Keeping the dream alive

The country’s situation is depressingly dire at present. Already there are more than 7000+ dead in a drug war that has seen no due process and the death of innocents including children. More than that, everything that has happened so far seems to be a smokescreen for the real endgame: Bringing back the Marcoses to absolute power in the Philippines.

It heartening that though this blog has been rather silent in the past few months, people have still been coming especially during the the height of the 31st anniversary of the People Power Revolution. What this means is that, regardless of the revisionist history the Marcoses have been peddling for the past few years, the obvious supporter they have in the President of the Republic (How can he do that when his own mother worked to bring these people down?), and the hatchet job on Vice President Leni Rebredo that will start sooner that any of us think (with plagiarized photos at that!), there are still people looking for information, good information, on what happened during those dark days of Martial Law. Regardless of the claims of the Marcos loyalists and apologists, Martial Law or the time of the Marcoses in power were not the golden age of the Philippines. Far from it.

This post will be short as it has only one aim: To say that there is still much that needs to be done.

We failed in the past thirty years to preserve and truly honor the sacrifice not only of those people who braved the risks of EDSA in 1986 but also of those who suffered and still continue to suffer from the whip that was the Marcos Martial Law. We failed to value and impart our recent history to our people and our youth (those whom we now refer to as “millennials” and allowed the whitewash of the misdeeds of the past even in our history books. We failed to bring those who raped and pillaged our country to justice so much so that the money they took from us are again being used against us through media efforts, extortion, and influence peddling. Clearly, the age of guns, goons, and gold are back.

There is so much more to say about those dark days. We will focus on those and leave the stories of the present to legitimate news agencies and groups. We will, however, talk about, at times, other things as well — what it means to value life and why it is important, what is a democracy, why we should respect the views of other people at all times and fight so that others always have a chance to air their views, and even simple stuff like being able to tell if some information needs to be scrutinized further if it’s legitimate or not.

Keep the dream alive, folks. The darkness can only win if we hide our light.

Evelio Javier: To Dream the Impossible Dream (English)

[Note: This is an English language version of a post of the same title. Someone pointed out that though the story was good in Filipino, there are those who could benefit from the story if it were told in English. Because of that idea, here it is.]

 

We lost many of our best and even potential leaders during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. These days it’s possible to express your lack of trust in a politician and not feel all too scared. The chances that you will be found dead after a few days are not that high. Things aren’t like that anymore. There was a time when just a few choice words against the Philippine Strongman would result in your being paid a visit by his thugs in the Philippine Constabulary after perhaps a few days or maybe even a few hours. That’s the reason why all of us then learned to play safe and just be quiet.

Not all people were like that. Some of the country’s very best were not satisfied with being quiet. There were those who continued in their endeavor to serve and profess the truth even if it meant their being exposed to such grave danger.

One of those people was Evelio Javier, then known as the evelio-javier-thenewstodaydotinfoyoungest Governor ever in the Philippines. He was not even thirty years old when he won the highest seat in his province of Antique. He was just twenty-eight years old then and just a couple of years after having passed the Bar Exams. He had taught in his alma mater, the Ateneo de Manila University, before he focused on politics and being a public servant. He was Governor for nine years before he headed for the United States to get his Masters in Public Administration in Harvard University.

Some may ask why we should even be talking about this now. “Martial Law ended in 1981 and Evelio Javier died after that. Martial law had already been lifted,” they might argue.

As some friends in media like to say: That was just the press release. Though officially, Martial Law had ended in 17 January 1981, the repression regime of Mr. Marcos continued well into 1986 when he was finally booted from power.

Ninoy Aquino died from a still-unknown gunman’s bullet in 1983 and this event served as the spark that lit the slowly burning flames of revolution. The greater majority of Filipinos could not stay silent anymore and it wasn’t just a few whose resolve had finally been strengthened. The stage was set and the players were moving in place.

Aquino’s friend, Evelio Javier, made sure that he would be able to support his friend’s widow in the battle that was the Snap Elections arrogantly and over-confidently called for by Marcos for 7 February 1986. For him, this was but part of his living his favorite song from the musical, The Man of La Manch, “The Impossible Dream.”

What was the dream in those days? To bring back the freedom stolen from this, his country, which continued to be used and abused for the benefit of oh so few.

Regardless of the supposed results of the elections in Manila, Cory Aquino won resoundingly against Marcos in Antique and Evelio Javier was one of the main reasons for this. It just never occurred to him that his life had no more than four days left.

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The place where he fell

It was around 10 in the morning and Evelio was resting in front of the Antique Provincial Capitol. He had just been arguing with others regarding the counting of votes. Some say that it was around this time that a jeep full of heavily armed men with their faces covered stopped nearby. They quickly made their way out of the vehicle and started running towards Evelio, their guns obviously targeting him.

He wasn’t unaware of them and he dashed as fast as he could away from there. His companions were all shouting, Run, Evelio, run!” (Chances are, they actually said something like, “Dalagan, Evelio, dalagan!”)

He avoided running in straight lines to avoid getting hit by the bullets raining all around him. Nevertheless, he was eventually shot and he fell into a fish pond. He tried to pick himself up and now had to decide where he would run. Common wisdom would say for him to rush into a crowded area so that he couldn’t be easily found by those chasing you.

He decided otherwise thinking it best to just hide. It would have been very dangerous for a lot of people had he rushed into them. They would have just gotten caught in the crossfire and many would have been killed.

He bore the pain of his injury and hauled himself into a nearby toilet behind a store. This was to be the site of his last stand. One of his pursuers fired repeatedly onto the closed door of that toilet. When the door was finally opened, Evelio was seen lifeless on the floor, his now-dead hand clutching his rosary. It was said that the gunman who fired at the toilet even brazenly took off his mask, taunted the dead man’s body asking for a fight, before finally launching a bullet at Evelio’s head.

javier_then_webA lot had guessed that it was Javier’s political opponent, Arturo Pacificador, who ordered the hit. It just wasn’t known if he was actually there during the shameless assault. When he was caught by authorities around 1996, he was eventually set free in 2004 while the eight other people accused in the murder were sentenced to life imprisonment.

If the death of Ninoy Aquino lit the flame for revolution, it was the shedding of Evelio Javier’s blood, almost in full view of his beloved Antiqueños that pushed forward what was eventually to become the People Power Revolution just two weeks after Evelio’s own death.

Even if the Marcos minions had tried to silence Evelio, he is still being honored in the Ateneo de Manila when it gives the Evelio Javier Award to the student who best lived the ideal of being a Person for Others.

This is Evelio’s legacy to his province and his country. Though he fell on that fateful day, his total giving of self is celebrate and honored in the memories of the living.

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His widow in their last goodbye

When no names can be said

Adelina is now a teacher. Her children are grown and have their own families. She, however, continues her own quest to serve her nation and her people through education. Fortunately for her, one of her children chose a path close enough to her own by working in a university press.

Here, Adelina talks about how Martial Law came into her life. This is not one of those stories you have already heard but, in a real way, it is also a story that is all too familiar for her experience is not an isolated one. It is one among many.

I feel fortunate that she was even willing to talk to me and write her account. We had agreed, however, that with certain personalities back in power in the Philippines and their allies holding so much influence, it was better for her not to give her name.

Is that extreme? Is she being overly paranoid since Martial Law was decades ago? No. Both of us are being realistic. Leopards do not change their spots even if some leopards were still just cubs when Ferdinand Marcos went from President to Absolute Dictator. You’ll pardon the non-mention of real names.

We hope you understand and as you read her account, I hope that you feel the fear that is still there, the anger that is still there, the pain that is still there. No apologies have been given and attempts have been made to change details about Martial Law. No. It should not be forgotten because people have been hurt and are still hurt.

You will also notice that the account seems “bitin”. It’s actually good that it is because that’s what Martial Law was and is. It’s an open wound that cannot be closed because we are continuously still being wounded by the reality of what it was.

—————–

Before 1081, my life revolved around the concerns of

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When lies and fear occurred every day

home, school and church. I had a little exposure to political events because my student activist classmates would discuss many issues in class. These included the existence of oil cartels, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the constitutional convention, and the possibility of the declaration of Martial Law.

On September 21, 1971, we all woke up to a tense atmosphere. No newspapers were delivered and radio and television only had static sounds and noisy screens. Nothing went on air. I do not know how my father learned about it, but my father said, “Martial Law has been declared.”

When newspapers, radio and TV went back to “business,” a lot of things changed. Many media people went to prison while others fled the country. New faces dominated media.

What I remember clearly was that one can get arrested by just talking to one another in groups of three. Curfew was enforced.

One night, my classmate and I forgot about the time and it was nearing curfew hours when we finished our project. I had to call my father and my father had to rent a passenger jeepney just so he could fetch me and bring me home.

We had to stop at a checkpoint and we had to explain why we were violating the curfew. While we were released after being asked a series of questions, I came to realize that I had put my father in a dangerous position for a very flimsy reason – I forgot the time while doing a school project. My teenage heart started to rebel. Why are we in war mode? Why are we not free to talk or walk in a land when I used to feel so free? Why are they chaining us? Little did I know that the chains I was complaining about would be more real in due time.

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Student life was really about to change

Then I started to listen to classmates in school. I joined campaigns to discuss the new Constitution that was supposed to be immediately ratified while the Constitutional Convention was supposedly not yet finished with their work. We campaigned for a “No” to the ratification of the Constitution. It felt good to feel free despite the tight political control.

No ratification happened.

We just woke up one morning with newspapers and banners screaming on the people’s supposed approval of the Constitution by raising of hands.

That led me to really not want the dictatorship. We secretly held discussions against the Martial Law regime. We actively sought news on what was happening in the country from newspapers abroad (newspapers inside the country only published the “good” news). We joined rallies. We joined forces with other sectors fighting Martial Law.

It didn’t take long before I got arrested.

You didn’t speak out against the dictatorship and expect to not be noticed. Such things were just not tolerated at the time.

Together with a few other young activists, I was imprisoned in an arsenal. I could not tell the time of day because all we had was a small opening in the wall for us to breathe the little fresh air that was able to go through that opening. There was no sunlight penetrating the hole in the wall. We were all in darkness.

We were made to lie down on the cold floor and were not allowed to sleep for days. Every time we start falling into slumber, we were woken up. One by one, a prisoner was taken out and tortured – one was made to lie naked on top of a block of ice with the air conditioner set at high cool. Another was electrocuted in his extremities and private parts; one was raped not by insertion of private parts but by instruments. Different instruments. The sound of the steel doors opening and closing became a sound of torture to most of us.

Then the torture stopped. Later, we were to learn that relatives and friends had already come looking for us.

Why were we imprisoned? We were never told. No case has ever been filed against us.tumblr_neawj1Shau1u2niewo1_500.jpg

Evelio Javier: To Dream the Impossible Dream

Marami nga ang mga nalagas sa ating mga magagaling na pinuno noong panahon ng diktadurya ni Marcos. Sa ngayon, maaari kang magpahayag ng kawalan ng tiwala sa isang politiko at hindi ka (masyadong) matatakot. Hindi ka naman siguro matatagpuang patay pagkatapos ng iilang araw. Hindi ganyan noon. Kung tinuligsa mo si Apo Makoy, araw o baka nga oras lang ang bibilangin mo bago ka ipadampot at ipapatay. Kaya kami lahat noon ay natutong tumahimik.

Ngunit naging ganoon ang lahat. Ilan sa mga pinakamagagaling ang hindi naging masaya sa pananahimik. Ilan sa kanila ang nagpatuloy sa pagpupunyaging maglingkod at magpahayag ng tama – kahit pa ito ay magdala sa kanila sa peligro.

Isa na diyan si Evelio Javier, ang kinilala noong evelio-javier-thenewstodaydotinfo.jpgpinakabatang Gobernador sa buong Pilipinas. Wala pa siyang tatlumpung-taon noong nagwagi siya sa kanyang probinsiyang Antique. Dalawampu’t-walong taonng gulang lamang siya noon at dadalawang taon pa lang mula noong nakakapasa sa Bar Exams. Nagturo muna siya sa Ateneo de Manila bago tumutok sa politika at paglilingkod sa kapwa. Siyam na taon siyang nanilbihan bilang Gobernador bago tumulak sa Amerika para mag-aral sa Harvard University para kunin ang kanyang Masters in Public Administration.

Sasabihin ng iba na, “Aba. Bakit pinag-uusapan pa iyan? Tapos na ang Martial Law nang mamatay iyang si Evelio Javier dahil 1981 pa lang tinanggal na ni Marcos ang Martial Law.”

Sabi nga ng ilang mga kaibigan sa media: ‘Yan ang press release. Sa totoo lang, kahit na pa sinabing wala na ang Martial law pagdating ng ika-17 ng Enero, 1981, nagpatuloy pa rin ang mapaniil na pamumuno ni Marcos hanggang napatalsik ito noong 1986.

Namatay si Ninoy Aquino noong 1983 at nagsilbi itong mitsa ng pag-aaklas. Hindi na kayang manahimik ng karamihan ng mga Pilipino at lumakas na talaga ang loob ng hindi iilan.

Ang kaibigan ni Ninoy na si Evelio Javier, noong nanghamon na si Marcos ng Snap Election sa ika-7 ng Pebrero, 1986, siniguradong tutulong siya sa nabalong asawa ni Ninoy na si Cory. Bahagi ito ng pagsasabuhay niya sa kanyang paboritong kanta sa dulang The Man of La Mancha, “The Impossible Dream.” Ano nga ba ang pangarap noon? Maibalik ang kalayaan sa isang bansang patuloy na nilalapastangan para sa kabutihan ng iilan.

Kahit anupaman ang naging kinahantungan ng halalan sa Maynila, nagwagi si Cory laban kay Marcos sa Antique at isa si Evelio Javier sa mga dahilan dito. Hindi nga lang alam ni Evelio na apat na araw na lang siyang mabubuhay.

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Ang lugar kung saan siya tuluyan nang bumagsak.

Alas-diyes ng umaga noon at nakatambay lang si Evelio sa tapat ng Kapitolyo ng Antique. Nagpapahinga siya sa mga pakikipagtalo sa pagbibilang ng boto. Sabi ng iba, may dumating na jeep lulan ang ilang armadong mga lalaking may takip ang mga mukha. May dala silang mga mahahabang baril at tinugis nila si Evelio.

Dahil nakita sila agad ni Evelio at ng ilan nitong kasama, tumalilis agad siya papalayo. Nagsigawan ang mga tao sa kanya ng “Takbo, Evelio, takbo!” (Malamang, “Dalagan, Evelio, dalagan!” ang talagang sinigaw nila.)

Pinilit niyang pa-ekis-ekis ang takbo para hindi siya agad matamaan pero may tumama rin sa kanya at nadapa siya sa isang fish pond.

Hinakot pa niya ang kanyang sarili at dito niya kinailangang isipin kung saan nga ba siya tutungo. Para sa marami, simple ang sagot: Pumunta ka sa kung saan maraming tao para hindi ka madaling makita ng tumutugis sa iyo.

Hindi gayon ang naging pasya niya. Inisip niyang magtago na lang. Delikado para sa maraming tao kung susuong siya sa paligid nila. Marami ang mamamatay.

Tiniis niya ang sugat niya at tumakbo patungo sa isang kubeta sa likod ng isang tindahan. Dito na siya napuruhan ng humahabol sa kanya. Pinaputukan nang ilang beses ang nakasarang pinto ng kubetang ito. Nang binuksan nito ang kubeta, nakita si Evelio na nakabulagta na sa sahig at hawak ang isang duguang rosaryo. Sabi ng iba, nagtanggal ng takip sa mukha ang taong ito at hinamon pa ng away si Evelio tapos pinaputukan ito sa ulo.

javier_then_webMalaki ang hinala ng mga taga-Antique na ang karibal sa politika na si Arturo Pacificador ang nagpapatay kay Evelio. Hindi nga lang alam kung isa ito sa nagsagawa ng pagpatay. Kahit na nakulong ito noong mga 1996, pinalaya ito noong 2004 ngunit nahatulan ng bilanggong panghabambuhay ang walo pang taong pinaghinalaang kasabwat niya.

Kung naging mitsa ng pag-aaklas ang pagkamatay ni Ninoy Aquino, ang pagpatay naman kay Evelio Javier ang isang naging dahilan sa pagsisimula ng People Power Revolution na natapos noong ika-25 ng Pebrero – dalawang linggo lang pagkatapos ng pagkamatay ng dakilang Antiqueño.

Kahit na pa pilit na pinatahimik ng mga kaalyado nina Marcos si Evelio Javier, hanggang ngayon, pinararangalan pa rin siya ng pinanggalingan nitong paaralang Ateneo de Manila na ibinibigay pa-minsan-minsan ang Evelio Javier Award sa estudyanteng pinakanaging totoo sa tawag ng paaralang maging “Tao para sa Kapwa”.

Ito ang naging pabaon ni Evelio sa kanyang probinsiya at sa kanyang bayan. Oo, namatay nga siya pero patuloy ang pagkilala sa kanyang naging pag-alay ng buhay.

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Ang kanyang balo sa kanila huling pagpapaalam

Edgar Jopson: The son of a grocer

Not all people involved in the struggle against the strongman-rule of Ferdinand Marcos were radicals. Many were actually very conscientious individuals who feared the implications of being too hotheaded.

While it was true that the Marcoses had to be fought, the ways to go against them were not entirely simple. You can easily have the usual mass action with all the familiar slogans, loud voices, and drumbeats or you can also have the more subdued voices less prone to slogans and oversimplification.

The latter was the case with Edgar Jopson, the 1966 high school valedictorian of the Ateneo de Manila who always put the letters “AMDG” on top of his exam papers. These four letters – Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam – are supposed to define an Atenean who always does things for the greater glory of God (though not a few failed or did this correctly). Edjop was a quiet guy and was even shy at times. Ateneans who would later on talk about the book recounting his life and story would say that this was the story of a true Atenean – flawed at times but always following his ideals, ready to charge at the windmill like Don Quixote chasing his impossible dream.

One of the most famous stories involving him was

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Edjop face to face with the strongman

his asking Ferdinand Marcos to not seek a third Presidential term and put this in writing at his young age of 22. This he did when Marcos was at the height of his powers and within the halls of Malacañang Palace, a place the strongman was determined to remain his.

Edjop was not like the Marcoses and Aquinos of his time. He was the son of a grocer who was able to send his son to the Ateneo only through his own hard work. This was something Marcos shamelessly reminded Edjop when he scoffed and refused to sign the agreement to not seek another term.

Edjop attempted this regardless of the fact that the more radical students were already smashing the windows of his car parked right outside Malacañang. An enemy inside Malacañang with his minions surrounding you and people who don’t like or trust you because of your being a moderate right outside.

He was branded a clerico-fascist reactionary by radicals for his moderate position. Edjop was a devout Catholic who tried as much as he possibly could to avoid violence for the good of all concerned. This was why he ran for president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines. He wanted to use himself as a way to moderate the more fiery and radical students from both the University of the Philippines and the De La Salle University.

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Addressing the crowd

To some people, he joined the anti-Marcos movement rather late. He used his intellect to remain on the ground and as close to the people as he could. He quit his law studies in the University of the Philippines because, to him, the laws of the land favored the rich overwhelmingly. He worked for the Philippine Association of Free Labor Unions and, though himself not a worker, was the workers’ main weapon in drafting collective bargaining agreements and organizing strikes like the 1974 strike at the La Tondeña distillery.

Things could not go on forever as Marcos, in a bid to further enhance his control and power, used Martial Law to transform the country to his own personal fiefdom. This suppression of far too many citizens’ rights pushed many moderates to become radicals – Edjop included. This was not an admission of defeat for them but rather was a realization that the times, indeed, had become desperate needing desperate measures.

Brilliant as he was, Edjop was soon a leading member of the revolutionary movement and headed the National Democratic Front Preparatory Commission. This was quite familiar territory as he had to work with many people from the church and concerned members of the middle class.

Fate dictated that he be caught, arrested, and tortured by the authorities in 1979. He was able to escape after ten days and immediately went underground to continue his work. His mind was again at work and he wrote down all the details of his brief but traumatic incarceration – the type of brutal treatment as well as the names, ranks, and even the distinct characteristics of those who laid their hands on him.

By the early 80s, he has already a marked man with a bounty of no less than Php 180,000 attached to his name. He was one of the most wanted men in the country and it was only a matter of time before he would once again find himself under the power of the Philippine military. It was but a day shy of the tenth anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law when he fell during a raid in Davao City.

This is where things get confusing. Some say he was killed during the raid while other say he was captured and interrogated. Supposedly, during this interrogation, he was summarily executed. Presumably his captors knew that it was rather hopeless to break his spirit and they didn’t want to wait 10 ten days and risk his escaping once more.

Who’s that boy?

In the late 80s and 90s, some teachers of the Ateneo High School noticed that one very kind and quiet young student would come to school with a bit more sweat that the others. This was because he used his bicycle to come to school.

It wasn’t very long before this same young man began making his name known in the triathlon circles: Nonoy Jopson, the only son of Edjop.

Noy had the good fortune of living with his father even for a few years. Noy and his sister joined their parents during holidays even as his parents were trying to be as careful as they could in fighting for the country and ensuring their children’s safety. It was after Edjop’s first arrest that he realized just what danger he was exposing his family to so he began to keep his distance just to keep them safe.

Noy, himself, was an Atenean and was well liked in college. He even had this really amusing preference for the music of RJ Jacinto, singing “Sinasabi ko sa ‘yo” to his English classmates.

Now that Noy has his own family and 3858645432_a4dbff4cd0_o.jpghis own name, bringing glory to the nation with his every triathlon victory, he is hoping to bring honor this time to his own father – as a father, as a Filipino, as a man.

His father, after all, at the age of 22, after being belittled by Ferdinand Marcos for being nothing but the son of a grocer, told the strongman in his own place of power surrounded by his cabal, “Honest grocer naman.”

In this one statement alone, perhaps perceived by many as benign, did Edjop show who he really was – the scion of a hard working and honest man who would, like his own father, be the best person he could be for the good of his family, his country, and his church. This was, indeed, a man that Noy can continue to look up to and be proud to call his father.

Ang tinig na pilit pinatahimik

(Hango ang sumusunod sa sinulat na panimula ni Jose Lacaba sa librong Salvaged Poems, isang koleksyon ng mga tula ng kanyang nakababatang kapatid.)

Marami ang mga tinig na pilit pinatahimik noong Batas Militar. Kung bibilangin ang mga nawalang mga inhinyero, makata, negosyante, guro, mamamahayag, manggagamot, atbp, tunay na kalunos-lunos ang katotohanang napakarami sa ating pinakamatatalino at pinakamagagaling na kababayan ang nawala sa ating bansa ng mga panahong iyon. Hanggang ngayon, sa halip na makatulong ang mga tinig na ito sa pagtataguyod ng ating bansa, tahimik na silang lahat at ang mga kakaunting alingawngaw na lamang ng nakaraan ang maaari nating marining.

Kasama na sa mga nawawalang ito ang mga titik, dula, at tula ni Emmanuel Lacaba – dating patnugot ng pahayagang Guidon ng Ateneo de Manila, dating aktor ng Philippine Experimental Theater Association (PETA), guro ng buhay ni Dr. Jose Rizal sa UP Diliman, at bahagi ng armadong pakikibaka. Nakisalamuha siya sa pakikibaka ng mga inaaping mga manggagawa. Nagsisimula pa lang maging uso noon ang pagtatanggol sa karapatan ng mga maliliit at isa si Eman sa mga nakakita agad ng halaga nito at ang pangangailangang gawin ito.

Manunulat si Eman. Isa siyang makata at ginamit niya ang kakayahang ito upang ipahayag at ipaalam sa higit na nakararami ang hinaharap ng maraming mga Pilipino. At dahil nga nakatodo bantay ang mga galamay ng pamahalaan ni Marcos sa lahat ng maaaring masabi ukol sa pamahalaan, sandali lang ay natunugan na nila ang mga pahayag nitong hindi na tahimik na guro ng UP.

Habang nagtuturo pa siya, sumali siya sa isang welga sa Pasig at binuwag naman ito ng mga pulis. Isa si Eman sa mga naaresto at ikinulong pagkatapos ng hindi kakaunting palo ng batuta ng mga katunggaling pulis. Dahil na rin siguro sa mga pangyayaring ito, hindi na siya ipinagpatuloy sa kanyang pagtuturo ng mga namumuno ng UP.

Malamang sa mga panahong ito nagsimula ang kanyang

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Mga tula ni Eman

pag-iisip na mamundok na. Naging aktor at manunulat siya ng mga dula para sa PETA at ginagawa ang mga titik sa theme song ng Tinimbang ka Ngunit Kulang ni Lino Brocka. Tumutulong na rin siya sa ilang mga pelikula.

Taong 1974 noong nagpaalam siya sa nakatatandang kapatid na sa si Pete na kapwa rin manunulat at noo’y nakapiit sa Camp Crame dahil din sa kanyang mga isinulat laban sa diktadurya. Pupunta na raw siya sa Mindanao. Mula noon, wala nang narinig ang pamilya niya ukol sa kanya. Ang mga narinig lang nila ay ang pagkamatay niya.

Kasama sa pira-pirasong narinig nila sa mga kwento ng iba ay ang mga sumusunod:

1) Parati raw siyang nagsusulat. Kung wala nang papel, kahit sa balat ng kaha ng sigarilyo na lang. Lahat isinulat niya kasama na ang mga samu’t-saring naging paghihirap niya.

2) Nang matuto na siyang magsalita ulit ng Bisaya (sa Mindanao siya ipinanganak at doon lumagi hanggang pitong taong gulang), nilapatan niya ng mga bagong makabayang titik ang ilang mga tanyag na mga awitin.

3) Nagbago na ang uri ng kanyang mga tula mula sa mas matalinhagang o hindi tahasang paglalahad tungo sa higit na kalinawan at kapayakan. Sa madaling salita, mas kaya nang maabot ng mga hindi makatang tulad ko.

Noong 1975, inilipat siya sa Davao del Norte. Ang hindi niya alam, may isa na palang kasama sa kanila grupo na nahuli ng militar ni Marcos at napabaliktad na marahil dala ng pananakot at torture. Itong taong ito, kilala bilang “Martin” ang nagdala sa mga militar at mga kasapi ng Civilan Home Defense Forces (CHDF) sa lugar kung saan daraan ang grupo nila Eman.

Umaga pa noon at nag-aalmusal pa lang sila sa isang barrio. Alam nilang may militar na sa paligid ngunit pinili nilang hindi lisanin ang lugar. Kunsabagay, mas halata nga naman kung kakaripas pa sila ng takbo. Ang hindi nila alam, yun nga kasama na ng militar si Martin at alam nito na ang isinampay nilang mga basang damit sa labas ng bahay ay kanila. Pinaputukan agad ng militar ang bahay nang walang paghingi ng pagsuko. Dalawa agad ang patay sa maliit nilang grupo at si Eman lang at isang buntis na desi-otso anyos ang nanatiling buhay.

Nung tumigil ang putukan, si Martin pa mismo ang tumulong kay Eman upang maglakad. Hindi na rin ata niya alam ang susunod na mangyayari. Pagkalabas nila ng barrio, naisip siguro ng mga sundalo na mas mabusisi pa kung buhay pang dadalhin sa kanilang kampo sina Eman kaya’t pinasya nilang wala na lang dapat mabuhay pa sa kanilang mga nahuli. Pinaputukan ang kawawang buntis at inabutan ng isang sarhento kwarenta y singko si Martin upang todasin na si Eman. Una siyang tumanggi kaya pinilit siya. Si Eman na mismo ang nagsabi sa kanyang ituloy na ang pagbaril.

Ipinasok ni Martin sa bibig ni Eman ang baril at dito ipinutok – ang utak na pinanggalingan ng mga titik ng ilang mga awitin, ng mga tulang nagpaalab ng mga damdamin, ng mga salita ng pagmamahal at pangako ng pag-asa, at ng mga eksena ng mga makasaysayang dula ay pinasabog at pinatahimik sa pamamagitan ng isang balang kwarenta y singko.

Pumunta ng Tagum ang nanay ni Eman upang kilalanin ang kanyang bangkay sa isang mass grave. Nakagapos pa ang kanyang mga paa at may tandang kinaladkad ang kanyang katawan na parang kinatay na hayop. Dahil naaagnas na ang kanyang mukha at katawan, ang mga nunal niya sa katawan ang naging palatandaan ng kanyang ina.

Ito ang estado ng kanyang katawan nang dumating ito sa Maynila para sa kanyang burol. Ito ang katawan na bumati sa kanyang mga kapatid, asawa, at anak.

Siguro sa mga panahon ngayon (apatnapu’t isang taon na nga naman ang nakalilipas), may mga magsasabing, “E kasi naman sumali sa mga komunista at nanggulo sa katiwasayan ng bayan.”

Hindi ganoon e. Dumating ang mga panahon noon na hinding-hindi ka man lang makapagsalita ng kahit anong masama ukol sa pamahalaan at dahil sa patuloy na paniniil sa mga mahihirap, sa mga manggagawa, at ang parang kawalan ng pakialam ng mga mayayaman, marami ang nag-isip na parang wala na nga atang pag-asa sa loob ng lipunan.

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Si Pete Lacaba, kuya ni Eman

Nasaan na ang kapatid ni Eman na si Pete? Patuloy siyang nagsusulat at hindi kakaunti ang mga sineng nagmula sa kanyang mga karanasan tulad ng Sister Stella L., Orapronobis, Bayan ko: Kapit sa Patalim, atbp. May mga panahon ding nagturo siya ng screenwriting at isa ako sa mga naging estudyante niya.

Minsan, nagkita kami ni Sir Pete sa isang kainan at kahit hindi na niya ako malamang nakilala, nangahas akong lumapit sa kanya at buong pagmamalaking sinabi sa kanyang, “Sir, ipinangalan ko ang panganay ko sa inyong dalawa ni Eman – Jose Emmanuel.” Dito napangiti ko ang dati kong guro.

Patuloy ang pag-usad ng panahon pero ang nananatiling mga tanong ay tulad nito: Paano nga kaya ang nangyari kung hindi nawalan ng buhay ang ating mga kabataan sa panahon ng diktadurya? Kung hindi pilit binusalan ang mga bibig at patahimikin ang mga tinig ng ating mga makata?

Anong uring mga kwento at kasaysayan kaya ang naibahagi nila sa atin? Anong tulong at pagbabahagi kaya ang maari nilang naiambag nila sa lipunan?

Hindi na natin malalaman. Tahimik na si Eman. Tahimik na silang lahat.

Ang Kwento ni Andoy

Andoy is a friend of mine. People who know him always see the bright, sparkling eyes, and the ever-ready smile. True smiles, however, often come from the deepest hurts.

Too many people trumpet the idea that Martial Law was the golden age of the Philippines. It was not. It was a time when so many families were torn apart. It was a time when people lived in fear.

Such is Andoy’s story and this is what we share with you today.

As far as I can remember, I was around 4 years old (1980) when I uttered my first quip. It was the time when Nanay and I went to Camp Crame to look for Tatay.

My father had been missing for a few months and early reports said that he was captured by the military. I believe my mother feared that he was already summarily executed, so it was quite a relief to learn that he was still alive and that we could at last see him. When we arrived in Camp Crame, we were escorted to an area – a wall really – that had a small bond-paper-sized hole with thick prison bars. Tatay wasn’t there.

We had to wait for a couple of minutes before a man, hands cuffed behind him and eyes covered with a blindfold, was led to the other side of the small, barred hole. On one side of the wall was a man in his 20s, weak and distressed; on the other side of the bars was a young woman, also in her 20s, with a 4-year old child, confused and clinging to her hand. I can’t remember what Nanay and Tatay talked about, but I still somehow picture it as a solemn conversation laden with longing and fear.

After their short talk, Tatay was led away and Nanay and I had to exit the area. Since I was just 4 years old, I still couldn’t understand why Tatay was behind bars, cuffed and blindfolded. In my memory, I could feel Nanay‘s burden – how could she explain to her young son why his father was in prison? I sensed something was troubling her (I can still see her watery eyes in my mind) and I felt I had to do something about it. It was at that point that I said, “Nanay, naglalaro pala sila Tatay ng hit the pot dun sa loob.” And that made her smile.

My younger years were (relative to other kids’) somewhat normal yet somehow different. For example, prior to 1980, we moved from province to province, hiding from the military because – since they couldn’t find my father – they wanted to catch my mother and me and somehow use us so that my father would surface. I think I studied in 3 different kindergartens. When we returned to Metro Manila around 1980, I couldn’t even speak Tagalog (but I was quite fluent in Bisaya). From 1980 until 1986, my weekends were spent shuttling between our house and Bicutan (the place where political prisoners were kept). Just like any normal kid, I played with friends around my age. The only difference was that during weekends, my playground had high walls with barbed wire strung on top of them. During weekdays, Nanay would sometimes come home drenched with water as she just came from a rally that was dispersed with the help of firetrucks and water cannons. Since we knew that we’re still in the crosshairs of the governmentt, I was trained not to give my address to anyone (which led to some trouble when my new school bus forgot where I lived).

This was my childhood under the shadow of Martial Law.

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The same photo as before. The family has moved on but the importance of the struggle that this was and the triumph that was attained remains.

 

Read other articles about people’s experiences during those days and you will see that I was one of the lucky ones – my father was still alive. Although Tatay was tortured (he underwent the water cure and this affected his hearing up to now), he was still alive. My mother, although heavily burdened by having a husband in prison (knowing full well that he could be killed any time) and raising a young son, was still alive.

 

For quite a number of my friends, Martial Law is series of distant events – history mentions lavish buildings, long bridges, and glamorous parties among the rich. For others, it was something more personal. For others, it was a father imprisoned, a tortured relative, a dead friend.

In 1986 though, EDSA happened. Everyone’s stories about it are quite different. For some, it was about a regime change, toppling a dictator. For me, it was something much much simpler. For me, EDSA means a time when a young 9 year old was finally able to hug his father outside high walls strung with barbed wire.

Each person’s story about Martial Law and EDSA – and, consequently, expectations about EDSA – differ from person to person. I share my history because we are again nearing a time when we will choose the next leaders of our country. Please, please be vigilant in choosing who will run the various offices in our government so that no husband will be tortured anymore, so that no wife will be oppressed, and so that no child will grow up in the shadow of fear.

Andoy, his Nanay, and Tatay live their lives like we do but people who don’t know them just think they’re your regular Filipino middle-class family.

They’re not. They are survivors of a very violent time. It was a family struggle to stay alive and stay together. Fortunately for them, they are one of the few families that have been able to stay intact.

Were they asking for all they experienced, as some Marcos apologists accuse? No, they did not. What they did do, however, was speak out against what they saw as cruelty and injustice. What made them different from most of us was the fact that Andoy’s Nanay and Tatay were not afraid to fight for what was right while many of us stayed silent out of fear. They chose to speak when others could not or would not and they paid the price for it. They were not the high-profile activists of the time.

In many ways, they are also like us though they carry the wounds of those days. Now, they celebrate the freedom that we all now enjoy. The difference is they paid for it more than we did.