“Thank you for opening your home to us. Thank you for laughing with us. Thank you for sharing your stories. Thank you for showing us what it means when we say that a ‘true revolutionary is guided by feelings of love.” – LFS San Francisco
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
CATMON, Malabon – While Bulatlat.com was interviewing Divina Gulfo, wife of slain urban poor leader Ernesto Gulfo, their three-year-old grandson AJ sat beside his grandmother.
“Grandpa’s gone. I miss grandpa,” AJ said. He then stood up to point to a small dent on the wood, which was hit by one of the two bullets that claimed his grandfather’s life. “Here,” AJ added.
Gulfo, an urban poor leader in Barangay Catmon in Malabon, was killed on May 30, 2012, while having breakfast in front of their junk shop, their family business. At around 7:10 a.m., a man came into their junk shop and asked for the price of copper scraps. But before he could answer, the man drew a .45 caliber gun and shot Gulfo three times. Two bullets pierced his chest. The suspect then casually left the crime scene with another man, who reportedly served as his lookout, Divina, 52, his wife, told Bulatlat.com.
Gulfo was pronounced dead on arrival in Manila Central University Hospital. He was only 52 years old.
“I was supposed to get more rice for him. When I was about to return, a man entered the junk shop and asked, ‘Buddy, how much for the copper?’ Then the man drew a gun and shot him. Two hit his chest and the other hit his plate,” Divina said.
“I could not scream. I was so shocked I could not move. I did not even have the strength to be hysterical. I kept on asking myself if what I just saw was true,” she added.
Gulfo was a known urban poor leader in Barangay Catmon, Malabon. Residents describe him as the “most vocal local leader” against the impending demolition of homes of at least 1,500 families, reportedly to give way to the city government’s housing project under the Community Mortgage Program (CMP). Residents, who are mostly contractual workers and garbage collectors, said their meager income would not be able to pay the monthly amortization of the government housing program.
But currently on top of the CMP, Divina said, is the road widening project that would result in the demolition of at least 37 homes, including the junk shop.
“Who else would have him killed but those who claim this land? I do not like to point fingers but I am sure that it is related to our struggle for land,” Divina said.
Hardworking provider, loving grandpa
Gulfo and Divina met when he was working as a garbage collector and she a street sweeper for the Metro Manila Commission now the Metro Manila Development Authority. They got married in 1981 and lived, since then, in their humble home in Sitio 6, Catmon in Malabon.
“He was hardworking. He used to study automotive mechanics during the day and worked as a garbage collector at night. He did not want to rest,” Divina said, recalling the days when he handled two jobs in order to provide for their family. “He also worked as mechanic for Rabbit (a bus company) during daytime but still worked for the MMC at night.”
“He was a good husband. We had problems in the past but he never left us,” Divina said.
In 1997, Gulfo availed of an early retirement scheme. He bought a jeepney from the money he got. He named it “Triple E,” because the names of his three children start with the letter E and later on, in 2007, “Prolet,” short for proletarian.
It was in 2000 when Gulfo began the family’s junkshop. “We just tried it. We began by buying and selling plastic scraps. Eventually, we bought other things too,” Divina said. She added that they used to earn around $232 a week during their peak but they hardly earn nowadays because junkshops started to sprout almost everywhere in Malabon.
Gulfo was diagnosed with diabetes some six years ago. He began having difficulties participating in the activities of progressive groups. “But he continued to fight. Sometimes I think that it would have been easier to accept his death if he died because of sickness. We are really hurting,” Divina said.
In the last few years, aside from being actively involved in defending their community from demolition, Divina said, Gulfo spent more time at home. He would help in tying the empty boxes, counting the bottles or even weighing the metal scraps in their junkshop.
“When the children were younger, he was frequently away because he was also an organizer for progressive groups. But for the past few years, now that we are older, we spent more time together. We would help each other here in the junkshop,” Divina said, “Every time I remember it, I think my chest would explode.”
Now that Gulfo is gone, Divina said, their grandchildren miss him very much. She added that he was very close to his grandchildren. Every morning, Gulfo would do the “rounds” to greet each of his grandchildren, especially the youngest who is no less than a year old. “She is his doll,” Divina said.
“He always brought home something for his grandchildren,” she added.
Just the other morning, their three year-old grandson AJ was crying, saying that he saw his grandpa. “I miss Tatay,” he said while Divina was being interviewed by Bulatlat.com.