UP Mindanao honors student leader with tribute

Nov. 14, 2014

Perper’s father Joy accepts a mural portrait of his son given by cultural activists during the tribute held at the UP Mindanao atrium. (Earl Condeza/davaotoday.com)

DAVAO CITY – Schoolmates and teachers from the University of the Philippines Mindanao hailed slain student leader Rendell Ryan Cagula with a tribute on Thursday night at the atrium that used to be the sole venue for graduation and student council campaigns.

Cagula was among those killed last week in an encounter between government troops and the guerrillas of the  New People’s Army in Sarangani Province. Cagula was the student council chairperson in 2011-2012.

Fondly called Perper by friends, he majored in anthropology and would have graduated in 2013.

University officials agreed to bring Cagula’s casket to the school’s atrium for a tribute.

Cagula’s mentor Professor Myfel Paluga spoke during the tribute saying this was the first time in the university’s 20-year history to hold a tribute at the atrium grounds, the site of the university’s graduation and student council campaign,

Tomorrow we will wake up to a new UP. Never before had a tribute like this been held here, where people outside the university like other students, farmers and teachers of Rendell from all walks of life have come,” said Paluga.

The professor relayed the university’s chancellor consent to hold this event after several talks with the community, “because she saw the broader sentiment of the people who showed love for Perper,” he continued.

He added that the university held this event for recognizing Cagula as an “exceptional leader”.

“He is exceptional as you can see around you the people from many sectors whom Perper got to be involved in,” Paluga said.

 

Transcends generations

Cagula’s schoolmates had all praises in their speeches, as they fondly called Cagula “kuya” (big brother) and a “true Iskolar ng Bayan” (People’s Scholar), a moniker for students in the country’s premier state university known for producing leaders and innovators in the country.

John Villadolid, current university student council chairperson, recalled that during Cagula’s helm at the student council, he was tireless in educating students such as the protest on budget cuts on the state universities.

Cagula was also executive vice president of the consortium of UP system wide alliance, Kasama (Kalipunan ng mga Sangguniang Mag-aaral) sa UP.

Villadolid said “Kasama [sa UP] is honored to have Cagula who showed the organization’s long tradition of service to the Iskolar ng Bayan and the people.”

“He is the epitome of selfless leadership that transcends generation to come that will be worth remembering,” he said.

“It befits that we remember him by this homecoming. His fight is worth remembering and worth carrying on. Mabuhay Kuya Perper,” he said.

A light moment came from May Loquias, former chairperson of Dugong Anthro, who remembered Cagula sharing to her his small piece of lunch, a Presto peanut butter biscuit pack.

“We were together one time, and then he took just one piece of Presto and gave the remaining two to me and said, ‘here, take my lunch’.  I was surprised he gave me his lunch. I ate it later in class when I got hungry. I kept that Presto wrapper with me,” she recalled.

Loquias also thanked Cagula for endorsing her to attend a national student leader congress.

“He asked me to join this event; even when I thought I was not ready for that. The next morning I got a call from the student affairs that I got an endorsement from the student council to join this congress. It turned out to be the best experience I had,” she said.

“I know they would be many stories like these shared by everyone here. Perper’s legacy lives on in each of us,” Loquias said.

 

Activism in action

Gelyne Alapag, anthropology major and activist, said Cagula’s action as a student leader impressed her most on what activism was about.

“At first I didn’t like activists; I would decline their invitations to education discussions. But when I listened to Perper, then I realized what they are talking about,” she said.

Alapag recalled how she first encountered Cagula when the latter was campaigning for the student council elections.

“Unlike other candidates who were giving out promises, Perper was calling out to students to stand up for their rights.  That is why I voted for him,” she said.

Alapag said what impressed Cagula was their experience during a relief mission to a far-flung community in Compostela Valley.

“His shirt and pants were wet, he was carrying relief goods and his pack, but never did I hear him complain.  He even went out to help other students to safety,” she said.

Cagula’s predecessor in the student council Krista Melgarejo sent a message read during the tribute.  She recalled she and Cagula were “batchmates” in the student council, fraternity and the activist movement.

“My first impression of Perper is he’s smart. He likes to ask questions in discussion,” she recalled.

She recalled Perper was with her in every major campaign in campus.

“We worked together during the first graduation protest in UP Mindanao and other protests afterwards,” said Melgarejo.

“I would remember my term in 2010. There was a month were every day we went around classrooms and posted publicity materials to encourage more people to join the protest against the state university and colleges budget cuts in Aquino’s term,” she recalled.

Melgarejo grieved that they last saw each other in 2013 as she left for Manila to take on the helm as the UP Student Regent.

Cagula left to join the New People’s Army in December 2013.

 

Salute

“I wished we could have worked together again or seen each other and talked for a moment. If I could speak to Perper now, I would say sorry that I couldn’t fulfill my wish to see you again or personally be here to pay tribute to you,” she said.

“I couldn’t say goodbye, because day by day comrades will continue the struggle you embraced all your heart, Rest assured your life will be an example for many youth who will come out and continue your dreams.  Your life will live on with the people you served at the cost of your life,” she said.

The program ended with a mural presented to Perper’s parents.  The mural had a huge portrait of Perper smiling and a quote saying : “I join my bigger family to struggle to end the sufferings of the people, be it in the streets or in the countryside.”

Students also sang the UP hymn with clenched fist as they faced the UP Oblation statue to salute perhaps UP Mindanao’s brightest student to date.

Perper’s father Joy thanked the UP community for staging the event.

“I felt how much the teachers loved him. I am thankful. I am moved,” he said as he held back tears.

Joy said that he had only praise for his son.

“My regret was he could have done more.  He told me before in our phone conversation that this is his life, he is happy. Many need people like him. I am proud of my son,” he said.

Cagula was buried on Friday afternoon. (davaotoday.com)

  • bobbyandrews

    Sayang ka, nagpapagamit ka sa mga demonyo. Sana ginamit mo ang iyong talino para sa kabutihan, para sa iyong pamilya baka nakatulong ka pa sa mga taong tunay na nagmamahal sayo. Just another one of tens of thousands of Filipinos who fell victim to the communists propaganda.

  • Jared

    And you are just one of the millions of filipinos who day by day live in this oppressive system but do nothing about it because you happen to get by just fine. Perper chose his stand, was never forced, and fought for the oppressed masses until the very end. Ang pagli label mo sa mga komyunista bilang mga demonyo ay nagapakita lamang ng iyong pagka ignorante.

  • Read, learn, write, repeat.

    keep giving these rebels a hero’s treatment and don’t be surprised if more brilliant students like Perper will waste their intelligence and capabilities to an ideology that has long been spreading menace, destabilization, and acute poverty due to armed conflicts in this country. Is it service to the people really? Sometimes I think its mere ego. Yes you read that right, ego.

  • Zeal

    Mr. Cagula chose his stand, and he carried a gun to force his stand upon everyone else. Do you think extorting UNWILLING villagers and businesses requires no threat of violence?

    And please spare the demons on this issue. Pagkakaalam ko, mythical creatures sila. Wala silang pinahamak o pinatay na tao. Communists killed millions of their own people in Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, and North Korea. Bakit kaya tinakwil ng mga Eastern Europeans at Russians ang Komunismo? Just check history Mr. Jared. I don’t know why people like you are so comfortable defending them.

  • Hardkorero

    Minsan kasi mas magaling pang mag explain ang mga hindi communist sa communist kung ano ang communist… katulad mo, di ka communist pero kung makapagsalita ka parang alam na alam mo kung ano ang communist..

  • Zeal

    Hardkorero, following your logic, communist stooges have no business criticizing the government because they are not the government. As simple as that.

  • Hardkorero

    hindi nila binabatikos ang government pinapabagsak nila..

  • Zeal

    45 years na, kumusta na pagpapabagsak ninyo? Nakadalawang konstitution na ang Republika. Malapit na ang ikatlo. Wala man lang kayong progreso sa gusto ninyong mangyari?

  • annaganda

    Elections is a farce as it only empowers people from the elite class carrying the interest of their kind while the majority of voters remained either ignorant or miseducated. Such only gives an illusion of democracy as it pacifies people thinking that they are the ones who choose their leaders from the helm at Malacañang, to the Senate, Congress and local governments. A failed system will always breed corruption in high places and maintain a profitable status quo for the few, at the same time it will continue breed rebels who wake up in the midst of a systemic abuse and some who break free from the Matrix of a conventional, convenient and comfortable life. Mark Twain and Lucy Parsons stated respectively, “If elections do really bring about change, they wouldn’t let us vote”, and “Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth.”

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