Carry on the Task of Comrade Artus ‘Ka Libre’ Talastas to “Paint the Cordillera Red”!

Simon "Ka Filiw" Naogsan
Cordillera People's Democratic Front
June 17, 2013

The recent raid in the early morning of June 2 on a farmer’s hut serving as temporary shelter for a unit of the Leonardo Pacsi Command at the boundary of Aguinaldo, Ifugao and Natonin, Mountain Province highlights the brutality and gross disregard by the military of even its own rules of engagement. An oversized company of the 54th IBPA led by a certain 2nd Lt. Joshua Barrion certainly had complete ground control of the situation, having surrounded the isolated farmhouse and with well covered positions, could have at least announced a conditional surrender. Yet the military opted to indiscriminately and arbitrarily open fire pulverizing and obliterating the house with volleys of fire and M203 grenade shelling without regard if there were any civilians thereat.

From reliable sources and in all indications Artus ‘Ka Libre’ Talastas, after seeing his comrade Ronelson ‘Ka Renan’ Balatines hit and mortally wounded, tried to carry or drag him to safety. But the fatally wounded Balatines, realizing how helpless his situation was, pleaded to his CO to leave him behind and seek his own safety. Talastas, who was already lethally wounded by a bullet wound from an M-14 rifle, managed to crawl out of reach of enemy fire, but became the second fatality.

Comrade Talastas’ last sacrifice is a heroic act just as much as the valiant deed and daringness of the masses who searched the immediate vicinity several hours later and upon finding his body took a circuitous and tortouous route to prevent the enemy from recovering the slain revolutionary.

Earlier, a phalanx of soldiers prevented the villagers of Bunag and Toayong from approaching the scene after the battle to search for any casualty, indicating the military mindset of “taking no prisoners” just as the continuous volley of fire when they surrounded the house attempted to make sure there would be no wounded left.

Human rights abuses by the military, whether committed against helpless civilians or on hors de combat and pinned down Red fighters, are crimes against the people especially under the mutually signed Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. In the desecration of the remains of fatalities in Tineg, Abra, two years ago, the same wanton disregard for human rights was evident.

Unlike the much-hated military, for the masses of Aguinaldo and Natonin as well as the entire Cordillera, Comrade Talastas was a rare multi-talented son, comrade and cadre who offered his life as well as his songs and artworks in the service of the people. In many households he went into, finely-sketched portraits of family members would be requested upon Artus and this he complied with gusto. These pencil sketches drawn with pointilism detail would later be framed and displayed by the masses in their private residences.

Few can compare with his musical talent; among the numerous revolutionary compositions of Artus were saliddumays adapted to highlight the plight of the indigenous masses. Villagers listen and take his lyrics to heart, eventually reverberating throughout the mountains.

Talastas turned his back on his peti-bourgeois upbringing and background and chose to live with the masses. He could have made millions with his artistic skills, yet he chose to apply his aesthetic skills in the service of the revolution and the people.

As an exemplary performing artist, comrade Talastas was instrumental in transforming the NPA units not only into fighting forces but also into a cultural army. “To defeat the enemy we must rely primarily on the army with guns… but this army alone is not enough; we must also have a cultural army, which is absolutely indispensable for uniting our own ranks and defeating the enemy,” Ka Libre often quoted Chairman Mao Ze Dong.

The Cordillera People’s Democratic Front vows to carry on the fight of the fallen comrades Talastas and Balatines, who died valiantly while serving the people and the armed struggle.

Likewise, we laud the bravery of the masses who dodged sniper bullets to carry the remains of Talastas to a safe distance from the battle site and thus ensure a proper wake for the slain revolutionary and hero.

“A tree is born, a tree dies, but the forest lives,” as the saying goes. For the national minorities, the heroic stuggle led by Talastas will inspire generations of young proletarian revolutionaries. His songs will reverberate throughout the region, his works of art will forever be imbibed in the memory of the indigenous people, his deeds and heroism will echo through the ranks of all Red fighters who will continue his steps.

His demise is admittedly a huge loss to the revolution, but nonetheless many will take his place; his sacrifice is a shining example to many more artists and cultural workers especially among the indigenous people. We call on the finest sons and daughters of the Cordillera people to emulate the ideals of comrade Talastas and carry on his work. Likewise, we call on fellow cultural workers in the Artista at Manunulat para sa Sambayanan (ARMAS) to follow the steps of Talastas, to take his pen and quill and join the swelling ranks of the NPA and, to quote Ka Libre, “paint the Cordillera red”.

Rebolusyon kayet!#