Below is an e-mail by Dr. Nemenzo, reminiscing on the life of Ka Ben.
Dear friends and comrades,
I am sad to inform you that Kasamang Benjamin Cunanan (a.k.a. Kumander Hizon, Apong Kuna, Ka Ben) died yesterday ( 2 Nov. 2010) at the age of 82, after a long battle with cancer. His body now lies in state in his little hut in 120 AV Cruz St., Kalawaan, Pasig. Interment will be on Sunday, after lunch.
Ka Ben was only in his teens during the Japanese occupation when he was recruited to the Hukbalahap. Showing mettle in combat, he rose quickly to the rank of unit commander. To hold such a position of responsibility, one has to go through the party school and be accepted as member of Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas. At the height of the Huk rebellion, he headed Field Command 78, the largest (oversized battalion) unit of Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan.
Refusing to “return to civilian life” in line with the single-file policy, he continued fighting in the Pampanga-Tarlac area until his capture in 1961. Kumander Hizon was the last real Huk commander to fall. (I underline “real” because the AFP always “promoted” every Huk they captured to the rank of “Kumander.”
As commander of the last remaining HMB unit, Ka Ben recruited new combatants like Bernabe Buscayno (Ka Dante). This tried Faustino del Mundo (Sumulong) for breach of discipline, but before a sentence was handed down Sumulong disappeared, only to resurface when Ka Ben was captured. For unknown reason, Pedro Taruc (the only surviving PKP central committee member) appointed Sumulong to Ka Ben’s position. He quickly transformed the HMB into a gangster organization and established control over the rackets during the boom years when Angeles City became the rest and recreation center of American soldiers from Vietnam.
Ka Ben was sentenced to life imprisonment for one of the 16 murder cases filed against him. He stayed in prison longer than any Huk (longer than Jose Lava, etc.) During martial law Luis Taruc offered to arrange a presidential pardon. When Taruc asked if he was willing to meet Marcos in Malacanang, he replied: “Sigue, para murahin ko siya.” Taruc never visited him again. Tact was not among Ka Ben’s many virtues.
Upon release, Ka Ben joined us in BISIG. He tried reactivating his comrades in Central Luzon and invited them to the new rebel army he dreamed of forming. But, alas, they were too old to fight.
We should honor this brave warrior who, despite the colossal setback, was never ashamed to be called a communist.