Maya Daniel

Maya Daniel is the penname of poet and artist Felix Salditos, 60 years old, one of the 7 victims in the Antique 7 Massacre.

Maya Daniel (also Mayamor) is the penname of 60-year old poet and artist Felix Salditos who has spent the greater part of his life as part of the Communist Party-led revolutionary movement in Panay Island.

According to the National Democratic Front, the “Antique 7” were part of the Panay-based underground movement’s education and propaganda staff. Apart from Salditos, they are Eldie Labinghisa, Karen Ceralvo, Liezl Nadiola, Jason Talibo, and Jason Sanchez.

Authorities claim the seven were killed after a “33-minute firefight” with the San Jose police and Philippine Army’s 301st Infantry Brigade Intelligence Task Group that allegedly netted various weapons and ammunition. But human rights group Karapatan said that it was more likely a massacre. The group found that all seven were shot frontally on the head and at close range.

Some say their ill-luck forms part of the risks entailed by their calling. But even if they were rebels, they were entitled humane treatment following international humanitarian law and rules of war — something the Duterte administration is notorious for violating with its blatant disregard for human lives.

Because of the clandestine nature of Daniel’s work in the revolutionary underground, not much has been known about him apart from his close involvement with the struggles of the indigenous people’s group Tumandok (Panay-Bukidnon) of Central Panay.

For while generally tackling themes of social injustices, agrarian unrest, and armed struggle typical of the genre of communist poetry in the vein of Bertolt Brecht, Pablo Neruda, Roque Dalton, Amado Hernandez, among others, Daniel’s poetry also speak of his immersion into the life-world of the Tumandok.

His poems bring together on the one hand Tumandok knowledge from their epic cosmology of water forms, landmarks, and constellations, taxonomy of indigenous flora and fauna, up to their epic heroes and on the other hand their long history of resistance against oppressors:

“This is our life, this land is priceless / The flesh of our generations has been embedded to its history / The fertile lands are the bones of our ancestors / Witnessed by this old spear, witnessed by the skies / Kamandag Tree has its curse, the poison of death / The lightning in Mount Angas, the sharp bolo of Amag-iran / The moans of abangay, all affirms to this truth” (“Dut’ang Ginpakig-awayan).

In the same vein, Daniel has earned renown for majestic paintings on the Tumandok which have been the subject of solo exhibits in 2009 and 2017. In summary, both his poetic and artistic works makes for an encyclopedic documentation of the plight and struggles of the Tumandok.

Daniel’s writings are not ordinarily found in mainstream outlets, except for some contributions to The Manila Times, online magazines, and some campus papers. They are read in the context of the communist-led armed resistance, in whose publications like Ulos, Daba-Daba, and Sublak — his writings saw print.

He writes in both English and Hiligaynon. He has also penned short stories, essays, and translations of poems by Ho Chi Minh and Mao Zedong into Hiligaynon. Daniel’s self-published poems and art can be accessed at mayadanielblog.wordpress.com. Much of his oeuvre, however, still awaits publication.

Indeed, as a revolutionary, Daniel has been conscious of the way his own writing has been molded by the everyday exigencies of revolutionary work: “I write / Not on a table / But while crawling on dirt / Not on the computer / But on cigarette packs, newspaper margins / Not in a peaceful place / But in the midst of war…” (“Ang Hilwaybay Ko”).

Maya Daniel’s last poem from that fateful night begins: “Today, / I prepared a small anthology of poems for you / I know we have unfinished conversations…” He may have gone, but his example would live on. The dialogues he opened on the struggle for people’s rights, dignity, justice, and the small things of quotidian being would not be silenced.