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Sa imong pagpanaw, Joel: A tribute for a dear friend, brother and comrade

I have known Joel Virador since the early 1980s. He was then working with the Citizens Council for Justice and Peace (CCJP). Our paths crossed early on as we were together in so many political activities especially during the days of Welgang Bayan.

We were together in so many medical missions up in the mountains, visiting political prisoners, out in the streets protesting or spending million sleepless nights on endless tigoms.

When I first attended the Bayan Muna Congress sometime in 2001, I convinced Joel to run under the party list and had to convince some doubting Thomases in Mindanao and Manila on having a Mindanawon in the Bayan Muna slate.

Joel would always tell me of our joke when he was already a Congressman. “Bai nagpalit man lang ko og suka niadto sa dihang gidesisyonan ninyo nga padaganon ko sa Bayan Muna.”

Joel was a funny kasama yet steadfast in his principles and in defending the downtrodden.

I am very happy to be one of Joel’s friends and kasamas for decades, both sharing our aspirations for a homeland free of exploitation and oppression.

Two weeks before his death, Joel had requested me through text to get him an electolarynx. He was so happy and looked forward this week of May to receive the electrolarynx I promised him. Joel may no longer receive his electolarynx to amplify his voice but his voice for justice, freedom and democracy shall reverberate across the land louder than a million electrolarynx.

I am so happy that on his deathbed I had the chance to speak to Joel and whisper to him “daghang salamat Jo sa atong panaghigala ug pagkakauban. Maningkamot ko Jo nga sa akong gamay nga pamaagi ug binuhatan makatampo ko para makab-ot atong pangandoy sa usa ka katilingban nga luwas sa pagpahimulos ug pagpanglupig. Ayo-ayo Jo sa imong pagpanaw.”

(Dr. Shalom Lorenzana started his activism as an officer of the Community Based Health Program in Mindanao. He was also the foremer regional coordinator of Bayan Muna Southern Mindanao.)

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