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Slain rebel-poet left father ‘good lesson in commitment’

Inday Espina-Varona
Slain rebel-poet left father ‘good lesson in commitment’

KERIMA LORENA TARIMAN. This photo shows poet and activist Kerima Lorena Tariman as a child.

Courtesy of Pablo Tariman

'I was ready for this development.... But it is different when you actually see a picture of your dead daughter,' says music critic Pablo Tariman, father of Kerima Lorena Tariman

Music critic Pablo Tariman spent years bracing himself for a call he hoped would never come. 

But on Saturday, August 21, Tariman got a call confirming that his daughter, Kerima Lorena Tariman, 42, was one of two rebels slain in a clash between the Army’s 79th Infantry Battalion and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Hda. Raymunda, Barangay Kapitan Ramon, Silay City, Negros Occidental.

The 79th IB had announced on Friday, August 20, that Private First Class Christopher Alada and two rebels were killed in a firefight that lasted for over half an hour. 

“I was ready for this development,” Tariman told Rappler. “Remember, I was going back and forth in Isabela for hearings of her illegal possession of firearms case case in 2001. But it is different when you actually see a picture of your dead daughter.”

Kerima was a University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman student doing research on peasant communities when soldiers arrested her in Isabela in Northern Luzon. She was later released on bail and then cleared by the court two years later.

Described by friends as “a mix of grim-and-determined and cool,” and with a wry sense of humor, Kerima, whose second name comes from her mother, Merlita Lorena, wrote about that experience in a 2011 essay as she campaigned for the freedom of her musician-husband, Ericson Acosta, a political detainee.

“First to see me in jail was my father, a really anxious Pablo Tariman. Everyone knows he’s never the activist. He could only turn to his Pavarotti records whenever he’s down,” Kerima said.

Her mother was a political detainee during the Martial Law years and among those awarded compensation for human rights abuses.

In the same essay, Kerima wrote of her experience: “The first time I went to the countryside to integrate with farmers, government troopers tried to show me firsthand how fascism, counterinsurgency, and psychological warfare work. As if to make sure I don’t forget, they gave me a minor grenade shrapnel wound, and a major, lingering fear of any man with a golden wristwatch who’d seem to loiter in public places to watch me.”

Despite the vast gap between their life choices, Pablo was always proud of his daughter, a poet and former culture editor and later managing editor (1999-2000) of the Philippine Collegian, the student publication of UP Diliman.

Before studying Philippine Studies in UP, Kerima went to the Philippine High School for the Arts and had already published a book of poetry, Biyahe, before graduation. One of her poetry collections, Pag-aaral sa Oras: Mga Lumang Tula Tungkol sa Bago, was named by CNN Philippines as among the best books by Filipinos in 2018.

Like her father, Kerima also wrote as a critic of books and films, sometimes using the pseudonym Marijoe Monumento for the alternative publication, Pinoy Weekly. Her poems also appeared in the Sunday Inquirer, the Manila Chronicle, and Dyaryo Filipino.

Pablo said he heard from Kerima two years go and learned that she was in Negros Occidental still doing work with farmers and farm workers.

“She left me a good lesson in commitment. I think she gave this country a good reminder that widespread killings and bad governance and endless corruption cannot be tolerated just like that,” he told Rappler.

On his Facebook page on Saturday evening, August 21, Pablo paid tribute to Kerima with a poem, “29th OF MAY.” Part of it goes:

It is futile
telling her to live a ‘normal’ life
when the newspapers
are full of stories
of corrupt politicians
and cops in cahoots
with big time drug lords.

She will not accept
what has fallen on her countrymen
still reeling from the shenanigans
of kingmakers and wily politicians.

There is no such thing
as compromise
for my daughter
who has no love lost for
public servants turned dictators;
she must be cringing to see
elected leaders turning traitors
in the name of diplomacy.

Conflicting claims

Pablo said a friend showed him a photo of Kerima in the encounter site.

“A witness reported she only had gunshot wounds on her fingers. But apparently the military decided to finish her off,” he said.

The 79th IB said the encounter with a group of 10 rebels occurred around 6 am Friday. Their official report said soldiers had immediately found the slain male rebel but discovered Kerima only later after following a trail of blood. 

Major Cenen Pancito, spokesperson of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, told Digicast Negros that troops found Kerima during clearing operations near the encounter site.

“Her shoulder had been hit by bullets and was nearly severed,” he said.

Lieutenant Colonel J-jay Javines, commanding officer of the 79th IB, paid tribute to Alada, the slain soldier. 

“We are saddened by the loss of our troop but we salute his bravery and heroism. Rest assured that his sacrifices will not be futile,” Javines said.

He also commended the operating troops for the swift response to a local tip about the presence of rebels.

The rebels also called Kerima and her slain companion, only identified as Pabling, as heroes.

Juanito Magbanua, spokesperson of the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command in Negros, said the two were members of the Roselyn Jean Pelle Command, and described Kerima as a leading cadre of the Communist Party of the Philippines. –

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