Aria: The Songs of Struggles

Several years ago, I was approached by the late Dr. Romy Taruc, son of HUK Supremo Luis Taruc, to finish a letter to the US Government which is a last ditch effort to have it recognized the remaining members of the guerrilla movement who did all the fighting against the invading Japanese Imperial Army in Central Luzon when General Douglas McArthur fled Corregidor.
After finishing the letter, I handed it back to Dr. Taruc, and never heard of him again. Most of the old and sickly former guerillas have died awaiting US recognition that never came.

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to watch the low-budget film “Aria” during its gala screening at the historic Metropolitan Theater, which was closed for the past 25 years and left amid the throes of political upheaval that attended our country. “Aria,” a film produced by the Holy Angel University’s Center for Kapampangan Studies made its way to The MET for its Kasaysayan sa MET series in partnership with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

For a Kapampangan scribe like me, watching a Kapampangan film at The MET during a significant moment of Pampanga’s history particularly the labor and agrarian unrest was quite stirring. From these labor and agrarian unrest, it gave rise to the likes of Pedro Abad Santos, founder of the Partido Sosyalista ng Pilipinas. Abad Santos, was akin to Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh, founder of the IndoChinese Communist Party. Abad Santos, who bears a striking resemblance with the bearded Uncle Ho, would honed the leadership of the Supremo Luis Taruc who carried on armed resistance during and after the war with Japan.

Pining and David

“Aria” is a story of love – of Pining and David, a labor leader — juxtaposed in the poignant historied past of Pampanga province. The fertile ground for labor and agrarian unrest gave birth to Abad Santos’ ‘Aguman ding Maldang Talapagobra’ (AMT), a general workers’ union similar to those in Russia, where proletarians overthrow the Romanovs and established a communist state. Impoverished by war against the Germans and faced by the rising tide of political and social unrest gave rise to new political leaders like Vladimir Lenin.

At an earlier time, Bolshevik revolutionaries toppled the three-century old Romanov dynasty and established a socialist government. The tide of communism was also being fan out by Ho Chi Mihn, who established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945 and in 30 years would unify Vietnam under a communist state. Communism was taking parts of Asia like a domino falling one by one which led to the Cold War.

Pining and David’s love story was disrupted by the Japanese invasion in December 1941 but both would often see each other up in the mountains. In the final moments of the film with the war over, David would say to Pining that the battle isn’t over and would return to her. The love story angle was an added novelty reminding me of US films such as “Pearl Harbor.” In modern day, Pining was fighting for her monthly pension to sustain her medications.

Retelling of Kapampangan history

At the end of the movie, it said the guerrillas failed to get US recognition for their war efforts. I felt a stab deep in the recesses of my heart. And at the closing credits, I saw the name of Dr. Romy Taruc and it was then that I shed tears.

I realized I am a proud Kapampangan at The MET. Yes, the film has the flaws of a low-budget film but it was a moving experience to see it especially at The MET.

The generation of Filipinos should remember the sacrifices of the people of Pampanga province before and during World War II, and the succeeding struggles of the HUKBALAHAP that would later changed its name to Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB).

“Aria” depicts the songs of struggles of Pampanga province, and its people. Thrust into the labor and agrarian unrest, the Kapampangans rose up to take up arms against a political and social system. However, in the free market place of ideas, Marxism, Leninism and even Uncle Ho’s communism has lost touched with the people. Russia’s “Perostraika” and Vietnam’s “Doi Moi” have all but embraced free-market based economies.

“E bala ing mate, ngarang miagnan-agnan. Tumula ca sana o Indung Balayan.” Aria – the Kapampangan struggles continue.