MANILA, Philippines — It wasn’t too long ago when University of the Philippines alumnus Guiller Martin Cadano first made the news.
This was in August 2014 when he and fellow UP graduate Gerald Salonga — the two were then connected to the youth groups Kabataan and Anakbayan — were arrested by government forces in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija for alleged links to communist rebels.
The two were released in December last year after being acquitted of the charges filed against them.
And then, late last month, Cadano was again in the news. The 26-year old was one of nine New People’s Army guerrillas killed in a clash in the same Nueva Ecija town where he had been arrested three years earlier.
Guilli to friends and family, “Ka Iniong” to his comrades and the people he knew in the countryside, the native of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan was laid to rest on Sunday, October 1.
An only child, Guilli hardly fit the stereotype of the activist-revolutionary.
‘Wag Ka Nang Umiyak’
The rock ballad by Sugarfree with, on hindsight, the prescient lyrics
‘Wag mo nang damdamin
Kung wala na ako sa iyong tabi
Iiwan ko ang puso ko sa iyo
was the favorite song of Guilli and his girlfried, Brilliant Salas, 24, a graduating student at the Don Honorario Ventural Technological State University in Pampanga.
“Hilig niya ang pagkakanta (He was fond of singing),” Brilliant told InterAksyon. “Kapag magkasama kami, madalas niyang kantahin ito at sabay hawak sa kamay ko (Whenever we were together, he often sang this song while holding my hand).”
‘Wag ka nang umiyak
Mahaba man ang araw
Uuwi ka sa yakap ko’
She said Guilli was found holding her photograph.
“Madalas niyang bitbit sa loob ng bag ang pics ko, posibleng nakita ng mga (sundalo) ang laman ng bag (He often had my pictures in his bag, it’s possible the soldiers saw the contents of the bag),” Brilliant said.
‘Kuya Guilli’ and lumpia Shanghai
The two met in 2011 when Brilliant, a member of the student council, attended a forum in Angeles City.
“Simula doon, nagtuluy-tuloy ang communication namin. In-invite nila ako sa isang activity nila sa community at doon mas lumalim ang pakikipag-ugnayan ko sa kanila (From then, our communication continued. They invited me to a community activity and my relationship with them deepened),” she said.
Brilliant acknowledged that Guilli, at least back then, hardly fit into her idea of a potential beau.
“Hindi naman ganoon ka-attractive si Guilli dahil siguro sa porma niya. Kumbaga sa isang babae, hindi ang tulad niya ang ideal man namin dahil sa kanyang porma na tipong punit-punit ang damit, butas ang shorts o kaya naman ay sira ang tsinelas (Guilli was never that attractive, maybe because of how he dressed. For the typical girl, he was hardly the ideal man because he’d often have tears in his shirts, holes in his shorts or wear tattered slippers),” she said.
But he did gain her attention. “Napapansin ko lang siya noon kapag tahimik siya habang kami ay nagdadaldalan at nagkukwentuhan (I’d notice him when he would be quiet while we would be chatting).”
That, and his appetite and, she admits, even doubts about his sexuality.
“May isang pagkakataon na unang tumatak sa isip ko ‘yung hinggil sa pagkain niya ng marami. Ito ang kauna-unahang pagkakataon na isinama nila ako sa lakad nila dahil fiesta noon sa lugar ng isa naming kasama (I remember when his hearty appetite first made an impression. This was the first time they took me with them because it was the fiesta of a friend’s community).”
It was just their second meeting.
“Kasama ang iba pa niyang kasama, nakipagkamay sila sa akin sabay sabi ng, ‘Kumusta?’ May pagkamalamya siyang kumilos noon, mahinhin pa sa akin kaya noong oras na iyon ay bumulong ako sa isang kasama namin, sabi ko, ‘Ate, bakla ba si Kuya Guilli?’ Tumawa naman nang malakas ang kasama namin at sinagot ako ng, ‘Hindi.’ Natatawa lang ako dahil noon kasi, ang tawag ko pa sa kanya ay ‘Kuya Guilli’.”
(He and his companions shook my hand and asked, ‘How are you?’ He seemed to act effeminately, more than I was so I whispered to one of our companions, ‘Is Kuya Guilli gay?’ She laughed hard and answered, ‘No.’ I had to laugh myself, I was still calling him ‘Kuya Guilli’.”)
“Nang makarating kami sa bahay ng aming kasama, natuwa siya sa dami ng mga handa at tiyempo, ‘andoon ang favorite food niya na (lumpiang) Shanghai. Agad siyang kumuha ng plato at halos literal na punung-puno ang plato niya ng mga pagkain. Siya lang din ang halos nakaubos sa Shanghai nu’n dahil sa pinapapak niya ito.”
(When we arrived at the home of our companion, he was so happy at how much food was served and it so happened his favorite food, lumpiang Shanghai, was included. He immediately took a plate and it was soon literally overflowing with food. He practically ate all the Shanghai then.)
And then in July 2012, their work brought them together. Because Guilli was older, he was designated the team leader.
“Madalas kaming magtalo sa mga simpleng bagay tulad ng paglilinis ng opis, pagliligpit ng pinagtulugan at pagiging organized. Siguro, sa dami ng kanyang nagagawa, may pagkamakalat siya, tipong nakakalimutan na niyang iligpit ang kanyang pinaggamitang plato, damit at iba pa. Ngunit ganoon man, na-appreciate ko ang pagiging hardworking niya. Siya iyong tao na kapag may ipagagawa kang trabaho ay ubos-kaya niya itong tatapusin. Doon ako napamahal sa kanya.”
(We would often argue about simple things like cleaning the office, making the beds and getting organized. Maybe because of the volume of work, he was a bit disorganized, would forget to clean the dishes he used, his clothes, among others. Despite that, I appreciated his being hardworking. He was the kind of person who would give his all and finish whatever task he was asked to do. That was when I began to fall in love with him.)
“Walong buwan kaming nagligawan at naghintayan. Dahil kami ay mulat na sumusunod sa proseso (ng organisasyon), dumaan muna kami sa malalim na pakikipagkilanlanan. December 2013, naipormal ang aming relasyon.”
(We spent eight months courting and waiting for each other. Because we followed the processes of our organization, we had to know each other deeply. In December 2013, we formalized our relationship.)
Chess and love poems
“Mahilig siyang mag-chess, may pagkakataon nga na nag-away kami dahil ditto (He was fond of chess, sometimes we would even fight because of it),” Brilliant said.
“May usap sana kami noon, sabi ko sa kanya ay, ‘Umaga mga 8:30 a.m., pag-usapan natin ang ating relasyon.’ Halos umabot na sa pasado 9 a.m., nagtataka ako bakit hindi pa siya dumarating sa kitaan namin, hanggang sa ayun, nalaman ko na lang na bising-busy siya sa pagchi-chess, hahaha.”
(We had a schedule to meet, I told him, ‘8:30 a.m., let’s talk of our relationship.’ It was already around past 9, I was wondering why he had not yet arrived at our rendezvous, then I learned he was busy playing chess, hahaha.)
“Pinuna ko siya ng todo du’n, tipong umuusok na ang ilong ko, pero malumanay naman siyang humingi ng paumanhin sa akin. Medyo nagtatampo pa rin ako noon dahil nga nasayang ang pagkakataon namin na makapag-usap kaya naman bumawi siya sa pamamagitan ng pagpitas ng orchids doon sa lugar ng mga magsasaka. Sabi niya, ‘Pasensya na, sana magustuhan mo ito. Hindi man ito rosas pero pinaghirapan ko ‘yan kunin doon.’ Napaka-thoughtful niya …”
(I berated him then, my nostrils were smoking, but he meekly said sorry. But I continued to sulk because of the time wasted so he made up for it by picking orchids from the farmers’ place. He said, ‘I’m sorry, I hope you like these. These may not be roses but I worked hard to get them.’ He was so thoughtful …)
But Brilliant said Guilli was “not expressive.”
“Mas pinapakita niya ang pagmamahal niya sa pagsusulat ng mga tula o love letter sa akin (He preferred to show his love by writing poems or love letters to me).”
“Sweet din siya dahil kahit walang pera, ibibili niya pa rin ako ng isang bagay na makakapagpasaya sa akin tulad ng isang pitaka na una niyang regalo sa akin noong mag–Pasko kami sa community ng mga Aeta sa Porac nu’ng 2013. Binilhan niya ako ng Hello Kitty na kulay pink na pitaka na worth 10 pesos lang. Halos maiyak ako noon dahil kahit mura lang iyon, naisipan niya pa rin akong bigyan ng regalo.”
(But he could be sweet because even if he was broke, he’d find ways to buy me things that made me happy like the wallet that was his first gift to me when we spent Christmas at an Aeta community in Porac in 2013. He bought me a pink Hello Kitty wallet worth only 10 pesos. I almost cried because even if it was cheap, he still thought of getting me a gift.)
He also possessed qualities that endeared him to others and made him a natural leader, she said.
“Mapagkumbaba siya kaya madali lang niyang nagagap ang prinsipyong pinanghahawakan namin. Masayahin siya, lalo na kapag may pagkain siyang nakikita. Ngunit minsan, kapag may matindi siyang problema, madalas sa akin siya umiiyak. Hindi niya pinapakita sa ibang tao ang pag-iyak niya dahil ayaw daw niyang sabihan siyang mahina.”
(He was humble which is why he easily grasped the principles we held dear. He was cheerful, especially if he saw food. But there were times, when he faced great problems, he would often seek me out to cry. He wouldn’t let others see him cry because he didn’t want them to think him weak.)
Guilli, a cum laude BS Psychology graduate of UP Clark, was also a member of the Pi Sigma fraternity, which paid him tribute, hailing his “love for the country and great valor” and calling him an “exemplary” member of their organization.
“”Above all, he never failed to do what most of us could not do. He dauntlessly voiced out the heart of the masses, and fought for their rights,” said Eliza Buenavisa of the Pi Sigma sorority. “He was a great student, leader and paragon.”
The symbols of everything Guilli was known and stood for were all in evidence on the day he was laid to rest: the red flag with the golden hammer and sickle of the Communist Party of the Philippines draped on his coffin alongside a Pi Sigma paddle, his UP “sablay” draped around his body and the fraternity pin on his barong.
The good son
But to Guilli’s mother Marita, he will always be her unico hijo, the good son.
“Mabait na bata, ‘di palalabas, ang buhay niya ay eskuwela, bahay, sa simbahan at computer (He was a good child, not fond of going out, his life was the school, the home, church and the computer),” she said.
When he was 10, she said he had wanted to be a sacristan.
“Nagkataon, wala ‘yung trainer, nag-aantay siya, nakita niya ang choir, sabi niya mag-choir na lang siya, ang ganda daw, me nag pi-piano (It so happened the trainer was not there, so he waited and saw the choir and said he would rather do that because it was beautiful and had someone playing the piano),” Marita said.
Guilli would remain a member of the Sta. Cruz sub-parish choir until shortly before he was arrested.
Yet perhaps it was because he was a “mabait na bata” that Marita said Guilli, early on, already shown signs of the empathy for the downtrodden that would lead him down the path he eventually chose.
She recalled how he would bombard her with questions about the poverty and inequity he saw around him.
“Iyung mga pulubi sa kalye, ‘yung mga Aeta from Pampanga, bakit daw nakahubad. ‘Yung isang kapitbahay e parang palasyo ang bahay, madaming sasakyan, ‘yung isa, may bubong na may pabigat na bato at gulong.”
(The poor in the streets, the Aeta from Pampanga, why were they naked. One neighbor’s home was like a palace, with many cars, another’s roof was weighed down by stones and old tires.)
A small kid with a big heart, “hihingi ng pera ‘yan, kailangan may pera siyang hawak, ipamimigay niya ‘yun, piso-piso (he’d ask for money, he always needed to have money, he would give it away, one peso at a time),” Marita said.
“Minsan sa kapitbahay na may tindahan, 6 a.m. gising na ‘yan, nag–aabang na magbubukas ng tindahan. Bibili ‘yan ng kendi, bibigyan niya ang mga kalaro. Sabi ng ng tindera, ‘Kapag tumakbo (sa eleksyon) ‘yan, mananalo yan’.”
(Sometimes at the neighborhood store, he’d be awake at 6 a.m. waiting for the store to open. He’d buy candy, give it to his playmates. The storeowner said, ‘If he runs for office, he’ll win’.)
Even when he was working on his thesis, “marami siyang kuwento, mga tindera, tindero sa talipapa, sa kalsada, gano’n pala ‘yun, maghapon sa kalye, maliit ang kita (he had many stories, about the vendors in the markets, on the streets, how it was like that, spending all day in the streets and earning a pittance).”
Later, he would help organize the farmers in Hacienda Dolores, in Porac, Pampanga, who were opposing Ayala Land’s Alviera project.
“Nagkukwento din siya tungkol sa kalagayan ng mga magsasaka sa pinupuntahan niyang lugar (He would talk about the situation of the farmers in the places he went to),” Brilliant said. “Matindi daw ang pangangamkam ng lupa ng mga foreign companies doon at lokal na panginoong maylupa kaya ang mga magsasaka daw ay halos wala na silang makain, lubog na lubog na daw sa utang dahil sa tindi din ng taas sa interest sa pautang ng mga trader/komersyante-usurero (He told of the land grabbing by foreign companies and local landlords which left the farmers almost starving and drowning in debt because of the high interest rates of the traders and usurers).”
Nevertheless, she said, he would also tell her of how happy he was whenever the farmers shared their harvests of vegetables and onions with them.
Freedom and …
After his release from prison in December 2016, Guilli went straight home and spent Christmas with his family.
“Masaya kami kahit na spaghetti at Shanghai lang handa namin, nakasama namin siya (We were happy even if we only had spaghetti and Shanghai),” Marita said.
It was all too brief a homecoming, however.
Right after the New Year, “nagpaalam siya, may mga gagawin pa daw siya at magkikita ng girlfriend … tumatawag, nagte-text, okay lang daw siya at mag-ingat daw kami. Sabi ko, ‘Mag-ingat ka.’ Hindi namin alam kung ano ang kanyang pinuntahan, sabi ko Palawan ka na lang pumunta kaysa sa Nueva Ecija (he said he had to go, he had things to do and to meet his girlfriend … he’d call, send text messages, saying he was okay and telling us to take care. I told him, ‘Take care.’ We didn’t know where he went, I said it would be better if he went to Palawan instead of Nueva Ecija).”
Guilli did come home to celebrate his birthday with Marita and his father Amador.
It would be their last time together.
But even when he was away, he would always send word, “laging nagsasabi ng ‘I love you,’ ‘Okay lang ako dito,’ ‘Magpakatatag kayo (always saying, ‘I love you,’ ‘I’m okay here,’ ‘Be strong’),” Marita said.
Brilliant said: “September 5, tumawag siya sa akin. Sabi niya mahal na mahal niya daw ako at mukhang matatagalan daw bago siya makatawag ulit. September 10, nakapag-text siya sa akin. Sabi niya ay natutuwa siya dahil nagkausap kami ng medyo matagal. Abangan ko na lang daw ang mga sulat niya.”
(September 5, he called me up. He told me how much he loved me but that it might take a while before he could call again. September 10, he sent a text. He said he was happy because we were able to have a relatively long talk. He asked me to watch for his letters.)
And so on Sunday they laid to rest Guiller “Guilli” “Ka Iniong” Cadano, the food-loving church choir member, activist and, in the end, armed revolutionary.
“Maraming nabigla, hindi makapaniwala, lalo na ‘yung mga nakakakilala sa kanya (Many were surprised, could not believe what happened, especially those who had known him),” Marita said of her son.
But perhaps, had they truly known him, it would not have been that much of a surprise.
While not a bookworm by any stretch, he did have favorite quotes, among which was: “Love is not love if there is no sacrifice.”
And this, said Marita, was his favorite Bible verse: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Guiller “Guilli” “Ka Iniong” Cadano, martyred hero to some, enemy of the state to others, but to a grieving mother, “Iniisip ko na nandito lang siya, sobrang sakit, inalagaan ko ng sobrang tagal, ayaw ko ‘yang pawisan tapos … hindi ko matangap na wala na siya … ayaw kong maniwala na wala na siya (I try to think he is just here, it is so painful, I cared for him for so long, I didn’t even want him to sweat ad then … I can’t accept he’s gone … I don’t want to believe he’s gone).”
The others who perished alongside Guilli on September 20 were: Joel Manangan, 40; Alvin Soria, 35, both from Nueva Ecija; Lani dela Peña-Mirindu, 36, a Dumagat from Aurora; Marco Amatorio, 34, also from Aurora; Vic Nagawang, 31, from Manila; Carlo Laguito, 22, from Bagong Silangan, Quezon City; John Paul Calica, 21, from Pandi, Bulacan; and Emmanuel Canlas, from Capas, Tarlac.