Relatives, childhood friends recall the island life of ‘Ka Oris’

GENERAL LUNA, Siargao Island (MindaNews / 17 Nov) – Relatives and friends reminisced the childhood life of Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, the slain communist guerilla leader, in this idyllic island where he grew up.

The Madlos family. Standing, from left: Jorge, Leopoldo, Anne, Josefa, Lucy, Vicente and Rito. Seated: Salvador, Andres Sr., Dorotea and Andres Jr. Dorotea is holding the first grandchild, Sophia, daughter of Andres Jr. Photo courtesy of the Madlos family, reproduced by ROEL N. CATOTO / MindaNews

Memories with him flashed back randomly as his ashes were brought to General Luna, the surfing capital in Siargao, now a world-famous island. Grieving relatives and childhood friends paid their last respects to the fallen rebel leader.

Wake was solemnly held at the house of the late General Luna Mayor Mauricio “Oris” Ravelo, who adopted Jorge when he was only a year old as he and wife Nieves had no children of their own. Nieves is sister of Jorge’s biological mother Dorotea.

Madlos’ “Ka Oris” nom de guerre comes from the late mayor’s nickname.

Jorge was the eighth among nine siblings (not seventh as earlier reported).

“The old glory days, we cherished the island life as it was etched in our memories. Jorge was truly and immensely loved by both his biological and adoptive parents,” said Epefania Conte-Espejon, a 71-year-old retired public school teacher.

Epefania said she and Jorge, along with other relatives, grew up together in the house of the late mayor.

“There were times when we went in droves to the white sand beach, with friends, relatives and neighbors and played in the waters and ran on the beach,” she said, adding that their house was just two blocks away from the beach.

Epefania could still remember the tension at the Ravelo household when Jorge’s biological parents – Andres Sr. and Dorotea – came to ask the mayor to let go of Jorge so he could be with them again in Surigao City to study high school.

“There were arguments in the house. I witnessed it,” she said.

In the end, Jorge went with his biological parents to study in a private school in Surigao, where his siblings were also studying.

Jorge Madlos and his biological father, Andres Madlos Sr., in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon. He was 19 years old when the photo was taken. Photo courtesy of the Madlos Family

“Jorge lived a happy life here, Epefania said, adding that the mayor even had househelps to attend to Jorge’s needs.

Epefania last saw “Ka Oris” in 1991 when he came out from jail in Camp Crame.

“It was noon time when he sneaked into our house through the backdoor at our dirty kitchen. I was shocked and got mad at him for not having sent a word that he was coming. I scolded him but after that, we gave him a warm welcome,” Epefania said.

Jorge’s brother Rito recalled their adventure riding a horse together when their father asked him to fetch Jorge in General Luna.

“I hopped on the horse and went to General Luna to get Jorge. We had fun together riding the horse traversing the mangroves and the beaches back then,” he said.

Rito recalled Jorge was fond of martial arts. “He was a good boxer and was into karate,” he said.

Once, Jorge had a fist fight with the young Ernesto Matugas over a girl in Dapa, Rito claimed. It was not a fair fight, he noted, because of his brother’s martial arts exploits.

Matugas later served as three-term mayor of Surigao City and now the city’s incumbent vice mayor.

Rito said Jorge had a brilliant mind; he could anticipate dangers.

He recalled that once, Jorge handed him subversive documents in their house in Espina Village in Surigao City for safekeeping, knowing that elements of the defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC) would come to search their house.

“When the PC came to the house to search for evidence, they found nothing as I smuggled the documents away,” Rito said.

Rito Madlos shows a photo of the young Jorge, who was then a worker at the Surigao Parish Church. MindaNews photo by ROEL N. CATOTO

Rito said Jorge and several student activists in Surigao – belonging to prominent families in the city – were arrested and jailed during martial law at the barracks where the Provincial Police Office now stands. They spent about a month in jail – doing manual labor like cleaning and washing the dishes – and freed later after Christmas.

Jorge was arrested again in Manila in 1989 but was freed in 1991 after he got an amnesty from President Corazon Aquino.

“He was always mild-mannered, soft-spoken, charismatic, deep thinker and very organized in things he wanted to do,” Rito added.

He narrated that in college, he went into advanced military training as he wanted to be a soldier. “It’s nice to wear Army uniform with heavy guns,” Rito smiled.

But when Jorge, already a rebel by then, learned about it, he got mad at his younger brother.

“These were the exact words he told me: ‘Are you really sure about it? If you continue with it, I’ll meet you in the mountains and see you in hell.’”

Rito backed out, dropped his military ambitions, and became a salesman.

Jorge’s 79-year-old sister Anne Madlos-Caraballe had fond memories of Jorge at the Ravelo household, which she visited often.

The house of the late Mayor Mauricio Ravelo of General Luna, Siargao Island located at the junction of Rizal and Clarin Streets, where Jorge Madlos grew up. MindaNews photo by ROEL N. CATOTO

“We had fun playing hide and seek and other games at the house of our uncle and auntie,” Anne said, referring to Mauricio and Nieves Ravelo.

She remembers Jorge as compassionate and an honest person. “He was respectful and sincere always when we were young,” Anne said.

“Without the traits and characteristics Jorge possessed, he couldn’t have become who he was in his organization,” said Anne, referring to the underground rebel movement. Jorge became one of the most visible personalities in the National Democratic Front as spokesperson of NDF-Mindanao. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)