by Alan Robles
originally published in SCMP Feb 17 2005
Filipinos have a soft spot for romance, so it is no surprise to hear that deep in the forests and mountains, even the dedicated soldiers of the communist New People's Army go through the rituals of love, courtship and matrimony.
What is a surprise is that in the latest instance of guerilla love, courtship and matrimony, the names of the newlyweds were José and Ed.
The two comrades are the New People's Army's first gay couple to be married, and the rebels allowed a newspaper to cover the festivities, held in a valley in Mindanao. Splashing the story in its front page, the paper noted that the couple fell in love in a forest gorge, and were married with a sequined communist flag draped over their shoulders.
There was a photo of the couple kissing in front of a blood red communist banner - an image disturbing to those who have always seen the hammer and sickle as a backdrop for aggressively heroic icons. You know the sort: Lenin, Stalin, or a farm worker, all looking into the distance with an expression that suggests they are asking themselves, "I wonder if I left the water running at home?"
I am not sure if two smooching men will ever make it to the Great Socialist Revolutionary stamp collection.
One thing I am pretty sure of is that this is one enemy escalation that our own nervously macho armed forces will be in no hurry to match. ("So, they have gay soldiers? Well, men, if I may call you that, we are going to form gay battalions. I need volunteers. Hey! Where did everyone go?") Government forces could now have something new to fear: the prospect of being captured, and after lengthy indoctrination, becoming a blushing red bride. Or worse, an entertainment columnist. And, if they resist the brainwashing, of being tried by a people's court and sentenced to death by a thousand pinches.
But we really should not underestimate the capabilities of homosexuals. Ancient Greece's fierce hoplite warriors - the Spartans and Thebans, for example - were largely homosexual. And the fact that the New People's Army is not afraid to tackle homosexuality in its ranks suggests an enlightened, open mind.
All the same, I cannot help but wonder why it would choose to play up the event so much. Is it a recruiting strategy? The wedding announcement is not the sort of bulletin we usually get from the rebels, and it raises a lot of questions. Were invitations sent? Did a commissar say: "I now pronounce you husband and likewise"? It is easy to imagine the reactions of the communists' most bitter foes. Right-wing Americans: "I KNEW they were pinkos." Reactionary Catholic priests: "Sequins! How come THEY can wear sequins?"