992 BAYAN has undertaken more elaborate effigy projects in collaboration with UGAT Lahi Artists Collective (Ugnayan at Galian ng mga Tanod ng Lahi), which is a collective of artists and activists in the national capital region.
Worthy of mention are the role and contributions of political street theater in the struggle against Marcos during the 1980s. UP Tropang Bodabil and UP Peryante – using vaudevilletheater as a form of protest theater took to the streets and performed in the major mobilizations and transport strikes during martial law. The performers did “kilos-awit and interpretative movement of protest songs like Awit ng Tagumpay, Mendiola, etc. For example, i my poem Fragments of a Nightmare rendered in Pilipino as Pira-pirasong Bangungot was perfomed as dance, using the Japanese “Noh” theatrical form.
A big street theater production called “Oratoryo ng Bayan” based on the UN International Declaration of Human Rights was performed for several weeks. It was an unconventional production using the UP Palma Hall lobby as the stage with big sculpture installations as the only pieces (these are still there now) and the audience all sat around arena-style on the floor. Oratoryo was also toured in the other universities like Ateneo and UP Manila.
An arts alliance called Alamat – Alyansa ng Makabayang Teatro – was formed in Manila bringing together progressive theater and their performing arts groups.
Since 1995, Ugat-Lahi has joined with Sining Bugkos as a Manila-based alliance of cultural workers and formations for promoting national democratic culture and human rights. This group initiates art workshops for artists’ immersion programs in urban poor communities and workers’ organizations and organizing work among students, workers, urban poor and professional artists, exhibitions, mural projects, puppet theatre performances and effigy projects. In the provincial cities and in the rural areas, there are cultural formations similar to Sining Bugkos such as Tambisan sa Sining, Sinagbayan, Karatula, Sining Kadamay, Sining Bulosan, the Kaboronyogan cultural network and Dap-ayan ti Kultura iti Kordilyera.
Popular works in literature and art (like songs, poems, short stories flag dances and skits) are generally considered shorter, easier to create and to disseminate and are less polished and of a lower standard than those works that are longer, more difficult to make and to produce or distribute and are more polished and of a higher aesthetic standard. But there are songs and poems which are more popular and yet more polished than a badly conceived and badly written novel or epic. There are such works which are short but are aesthetically excellent and have far reaching influence on the masses in a profound and lofty way.
While the presumption is that an excellent long piece is better or more laudable than an excellent short piece, there is also a presumption that favors the short piece. If a piece is popular, it has something in it to which the people are receptive. It touches and moves the hearts and minds of the people because it concerns their needs and demands and in addition it spreads so fast because it is short. Posters at public places can be seen by so many people and songs can spread so widely. They carry messages that are clear and inspire the people to act. A long or a more complex piece can be excellent as revolutionary work only as its higher aesthetic standard is grounded on popularization, responding to the people’s needs and demands.
Works that are more sustained and are expected to be of higher standard than short pieces include the following: novels, epics, anthologies of poems and short stories, collected essays, drama, opera or full-length musicales, paintings, sculpture, ballet, full-length feature films and massive effigies. Time constraint does not allow me to describe and evaluate those works that I shall mention. But identifying either the works or the names of authors in literary and art forms, which may be considered revolutionary, can indicate the level of artistic achievement and provide clues for further research.
In the course of the ongoing new democratic revolution, a significant number of novels have been written in the national language. These include: Dekada 70 and Gapo by Lualhati Bautista, Dilim sa Umaga at mga Kaluluwa sa Kumunoy by Efren R. Abueg, Dugo sa Bukang Liwayway by Rogelio R. Sikat, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag at Sa Kagubatan ng Lunsod by Edgardo M. Reyes, Mga Halik sa Alikabok and Ginto ang Kayumangging Lupa by Dominador B. Mirasol, Apoy sa Madaling Araw by Dominador Mirasol and Rogelio L. Ordoñez, Hulagpos by Mano de Verdades Posadas and Gera by Ruth Firmeza.
Ninotchka Rosca has two novels in English, with The State of War (1988) an allegorical novel alluding to the explosive revolutionary situation in the Philippines and Twice Blessed (1992) a comic satire of the conjugal dictatorship and the competition of the oligarchs to serve foreign masters. More recent novels have been published depicting Philippine history and the new democratic revolution such as Lualhati Bautista’s Desaparecidos (2012), Ramon Guillermo’s Ang Makina ni Mang Turing (2013), Norman Wilwayco’s Gerilya (2009), Edberto M.Villegas’ Barikada (2013) and Elmer Ordonez autobiographical Snows of Yesteryears (2015).
There are so many writers of anthologized protest/revolutionary short stories. They include Ave Perez Jacob, Domingo Landicho, Edgar Maranan, Dominador Mirasol, Jose Rey Munsayac, Epifanio San Juan,Jr., Wilfredo Virtusio, Levy Balgos de la Cruz, Jun Cruz Reyes, Ricardo Lee and many others. The new generation of fiction writers who have consistently published social realist prose since the 1990s includes Rolando Tolentino, Luna Sicat, Ramon Guillermo, and Rommel Rodriguez.
The most notable revolutionary poets include martyrs Emmanuel Lacaba, Lorena Barros, and Wilfredo Gacosta; and their contemporaries Gelacio Guillermo (Kris Montanez), Alan Jazmines and Jason Montana who either published individual poetry collections or were anthologized in “STR” and other revolutionary publications. Other revolutionary poets during Martial Law and thereafter include Bayani S. Abadilla, Ericson Acosta, Reuel Aguila, Mila Aguilar, Tomas F. Agulto, Mark Angeles, Lamberto Antonio, Teo T. Antonio, Joi Barrios, Levy de la Cruz, Jose F. Lacaba, Domingo Landicho, Bienvenido Lumbera, Ruth Elynia Mabanglo, Joel Costa Malabanan, Rogelio Mangahas, Edgar Maranan, Luchie Maranan, Alex Pinpin, Alexander Remollino, Fidel Rillo, Romulo Sandoval, Epifanio San Juan Jr. Jesus Manuel Santiago, Lilia Quindoza-Santiago, Roberto Ofanda Umil and many others.
The anthologies of poetry are: Mga Tula ng Rebolusyong Pilipino, 1972-80, Prison and Beyond (1984), Moon’s Face by Allan Jazmines (1991), Likhang Dila, Likhang Diwa by Bienvenido Lumbera (1993), Pakikiramay: Alay ng mga makata sa mga magsasaka ng Hacienda Luisita, edited by Joi Barrios (2004), Sa Loob at Labas ng Piitan (2004) (poems of Jose Maria Sison) translated by Gelacio Guillermo, Passage / poems 1983-2006 by Edgar Maranan, Tugmang Matatabil by Axel Pinpin (2008), Poetika/Pulitika and Ka Bel by Bienvenido Lumbera (2008), Bulaklak at Pag-ibig: Mga Tula ng Pag-ibig at Himagsik by Joi Barrios (2010), Mga Tula by Gelacio Guillermo (2013), Ang Gerilya Ay Tulad ng Makata (including poems up to 2013) by Jose Maria Sison and Mula Tarima Hanggang at iba pang tula at Awit by Ericson Acosta (2015).
Contemporary poets in the legal democratic mass movement make their works accessible through various popular and mass medium including the internet. They also perform their pieces during mass mobilizations and protest actions. Among these are Axel Pinpin, Ericson Acosta, Richard Gappi, Kerima Lorena Tariman, Rustum Casia, Mark Angeles, Rogene Gonzales, Raymund Villanueva, and others belonging to cultural and writers’ groups such as UP Alay Sining, Karatula, Kataga, and Kilometer 64 Poetry Collective founded by the late Alexander Martin Remollino.
Since the 1990s, ARMAS-NDF published revolutionary poetry and prose from Red fighters and cultural cadres in Ulos, while regions also came up with their local version of this revolutionary cultural journal, most of which are available online, such as Dagitab (Southern Tagalog), Inang Larangan (Central Luzon, Punla (Bikol), Ramut (Ilocos), Rissik (Cagayan Valley), Sublak (Panay), and Bangkaw (Mindanao). After the second great rectification movement, revolutionary poets and writers whose best works appear in these journals and at times, even in aboveground publications and anthologies include Joven Obrero, Ditan Dimase (Salinlahi at iba pang Kwento, 2006), Sonia Gerilya and Ting Remontado (Anahaw: Mga Tula at Awit, 2004); and Maya Mor (Maya Daniel), author of poems in English and Hiligaynon and also a visual artist.
Song pamphlets containing the lyrics of revolutionary songs have been issued from time to time since the late 1960s. Albums of recorded revolutionary songs have been released since the 1976 Philippines: Bangon! (Arise!): Songs of the Philippine National Democratic Struggle, protesting the Marcos dictatorship, the ruling system of big compradors and landlords and the role of American imperialism in backing the ruling system and the fascist regime.
Albums of revolutionary songs have been released under the following titles: Mga Kanta ng Rebolusyong Pilipino, Agaw Armas, Alab ng Digmang Bayan Volumes 1 and 2, Armas Timog Katagalugan Album, Dakilang Hamon Album, Kumasa Album, Kanta ti Dangadang Album, Baligi Album, Martsa Ka Bicolandia Album, Salamin ng Northern Mindanao, Salidumay Diway Album.
Progressive musicians and groups such as Asin, Tambisan sa Sining, Kalantog, Inang Laya, Patatag, The Jerks, Yano, Gary Granada, Joey Ayala, Datu’s Tribe, Grupong Pendong, Buklod, Musikang Bayan, Sining Lila, Lei Garcia, Mga Anak ni Aling Juana, Bersus, and others have released albums depicting sectoral issues and struggles. More recent groups and albums on particular campaigns such as Rapu-Rapu atbp, Taghoy ng KalikasanTayo ang Bosses: Mga Awit ng Paglaban sa Rehimeng Gahaman, Salugpungan: Tunog Bobongan, Songs of Love and Struggle by Rica Nepomuceno, Poetry in Songs by Jose Maria Sison, Of Bladed Poems, and the People’s Chorale Album.
Popular rap artist and activist BLKD recently released the album Gatilyo, a tribute to Gat Andres Bonifacio. Marlon Caacbay performed as a rock band musician; a cultural activist and organizer, he died as a Red fighter in Southern Tagalog in May 2015. BLKD together with other young artists and bands such as Karl Ramirez, Plagpul, Gazera, Pink Cow, The General Strike, Tanghalang Bayan ng Kulturang Kalye (Tabakk), and Musicians for Peace, comprise the progressive urban music scene and perform in bars, communities and the streets. They produce songs that are closely linked to the various sectoral struggles and campaigns of the national democratic mass movement.
Biographies of revolutionary cadres have been created in various ways. They include the following: The Philippine Revolution: The Leader’s View co-authored by Rainer Werning and Jose Maria Sison (1988), At Home in the World: Portrait of a Filipino Revolutionary by Ninotchka Rosca and Jose Maria Sison (2004), He never wrote “30”:a glimpse into the life of Antonio Zumel, film production by Kodao Productions (2004), Armando (on the life of Comrade Armando Teng) by Jun Cruz Reyes (2006), Abogado ng Sambayanan: A documentary on the life of Atty. Romeo Capulong, film by Kodao Productions (2008), Apostasy: Paglalayag ni Dan Vizmanos (2008) Ka Bel by Ina Alleco Silverio (2010), Sa Tungki ng Ilong ng Kaaway (Talambuhay ni Tatang) published by Kilusan sa Paglilinang ng Rebolusyonaryong Panitikan at Sining sa Kanayunan (2012), Nanay Mameng, Kodao Productions (2012) Maita: Remembering Ka Dolor, edited by: Judy M.Taguiwalo and Elisa Tita P. Lubi (2013), Recca: from Diliman to the Cordillera by Judy M. Taguiwalo (2015), Louie Jalandoni, Revolutionary, an Illustrated Biography (2015) by Ina Alleco Silverio (2015) and More than a Red Warrior: Arnold Borja Jaramillo Beloved Son of Abra (2015).
Consequent to the NPAA going underground and many of its leading members joining the armed revolution in various parts of the Philippines, Kaisahan (Solidarity) was formed in 1976 to advocate and practice social realism in their paintings, prints, sculpture, and other visual arts. It included Antipas Delotavo, Papo de Asis, Pablo Baens Santos, Orlando Castillo, Jose Cuaresma, Neil Doloricon, Edgar Talusan Fernandez, Charles Funk, Renato Habulan, Albert Jimenez, Al Manrique, Jose Tence Ruiz and Vin Toledo. Since then, social realism as a commitment and as a common ground allowing different styles, has become the most important trend in the visual arts, especially in oil painting.
The Kaisahan commits itself to seeking national identity not in a nostalgic love of the past but by developing art that reflects social conditions and is for the masses, breaking away from a Western-oriented pop or elitist culture and contributing to the creation of a collective subject that heeds the obligations of the historical imperative of revolution. The only limitation that they set to experimentation, the play of creative impulses, is the need to effectively communicate social realities to their audiences. Among current and active social realist painters, progressive visual artists, muralists, sculptors, and street artists are Boy Dominguez, Iggy Rodriguez, Manolo Sicat, Mideo Cruz, Renan Ortiz, Melvin Pollero, Rowena Bayon, Paolo Lorenzo, Frances Abrigo, Buen Abrigo, Buen Calubayan, and the group Ang Gerilya.
Political prisoners Alan Jazmines, Eduardo Sarmiento, Voltaire Guray and Juan Paolo Versoza create outstanding art works despite dismal prison conditions. Rights group Karapatan has organized several gallery exhibitions of their paintings and sculptures. Sarmiento, who used to contribute illustrations for Larab, the newspaper of the revolutionary movement in Eastern Visayas, will soon publish a series of illustrated children’s books.
There are many painters in the various regions of the revolutionary movement. The painter that has stood out among them in recent years is Parts Bagani of Mindanao. The name is a nom de guerre derived from the name of his collective, the People’s Artists. His paintings depict the mountainous and forested terrain of the New People’s Army and the Red fighters and the masses at work. They have been exhibited in the gallery of the UP Faculty Center and has been sold publicly. He has done illustration work for the publications of the Communist Party of the Philippines, especially Ulos which is the underground publication for the arts.
Leyla Batang, another Ulos artist, is also among the most prolific revolutionary visual artists and illustrators whose works appear in various publications and educational materials of the CPP and NDF such as textbooks, primers and visual aid sets for PADEPA (National Democratic School) and the basic party courses. Batang is also credited for the Modyul sa Pagdrowing para sa mga Instruktor. Another exemplary revolutionary artist is Artus Talastas (aka Ka Libre, Forawet) of the Mountain Province who joined the NPA and died a martyr in Ifugao in 2013.
The most popular and most visible kind of sculptural work in the new democratic cultural revolution is the effigy. This is usually a crude representation of someone who is ridiculed for certain crimes against the people. It is made of nondurable materials because it is meant to be destroyed in a culminating public event. However, it can be perpetuated in a certain way through videography. Effigies can be videorecorded while being made, displayed and burnt and can be studied as a definite and continuous form of art. In fact, Prof. Lisa Ito has seriously studied effigies as objets d’art. They tend to overshadow the other sculptural works made by sculptors in studios and those wood carvers in prison and in the villages.
The most outstanding sculptor today in the national democratic movement is Rey Paz Contreras, He espouses and practises people’s art and social realism. He has created cultural works that signify the people’s struggle and has gifted the major mass organizations with these. He is also a favorite sculptor of special tokens of award for outstanding cadres. He draws inspiration from the artistic works of the indigenous people. He has experimented with the use of durable materials from discarded materials and from the environment. He has also pioneered in the development of community-based people’s art, conducted workshops in the provinces and inspired the formation of many local art groups.
All sculptors in the Philippines, including the major ones like Contreras, need to earn a living and are thus open to commissions by government institutions, private corporations and churches. But the various national democratic mass organizations can also raise the resources through cultural fundraising events to commission the people’s sculptors to create monuments, statues and other sculptures to celebrate the victories of the Philippine revolution and honor the revolutionary martyrs and heroes in various places in the Philippines. In this way, the people’s sculptors have greater opportunities for creating people’s social realist art.
Dramatic works, plays, operas and ballets have been written for the theatre of the people. Anti-colonial and anti-imperialist national heroes like Andres Bonifacio. Macario Sakay and General Antonio Luna have been depicted in plays and dramatic films to expose the villainy of cunning and capitulationist figures, such as Emilio Aquinaldo, the chief representative of the combination of conservative bourgeois liberal ilustrados and native landlords . The playwrights and critics Amelia Lapeña and Nick Tiongson aroused interest in the seditious plays against US colonial rule and inspired play writing in the revolutionary spirit. Religious rituals have also been transformed into protest plays like the Sinakulo, the Panunuluyan and the Pagsambang Bayan.
There are many writers of plays for the stage, movies and TV who have been influenced by the national democratic movement and who take a patriotic and progressive stand on historical and social issues related to the need for revolution. There is an anthology of plays that you can read and study, such as Antolohiya ng mga Dulang Mapaghimagsik , compiled by Glecy Atienza, Bienvenido Lumbrera and Galileo Zafra. In the files of the Philippine Educational Theatre Association (PETA), there are plays of national and social protest like Macliing Dulag in the 1970s, the updated play of Aurelio Tolentino, Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas (restaged in 1992) , Minsa’y isang Gamu-gamu (1991), Domestic Helper (1992) and Walang Himala (2003). Prof. Eugene van Erven of the Utrecht University has written extensively on the progressive plays staged by the PETA in the 1990s.
Bonifacio Ilagan is one of the mostprolific playwrights. Despite having been imprisoned for his activism as a cadre of Kabataang Makabayan, he wrote in 1976 the play “Pagsambang Bayan” (People’s Worship”) to expose the corruption and cruelties of the Marcos fascist dictatorship and express the people’s outrage and cry for justice. The play was staged in 1977 in the University of the Philippines and many other venues. Since then, Boni Ilagan has written stage plays and screen plays as a matter of revolutionary service to the oppressed and exploited people. His stage plays include: Sigaw ng Bayan (1978), Langit Ma’y Madilim (1979), Anay sa Kahoy (1985) and Pulanlupa (1985). His screenplays include: The Flor Contemplacion Story (1995), Dukot (2008), Sigwa (2010), Deadline (2011) and Migrante (2012).
Operas, ballets, full-length musicales and multi-media productions that have been staged are: Andres Bonifacio, Ang Dakilang Anakpawis (1979), Ang Lampara (1980) involving the last moments Jose Rizal’s life, Noli me Tangere (restaged in 1987), Ang Babaylan (1988) culminating in uprisings led by a succession of babaylans, Sa Sariling Bayan (1989), Asdang (1995), Monumento (1996), Samar (1998), Piketlayn ng Bayan (2000), Nasa Puso ang Amerika (2003), Kabataang Makabayan @ 40 (2004), Pira-pirasong Bangungot (Fragments of a Nightmare) (2007), EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson (2008), Ang Mga Lorena (2008), Makata’y Mandirigma (2009), U Ave (2009), Kalibre 45 (2003), Pitong Sundang (2010), Banaag at Sikat (2010) Hibik at Himagsik Nina Victoria Laktaw (2012), Maghimagsik! Andres Bonifacio: Rebolusyonaryo, Anakpawis (2013), Lean the Musicale (2013), Bayani (2014), Kabataang Makabayan: Paglingkuran ang Sambayanan (2015), Daluyong isang pahinumdom (2015) at Nanay Mameng: Isang Dula (2014 and 2015). National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera is the author of many of the aforementioned librettos. There have been other similar productions staged in regional urban centers by local cultural groups, typically in the local language of the region.
Inspired by the national democratic movement, movie directors like Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Behn Cervantes, Mike de Leon and script witers like Ricky Lee, Jose F. Lacaba, Lualhati Bautista, Jorge Arago, Soxy Topacio and Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr. played a crucial role in bringing up major social issues in Philippine cinema anddoing so with artistic excellence. They made master films during the martial law years despite repression. Brocka directed Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (1974), Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975), Insiang (1976) and Orapronobis (1989); Behn Cervantes, Sakada (1976); Bernal directed Manila by Night/City After Dark (1980) and Himala (1982); Peque Gallaga, Oro, Plata, Mata (1982) and Mike de Leon, Sister Stella L (1984)
Within the last two years of the Marcos fascist regime, Mike de Leon’s Sister Stella L., strongly denounced oppression and tyranny. In 1985, Lino Brocka’s Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (My Country: Grip the Knife’s Edge) depicted images of arbitrary detention, torture and struggles against oppression. In the aftermath, no serious films were made to depict the revolutionary movement which had struggled hard against the dictatorship, with exceptions such as Brocka’s Orapronobis. Instead, shallow action thrillers were made out of the guerrilla stories of Bernabe Buscayno, Conrado Balweg, Victor Corpus and the Alex Boncayao Brigade.
In a bid to raise his political stature, which had gone with the fall of Marcos, Joseph Estrada produced in 1989 Sa Kuko ng Agila, a dramatic film against the US military bases, directed by Augusto Buenaventura and scripted by Ricky Lee. The next big film with high national and social significance was The Flor Contemplacion Story in 1995. It was directed by Joel Lamangan and scripted by Boni Ilagan and Ricky Lee. It was artistically and commercially successful and won the FAMAS Award and the Golden Pyramid Award, a major international film award.
In the aftermath of the general decline of the Philippine movie industry from the late years of the 1990s to the first decade of the 21st century, independent film productions have sprung up using digital technology. Patriotic and progressive film makers have a large part in the resurgence of indie film productions. In the 1990s, Raymond Red directed full-length films on revolutionary heroes Andres Bonifacio (Bayani) and Macario Sakay (Sakay).
Since 1909, Joel Lamangan as movie director and Boni Ilagan as scriptwriter have created a series of films that take up major social issues and challenge the ruling system. Sari and Kiri Dalena and Keith Sicat are also on the crest of a new wave by creating The Guerrilla Is a Poet in 2013. The very latest of patriotic and revolutional films are: Bonifacio: Unang Pangulo by Enzo Williams ( 2014) and Heneral Luna by Jerrold Tarog (2015). Please anticipate the forthcoming film of Arlyn de Cruz Tibak: Story of Kabataang Makabayan. We can expect more films of high artistic merit to express the people’s cry for justice and fundamental change.
Today we have an abundance of directors, writers, actors, musicians, videographers, photographers and other visual artists and editors for producing plays on stage and on the screen. They are motivated by the people’s aspirations for national and social liberation and have experience in mass activism and learning from the masses. They are beyond the clutches of what used to be the big studios and are thriving and multiplying on low budget indie films. They know how to use the stage without expensive props and new technical equipment that facilitate indie film production.
At the national, regional and local levels, there are many groups and audiovisual collectives that are making use of the latest portable audio-visual equipment and are increasing their capacity to produce films and other popular forms, such as short documentaries, music videos, and animated videos that easily find their way to online outlets such as Youtube. They organise events such as festivals and exhibitions of songs, poetry recitations, plays, paintings and progressive films. Examples of audio-visual groups and alternative media organizations which have emerged during the past fifteen years are Sipat, Kodao,Southern Tagalog Exposure, and Tudla Productions.
The lifelong works of artists for the people such as Bienvenido Lumbera, Ishmael Bernal and Lino Brocka have likewise been recognized by the National Artist Award (Gawad Artista ng Bayan), the highest national recognition given by the Philippine government to Filipinos who have made a significant contribution to the development of Philippine art and to promoting the country’s cultural heritage.
3. How artists and creative writers serve the people through art works.
I am deeply pleased that for several decades already patriotic and progressive creative writers and artists have come forward to create works that are in the service of the people and carry a revolutionary character by exposing the basic ills of the semicolonial and semifeudal society in the Philippines and seeking the realization of a new democratic revolution for the national and social liberation of the people.
I am proud to have participated since the 1960s in clarifying and firming up the general line of people’s democratic revolution and in striving in particular for a national, scientific and mass culture. So many creative writers and artists and the people have heeded the call for a Second Propaganda Movement and a cultural revolution of the new democratic type led by the working class.
It is a great honor for me that soon after the First Quarter Storm of 1970, I delivered key messages to the Nagkakaisang Progresibong mga Artista at Arkitekto (NPAA) and the Panulat para sa Kaunlaran ng Sambayanan (PAKSA), which had their respective founding congresses in August and December 1971. The significance of the messages in the continuing advance of revolutionary literature and art is indicated by their republication in Rebolusyonaryong panunuring masa sa sining at panitikan in 1992.
These messages discussed how the artists and creative writers could best serve the people, especially the oppressed and exploited, by taking the road of the new democratic revolution. For this purpose, the creative writers and artists who in most cases come from the petty bourgeois intelligentsia must remould their class outlook, learn from the toiling masses of workers and peasants, avail of every possible literary and form in order to infuse it with revolutionary content and promote the exemplary works through publications and performances
To serve the people through art works,artists and creative writers can begin to learn from their own observations and reading about the social conditions of the people but must soonest connect with the masses and learn from them their hardships and suffering, their needs and demands and their struggles and aspirations. They must know the social reality from the masses themselves and seek to inspire them to fight and liberate themselves from exploitation and oppression.
They must grasp the point that their art works can have as much significance as they can serve the people in their most important struggles for national and social liberation. They must go to the workers and peasants to learn the concrete facts of life and draw the essential and typical for embodiment in their works. Whenever possible, they must go to the Red fighters to learn from them how they wage the most intense forms of struggle against the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system. They must depict the dignity and heroism of the workers, peasants and Red fighters.
Enlightenment or education is the most important aim of a serious and significant work. The aim of entertainment can be achieved by the life-like rendering of social reality in literature and art, by the satirical representation of adversaries and by a certain measure of comic self acknowledgment or self-criticism of errors and shortcomings. But entertainment to trivialize the basic problems and struggles of the people or deflect attention from these is a reactionary act of deception.
Revolutionary literature and art are for raising and sharpening the fighting will and unity of the people. They are weapons for defeating the enemy and paving the way for national and social liberation. Creative writers and artists must be fully conscious of being cadres and commanders of cultural battalions for defeating the pro-imperialist and reactionary propaganda and culture. They are an integral part of the revolutionary mass movement for overthrowing the ruling system and installing the people’s democratic state.
They must continue to use the tools and methods of cultural work and literary and artistic production that are most available to most people. But they must also use the new technology for instant communications, efficient production and audio-visual presentations. The point is to spread the revolutionary message the quickest way on the widest scale and facilitate and accelerate the awakening, organization and mobilization of the broad masses of the people for the revolutionary cause.###