By Jose Maria Sison
Julie and I are deeply saddened by the passing away of our comrade and long-time friend, Prof. Petronilo Bn. Daroy. To his family, we convey our condolences. Our sense of loss can be assuaged only by the knowledge that he lived a fruitful and meaningful life. He was someone for so many others in his role as writer and teacher and most importantly as revolutionary.
We are proud of his professional achievements. We knew him from the time that he was a graduate assistant in the late 50’s and early 60’s. He worked his way up in the university. However, we prefer to speak of how we knew him as a progressive intellectual and ultimately as a revolutionary willing to take risks and make sacrifices for the people.
We grew up with Pete intellectually and politically in Diliman. We had common interest in certain authors and lent books to each other. We had frequent conversations in his room at what was then familiarly called Stalag 17, at our own rented cottage in Area 14, and at wherever Little Quiapo was located or relocated. Sometimes, Pete and I exchanged articles for comment and criticism.
Our exchange of ideas ranged in content from literary works to current affairs and in viewpoint from progressive liberal to Marxist. At one time, our mutual friend Louie Teodoro wondered aloud how Pete and I could converse for so long even as we used different vocabularies. This was in the early 60’s.
It seemed as if we were most comprehensible to others when we were caricaturing each other and even more so when we were satirizing reactionary institutions and certain pompous personalities. It was fun to be with Pete because a serious conversation often took a funny turn upon his witty and charming initiative. That was how he came to have so many friends.
In our early years of friendship, Pete liked to be respected as a progressive liberal in contrast to the Burkean conservative liberal. He was definitely anticolonial, antifeudal and anti-imperialist. At the same time, he was fascinated by creative writers who were either communists or sympathizers. I discerned that he was inclined to take the revolutionary path.
He was always interested in generating intellectual ferment in the university. He was the chief instigator of the little campus magazines that we put out, like the Fugitive Review, Cogent and Diliman Observer. He welcomed my political essays and literary criticism. Conscious of the short lives and small circulation of our little magazines, we contributed articles to the Philippine Collegian to reach a larger audience.
As graduate students we had a weekly informal discussion group with Dr. Ricardo Pascual, then the dean of the UP Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Over pancit malabon served by Mrs. Pascual, the group discussed so many topics under the sun, with Dr. Pascual ever pushing the logical positivist line. I often noticed Pete enjoying his rare long silences whenever I debated with Dr. Pascual from a dialectical materialist position.
Pete was conscious of making a university within a university and making a laboratory of the future. He readily agreed to be a co-founder of the Student Cultural Association of UP (SCAUP). Together with others, we conceived it as an anticlerical foil to the UPSCA and, much more, as a training clinic for activists in the national-democratic movement against imperialism and feudalism.
Pete was not simply an intellectual. He was a militant. He was exceedingly active in calling on all his friends—leaders of fraternities and sororities—to join in deciding and preparing the anti-CAFA demonstration of March 15, 1961. The caucuses and placards were done at his place and at ours after the general meeting of leaders at the UP social hall.
The success of the anti-CAFA demonstration would have been in jeopardy had not Pete personally known the manager of the JD bus company. He co-signed with Heherson Alvarez and me the rent contract for so many buses and he assured the bus company manager that my salary, a mere stipend for a teaching fellow, was sufficient as a guarantee. We did not have any money for a down payment.
Eventually, I would be in trouble because the one assigned to ensure the collection of fares from everyone who took the bus and joined the rally failed to do his job. To solve the problem, the SCAUP had to request Maribel Aboitiz to do a ballet performance for fundraising.
Pete and I supported each other in several controversies. He encouraged me to engage the head of the UP English Department in a Collegian debate over the content and syllabus of a course on great ideas. In turn, I supported him with an article after a certain professor and poet slapped him for writing an unflattering piece of literary criticism on his poems. We worked with Enrique Voltaire Garcia in denouncing by picket and manifesto the UP visit of Carlos P. Romulo before his appointment as UP president.
Pete was a close friend of ours, so close that he participated in minting a unique name for our firstborn. Our friendship was well known, so much so that the old merger party of communists and socialists contacted me for the first time through him. I have always been thankful to him for acting as the go-between. By joining the old party, I learned so much to the extent that I came to know in theory and in real struggle the difference between Marxism-Leninism and modern revisionism.
From the second half of 1963 to the time that we went underground in late 1968, we saw Pete less frequently. He was then preoccupied with his writing and teaching job. Some mutual friends commented that we had bypassed him on the way to rebuilding the mass movement and the Communist Party of the Philippines.
But when Salvador P. Lopez became UP president, it looked like Pete had gained more time and leeway. Soon enough, I learned that he was active in cooperating with the progressive teachers and students in opposing the Marcos regime. He became even more militant politically in the period of 1970 to 1972.
When martial law was declared, he joined the revolutionary underground. Subsequently, he was arrested and detained. After his release, he resumed revolutionary activity even as he went back to work in the university. Other comrades who were close to him during those years know more about his involvement.
For the first time, we met as communist comrades in Nueva Ecija sometime in 1974. It was a happy but short reunion. We did not have time for bantering as in the old days. We shall never forget how so serious and intent was he in using the limited time for discussing revolutionary work.
When Julie was released from prison in 1982, Pete was among the most resolute organizers of the committee to campaign for the release of myself and all political prisoners. His home in Diliman virtually became the office of the committee. There, too, he and Julie discussed and planned with other friends the publication of my book of poems, Prison and Beyond, the revival of Progressive Review and the publication of a weekly magazine, Midweek, in the year before the fall of Marcos. Ever the propagandist, Pete was tireless in contacting his friends to support these projects.
After my release in 1986, Julie and I visited Pete a number of times at his Bliss residence. We shall always treasure the last full day we spent with him and his adopted family at his Bulacan farm. There was time for banter and for serious talk about the post-Marcos regime and the continuing struggle for national liberation and democracy.
We shall always cherish our comradeship and friendship with Pete. We are certain that Pete had as much esteem for us as we have of him. He recognized the historical significance of our relationship and offered to write a book of reminiscences about it. In fact, he was busy working on the book until death struck so suddenly.
The revolutionary spirit of Pete will live on among his comrades, friends and the people. In this regard, it is necessary to speak of his significant though anonymous revolutionary deeds. In this tribute, we can mention only a few details from so rich a life of service to the people.