A Rebel Commander as Prisoner

The manner of Commander Hizon’s arrest was one for the books.  He was in his usual place, at home in the residence of his children, playing with his grandchildren when after a pattern was established; authorities headed by the dreaded military Tabak division came in drove.  He never had a chance to hide, although eluding apprehension was never his style.  He would rather fight up to his last bullet before he would call off a challenge.  But his grandchildren should never be a part of his war and so he raised his arms in surrender and kissed his loved ones if only for the last time.

Commander Hizon was of  a nom de guere.  His real name was Benjamin Cunanan .  Kumander Hizon was a name which he adopted when, after several years in the Hukbalahap (Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon),  he learned that a certain Hizon displayed love for country, was heroic in assisting the people, popular among the masses but was never recognized by government at all.  He thought of continuing the deeds of Hizon.  After years of serving the cause as leader of the Huk movement, as head of the military squad in charge of protecting Central Luzon, the organization considered him a leader par excellence and gave him a rank of Commander.  He preferred to be called Commander Hizon or for his comrade in the field, a plain Ka Hizon.

Hizon was unaware that the troop which picked him up was already prepared to pull a fast one on him. He was a big headache for the military in Central Luzon and for every encounter with the government; his group would be hailed as victors and the people’s champion.  In his career with the rebels, his savvy as a leader would always be respected in the field and the town folks would always point at government forces as villains.  The time has come when this should stop and his arrest could signal the vindication of authorities.  He was never handcuffed at all and he was even allowed to seat in front of the military jeep.  For Hizon, this was a set up more than what the soldiers want to prove that it was part of respect for him as a leader of their enemy.  But for Hizon, the day when he was physically removed from his family was a day of his end.  He was prepared and even would abide by any caprice of his captors.

The travel along rugged roads was exasperating but despite Hizon’s age, he was still strong and fit for the bumpy terrain.  After hours on the road, the jeepload came to a halt near the checkpoint gate of the military camp.  For Hizon, he thought that his suspicion on foul play was pure malice.  Until he alighted.  As he was stretching, a loud burst of gun fire was heard.  Hizon was shot at the back right at the middle of his spinal cord.  For all intents, that was a fatal shot and death should ensue in seconds.  He instantly fell, his face buried on the ground and blood spurting.  All the uniformed personnel in the area milled around the fallen person.  He was shot for trying to escape according to the officer directly behind Hizon.

As a matter of course, the soldiers stationed in the area called for an ambulance and Hizon, almost lifeless, was rushed in the camp hospital.  The military doctors swore that the gunshot wound in the upper spinal column was fatal and that no medical intervention was necessary since the patient would die anytime, anyhow.  After the 24 hour watch, the comatose Hizon regained consciousness.  Those overlooking the patient, especially the military physicians could only sigh but still hopeless in their prognosis.  For them, Hizon’s consciousness was a burst of sudden life after the anaesthesia had worn out.  It would not be long when the patient would succumb.  After three days, Hizon was regaining strength.  The camp physician was still unconvinced on the development.  To elude possible instant death on his hand, he had the patient transferred to the main military hospital—hundreds of kilometres from the camp, in V. Luna Hospital, in Quezon City.

He was placed on ICU upon arrival.  Hizon’s color turned pale as a result of the long land travel and the medical group which attended to him had grim prospects for the man.  The nurses were ordered to remove the contraption on the patient preparatory to his demise.  The monitor had clearly indicated the slow movement of his pulse and only a few hours was to be spent before he is to be declared a goner.  No one, not even in the most advanced hospital in the world, can revive a patient with a fatal gunshot wound on the vertebrae.

An hour passed by and then two.  A day would pass by and then two.  Hizon was transferred to a room near the bodega.  His ICU days were over.  His color was returning to normalcy.  The wound which looked like he was whacked by a sharp jungle bolo had begun to heal.  The physicians looking after him, one after another, were all amazed at the development.  Their patient would not die!

After three months in the hospital where nurses receive a daily dose of entertaining stories from the man, he was ready to be released.  Of course, he was detained thereafter to face the charges slapped on him for rebellion.  After six months of marathon hearing, Hizon was sentenced to life imprisonment.  Immediately after the promulgation of his sentence, the military establishment sent Hizon to the national penitentiary.  Unlike in the past, when he was the most agile among rebel commanders, Hizon was slower but still erect in the way he stands.

In the Penitentiary, he was received by the incarcerated rebels with a feast.  He was a toast to them.  Even if Hizon had not completed basic education, he was almost as sharp as the most educated among the inmates.  He would attribute the astuteness of his mind with his hobby on reading.  He would read anything his hands could lay upon on.  And he would also compose poetry during a lull in his struggles inside.

He was reading a particular feature in the medical journal which he asked a friend to smuggle since his name appeared.  And along with the medical article, he wrote an entry in his journal which he was fond of sharing to his guards and fellow inmates.  His miraculous recovery from a fatal gunshot wound is not actually new for him.  Although it has been seen by science as something worth studying.  Accordingly, as he wrote on his diary, his strength was borrowed from a group of Aetas (natives of Pampangga living as grass gatherers and still a cultural remnant that is an inch higher than the stone-age civilization).

As a youth, he would oftentimes pause atop a hill in his native town watching a group of Aeta children running through a thick foliage of  razor sharp-edged grass.  It was like passing through several layers of elongated shaving blades.  The children were all animated despite the fresh wounds they would incur.  And these children would not even mind it at all.  In the afternoon, as soon as the children were through with their assigned work in the mountain lair, they would all run through again the path, this time their wounds have completely healed.  Hizon would get amazed at his discovery and would also attempt to follow suit.

Daily on the same path, he would follow the native children and get also some bloody contusions and injuries on his extremities which at first he was terribly moaning of pain.  He would deviate from a distance and wait for the kids and from a certain point would join in the retreat.  He would suffer so much laceration and infection in the process and at times would convulse as a consequence.  He persevered for days, and he would repeat the exercise for months.  In less than a year, he would get so much natural antibodies that given numerous physical trauma, his body would heal itself.  He was like the Aeta kids he would emulate with fondness.

In his work as rebel leader, he would oftentimes negotiate the jungle and receive a lot of cuts and deep bruises, from bladed leaves to sharp rock edges.  And everytime he gets hurt, even badly injured from falls, it would not take long when he would be back in harness.  His body has accumulated so much anti-bodies that it was natural for him to heal even from any ailment.

Then he was mortally shot.  The bullet graced through his vertebrae shattering the fine nerves and passing through his lungs and internal organs.  It was a fatal wound that no one can survive.  But Hizon’s anti-bodies worked wonders.  What medicines and science failed on those similarly situated, his body worked for him.

He served time in the penitentiary for almost a decade.  At best, he never got sick while imprisoned.  When he was released, an older man in his 70s already, he was still a swaggering person and an able family man.  He went straight back to his grandchildren who have their own families already.  Time for him stood still.


About Ven J. Tesoro

writer, prison officer, artist
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3 Responses to A Rebel Commander as Prisoner

  1. lilia bracamonte says:

    Im just so amazed that your account of ka /commander Hizon’s LIFE so detailed untill his prison release it was something to appreciate by our filipino youth and whole citizenry, i wish that there would be similar writings about ka roger whom i admire for his service for the poor regardless if he was accused of being a rebel commander i know he still loved the poor and oppressed , Pls dont stop writing about these men they have their unique life story to tell , people should know of. Thank you for this wonderful knowledge about them …. CONGRATULATIONS FOR A WELL WRITTEN ARTICLE! PLS MORE TO COME SIR.


    • willy Dingal says:

      Dear Mr. Tesoro,
      Your article about Mr. Cunanan is very interesting. May I ask how you were able to get all those details about his life? Were you able to interview him while in prison ? Were those details found in newspaper or magazine articles, or books ? Or did you interview his relatives or people who knew him intimately? I understand he died about a year ago. I am curious where is his family now.
      It must be very interesting to work in some penal colonies like Iwahig in Palawan or in Davao. Please continue writing as I am now one of your readers.

      Willy Dingal

      • Willy, greetings. Ka Hizon or Mr. Cunanan was incarcerated in the national penitentiary at Muntinlupa, Metro Manila. That was in the early 80s. I was then the prison psychologists and the group of political prisoners, headed by Ka Hizon, would frequent my office. He would regale me with stories of their struggles, the triumphs, the losses, the romance in pursuing revolution. I was their avid listener and eventually, their accidental scribe. I am now presently in charge of Davao Penal Colony. If you wish to travel and see corrective programs in Davao, just let me know. I can facilitate. Reagards

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