The only time I met Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran was three years ago at UP Diliman, when he was a speaker at a University-wide student leader’s conference. There I was: the idealistic, militant, vocal, arrogant, aloof, metaphor-spewing young student leader. And then there was Ka Bel: in his twilight years, he was the first to offer his hand to me for a friendly handshake, complimenting me on a question that I can no longer recall.
Today, I have grown – I hope for the better – in terms of what I stand for, and how fight for what I stand for. And then there was Ka Bel, who has just passed away today, at 75 years young.
To call this a “fitting tribute” to the memory and legacy of Crispin Beltran is to aim for the stars. I only met Ka Bel once, back in the days where I found myself aligned with the militant street parliamentarians, of which he was the truest example. Over the years, I found myself moving away from the streets and putting down my banners and streamers in favor of a crusade I can live with, on my own terms.
Yet even with that divergence, I believe that any young activist today should learn their lessons well from someone like Crispin Beltran. There are many things that I will definitely disagree with, but I will definitely not oppose any argument made that Ka Bel is an activist, a street parliamentarian of the truest sense. Ka Bel stood up for his beliefs so much so that he went to prison for what he believed in and what he stood for.
For everything that a politically-minded and politically-aware person will say about Crispin Beltran, I think we can agree on one thing: he is a man of principle. Some will whine, moan, and bitch out on a pat with a truncheon or a half-hour in jail. Not someone like Ka Bel, who has seen it all, went through it all, and still had his ideals intact at the end of it all.
The activists have their heroes: Rolando Olalia, Lean Alejandro, Eman Lacaba, and today, Crispin Beltran. Personally, I think that the only thing fitting about this short tribute to Ka Bel is this: unlike three years ago, I have done so first.