Bernabe Buscayno was one of eight children born to impoverished tenant farmers in Capas, Tarlac. In the late 1960s, after Buscayno's mother died of tuberculosis and his seven-year-old sister died of meningitis, his father, unable to support his remaining children, put them up for adoption. Buscayno, then a teenager, became a canecutter, earning 18 pesos for a six-day week. At his age, he led a small uprising to force the landowner to increase their wages. Another farmer, a former member of the Huks, recruited him into the Communist Party of the Philippines at age 17, where he was given the code name "Dante".
At age 21, Kumander Dante was a full-time revolutionary. At age 23, he became district commander in the outfit of Faustino del Mundo, also called "Kumander Sumulong", where he became education chairman. Eventually dissatisfied with Sumulong's outfit, Kumander Dante took some fighters and joined forces with Jose Maria Sison, who had founded the Communist Party of the Philippines on December 26, 1968. Buscayno's group officially became the New People's Army (NPA) on March 29, 1969.
From a group composed of about 35 members with only 10 rifles between them, the NPA grew up to about 26,000 members in its peak in the 1980s and spread throughout the Philippines (at present the NPA has about 6,000-10,000 members and associates as estimated by the C.I.A), challenging the Marcos regime during the Martial Law years. Buscayno was finally captured in September 1976 at age 32, during what was called "Operation Scorpio". He had been a revolutionary for about 16 years.
On November 25, 1977, the Military Commission found him along with his two co-accused, Ninoy Aquino and Lt. Victor Corpuz, guilty of all charges on subversion, murder, and illegal possession of firearms, and sentenced them to death by firing squad.
After the EDSA Revolution, almost ten years after Buscayno's arrest, President Corazon Aquino ordered the release of hundreds of political detainees. Bernabe Buscayno was one of those released. A year later, Buscayno, together with a few other Left leaders, formed the Partido ng Bayan (PnB). Buscayno ran for senator but did not win. In that same year, 1987, he survived an attempt on his life. He escaped getting hit by bullets when two men shot at his car, but got hit by shrapnel from a grenade. Two of his companions died while the other two were wounded; Buscayno himself still has three pieces of shrapnel in his back up to the present. Buscayno left Manila and went home to Capas, Tarlac, where he turned to farming, setting up the People's Livelihood Foundation-Tarlac Integrated Livelihood Cooperative (PILF-TILCO) in 1988. The cooperative was intended to help end the poverty of the peasants. However, Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, severely ruining vast tracts of land in Luzon including Tarlac, and contributing to the demise of the cooperative in 1994.
In 1999, the Department of Agrarian Reform awarded Buscayno and his family certificates of ownership for their own land. In 2000, Buscayno set up another cooperative, the Tarlac Integrated Agricultural Modernization Cooperative (TIAMC) which seeks to promote the mechanization of farmwork, from sowing the seeds to harvest.
Kumander Dante is a 1980s movie in the Philippines starring Philip Salvador as Bernabe Buscayno.