OF WOMEN AND THE PEOPLE
A Tribute to Maita Gomez
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Communist Party of the Philippines
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Chief Political Consultant
13 July 2012
Julie and I wish to express our most heartfelt condolences to the children and other relatives of Maita Gomez; and to all her comrades and friends. All of us are deeply saddened by her unexpected demise.
Until her cardiac arrest, we had thought that she had many more years to serve the people in their struggle for national liberation and democracy and the women in their struggle for gender equality and for their full participation in all social endeavors. Nevertheless, her life is full of significant and outstanding achievements in fulfilling her revolutionary commitment and in rendering service to the people and the women’s liberation movement.
Since the resurgence of the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal movement in the Philippines in the 1960s, the patriotic and progressive forces have always taken a special interest in the development of the women’s movement and in the increased participation of women in the struggle for national liberation and democracy.
We are enlightened by the writings and deeds of revolutionary women leaders like Clara Zetkin and Aleksandra Kollontai and inspired by the heroic examples of Gabriela Silang, Melchora Aquino, Gregoria de Jesus and other revolutionary Filipino women leaders. We are guided by Mao’s teaching that the women hold up half of the sky. The activists of the Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines, the Women’s Bureau of Kabataang Makabayan and the women in the labor unions, peasant associations and professional circles carried forward the progressive role of women.
As cadres of the national democratic movement, we were elated by the emergence of Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (Makibaka) from the Women’s Bureau and women members of Kabataang Makabayan and the dramatic ways by which Makibaka demonstrated the necessity and importance of the role of women in the struggle to achieve the radical transformation of society in all major respects. Even as Makibaka was initially a small organization, its protest actions stirred the interest of women in various fields.
Makibaka and its leading figure Lorena Barros succeeded in attracting to the progressive movement women who were nationally prominent. They included beauty queens who won in prestigious pageants and were known to be exceptionally intelligent. Among them was Maita Gomez, Miss Philippines of 1967. They used their celebrity status to advantage in denouncing not only the reactionary character of beauty contests but also the entire ruling system. They spoke on major issues affecting women and the entire people.
Maita Gomez was inspired and energized by the First Quarter Storm of 1970, the Diliman Commune of 1971andthe furthermass protest actions until 1972. She wanted to be a revolutionary. And she availed of the opportunities in sight for learning about the revolution. She was influenced by the events that led to the making of Makibaka. However, she received her initial education in Marxism-Leninism and Philippine society and revolution in the Humanist League of the Philippines which was a small and laid-back group in the University of the Philippines, under the influence of the Cultural Bureau of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
After the First Quarter Storm of 1970, in which large numbers of women activists participated, Lorena Barros came to our mountain camp in Barrio Dipogo in Isabela to report on developments in the women’s movement and to discuss plans regarding Makibaka. She mentioned some former beauty queens being sympathetic to the national democratic movement and she regarded them as figures whose celebrity was effective for supporting the patriotic and progressive stand on national issues. Lorena and Maita knew each other and the latter would eventually maintain an enduring relationship with Lorena’s family even long after her death.
When martial law was proclaimed by the Marcos regime in order to impose a fascist dictatorship on the people, Maita decided to go underground in Manila. I was aware of her situation through the officers of the Education Department of the Party General Secretariat who were in charge of her. For a while I considered taking her into my outer staff in Nueva Ecija. There was then a possibility for posting her in the hacienda house of an ally. But comrades decided to assign her for underground staff work in Baguio City. The house she was in was raided by the enemy and she was arrested.
Through the National Liaison Committee of the Party, I came to know her plan to escape from Camp Olivas and I monitored how she actually escaped, with the help of a military officer who brought her out of the camp with him. Then some comrades in charge of accommodating Maita became concerned about the motive and behavior of the officer and about the vulnerabilty of the underground house which was close to a police station. They were able to consult me. Thus, a plan was adopted and carried out by the Party organ concerned to separate her from him and further ensure her safety.
I leave others to narrate in more detail how subsequently she and her partner Joey Decena were at first deployed in a guerrilla zone in the Quezon-Bicol border area and how they were redeployed to a guerrilla zone in eastern Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon. In both guerrilla zones, they lived and performed duties as communist cadres and guerrilla fighters. In the latter guerrilla zone, Ka Joey died as a martyr in a battle. When Ka Maita fell sick, she was brought to Manila for treatment and recovery.
Other comrades can better narrate how as a result of certain tactics and certain circumstances, Ka Maita was able to surface and join the legal movement against the Marcos fascist dictatorship in the 1980s. She co-founded the Gabriela in 1984. This emerged as the largest patriotic and progressive alliance of women’s organizations. She was also one of the principal leaders of the Women for the Ouster of Marcos and Boycott (WOMB). She co-founded in 1986 the first political party of women in Philippine history, Kababaihan para sa Inangbayan (KAIBA).
Julie met Maita in 1984 and they became friends as they worked together in the movement to oust the Marcos fascist dictatorship. The three of us met at her Ermita apartment after I was released from military detention in 1986. We became barkada. We attended many public meetings and social gatherings together. On many occasions, we exchanged ideas about women and the revolutionary movement. She was then engaged in women’s studies as an activist, scholar and teacher at St. Scholastica. We had become very close comrades and friends by the time Julie and I left for abroad for our global university lecture tour at the end of August in 1986.
From abroad, I learned that she had serious differences with Popoy Lagman with regard to her candidacy in the 1987 elections. She drew away from his organizational sway. But she stayed committed to the principles of the revolutionary movement. I sent word to her to stay firm in order to encourage her. At first, she did not recognize the necessity and importance of the Second Great Rectification Movement but ultimately she embraced it as soon as she came to understand the issues. She became more active in the national democratic movement. Others can narrate how she spoke and fought in the service of the people from the 1990s to the time of her death.
I met Maita for the last time in May 2009 in Amsterdam. She was winding up her work as economist in IBON Foundation. And she was happy that in the previous month she was elected co-chairperson of the Makabayan Coalition and that Gabriela which she had co-founded celebrated its 25th anniversary and all its glorious achievements.
Our conversation was wide ranging, covering so many topics, serious as well as funny. It lasted from about 8 pm to 4 am. She expressed her strong commitment to the cause of development through national industrialization and land reform and her outrage over the plunder of natural resources and destruction of the environment by the imperialist and big comprador mining firms. She was optimistic about how the patriotic and progressive forces would advance further in the legal democratic movement and in the anticipated elections of 2010.
We are all proud of our beloved Comrade Maita Gomez as an outstanding freedom fighter. She has bequeathed to us and future generations a rich legacy of writings and activism in the service of women and the entire people. We shall always love and remember her for her hard work, intelligence, sacrifices and for all her positive contributions to the national democratic movement.###