REFLECTIONS: About this “Hands Off Our Children” brouhaha

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 03 October) — Let me share with you a story about me and my father that happened a long ago,  during Marcos’ Martial Law. I  want to share this especially after Facebook took down the “Hands Off Our Children,” one of several pages with links to the Philippine military and police, for alleged “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” President Duterte was furious and threatened to investigate Facebook. But that is another story which can be discussed in another time.

My story is about my father, the late Captain Simeon Gallardo, harbor pilot of the port of Cagayan de Oro. I never really knew the guy perhaps because of the huge gap in our age. I remember him as strict disciplinarian, a father who would not hesitate to spank my ass with his leather belt until my poor bottoms got super hot red.

I only knew him from the stories his friends told me later, after he died in 1980. A native of Loay, Bohol, he spent his entire life at sea, serving ships that plied Asian ports to India.

When World War 2 came, my father was commissioned as Major in the USAFFE (United States Army Forces in the Far East). Assigned to a battalion, he fought the Japanese in Bukidnon. He told me their battalion had only rifles and two machineguns to fight the well-equipped Japanese Army.

My father was later captured by the Japanese after the USAFFE surrendered. His battalion was forced march from Bukidnon to Cagayan de Oro.  During his captivity, a Japanese soldier bayoneted him in one of his legs. I saw the ugly scar and he told me he nearly died from infection.

He later escaped the Japanese camp in Cagayan de Oro and took a banca for Bohol where he joined the guerillas who were based in a mountain called “Behind the Clouds.”

Now this is the story I wanted to share with you. During Martial Law, the Philippine Constabulary was hunting us members of the Kabataang Makabayan. I remember I was no. 36  on the hit list of 100 wanted subversives.

A platoon of PC soldiers raided our house in Bulua but luckily I was somewhere else. I later returned to explain to my parents. My mother was in tears and emotional for my safety. I was expecting a beating from my father.

I found him sitting on a chair in our lanai and sat in front of him. Slowly I told him that I could not stand idly while the powerful exploit the marginalized sectors. I told him I wanted to fight.

To this day, I remember his eyes as he told me that in our lifetime, a man has to stand and fight. He told me he understood me and was not angry. He said he did this act, too, when he was fighting for our country. “Do not flinch,” my father told me.

My father then gave me a set of prayers — his “Oraciones” —  that will keep me safe. He said the prayers guided him when he escaped the Japanese camp.

I asked why he was doing this. My father said no parent should stand against what their children believe in. He said I already made my decision and he respected it as a man.

For my father, I was no longer his son. I was already a man.

I hope parents can learn something from my father.

Sayang lang our time together was short.

(Based in Cagayan de Oro, Froilan Gallardo is a senior reporter of MindaNews. He has covered all the major armed conflicts in Mindanao in the last three decades, working for newspapers in Cagayan de Oro City and Cebu City and as correspondent for national newspapers Malaya and Philippine Daily Inquirer and international news agencies).

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