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Book Review: Tigaon 1969 – Untold Stories of the CPP-NPA, KM, and SDK

Tigaon 1969 – Untold Stories of the CPP-NPA, KM, and SDK (2023) evinces a captivating historical account of the expansion of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Bicol Region. The time period discussed starts with the 1969 deployment in Tigaon by the CPP central leadership of the five-person team led by Ibarra Tubianosa of Sorsogon, Francisco Portem of Albay, and Tigaon natives Marco Baduria, Nonito Zape and David Brucelas.

Tigaon is a town in the province of Camarines Sur between Mount Isarog and Lagonoy Gulf. The book describes the town as semi-feudal and semi-colonial society, and “characterized by several big landed estates.” These objective conditions made Tigaon a fertile ground for the national democratic revolutionary expansion in the late 1960s.

In describing this period, Soliman M. Santos Jr., author of the book and a long-time activist, peace advocate, and a retired judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Naga City, discusses the controversies regarding the expansion of the CPP-NPA in Bicol.

What makes the book shrouded in controversy, at least to some, is the author’s bold assertion that, contrary to Jose Maria Sison’s historical account or even of the Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC), the expansion of the CPP-NPA in Bicol Region started in 1969 and not in 1971.

The challenge faced by Santos was how to get the facts or the evidence believable enough to change minds. What he did was to critically evaluate the information he culled from his extensive research and interviews with known personalities in the communist movement. Obviously, his main goal was to reconstruct and correct historical questions lingering in the minds of many activists, intellectuals, progressives, and students of history.

There are two historical questions of varying importance for the readers to reflect on that Santos discusses in the book: First, when did the CPP-NPA expansion team start in Bicol? Second, did the CPP leadership abort the CPP-NPA expansion team in Bicol in response to the Negros expansion team “nipped in the bud” by authorities in August of 1969?

To answer the two questions, Santos relied on several primary sources, like his documented personal interviews, emails and text messages with CPP General Secretary Nilo Tayag, who oversaw the CPP-NPA expansion in Southern Luzon.

Santos also interviewed Nonito Zape, the late Marco Baduria, Estrella Cayaban, widow of the late Politburo member, Ibarra Tubianosa, and the family of the late Francisco Portem.

The most enthralling feature of the book resulting from these efforts by Santos is his expertise in incorporating into his work the most up to date information he learned from his primary and other scholarly sources. In short, his methodology is unquestionably scholarly. From these, he presents a detailed analysis backed by historical facts that the CPP-NPA expansion team was indeed initiated in 1969 by the CPP central leadership (confirmed by Tayag). Two team members, however, continued to persevere in their expansion work even after the CPP central leadership gave the order to “abort” and “to pull out of the region.” It was in early 1971 when they were officially reconnected with the CPP leadership.

In addition, Santos investigated thoroughly the relationship between the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) and the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK) that added color to the book. But it did not seem to have much effect on the author’s premise or proposition.

Santos’ reliance on and extraction of the facts from various primary and secondary sources, as well as his inclusion of footnotes and appendices full of historical notes, make the book unique and plausible.

By painstakingly and critically scrutinizing the contradictory viewpoints presented by the late Jose Maria Sison, former Chairman of the CPP, in his annotations of Santos’ article titled How the CPP-NPA Started in Bicol (2009), Santos succeeds in simplifying for the readers what appears to be complex historical questions.

While it is true that differing perspectives from understanding historical events may arise from reading this book, I find it persuasive enough because it is well-researched and well-reasoned.

People who may disagree with the author will still benefit from this book as it offers a cornucopia of historical information never written before. This source of knowledge will give the readers an understanding of the subject in question, and they can draw their own conclusion. For this alone, I find the book to be groundbreaking, truly a magnum opus.

In conclusion, the book is loaded with historical facts, making it a rich source of knowledge on a significant chapter of Bicol revolutionary history.


The book is available for P600 from the Ateneo de Manila University Press, Belarmine Hall, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Phone: 8426-5984. It is also available in the following bookstores: Popular, Morato Avenue, Quezon City; Solidaridad, Padre Faura, Manila; and Fully Booked, UP Town Center, Greenbelt 5 & Rockwell, BGC.

In Naga City, the book is available at the RS (Ramon Sia of Bonings) Newspaper & Magazine Headquarters, Block 4, Stall 1,3,5 GF Naga City People’s Mall (Public Market), Gen. Luna St. near cor. Prieto St. Telephone: (054) 2059068, Cel. 0997-8070180 & 0918-9236188.


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