[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 youngest 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.
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.
A 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.