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.

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2 comments

  1. Jayjay Cosico · April 25, 2016

    I feel so inadequate not having the same courage,passion and patriotism of the numerous people who were killed during those trying times. The Marcos era deprived our country of who could have been great leaders. All because they would like to stay in power. So sad that the younger generation don’t have a clue of what went on then and now giving one of the Marcoses to be in power again. Huwag naman po sanang pahintulutang mangyari. Never again should anyone of them be in power again. Mabuhay and God bless the Philippines!

    Like

  2. vincent · April 27, 2016

    Jopson never wanted to be captured by the military that is why he opted to try to escape during the raid on his safe house at skyline subdv., Davao city. Unfortunately he was gunned down when he jumped over the fence. apparently the back of the house was already guarded. it appears that the shooters did not know it was Jopson because of darkness….

    Like

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