Monday, October 19, 2009
THROUGH THE EYE OF THE STORM by Danilo P. Vizmanos
It was also later in that year that certain people in the Armed Forces of the Philippines were making a different kind of news. Before the year was out, 1st Lieutenant Victor Corpus had defected to the NPA. Navy Captain Danilo P. Vizmanos had written his college thesis seeking the recognition of the People's Republic of China. And another colleague of theirs, 2nd Lieutenant Crispin Tagamolila, was also preparing to defect to the NPA. And so did a host of the AFP's paramilitary forces, the so-called Barrio Self-Defense Units (BSDUs) in Central Luzon.
Corpus' defection provided the newspapers with headline material, it having been accompanied by a raid on the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City, with the NPA raiders running off with 43 Browning automatic rifles, a high-caliber machinegun, and various other high-powered weapons. Vizmanos' thesis created a sensation but did not draw as much public attention as did Corpus' defection. And Tagamolila just slipped out of his camp and next turned up in the hills of Isabela with his newfound NPA comrades.
But I dare say that Dan Vizmanos' conversion to the national-democratic line was gradual and, in retrospect, much more vital and more important to the national-democratic mass movement than Corpus' defection in 1970. It was a good time for political awakening--like the years before 1896. Dan and I and tens of thousands of others were heeding the urgent call to struggle against U.S. imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. I'd like to think that in the process our politicalization, Dan Vizmanos and I did help one another.
In "Through the Eye of the Storm," Dan Vizmanos gives a compelling account of his life, times, the people and circumstances that helped develop his thinking. The reader is given glimpses into facets of Vizmanos' life that led to his conversion from a ranking AFP officer with the rank of naval captain (equivalent of full colonel) to a progressive individual alongside the Filipino masses in their struggles for social and national emancipation. Dan rightly dedicates his book to the young Lieutenant Tagamolila, who died as a revolutionary martyr in 1971, followed a few years later by the martyrdom of his only brother, Tony Tagamolila.
Vizmanos' riveting narration starts with his life as a young boy in Cavite. As a boy, he listened intently as his grandfather, a veteran of the 1896 Philippine Revolution, recounted one battle after another where he fought in the armed revolution that eventually put an end to more than 300 years of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines.
Later, Vizmanos' interest in a military career was honed by an uncle who was one of the early Filipino graduates of the US Military Academy at West Point. By the way, it was from this same uncle that Vizmanos first learned about how a white racist in the United States regards a Filipino as a "brown monkey" even if the Filipino American proclaimed his American citizenship. This image somehow collided--but would not stifle--the "American boy", or "Amboy," mentality that was developing in Vizmanos. To Vizmanos at this point in his life, General Douglas MacArthur was awe-inspiring and stood "at the same level as Jesus Christ"!
At 15 years of age during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War II, Dan served as an intelligence officer of the pro-American Hunters' guerrillas, even as he helped his family earn a living in those days of deprivation, hunger and misery. At the end of the war, he prepared for admission, first to the PMA, but eventually to the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point in New York. But first, for the entrance examination, he had to reckon with the fact that he had finished four years of high school in only 18 months. How did he do it? I leave it to the reader to discover in the book how this came about.
It was at King Point that Dan Vizmanos and his fellow Filipino cadets were exposed to the humiliation of racial discrimination, about which his uncle--the West Point alumnus--had forewarned him.
Upon graduation from Kings Point, Dan and some of his Filipino classmates joined the Philippine Navy as ensigns (equivalent of second lieutenant). It was while serving in the navy that he participated in "counter-insurgency" operations against the old people's army, the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB, People's Liberation Army). His early years in the navy gave him time to indulge his gung-ho spirit even as he patrolled the coastal waters against smuggling activities. But he was deeply disappointed when some of his superiors in the AFP, whom he names, tended to play footsie with the smugglers or acted in a boorish manner. It was in the service that he came to see or meet political personalities of the time.
In the years that followed, the nationalist feelings in Dan Vizmanos, as were other young people at that time, were kindled and set ablaze by Senator Claro M. Recto. Slowly, Dan's maverick being revolted against the semicolonial status of the Philippines in its lopsided relations with the United States. Progressive ideas fast developed in his mind. Where his colleagues in the AFP thought that the Vietnamese freedom fighters would be mincemeat for the US armed forces, Vizmanos believed that the Vietnamese people's army would eventually beat the US as they had done the French colonialists. Had not the Chinese people's liberation army similarly win against almost unsurmountable odds?
It was this theme--the invincibility of a people's army with the wholehearted support of the people, as in the Chinese revolutionary experience--that he developed into a thesis at the National Defense College of the Philippines in 1970, at a time when he was a naval captain. In his thesis, Dan Vizmanos proposed that the Philippines recognize Mao Zedong's People's Republic of China, accept its entry into the United Nations, and abrogate all uneven treaties with the United States. What unorthodoxy! What apostasy! What subversion to the established order in the land!
Dan Vizmanos stood his ground even as his superiors--first by the NDCP authorities, then the PN's flag-officer-in-command (FOIC, PN), and finally the AFP chief of staff, General Manuel Yan--remonstrated and even shouted at him. He shouted back. He refused to change a word in his thesis, even as he also felt that his 26-year career in the AFP was about to come to an end.
Soon after Marcos imposed fascist martial law in 1972, Dan applied for retirement, but his request was held pending in Malacanang. It was eventually accepted. It was now just a matter of time before he was to be arrested. This happened in May 1974. On the phone, he protested to his provincemate from Cavite, Lt. Col. Miguel Aure, about the abusive conduct of his men in the 5th Constabulary Security Unit--yes, the notorious 5th CSU. Aure told him he'd be held for only a few while for "a brief interview". It was not all that brief. After the physical and psychological torture that went with tactical interrogation, he was jailed for more than two years. Aure thus unwittingly helped in Vizmanos' further politicalization by confining him in Bicutan with the cream of political prisoners. His political commitment thus became more firm than ever. Throughout those years, from the underground I and other comrades managed to be in touch with Dan.
Since his release in 1976, Dan Vizmanos was an indefatigable participant in the national-democratic mass movement--politicizing other people, sitting down to his typewriter to write letters to the editor, distributing protest handbills, speaking at public forums, and forever marching, marching, marching. At 71 years of age going on 72, Dan Vizmanos is still in the struggles under the banner of the national-democratic movement whose history of struggle continues to be written to this very day.
For those officers and men of the Armed Forces of the Philippines who truly wish to serve our country and people, I hope they get to read Dan Vizmanos' book and learn from his positive example.
Utrecht, The Netherlands
June 24, 2000
Posted by Booksellers to Booklovers