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Ka Roda, Most Loved Driver

Posted by lenolea on February 16, 2009

Medardo “Ka Roda” Roda is probably the most loved driver in the world. On Valentine’s Day, more than 350 people gathered to pay tribute to the long-time leader of Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston).

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat

Medardo “Ka Roda” Roda is probably the most loved driver in the world.

On Valentine’s Day, more than 350 people gathered to pay tribute to the long-time leader of Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston).

The Bonifacio Hall of the School of Labor and Industrial Relations (SOLAIR) at the University of the Philippines in Diliman was adorned with red balloons, with the texts, “Labs ko si Ka Roda” (I love Ka Roda.) Members of Piston-Kamuning chapter wore shirts with the same message.

Organized by the Kodao Productions in cooperation with Piston, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement), Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), Labs ko si Ka Roda was indeed a serenade. Testimonies revealed why he is so loved.

Ka Roda was born on Oct. 27, 1934 to a peasant family in Libanan, Camarines Sur in Bicol.

In 1965, he went to Manila to find work. He landed as a stevedore at the pier.

Later, he became a taxi driver. After four hold-up incidents, he decided to drive a jeepney instead. His first route was Cubao to V. Luna.

It was then that he met activists and started studying the ills of Philippine society. He rose as a leader of the most progressive and militant transport group.

Militant leader

Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, chairperson of Bayan, said that Ka Roda has been transformed from an ordinary jeepney driver into a street parliamentarian.

Araullo said Ka Roda led protest actions, mainly transport strikes against the soaring oil prices, against the exploitation of drivers and against the fascism of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Steve Ranjo, Piston chair, said, “Dalawampung taong pinamunuan ni Ka Roda ang Piston. Malaking bahagi niyon ay panahon ng martial law. Ganyan kabigat ang kanyang naging ambag” (Ka Roda led Piston for 20 years. A great part of it was during the martial law years. That’s how great his contributions are.)

In a video released by Kodao Productions in 2007 entitled, Ang Ruta ni Ka Roda (Ka Roda’s Route), Ka Roda relates how Marcos viewed him: “The most rebellious driver the Philippines ever had, sabi ni Marcos. Gago talaga si Marcos.” (Marcos said. Marcos was really nasty.)

Ka Roda said one day, he was invited to Camp Crame. The invitation lasted for one year and three months.

Roger Soluta, KMU deputy secretary-general, recalled how he started admiring Ka Roda.

Sometime in 1990, Soluta said he saw Ka Roda at a court hearing. Both of them were facing charges. Soluta and his co-workers at a five-star hotel in Manila were charged with drug trafficking. He said they were framed up by the management. Ka Roda, on the other hand, was slapped with inciting to sedition.

Soluta said, “Nakita ko, matibay ang paninindigan nito. Ginigipit siya dahil sa inilunsad na welga… Nakita ko, tunay na lider ito, handang magsakripisyo alang-alang sa drayber” (I saw that his convictions are firm. He was being harassed because of the strike. I saw that he is a true leader, one ready to sacrifice for the sake of his fellow drivers.)

Araullo said, “Hinahangaan si Ka Roda bilang isang sinsero, matapat at marangal na lider… Laging tinatanganan ang kahilingan ng masang drayber” (Ka Roda is admired for being a sincere and honorable leader… He always carries with him the interest of the ordinary drivers).

Even Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) agreed. In a video-taped message, Sison described Ka Roda as an intelligent, brave and militant mass leader. Sison said Ka Roda struggled against the foreign oil monopoly and their local cohorts.

Speaking at the gathering, Anakpawis Representative Rafael Mariano said of Ka Roda, “Hindi matatawaran ang nagpapatuloy na papel ni Ka Roda sa pagsigla ng kilusang manggagawa at mala-manggagawa sa ating bansa. Kung pag-uusapan ang pagpupundar ng KMU at Piston, hindi mawawaglit ang bahagi ni Ka Roda” (Ka Roda’s continuing role in strengthening the movements of workers and the semi-proletariat in our country cannot be downplayed. If we are to talk about planting the seeds of KMU and Piston, we cannot miss Ka Roda’s part.)

Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano sings “Patak ng Ulan” in a tribute to Medardo Roda.

Mariano said that even during the “storm in the national democratic movement”, Ka Roda stood by the principles of national democracy and struggled against the reformists who peddled right and left opportunism and urban insurrection.

Warm, cheerful

Soluta described Ka Roda, “Hindi nauubusan ng kuwento, magiliw.” (He would never run out of stories, he is cheerful). He even recalled one of Ka Roda’s favorite jokes.

Araullo said that despite debates between Piston and Bayan regarding certain tactical campaigns, Ka Roda remained warm and cheerful. She said Ka Roda does not take political contradictions personally.

During the entire program, Ka Roda sat in front of the stage. Many times, he would comment on the speeches.

When Soluta said he is cheerful, Ka Roda quickly added, “Madaldal” (Talkative.)

When a member of Tambisan sa Sining, KMU’s cultural group, was explaining their songs, Ka Roda jokingly said, “Kanta na” (Just sing it). Tambisan sa Sining sang “Walang Hanggang Paalam” and “Aanhin”.

While Mariano was singing “Patak ng Ulan”, the man sitting next to him asked him if he, too, is a good singer. Ka Roda replied, “Oo nama.” (Of course).

After the People’s Chorale sang two of his favorite love songs, “Moon River” and “Around the World”, Ka Roda said, “’Sumulong Ka, Anakpawis!’ naman”

Mariano recited Ka Roda’s favorite lines, “Public office is a public trust.” “Sovereignty resides in the people…”

Ka Roda quickly added, “…and all government authority emanates from them.” Ka Roda memorized certain sections of the Philippine Constitution, citing these whenever arguing with the authorities.

Ka Roda’s spirit has remained the same even as he is now confined to a wheel chair. He suffered two strokes in 2002 and 2003.

Outpouring of love

Members of the Concerned Drivers and Operators for Reforms (CONDOR), the Piston chapter in the Bicol region, sang to him “Sarong Banggi”.

Southern Tagalog activists performed a poem about the drivers’ plight.

Four women members of the People’s Chorale serenaded Ka Roda with songs, “Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka” and “Kung Tayo’y Matanda Na.”

Sison also sang to him an Ilocano folk song via the video.

Ka Roda’s grand daughters Rica, Nica and Bea offered two songs to their grandfather.

When asked to deliver a speech, Ka Roda said, this time, seriously, “Kung makakatayo uli ako, maglilingkod pa rin ako sa drayber at mamamayang Pilipino” (If I could stand again, I would still serve drivers and the Filipino people.)

Undoubtedly, he is the most loved driver. His love for others, too, is boundless.

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