I never had a chance to call you “Manong” in person.
I do not know, but I just could not because you started by calling me “kasama” when we were introduced. And you referred this way not only to me but to everyone in those two occasions we by chance met. A feel of seriousness in those informal introductions, I noted that.
You may not hear this anymore, but I wish to let the rest know that you have touched peoples’ heart without you knowing it. You mean a lot to people you know and those whom you do not know very well. When I was told that you have gone, what flashed back in my mind were not your heroic deeds – which I am sure you had lots – but those simple personal gestures that you somehow exemplified as a person living his principles.
No, I never had theoretical discussions with you, only simple “Kumusta, kasama?” (How are you, comrade?)
But your soft tones when you speak, the silent whimper in enduring physical pains, the assault of the syringe for your regular dosage of insulin, your wife’s constant worry while she is at work hoping you did not miss your meal, afraid that once you get engrossed with your writing, you would forget even eating. Those are but a few simple you.
Let me tell you this as I was told:
It was several hours past mealtime when you inconspicuously approached a dissenting group in the middle of a heated discussion with “Mga kasama, may pagkain sa ibaba. Kumain muna kayo.” (Comrades, there is food downstairs. You better eat first.)
Astounded though most of them, no one spoke. Just a look of disbelief. Touched. That simple gesture is such an incident.
I only heard about this a few months past, an incident that happened some ten years ago from a husband of a kasama who was with that dissenting group then.
He added at the end, “It is in people like Tony Zumel whose simple gestures of sincerity make me believe that there is hope in your revolution.”
How then could I not say even now that it is in people like you, Ka Tony, that your revolutionary spirit, the human in you, will inspire us to be molded and make sure to see that flicker of light at the end of the tunnel.
Mabuhay ka, Ka Tony! (Long live Comrade Tony!)
[We found this undated letter addressed to Antonio Zumel, one of the many personal notes he kept. We will be publishing similar letters, including those written by Zumel himself to families, friends, and comrades as soon as they are available. Ka is short for kasama or comrade and manong means elder brother.]