Weekly Reflections: Ka Bel: A man for others


“For what has a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” — Matthew 16:26 46:1-3

God’s sense of humor

I would like to add my reflections to the countless accolades and eulogies uttered and written on the life of Ka Bel.

The Book of Ecclesiastes says that there is time for everything: a time to be born and a time to die (3:2). But God must have a sense of humor. Ka Bel had lived a dangerous life for the good of the working class and toiling masses, militantly struggling against the Marcos Dictatorship as well as the repressive and corrupt regimes that followed after, whether in the parliament of the streets or in the parliament of congress until his death.

Yet, Ka Bel died not by assassin’s bullets or in the hands of torturers or while marching and protesting in the streets, but rather by accidentally falling down while doing some repairs in the roof of his house in preparation for the rainy days. Some might say that his death as well as his life would have had greater impact if he died while in the midst of fighting the evils of today’s society. But what happened to Ka Bel would only show to us that we could not really dictate when or how we should die. Many times death comes to us at a time when it is least expected. Hence, we should always be ready for its coming.

Man for others

But nevertheless, we have to look at the meaning of Ka Bel’s death not only in terms of the immediate circumstances surrounding his death, but rather in terms of his total life. After reading and listening to all the things that were said and written about his life, I would say that Ka Bel is “a man for others”. This is a phrase coined by the great German theologian and martyr Deitrich Bonhoeffer, referring to the life of Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus spent his life not for himself but for others – he “proclaim good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, set free the oppressed, and announce that a day will come when God will save His people.” (Lk.4:19)

Like Christ, Bonhoeffer also spent his life for others. He was one of the leaders of the underground Confessional Church fighting against Hitler and his Nazism. He was arrested, tortured and executed on the charge that he was one of those who plotted the failed assassination attempt against Hitler. Truly, Bonhoeffer lived up to his own theology. He was the one who said that if Christ would call a person, he calls him or her to die.

Also, Ka Bel is a man for others, because until his last breath he lived his life for others, for the members of his family, and for the bigger society, especially those who are poor and oppressed like himself. Like Jesus and Deitrich, he was also arrested and tortured by the powers-that-be. Although he was not executed, and was able to escape from prison, he did not stop fighting for the good of the masses, even in the halls of congress. Yet, he never forgot to care for his family. He raised and brought up his family out of his own sweat. In fact, he died while fixing the roof of his modest house so that his family will have a shelter from the storms.

Never lost his soul

Ka Bel never lost his soul or principle in life. Although it was very tempting for him being a party-list representative, he never sold his soul to the devil or to the mammon, the so-called god of money. He remained the poorest man in the House of Representatives, where many have become wealthy in exchange for their souls. He exemplified in his life what Jesus Christ our Lord has taught us that authentic life is consisted not in what we have but in what we share (cf. Lk.12:15; 18:22).

Indeed, Ka Bel deeply understood what Jesus Christ our Lord meant when he said, “For what has a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mt. 16:26). We are truly grateful to God for Ka Bel’s life – it is a life that goes beyond death. #

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