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Philippines in mourning over death of legendary labor leader

The death of veteran labor leader, street parliamentarian and legislator Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran at 11:48 am Tuesday due to massive head injuries saddened and shocked many Filipinos. He was 75.

Beltran was a worker up to his very end:

His death delivers the strong message that he's a worker; he belongs to the working class. He did not betray his class to the end.

Imagine a man of his stature and at his age climbing the roof of his leaky house to protect his family and grandchildren from the elements. He's really a member of the working class.

The blogger My Life… agrees:

the cause of his death…as silly as it may seem, is because he is fixing the roof of his house. a 75 year old man…not to mention a congressman…doing household chores…just shows much on how he lives (lived) his life..

when his house was featured…i was overwhelmed on how simple his life is…ordinary…yet so special to many…

The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU, May First Movement) honored Beltran and republished a profile story about him in the trade union center's website.

Here is a list of his bills, resolutions and committee memberships in the House of Representatives.

His office as Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) partylist representative attempted to summarize his log public record through a statement issued after Beltran's death.

His colleagues from Bayan Muna (People First) also paid tribute:

Ka Bel's death is an irreparable loss not only to the working class movement but to every Filipino yearning for genuine social change. He was a tower of a man, a pillar of strength for the progressive people's movement. His name has become synonymous to the militant labor movement.

Beltran's death is being met by an outpouring of grief from across the political spectrum: from the Palace whose current occupant Beltran staunchly criticized, and from fellow legislators and activists he worked with. Tributes continue to pour in from compatriots and friends abroad, and from journalists, the communists, a Filipino-American musical group, and more.

The mourning reaches various parts of the blogosphere as well.

like a rolling store was at the hospital when Beltran died and shared what he saw when wife Osang said goodbye to her husband:

Ka Bel was brought to room 311 where people gathered to grieve over the loss of a man who just fought his last battle.

Ka Osang, the wife of Ka Bel, embraced him. She was grieving and anguished but there was no bitterness. There was no “Bakit mo kami iniwan?!” (Why did you leave us?!) that we often hear in the untimely passing of loved ones.

Instead of bitterness, a grieving Ka Osang hugged Ka Bel’s body and thanked him for all the good that he has done. “Salamat sa iyong pagtataguyod sa ating mga anak. Salamat sa lahat ng mga kabutihang iyong ginawa….” (Thank you for bringing up our children. Thank you for all the good things you have done…).

I could barely control my tears. Theirs was a love for the ages. They have been together for decades, married for more than 50 years.

The Marocharim Experiment remembers the one and only time he met Beltran, and said:

For everything that a politically-minded and politically-aware person will say about Crispin Beltran, I think we can agree on one thing: he is a man of principle. Some will whine, moan, and bitch out on a pat with a truncheon or a half-hour in jail. Not someone like Ka Bel, who has seen it all, went through it all, and still had his ideals intact at the end of it all.

Andrea's Corner also remembers a visit to Beltran during his 15-month incarceration from 2006-2007:

Ka Bel was never pretentious. One time while I visited him at the Heart Center (where he was detained for many months), he shared how he and his family acquired their new home in Bulacan. “Naku, pinangutang ko pa yon.” He went on to tell me of his little garden and how it gave him and Ka Osang, his wife, some peace. All the while, the home he was describing seemed like a mansion because it gave him so much joy. Then he goes, “mahal din yon a, mahigit P100,000.”

And this was a congressman talking. Something hit me in the heart . My goodness! Here I was complaining at times, yet I was far more blessed than this congressman. I felt so rich that day.

Pedestrian Observer wrote about the simple way this congressman lived:

Despite the opportunity to enrich himself owing to his position and privilege he has been a true blooded worker never losing touch of who and what he represents. He could have easily and conveniently change his way of life with the stature of a congressman but preferred to live the life of a modest worker with gargantuan responsibility that comes with his position.

Winding the Path of Law used elegant Filipino language in paying homage, calling him a “dakilang mamamayan” or great citizen, and “dakilang lider” or great leader.

Meanwhile, doon po sa amin, sa bayan ni juan reposted several videos of Beltran's relatives and colleagues.

The Daily PCIJ declared that the “working class loses a defender in ‘Ka Bel’” and recounted his life's work and achievements as labor leader, street parliamentarian and legislator.

Uniffors called Beltran “a hero”:

Beltran is a true “anakpawis.” A former labor leader who was elected to Congress as a party list representative, Beltran never strayed from his mission to uplift the less fortunate among us. He made his Batasan colleagues uncomfortable with his honesty, humility and disdain for the trappings of power. He was detained for over a year by the Arroyo regime on trumped-up charges because he refused to compromise his principles and sell-out his constituents.

Ditto for pine for pine. For Talim ng Araw, Beltran was a “Worker. Statesman. Martyr.”

Another blogger, This Women's Views, paid tribute to Beltran, writing:

There will be no other Ka Bel but may his spirit lives on in every Filipino whose heart and soul is to serve this country without counting the cost.

the not so secret world of vikiki published a quotation from and a matching photo of Beltran:

If helping the poor is a crime, and fighting for freedom is rebellion, then I plead guilty as charged

A blogger at FilipinoVoices.com also wrote that:

There are many things about the man, his actions, and his decision making, that I was very much in disagreement with. But, this I can say, with great clarity, Crispin Beltran was a charismatic leader who believed that his actions were for the good of our nation.

Philippine Current Events hopes that “what ever he is fighting for the Philippines will not stop”.

A terrible loss, concluded Albert's Travel and Photo Blog.

Finally, Achieving Happiness remembers 12 years of working for, with and under Beltran, and whose words perhaps capture the common sentiments of most activists on this sad day:

I worked with and for Ka Bel for more than a decade. I became one of his staff when he was still the chairman of the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) back in 1995; and when he was elected to his first term as a party-list representative of Bayan Muna in 2001, I joined his office first as his media officer, and eventually as his chief of staff. This was a post I maintained when he got elected to his second and third term under Anakpawis until I moved to the NDFP-Nominated Section in the Joint Monitoring Commitee late in 2007. That’s a total of 12 years! I’m now 32, and I am proud to say that my most formative years as a writer, as an activist have been shaped and influenced by the likes of Ka Bel. Twelve years, and every day of it was a great honor to serve such a sincere, humble and highly-intelligent and deeply committed servant of the people.

I have to admit that this day is a day that I’ve long feared would come. Ka Bel wasn’t young, and he had diabetes and hypertension, and the last two years had been so stressful for him because of his unjust and illegal incarceration on trumped-up charges of rebellion. I feared that the day would come when I wouldn’t hear his voice anymore in the rallies or in the plenary hall of the House of Representatives. When I wouldn’t hear his laugh or see his smile and have him grasp my hand tightly in his as he asks how I’m doing. When the Philippine labor movement would lose its staunchest, most fearless leader.

Well, that day has arrived, and no matter how I’ve prepared myself for it mentally, emotionally it’s still quite, quite difficult to bear.

12 comments

  • […] Over at Global Voices Online, I submitted a web and blog roundup on news and reactions to the death of Crispin Beltran. […]

  • Thank you for the nod Tonyo (Filipino Voices), and great job on formulating this piece.. A wide ranging of views indeed, but there seems to be a consensus..

    I couldn’t quite grasp his death the other day, but I think many have come to terms with it.

    Seems so sudden, it really does.

  • Barry Naylor

    We, in the United Kingdom CHRP, were shocked by the sudden death of Ka Bel – he was such a hero of the people and committed to fighting for justice for all. He was a wonderful example to all concerned in the fight for human dignity and the struggle to be free of oppression. We stand in solidarity with all who are mourning his death and those who are continuing the struggle which was his life.
    Sa pagkakaisa at tagumpay
    Reverend Canon Barry Naylor Hon President CHRP (UK)

  • No problem, Nick. It is always good to attempt to cover the Pinoy blogosphere.

  • Tonyo,

    Indeed, the man is worthy of emulation and hopefully those in congress, politicians, organizations, individuals citizens and bloggers paying him a tribute consciously promote and follow his lead as a fitting tribute to his legacy.

  • Thanks Tonyo…Malaking kawalan si Ka Bel..

  • thanks. a man of labor was given his time to rest. his work is done. a life so full and well-lived.

  • gerry

    It is the mass of workers, who have no command and power, and must simply obey.

    For which the statuses of wealth, power, and prestige are the components of social space mutually ordering and ranking people.

    The elite class will never mourn…for Ka Bel was not fighting for them. Ka Bel raised his fist for the weak, which are the masses, the labor group, the poorest of the poor…which his heart belongs…where he leads these people to have human rights(not violation), democracy, and social justice (specially from the elite & feeling elite).

    Imagine how he died…he never called for the working masses to fix his roof.

  • kumari

    Thanks tony to inform this and explain his life.
    very apriciate your bloging

  • Ian J

    Tonyo it’s really a terrible lost.

    I do think that it’s much better that we have to continue what Ka Bel’s had been started.

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