Below are my foreword and the front back cover.
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
I am delighted and honored to write this foreword to Joven Obrero’s The Gumamela Is Still Red, the sequel to her Warriors, Poets and Friends. These two books of poetry reflect the revolutionary struggle of the people for national and social liberation in Mindanao and the outstanding participation of the author, especially in educational and cultural work.
Like its antecedent, The Gumamela Is Still Red is mainly a book of poems but appropriately includes brief items in prose, such as narratives and correspondences, in order to contextualize the poems in historical, class and personal terms from the revolutionary viewpoint of the proletariat, all toiling masses of workers and peasants and the Lumad communities.
I appreciate Obrero’s use of the gumamela as the metaphor for the revolutionary struggle of the people. It is a plant with large vibrant red flowers that grows abundantly on the mountains, hills and plains of the Philippines. This key metaphor indicates the keen poetic imagination of the author who grasps what is meaningful and beautiful in what many other people may overlook.
The current book of poems of Obrero deserves to be read by all Filipino patriots and revolutionaries and by all foreign friends in solidarity with them. She is an excellent poet with the noblest sense of revolutionary vision and mission. Her 11 poems are finely crafted to express in concrete terms and natural imagery the heroism, hard struggle, sacrifices and aspirations of the communist cadres, Red fighters and the masses.
Like I do, Obrero writes poetry in the tradition of Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Pablo Neruda and Maya Daniel (Felix Salditos) who has a number of poems included in the book. Even in a few poems which appear to be rough-hewn, Obrero suits the literal expressions to the actual direct language of the masses and to the need for spelling out the problems that afflict them.
Once you start to read the book, you are drawn in by her personal involvement and commitment to the revolutionary struggle, especially by her perseverance despite tremendous odds and sacrifices, including the martyrdom of excellent cadres like her husband Ka Deo. Then you wish to know further about her self-fulfillment in the struggle and what about other women in the struggle.
You find out the self-fulfillment of Warmina and other women who join the tactical offensives after complaining that they are limited to nonmilitary tasks and demanding the equal right of women to participate in fighting. You appreciate the fact that the people’s war offers everything to everyone who desires liberation from imperialism and all forms of reaction.
As you read further, you come to know and respect the man who never said no to any plea for help from the masses in need and to find ways of solving the problem. And for all his goodness and service to the people, the enemy would hate him and kill him. But his martyrdom becomes an inspiration in the most difficult 12 times of walking and climbing on rough terrain in order to elude the enemy.
The book presents the plight of the tribes who have been repeatedly pushed out of their ancestral domain by the logging, mining and plantation operations of the landgrabbing multinational corporations and their traitorous local partners. You share with the poet what she learns from the tribal chief Matigsalug. Thus, you admire the eagerness of the 19-year old Lumad to join a guerrilla operation and you feel angry that the enemy would kill him.
Obrero is not confined to the fastnesses and communities in the countryside. The scale of her poetry keeps on widening. She knows the mass protests in the cities and celebrates them.
She bewails the violence of the enemy in the streets. She is in touch with a friend in prison and with a child whose parents are missing and who is in the care of comrades. She criticizes gently the youth who are obsessed with selfies, posing as cute in Facebook and unmindful of the gravely sick social system and the need for social revolution.
She reflects on the Covid-19 quarantine and communicates with a slum dweller who represents the people most hard hit by the pandemic, the loss and jobs, the lack of ayuda and the aggravation of the chronic crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system and the berserk tyranny, treason, butchery and plunder under the Duterte regime. To demonstrate how well the revolutionaries learn from the masses, Obrero Obrero presents their conversation with the agriworkers. We learn how they lose their land to the multinational corporations 13 and their local partners through lease and growers’ agreements and how they are exploited through labor ‘cooperatives’ which are in fact labor contracting agencies no different from the old cabo system.
Obrero indicates that the consequence of social investigation is the publication of the oppression and exploitation and of course the actions by the masses and the revolutionary forces to fight back. But twice in the book she finds the occasion to dream about genuine land reform and peasant cooperatives in sharp contrast to the current suffering of the peasants and farm workers.
The book concludes that the gumamela is still red and urges the youth to rise up against the despotism of Duterte and the entire ruling system under which the broad masses of the people are suffering intolerable conditions of oppression and exploitation.
Obrero sings odes to the Communist Party of the Philippines and to the protracted people’s war. She does not mind the long wait so long as all efforts are exerted to make the long leap.
The protracted people’s war has created the basis for accelerated people’s war in stride with the worsening crisis of the semicolonial and feudal ruling system and that of the world capitalist system.
Jose Ma. Sison
Utrecht, the Netherlands