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Boodle fight caps last night of peace talks

OSLO, Norway – This was one fight no one was backing off from. And they were about to get their hands dirty.

“Sa buong linggo na nandito ako, ngayon lang ako mapapa-laban,” was the feisty declaration of Communist Party of the Philippine founding chairman Prof. Jose Maria “Joma” Sison as he entered a basement room of the Scandia Holmenkollen Park Hotel here Thursday night.

But it wasn’t a fisticuff or a verbal tussle Sison was getting into. He was just getting ready for a boodle fight prepared by members of the Filipino community here for the panel officials, members, and staff of the Philippine government and National Democratic Front who were engaged in weeklong peace negotiations here.

Face to face on a long table, Joma was joined by NDF peace panel Chairman Luis Jalandoni and Fidel Agcaoili in “battling” government panel chairman Silvestre Bello III and panel member Hernani Braganza.

For good measure, the official third party facilitator, Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum, was also present, not to mediate between the two parties but to also indulge herself in feast of Filipino food piled out in heaps on the 10-meter table.

“So you eat standing up? No chairs?” Slattum asked Braganza, who quickly retorted: “And no spoons and forks.”

The boodle fight on the last night of the peace negotiations was fitting finale to what had been a historical and unprecedented resumption of talks that has been going on for 30 years with the objective of ending the 47-year armed conflict between the government and communist rebels. (Rocky Nazareno)