NILO TAYAG (or Ka Nilo of the turbulent years when flower power and hippie culture (or counterculture were in vogue) is the face of the rebellious youth in the late 60s. He was after all the chairman of a militant youth organization, Kabataang Makabayan, the youth arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines. He rose in the rebel organization from an idealistic student to one of the firebrand of the First Quarter Storm. His baptism of fire was never on the academe where he would meet and engage non conformists in the faculty room. It was inordinately unfolded in one sleepy afternoon. He was waiting for a jeepney ride after a hearty meal when he saw a uniformed police overturn a sack full of fruits by an itinerant vendor in Cubao area. He was shocked and on that day, he would immediately understand what hatred against a powerful government force meant. Who will defend the poor against oppressors, they who are paid by taxes, assisted by a fledging economy, if only to use the same resources against the very people who are breaking their backs to sustain them? These were recurring thoughts he would harbor as he plied back to the University of Philippines where he was pursuing his college degree.
Students in Europe and the United States were up in arms. War had become a surrogate expression for world power and the naked rule of military imposition lured by commercial prospects of selling arms; and, the promotion of conflict to achieve more resources and territories were too apparent to ignore. While other sectors would brush such insinuations under the rug, so to speak, the youth voiced their concerns through aggression of street protest and founding a counter culture of their own. Communism became a fad after Russia, China and Cuba went on center stage to romanticize equality and yes, announce the ideals of a classless society. Many were smitten by the prospects and the youth were at their idealistic best in pursuing it to the hilt. Ka NIlo was one among them.
He started to study political economy at a time when drugs were circulated to numb the youth and send them to restful slumber. The writings of Marx and Lenin, too complicated and very philosophical at that time have become his practical references in understanding what ails society. Ka Nilo and a group of serious students embraced the progressive precepts just as their fellow youth were chanting rock music to the tune of psychedelic beat side by side mind-altering drugs. The thoughts of China’s Mao further elicited a clarity in analyzing and understanding what weakens society even as the rest of the population were too concerned in survival. For the poor, it was subsisting on their own, for the professionals co-opting with established reactionary forces to achieve a compromised peace. Ka Nilo wanted to be a part of a force that would change society. Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam was his template.
Ka Nilo rose on the totem pole of the communist hierarchy and for him; it was the point of no return. Government at that time was too sensitive for any idea contrary to its political orientation. Anything progressive was understood as criminal and those who adhere on changes were virtually tagged as dissident and seditious. He therefore had no choice but go underground. The split of the outlawed Communist Party with Rusian connection to that of a Communist Party with China’s Mao following in the Philippine setting gave birth to an armed component, the New Peoples Army (or NPA) replacing the wartime Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap). The shift necessitated the reorganization of the outlawed party and Ka Nilo was further thrust into mainstream of revolution and into the abyss of militancy. He was there at the vortex of the progressive reorganization , that time already clamoring for extreme and militant changes. He would be the face that would define the 60’s along with names of Joma Sison, Dante Buscayno and even the politician Ninoy Aquino.
Years later, in the 70s, 80s,90s and 2Ks different faces have been projected to define the times. In the 70s, Martial Law pervaded the air, Ninoy’s bespectacled profile reigned. The mid 80s, Ninoy’s assassination led to another bespectacled lady, his widow, Cory hailed as it marked the dawn of People Power. The 90s were subdued times and the 2ks the resurgence of People Power from Arroyo to the lineage of Aquino. Philippine society never took off despite the fact that changes have monumentally and radically reformed government. Philippine society, unfortunately, descended and had difficulty in improving the lot of its people.
Fifty years later, nothing has substantially changed. (It has often been said that the State University has nurtured great leaders, they who should guide the country to progress. Former President Ferdinand Marcos was a bar topnother of the UP College of Law. Jose Maria Sison was a faculty of UP along with Nur Misuari. Leaders from the three branches of government graduated one after another in the State University and ascended to top posts later. Yet where did our country gone while they were at the helm?) Well, it can even be argued that five decades ago, the country was already about to take off. We were the center of Asia. Promising youth of Asia were enrolled in Philippine schools. Military leaders of Malaysia and Indonesia got their basic military training here. Scientists of Thailand, Vietnam and China were also schooled in our universities. Scholars from India, Pakistan and Iran were receiving their diplomas in Philippine schools. We were a class act that time. Years passed and we suffered a decline in our competencies.
Nilo Tayag, the firebrand of youth in the 60s, the poster boy of radicalism, is now a Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church. Those around him either have embraced the usual survival mode of acquiescing with the establishment and others simply faded into arts and retirement. Where have all the generation of the 60s gone? Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo could have been the leading light for the golden years of the generation but she fell short. Joma Sison is still holding court in far away Netherlands, sustaining a belief which already crumbled. The scion of the Aquino who came into power through the recent election could have been the younger representation of the generation but his administration is as yet to project what has been ignored the past fifty years.
Where is Nilo Tayag? He should have been there at the coat tails of the present administration. He should be there being listened to. He knew what ails society. He knew how to regain the golden age for government. He alone can fairly advise the national leadership on what policy direction our society should proceed. Like Claro M. Rector, Ninoy Aquino, Jose W. Diokno, Jovito Salonga, Miriam Santiago, Raul Roco before him, he could have been a presidential timber, not necessarily a wannabe but could have been a good president . But he never showed any political ambitions; much more so, possess the funds that could propel such aspirations. Suffice it to say that he dreamt, as he sacrificed, to have his dear country succeed in its efforts to seek progress and prosperity. His efforts however pure sent him ironically to prison for an offense in subversion. Like the presidential timbers before him, political intrigues had harsh treatment on him.
Nilo Tayag, by now, may have been in his late 60s already. His generation is about to come to an end. His wisdom though could still be tapped. His thoughts could still be reckoned. The present national leadership still could get hold this last card. The progress of our country can still be harnessed not only through slogan but also through consultation with people whose hearts are dedicated towards progress and meaningful changes. It is only then that the 1896 and the 1986 revolution would have achieve its full fruition.


About Ven J. Tesoro

writer, prison officer, artist
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