The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan ( Bayan ) or New Patriotic Allilance in the Philippines bids farewell to Balthazar “ Bal “ Pinguel, former Deputy Secretary General of Bayan in 1987 – 1989, during the founding stage and birthing pains of this umbrella organization for progressive mass organizations.
Bal briefly assumed the position of Secretary General of Bayan after the assassination of Lean Alejandro, Founding Secretary-General of Bayan.
Bal died of a heart attack June 10 at his home in the USA where he had lived as an exile for twenty-five years
Bal Pinguel was from Samar, one of the poorest regions in the Philippines.
This former political prisoner and a member of Selda, an organization of former political prisoners, is best remembered as the Firebrand of the First Quarter Storm in the 1970s, the period marked by the Cold War between the US and then USSR, the raging Vietnam war against US imperialism, deepening poverty of majority of the Filipinos marked by long queues for cheap rice and oil price increases, factional rivalry of the elite manifested as political rivalry between the Liberal Party and the Nacionalista Party, endemic corruption in government, etc.
As a Political Science student in the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Bal would be one of the tens of thousands of youth who would, like a moth, be attracted to the flame of youth activism bannered by the national democratic movement. The democratic mass movement would rally the youth and the people towards resolving the basic ills of society – imperialism, feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism – through the national democratic revolution.
Bal read voraciously on revolutionary philosophy, political economy, and the raging issues of the day, while always taking the initiative for discussions with fellow students in UP and from other universities.
This period would also see the establishment of the Kabataang Makabayan, a militant youth organization that would spearhead widespread political education of the students and out-of-school youth in urban poor communities, continuous agitation for the latter to be organized and to mobilize, and almost non-stop protest actions against the US war in Vietnam, US military bases in Central Luzon, oil price increases, landlessness in the countryside, women’s rights, and many more.
There were huge rallies held in Plaza Miranda that had people listening to fiery speeches.
One of those who would make his mark onto the consciousness of the youth and would be fondly remembered for it by his contemporaries, was slim-figured Bal Pinguel, in his signature Mao cap, black jacked, trademark round metal-rimmed eyeglasses, with one hand holding a microphone and the other gesticulating to stress a point.
It would be Bal Pinguel who would signal the agitated youth to march to their favorite protest site – the US Embassy on Roxas Boulevard, with thousands chanting, “Embassy, Embassy, Embassy…”
But President Ferdinand Marcos would not brook the growth of the democratic mass movement under the national democratic banner. He was likewise ambitious, wanting to have a third term as president, which the 1935 Philippine Constitution disallowed.
On September 21, 1972, President Marcos declared martial law, with the so-called basis that he wanted to quell the rebellion of the left led by the newly-re-established but fledging Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.
Prominent political figures who were either members of the political opposition or critics of Marcos, members of press and political activists were rounded up in the dead of night by the military, and thrown into detention camps.
Hundreds of youth activists fled to the countryside, and there awakened and organized the rural folk, especially the poor peasants who would constitute the national democratic revolution in the countryside and would influence other classes and sectors in the country.
Bal was first sent to Los Banos, Laguna to help revive the student movement, that had gone underground. But in November, 1973, he would be captured together with other students and teachers in Sta.Cruz, Laguna. After torture and imprisonment , they were transferred to Camp Vicente Lim where he and other political detainees made a daring escape – the first mass jail break under martial law.
Bal went back to his home province in Samar and, for several years, did organizing work among the peasants. Samar would later on be the region that would deploy most of their organizers to other regions to strengthen the mass movement nationwide.
Seven years later, he would be captured in Cebu. He was detained in Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan.
When Marcos decided to release several political prisoners, Bal would not be one of them. He and others would be moved to Dormitory 9-C at the Muntinglupa Death Row.
When Pope John Paul II visited the Philippines in 1981, Bal and other political prisoners waged a hunger strike, which caught the attention of the foreign press and the Vatican. Marcos returned the prisoners to Bicutan. Bal was given temporary release in January, 1985.
Bal went on to help form Bayan which would be founded on May 5, 1985.
He immediately took up political work and helped with the founding of Bayan in 1985.
Bal and other Bayan leaders worked hand-in-hand with towering figures of the political opposition such as Senator Lorenzo Tanada, Sr. who became the Founding Chairperson of Bayan. Bal and Secretary –General Lean Alejandro became a tandem in seeking out allied political leaders to support the struggles of the basic sectors of peasants and workers, the women and the youth and students.
But Bal would not continue being Bayan leader. There was an attempt to abduct him while he was riding in a public jeepney, on his way to a meeting. He was then with his two-year-old son..
Thereafter, Bal would spend most of his time on speaking tours in Europe and Canada from 1989 – 1991, exposing rampant human rights violations under the US-Aquino regime, the persistence of the social crisis of Philippine society despite the downfall of the US-backed Marcos fascist dictatorship.
In 1991, he went to the US, and in 1992, with the US-Ramos regime, Bal thought that if he went back to the Philippines he would be arrested anew because at that time, he was just temporarily released. In the US, Bal would file for political asylum in 1997, was initially denied it, but later in the same year, he was given said privilege, with the assistance of Amnesty International.
Bal would be part of the American Friends Service Committee which would appoint him as the Programs Officer for Peace Building and Prevention of Conflict
Years later, he would once again be in the forefront of protests against US intervention in Iraq under President George Bush II. He was the main organizer of the April 20, 2002 Stop the War Mobilization in Washington DC; and helped in organizing the No Bases Conference in Quito and Manta, Ecuador in March 5-9, 2007.
In these same years, Bayan in the USA would be established. Its leaders who have heard about Bal and his record of involvement in the mass movement in the Philippines would often invite him to be their speaker.
Kasamas in Bayan USA would report that they were inspired by the sharing of his long experience in arousing, organizing, mobilizing peasants in Samar, the students in Metro Manila, and political allies.
Although he was based in the US , we would learn that Bal and his family continued to live a simple and modest life. He would suffer the instability of joblessness when his program in the AFSC was shelved due to the economic crisis that hit the US. But he never wavered in supporting the struggles in the home front.
The last time Bayan folks and members of Selda would have a reunion with Bal was in 2009 when he went home for the burial of his mother, he being her only child.
On the other hand, the last public appearance of Bal with Bayan USA was in 2016, at a rally in New York City to protest the burial of the unlamented dictator/President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
We raise our fist in salute to our Bayan leader, Balthazar “ Ka Bal “ Pinguel, a former political prisoner and a fearless fighter for national democracy. Bal was an iconic agitator in mass-protest rallies, a propagandist-educator who influenced hundreds of youth to spend their life in the service of the Filipino people, and a tireless organizer of the broad masses of the people. He was also admired and esteemed as a dauntless internationalist, in particular, as an uncompromising peace activist against US wars of aggression and intervention .
Farewell, Kasamang Bal, rest your heart which had throbbed passionately for the advancement of the struggle of the Filipino people. You will be remembered.
Mabuhay at Tularan ang maningning na buhay ni Kasamang Bal Pinguel!
Mabuhay ang Uring Magsasaka! Mabuhay ang Uring Manggagagawa!
Ipaglaban ang demokrasya at pambansang kasarinlan!
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan ( Bayan ) – New Patriotic Alliance
June 17, 2017, Quezon City, Philippines