For Ka Douglas, in memory of the
by Ina Alleco
As Philippine senators threw mud at each other and called each other names
(trying to outdo each other in self-righteousness and in their respective
attempts to prove that they were pristine and corruption-free), Ka Douglas
Dumanon, former national treasurer of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), former
secretary-general of the urban poor people’s organization Kadamay, and KMU
national council member passed away last night after a long struggle
How do you describe Ka Doug and the kind of person he was?
A gentle giant. A kind, compassionate man who always cared to know how
others around him were doing. He had a gentle sense of humor, and it
always showed in his eyes. I never saw him get angry or upset. He was
mild-mannered by nature, and he was a 100% non-complainer.
I was a staff of KMU National for seven years, starting when the office
was still in Intramuros and there were only three small, cramped rooms and
only a 486 computer and a dot matrix printer.
Through all that time until I left for Bayan Muna in 2001, it was Ka Doug
who handed me my monthly political allowance. When I first started in KMU,
there was really no money (it was the aftermath of the re-affirm/reject
kaguluhan, and the traitors who left to form BMP had all but wiped out the
KMU bank account), and Ka Doug explained to me that I would not be
receiving a salary or anything similar to it. I remember how sheepish he
looked, somewhat apologetic. I hastened to say that I knew what I was
getting into, that it didn’t matter. All the same, every month, Ka Douglas
handed me P500 ‘para sa pagkain at pamasahe sa jeep.’
I will never forget those P500 bills. Each was so precious, and never
before then did I really learn about the value of money. Galing kasi sa
butaw ng mga manggagawa yung allowance, Ka Douglas told me, and as such I
was so honored. I would’ve worked for nothing, because I knew that
everyone else in the office barely received anything either and they had
families to support. Commitment, strong and tested, was something I
learned from Ka Doug and the others in that small office — Ka Manny
Sarmiento, Ka Bel, Teddy, Ka Bong, Ka Sha, Ka Dick, Ka Robert and Ka Noli.
When I first heard that he had cancer and that they had to cut off his
leg, I had just come back from Hong Kong after 10 months of clearing my
head and getting my ducks in a row again. I was shocked and saddened. I
was told, they told me, that his cancer began in his throat, and it was an
effect of his frequent visits to Payatas where he was deployed as an
organizer-leader of Kadamay. The permanent stench, the perpetual smoke
rising from the piles and piles of rotting garbage and the methane, they
said, made him ill.
I was unable to visit him, as my work kept me busy (Ka Bel was still under
hospital arrest then, and I was desperate to make up for lost time).
In was only in May, during the Labor Day commemorative rally in Liwasang
Bonifacio that I finally, and literally finally, saw Ka Doug.
He sat on a bench near the fountain, and he had only one leg after the
other was amputated to stem the tide of cancerous cells which ran amok in
his system. He was thin and haggard looking. He also appeared tired, he
was tired, and I tried very hard not to show him that I felt sorry seeing
him lamed when I was used to him being the big and tall man with the
cheerful stride, a more graceful Mr. Bean with glasses, his posture
Instead, I smiled and hugged him tightly, and asked him how he and his
crutches were getting along. Said crutches were an aluminum pair, and he
had them propped somewhat carelessly near him.
“Di pa kami bati,” he joked. He hated using the crutches, he said. he
often forgot that he was one-legged, and he sometimes stood up only to
realize that he couldn’t without falling. “Di pa ako sanay, naiinis pa ako.”
I told him he’d get used to them soon enough, and started to tell him
about an article in Readers’ Digest that I read, about positive thinking,
about adapting, about mentally and spiritually accepting change so it
would be easy for his body to adjust.
“Yakang-yaka mo yan, Ka Doug!”, I said. He nodded, laughing.
We then shifted to other topics, because I could see that he would much
rather we talk about other things, far removed from what had happened to
him. He wanted news, he wanted stories, he was bored at home, he said.
So we talked and talked, and in my head, I could picture Ka Douglas the
way he used to be, and it pained me.
Hay naku, Ka Douglas. Napaka-bata mo pa para mawala sa amin. Ang dami mo
pa sanang magagawa. Ikaw na walang piniling gawin; ikaw na walang ginawang
gawain na hindi mahusay. Ikaw na napakamasayin. Mabuting ama, mabait na
asawa. I know your daughters and your wife are so proud of you, how you
remained devoted to the Movement all these years since your youth, and how
you waged your struggle to keep sane and cheerful despite the pain of
cancer and the pain of losing a limb and becoming, again, dependent on
others to be able to move around. You were a hero in so many, many
respects. Lider manggagawa, ehemplo sa lahat sa kabaitan, katapatan sa
gawain, husay at sipag.
Ka Doug, paalam. Salamat po sa lahat. Isa kang bayani ng uring manggagawa,
ng masang anakpawis. You made waging revolution look easy, because you did
your part so willingly, so cheerfully. Didn’t you get to make me work hard
for P500? For that I will always be grateful.