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The day they shot Carlos Rodriguez

By Levy Abad (Singer-Songwriter)

    Carlos "Kaloy" Rodriguez
Carlos "Kaloy" Rodriguez
I remember vividly when I bought a capo in one of the music stores in Toronto and gave it to Jess Bartolome, a famous folk musician from the Philippines who was touring during at that time with his brothers, Kuya Heber and Levi, members of Banyuhay (Metamorphosis). They invited me to be their front act for their concerts in Toronto (October 2, 2010) and Mississauga (October 30, 2010). Lolita and the Boys and Mike Hanopol were also featured in these concerts.

As a favour I asked Jess to bring the capo home to the Philippines as a present for my friend Dani Fabella, a poet and singer-songwriter. A few weeks later I asked Dani through Facebook if he got the capo. Dani told me he got it but it did not last long. He said that for some strange reasons, when he used it for the first time at the wake tribute for Carlos “Kaloy” Rodriguez, our common friend, it broke into pieces. Dani made a joke that maybe Carlos was making a paramdam or ghostly presence.

I was shocked to learn that my buddy in organizing the provincial union of government employees in my home province of Laguna was gunned down on November 12, 2010. This thing happened during the early years of the Pres. Benigno S. Aquino administration. Political killings had intensified with the regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo under which 1,190 activists were victims of extrajudicial killings. The killing of Kaloy is a continuation of the policy to silence the struggle of the people against privatization as part of the neo-liberal agenda. Kaloy was a good person and a tireless organizer for the welfare of workers. He was the Chair of the Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Mangagawa ng Calamba Water District (Union of Workers of Calamba Water District). He was the seventh victim of extrajudicial killing in the Southern Tagalog region under the present administration.

We were buddies in organizing the provincial water districts of the province from 2003 to 2005. We went about gathering leaders of different water districts for discussion on the evils of privatization. He helped a lot in organizing and reviving the COURAGE chapter (Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees) in the province. I remember going with him to attend meetings on Collective Negotiation Agreements (CNA) to improve the situation of government employees. He was one of the most selfless persons I have known. If there were a meeting about the struggle to improve the workingman’s condition, you could bet that Kaloy would be there.

I left the Philippines way back in December 2006 and bid farewell to brothers and sisters in the Democracy and Human Rights Movement. I immigrated to Canada to look for better opportunities. While in Ontario, I learned about the continuous extrajudicial killings and I dreaded the day that I would hear about another buddy in the union struggle being targeted. Sure enough, the minions of neo-liberalism went to my home province and gunned down Carlos.

Here in Winnipeg, every time I drive near the Canadian Human Rights Museum (CMHR), I remember all the activist friends I have met and shared happy moments with in the parliament of the streets. During those days, we were always discussing how to improve the lives of people. Most of us were volunteers; some were full-time organizers just relying on the support of the community to survive. As far as I can recall, I lost more than ten buddies. It was for and because of them that I wrote a song tilted Down at the Forks, which became part of my second album titled, Never Give Up, Canadian Experience Vol. 2.

Down at the Forks I remember my friends
Who perished in the struggle for freedom
Down at the Forks I reckon the moments
When we wage struggles for rights

I remember the days of movement and triumph
Remember compassion and counting the cost
Patience and vision and the role that we played
In the barricades of peace

Down at the Forks there’s a beacon light
There is a guiding star that shines so bright
There’s a glowing candle in the dark
Leading down the road to peace

Down at the Forks I cried out in silence
Vowing never again to be silent
Down its sacred ground I wrote this song
For comrades who disappeared

Down at the Forks I shed tears of remembrance
For friends tortured, killed, disappeared
Down its holy ground I remember the lives
Lives offered for peace

In the late 2013, I met with Kelly Moist who chairs CUPE–Manitoba to talk about her visit to the Philippines and her integration with her government union counterpart. I was surprised to hear that even Kelly was touched by the story of Kaloy. She relayed to me how she empathized with the mother of Kaloy Rodriguez. She realized that the nature of the struggle in the Philippines is intense and she stands in solidarity with our peoples’ fight for self-determination and the improvement of the working peoples’ condition. I never cease to be amazed and at the same time affected this tragic incident. I am resolved to write a song titled The Day They Shot Carlos Rodriguez Down, as a tribute to a good comrade and buddy. For now, I have to finish this article as my simple tribute to honour and celebrate his life as a true servant of our people.

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