On 8 August, his 76th birthday, over 200 of Ka Fidel Agcaoili’s family, comrades and colleagues from around the world convened on an online tribute program organized by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines International Information Office (NDFPIIO).
Entitled Fidel: Pagpupugay, Paggunita at Pagpapatuloy (Fidel:Honoring, Commemorating, Persevering), the program relived the highlights of Ka Fidel’s more than five decades of serving the Filipino people, of being a loving family man and a highly-regarded comrade, mentor and friend.
Commencing the tribute was a video presentation entitled “Ka Fidel: A Patriot and Revolutionary” which showed the exemplary life he led as a Filipino revolutionary from his earlier days of being a student activist to being one of the stalwarts of the Philippine national democratic movement.
Founding Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and NDFP Negotiating Panel Chief Political Consultant Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, who is a life-long friend of Ka Fidel, paid his tribute, lauding Ka Fidel as an exemplary patriot and dedicated proletarian revolutionary.
“Ka Fidel deserves to be honored as a great Filipino patriot and outstanding communist fighter even only on the basis of what is publicly known about him. He has accomplished far more than this in the service of the Filipino people and their revolutionary movement…He became a revolutionary without ever boasting or feeling sorry that he had sacrificed so much for the people and the revolution,” stressed Prof. Sison.
…..”The revolutionary spirit, ideas and deeds of Ka Fidel are now flowing in the growing body and blood of the people’s struggle for national and social liberation and for a socialist future. All the efforts and sacrifices that he has made in his lifetime will live after him in the hearts and minds and collective will and actions of the people in the people’s democratic revolution and in the subsequent socialist revolution”, Prof. Sison proclaimed.
The Central Committee of the CPP, in a statement read by NDFP Negotiating Panel Member Julieta de Lima, regarded Ka Fidel as “a hero of the Philippine revolution [who] gave blood and sweat, and time and talent to advance the Filipino people’s great cause to achieve national and social liberation, as part of advancing the international working class movement for socialism and communism.”
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines National Council also issued a statement, which was delivered by NDFP International Representative and NDFP Peace Panel Senior Political Consultant Luis Jalandoni, honoring Ka Fidel for his contributions in the peace negotiations.
Thomas Hofland from the Revolutionaire Eenheid (Revolutionary Unity), a progressive youth organization in the Netherlands who regards Ka Fidel as an important mentor, remembered him as “a great comrade who was always ready to take us by the hand, give us guidance, make us laugh, and give us confidence to keep on organizing until victory.”
“He is a great example for us and we won’t let his banner drop on the floor. We will pick it up and keep on marching, together with thousands of people around the world inspired by Ka Fidel,” Hofland continued.
Another youth activist, Ilena, who, since the age of 12 had seen an impressive father figure in Ka Fidel, admires his revolutionary wisdom and overflowing love and concern.
“It is amazing how one person can be present in so many people’s lives. How someone has so much love to give and do all he can to give it. But it is no mystery – it was his genuine goodness, the same goodness that made him a revolutionary through and through, that made him dedicate his life to serve the oppressed peoples,” Ilena said.
Ka Fidel also left a meaningful mark on the lives of overseas Filipinos he had met and encountered throughout the years. Migrants’ rights and welfare are issues close to his heart, him being also a migrant. Filipino migrants from all over the world started to call him Tatay or Tats, a term of endearment he earned because of his fatherly concern for them. Representatives from Migrante-Europe, organizations from Canada and the Asia-Pacific relayed their tributes during the program.
According to Gerry de Guzman of Migrante-Middle East, “The workers in the Middle East will remember Ka Fidel because he was known as the father of OFWs. He was more than a comrade, he was also a teacher, mentor, grandfather, brother, uncle and confidante of the OFWs because he was always accessible and gave his wholehearted and all out support to migrants rights and welfare.”
OFWs in Hong Kong also had a lot of memories about Ka Fidel to remember him by. “Through the years of Tats’ visits to Hong Kong, he has endeared himself to us, migrant Filipinos and to local activists with his warm smile, his sharp and insightful thoughts, his welcoming and down to earth character and his very grounded analysis and advices”, shared DoloresPelaez from the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-Hong Kong).
Meanwhile, Donna Denina from the Philippine Movement for National Democracy organization in the US had this to say about Ka Fidel. “We will remember [him] as a leader in clarifying the role of overseas Filipinos as wholly integral to the new democratic revolution of the Philippines and not separate from it. And it is from this orientation that we have been able to grow and strengthen the overseas work.”
Ka Fidel had also contributed a lot in establishing fraternal relations with other communist parties and forging solidarity with other liberation movements and progressive organizations across the globe.
Bert de Belder of the Worker’s Party of Belgium, who had worked with Ka Fidel on a number of occasions, spoke of Ka Fidel’s commitment. .
“The continuing fight for a just and lasting peace in the Philippines and worldwide was always the bottomline of Ka Fidel’s commitment. Steadfastness on the fundamental principles combined with openness and cleverness in their concrete application was a hallmark of Ka Fidel’s approach,” recalled de Belder.
He also shared a glimpse of Ka Fidel’s very human side even when carrying out international relations work.
“He would always crack jokes and infect others with his laughter. My wife, Rita, reminded me that I should certainly also mention Fidel’s being a great children’s friend. And indeed, at times he would happily behave as a big child himself. In fact, we could have nicknamed him Fidelito, narrated de Belder
“He was an exceptional revolutionary and comrade who contributed to our universal struggle with both confidence and humanity to drive and strengthen international revolutionary solidarity across all boundaries,” said Nilufer Koc, spokesperson for International Relations of Kurdistan National Congress (KNK).
The Marxistich Leninistische Partei Deutchlands (Germany), Samidoun Palestinian Political Prisoners Solidarity Network and the Netherlands-Philippine Solidarity Movement also paid tribute to Ka Fidel during the online program.
During the online tribute program, hosted by Boyen Baleva, poetry and songs were rendered to honor Ka Fidel. Soprano Rica Nepomuceno sang “What Makes a Hero” while Danny Fabella and Bing Parcon sang “Awit sa Bituin” (Song to a Star), composed for Ka Fidel by Fabella. Julian Gonzalez recited “To Someone Behind Bars”, a poem written by Ka Fidel.
Ka Fidel’s loving wife, children, sibling and grandchildren remembered him for the simple family man that he was.
“For all the stories that have been told, for us he was just Papa. Simple…humble. Humble to the extent that you would even always get mad at him because sometimes kailangan naman ng kaunting luho sa buhay, Papa (you still need even simple luxuries in life, Papa). But he still would not accept that,” recalled Nicki Agcaoili, Ka Fidel’s son.
Nicki also spoke of how tribute messages from youth activists had given him and his four other siblings a sense of reassurance that Ka Fidel was indeed a good father.
“Salamat Ilena, ang iyong mensahe ay nagbigay sa aming limang magkakapatid ng kasagutan na sa lahat ng oras na wala si Papa sa amin, ‘yun pala bumawi din….Lahat ng mensahe ninyo, yung pagtawag ninyo sa kanya ng Tatay o Tats ay nagbigay sa amin ng kasagutan. Hindi lang kaming lima yung naging anak niya at nabigyan ng kahulugan ang buhay,” Nicki said.
(Thank you, Ilena. Your message gave me and my siblings reassurance that those times that Papa wasn’t around us was not in vain… But all of your messages, the way you call him Tatay or Tats, assured us that we were not his only children and whose lives he touched.)
Although heavily grieving over the loss of their loved-one, Ka Fidel’s family expressed their admiration for the life that he had given in pursuit of the Filipino people’s aspiration of freedom and just peace. They also vowed to continue on with his legacy.
“Lolo’s sudden passing left us with broken hearts. Yet at the same time, Lolo, or to many of you, Tatay or Tats, lived for a bright and just future. He lives on through this promise, he lives on through us,” said Zia Agcaoili, Ka Fidel’s eldest granddaughter.
“Papa mentioned in one of his interviews, that one day, the revolution will win. And that is our hope, our dream, that in whatever capacity we can, we will be there. We will support. Darating ang araw, lahat ng kanyang pinangarap, lahat ng kanyang pinagpaguran ay magiging reyalidad. (The day will come when all of his dreams, all that he worked hard for, will become a reality.) Everything will be just and equal for everyone,” Nicki attested.
Ka Fidel’s bereaved widow Rosario Agcaoili, in her short but meaningful message said, “Nagpapasalamat ako sa inyong mga parangal [para kay Fidel]. Nakakataba ng puso. Alam ko naibigay ko naman kay Fidel kung ano ang gusto nya. And I can say, no regrets. Maraming Salamat! Tuloy pa rin ang laban niya.” (I thank all of you for all your tributes for Fidel. My heart is filled with gratitude. I know I have given Fidel what he wanted. And I can say, no regrets. Thank you very much! His fight will continue on!)
NDFP International Information Office