Davao Today, March 15, 2009
DAVAO CITY—The motorcycle ride to Paquibato where we were set to interview New People’s Army (NPA) rebel Leoncio Pitao, more known as Kumander Parago, was not for the half-hearted.
The roads were rough all the way up and the ridges the motorcycle traversed could be very treacherous. It was a good many hours before the engine finally halted and we could then inspect if our bones were still intact.
Soon enough, we were on our way trekking. We only stopped when we saw some items of clothing spread on the grass. Then the guide turned to the narrow path towards the bushes and called on to someone. “Go! Naa kay bisita. (Go, you have a visitor).”
We proceeded down the footpath through the bushes. There was practically nothing around us to tell us it was a camp. There was no physical structure in sight, only hammocks and backpacks and those young men, arms by their sides, still managing to press a smile to greet us. They wore black sweatshirts with hammer and sickle printed on it. They were the guerrilla fighters of the First Pulang Bagani Command of the NPA, the unit that Parago heads.
We were then led to what they call “the hall” – a makeshift row of benches, consisting of branches of shrubs attached to some trees. As soon as we settled ourselves, Parago came.
He was wearing the same black sweatshirt as the other men except for his Mao cap and a vest of M203 bullets. We took a deep breath to ask our first question.
How did he take the news on his daughter’s death?