THE arrest of six alleged rebels in Mabinay town in Negros Oriental has brought into focus—again--the pull of the so-called national democratic revolution (NDR) on intellectuals. Among those arrested was a fresh graduate from the University of the Philippines in Cebu. The rest are most probably be peasants.

The so-called “red scare,” or the campaign to demonize communists and communism, usually work at the lower intellectual level where the ideology originated by Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels is not well understood. It’s different when one understands Marxism and the promise of a socialist and communist society.

The same goes with the NDR and its program. Rebels with low understanding of what “nationalism” or “democratic” means or what the three basic problems of feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism and US imperialism mean won’t be enamored for long with the rebellion. But for intellectuals seeking answers to poverty, the NDR becomes like the key that unlocks their understanding of Philippine society.

With intellectual enlightenment comes commitment to the cause.

I don’t know the UP alumna Myles Albasin and at what particular level of intellectual enlightenment she had decided to veer away from the usual path of school, career and marriage and committed herself to the struggle. For me, that happened when I was in my second year in college after I absorbed like a sponge the ideology that fueled the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.

I grew up to a hard-up middle class family in a village hounded by poverty. In school, I made friends with rich students and saw the difference. I always questioned growing up why some people have everything while others have nothing. Government officials won’t admit this, but it is the rebels who are providing people, specifically intellectuals, with a deep analysis of societal defects and an achievable program to correct these.

With intellectual enlightenment comes the next and crucial step, to put theory into practice. The youth are the more daring because they are usually not carrying the burden of work and raising a family. For me, it was a matter of photocopying an article about serving the people and writing a short explanation of my decision to go underground, placing these on top of our cabinet then surreptitiously leaving our house, never to return except for short visits later.

In a way, I admire those who choose the road less traveled in pursuit of a cause simply because that requires from them lots of sacrifices, both personal and professional. I knew then the pain and the worries I brought to my parents and my siblings with my decision to go full time for the “movement,” compounded by my arrests years later. And I ended up never having a college degree.

Some of my friends would ask me if I ever regretted the decision I made in my youth to follow the path less traveled. I tell them honestly that the regrets only visit me but rarely. I tell them that it is all a matter of perspective. If having a good career was the goal, I do regret I didn’t become a chemical engineer or a lawyer. But if “STP” (serve the people) was the goal, then no regrets—if allowed to live my life again, I would do again what I did.