LONTOK, Bayani

Bayani Lontok

Bayani was second of five siblings, as well as eldest son. Siblings remember him as a kind but strict kuya. He had a good tenor voice and played several instruments, spending long hours playing music with his brothers and sisters. Music was something that Bayani and his brothers and sisters enjoyed together even when Bayani became involved in the anti-martial law underground.

Bayani enrolled in 1966 at the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines, taking up engineering. The following year he moved to UP Los Baños and shifted to a course in agricultural engineering.

In 1968 and 1969, he joined a group of students from Los Baños headed by his friend Aloysius Baes in a student-farmer summer integration program where the students lived with farmers in Quezon and Laguna. Of the experience, later he told his sister that “if a person investigated well enough, he would learn that seemingly individual problems were deep-rooted and situational.” Bayani became convinced that poverty in the Philippines might be solved with higher food production, and rural mechanization and industrialization.

As Bayani began to grasp the realities in rural Philippines, he started writing critical articles in various publications. He joined the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan and the UP College of Agriculture Cultural Society. In 1970, he wrote an article for Aggie Green and Gold, entitled “Austerity: Isang ‘maginhawang’ lunas (Austerity: the purported solution).” In this article he criticized the austerity program that Marcos was promoting to solve the country’s economic woes. Bayani pointed out that the Marcos solution of allowing devaluation and an increase in prices while limiting workers’ wages and reducing the number of workers, was a disastrous plan.

Bayani wrote: “Ang maliit na mamamayan ay nabubuhay tulad ng isang boksingerong baldado na at pabarabara na lamang ang pagsuntok niya. Kahit saan ito tumama, basta makatama (Poor people are like maimed boxers hitting their opponent drunkenly.)” What happens then? Bayani said that crime and rebellion would spread. Marcos’ austerity program was a “shadow of a system” that was run not by Filipinos, but by foreigners, particularly Americans, Bayani wrote.

Bayani stayed longer and longer in farmers’ communities. By the late 1971, he was working fulltime in Mount Banahaw, with peasants from Dolores, Quezon. Bayani grew to love kundimans, of which Southern Tagalog had in abundance. He liked the old kundimans and rousing marching songs of the Hukbahalap, which were still popular in Southern Tagalog. Bayani also liked talking to old Hukbalahap organizers, including those with prison stints in Muntinglupa, or farmers who knew and had interesting stories to tell of past well-known Hukbalahap commanders.

Bayani himself was killed together with three of his comrades in an army raid of their camp. He was sick with flu on that cold wet November day in 1972. The bodies of the three killed activists were later taken to Camp Vicente Lim and buried in unmarked ground. Family and relatives tried to claim Bayani’s body. The bodies have never been recovered.