OSLO, Norway – After 30 long years and all the highs and lows of running a revolution, top communist leaders Jose Maria "Joma" Sison and Benito Tiamzon were reunited on Sunday, August 21, on the eve of the historic resumption of formal talks between the government and the guerrillas.
They are in the Norwegian capital for the peace negotations with the Duterte administration on Monday, August 22.
"Ako ay nagpapasalamat dahil hindi siya tumigil para kami ay makalabas (I am thankful that he did not stop until we were given freedom)," Tiamzon told reporters.
"Masayang masaya kami nagkita kami sa laya. Kaming 3. Mabuhay! (We are very happy that we saw each other again – free. The 3 of us. Long live!)" said Wilma Tiamzon, wife of Benito and also a top leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
It was in 1986 when they last saw each other. "Noong kalalabas ko (When I was just released)," Sison recalled. Then President Corazon Aquino ordered the release of all political prisoners detained under the Marcos dictatorship. (READ: Benito Tiamzon: Writer, organizer, party man)
Sison has since lived in exile in the Netherlands. The Tiamzon couple went underground after the declaration of Martial Law in 1972 until they were arrested in 2015. They were given temporary freedom to participate in the peace talks. It is also the couple's first trip out of the Philippines.
It was straight to business after the historic reunion. The National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the communists' political arm, held an hours-long meeting on the eve of the resumption of talks. (READ: Fast facts: The CPP-NPA-NDF and the Oslo talks)
Rappler caught up with the jet-lagged couple after the meeting. "Inaantok pa (Still sleepy). But we are delighted with our freedom," Benito said. Repeated delays in their release made him doubt it would still happen, he added. (READ: Top NPA leaders go on 1st overseas trip for Oslo talks)
"We are in love with freedom and seeing comrades," Wilma Tiamzon added.
The couple said they're hoping that this week's talks would result in momentum to advance the peace process.