Had Hon. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran not died from a fall while repairing the roof of their simple house on that fateful day of May 20, 2008, he would be receiving warmest greetings from all over the world on Friday, January 7, 2022, on his 88th birthday.
But he did die that day, both a patriot and an internationalist. “At the time of his death, he was the honorary chairperson of the International Coordinating Committee of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS). He died an activist of the highest order, a revolutionary, a legendary labor leader, an exemplary congressional representative and steadfast servant of the people.” Thus wrote Ina Alleco R. Silvestre, author of KA BEL: The Life and Struggle of Crispin Beltran.
Many would do well to embrace the golden lessons of Ka Bel’s legacy. It is thus fortunate that his legacy is wrapped in the clear and memory-filled words of Silverio’s book, published by Southern Voices Printing Press.
To relive Ka Bel’s life revealed in excerpts from the book is to gain a glimpse of a human being wise to the rights and wrongs of life. Early on, he knew which side he would always choose.
ON BEING A COURIER FOR THE HUKBALAHAP
“As a child living during the Japanese occupation, Pin’s life was irrevocably changed. School was suspended, and all children were forced to forego their formal education for three-and-a-half-years. Pin was then two months shy from finishing grade four….
By then, Pin’s own parents were guerrilla sympathizers, giving shelter and protection to the fighters, and serving as militia. Pin decided to do the same and volunteered his services.
It was the assessment of the guerrilla leadership that Pin was a sturdy and steady boy, and because of his smallness, he would be considered a harmless, ordinary boy even as he went around town and the surrounding region as a courier.
He learned from the guerrillas and his teachers about what the Japanese aimed to achieve by invading the Philippines. His young mind did not understand why another nation had to invade and take over another, when on its own, the invading nation was already rich and developed.
In his heart, however, it was easy to determine right and wrong — it was wrong to take over, torture and massacre a defenseless people. The one time that Pin saw the Japanese behead a group of suspected guerrillas behind the Bacacay school house was more than enough to cement his anger against the occupying forces. The experience also planted the seed of patriotism in Pin; it was then that he first understood what love of country meant.”
ON BEING A STUDENT FROM THE BARRIO
“Like most of the neighborhood children, Pin attended Tanagan Baggio School, but Pin needed more learning than the school could provide. Upon the strong recommendation of his fourth grade teachers, Pin was able to transfer to a bigger school in Bacacay when he reached fifth grade….
…To get to Bacacay from Tanagan, Pin had to take a banca ride. Not having any extra money for the fare, he volunteered to be the boat’s ‘crew’. The old sailor, Tata Fulgencio Bertiz, a cousin some degrees removed, was kind to Pin and let him onboard for free, but Pin insisted on working for his ride.
He took his position at the other end of the boat and acted as a balancing weight. Sometimes the waves were particularly strong, hitting the boat’s sides with force and there was a threat of the boat falling on its side. Pin would rush to the side of the boat that was tilting, tighten the ropes securing the boat’s sails and pull, bearing down with all his weight to steady the boat’s center of gravity.”
To learn more of his growing up years and blossoming as a legendary labor leader, read Silverio’s book ‘KA BEL: The Life and Struggle of Crispin Beltran’.###