Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Today, January 26, 2010, is the 40th anniversary of the start of the First Quarter Storm of 1970. In commemoration of that now historic event, I am posting the following piece, a belated apology to the late Edgar Jopson, which appears as an appendix to the updated edition of my book Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage (Anvil Publishing, 2003). The appendix comes with the following note: “Slightly revised version of the foreword to Edjop: The Unusual Journey of Edgar Jopson, by Benjamin Pimentel Jr. (Ken Incorporated, Quezon City, 1989).”


I never really knew Edjop. I expect that he and my brother Eman knew each other, since they were at the Ateneo de Manila at about the same time; and we had a mutual friend in the poet Alfredo Navarro “Freddie” Salanga. But we never really met face to face, Edjop and I; we were never formally introduced. I saw him from a distance at various demonstrations, and I have a vague recollection of seeing him at closer range inside a University of the Philippines dorm, when the Bantay refugees were briefly housed there.

He had the misfortune of coming into my line of vision just when I was, as a writer, undergoing what was then known as “politicalization.” I had come from the Ateneo myself (AB ’65, Dropout ’64), but I had this ambivalent attitude toward my alma mater: no doubt it contributed to my intellectual growth, but it turned me into a misfit, because at the Ateneo I was a poor boy (on scholarship) in a school for the rich, and after the Ateneo I was Adam after eating of the apple, Persephone after tasting of the pomegranate.

The social discomforts notwithstanding, I was almost completely apolitical in college, though the Tagalog poems I was beginning to write at the time already betrayed an incipient disquiet hiding behind a pose of gentle irony. “Politicalization” was a by-product of journalism, which took me to cocktail parties at chi-chi hotels and to drinking sessions in foul-smelling slums, which in turn intensified both philosophical and physiological nausea, which thereby sharpened the existential angst and the essential rage and gave them political shape.

It was at that point in my “politicalization” that my work brought me into contact with the various shades of student activism, and it was therefore not surprising that I was not disposed to look kindly upon any hoity-toity Atenean claiming to be fighting for the upliftment of the hoi polloi. My sympathies were with the scruffy firebrands coming out of the public schools and even the diploma mills, rather than with the Ms. Cleans and the Little Miss Muffets from the exclusive schools.

This explains the ill-concealed antipathy for Edjop and his kind in the reports I wrote at that time. When I started collecting the articles that would go into my book, Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage, Edjop was dead, and I wondered whether I should write an afterword or appendix tracing the amazing routes that the dramatis personae in my reportage had taken since martial law: fire-breathing radicals had become apologists for fascist dictatorship, while Edjop, the epitome of reformism and moderate student politics, had joined the armed struggle. In the end, not without a nagging sense of guilt, I decided to let the collection stand as a historical document without benefit of updates or post mortems. I subsequently expressed my mea culpas to Edjop in a Tagalog poem, “In Memoriam,” written sometime after the Ninoy Aquino assassination, but I knew that wasn’t really enough.

I am glad that Benjamin Pimentel Jr. has decided to redress the balance with a book that takes up where Days of Disquiet leaves off. If there is anything to be learned from Pimentel’s extremely absorbing account of Edjop’s “strange odyssey,” it is the fallibility of first impressions and of built-in prejudices. For here, in various unpredictable circumstances, is where the children of the First Quarter Storm are now, almost twenty years later: some betrayed the passions of their youth and some kept the faith; some backtracked and some persisted; some moved on to other lifestyles and some simply changed their methods of struggle; some went on fighting and some were immobilized by fear or weariness or domesticity or the frenzy of the rat race or all of the above; some took the high road and some took the low road and some, like Edjop, chose to veer away from the well-worn paths to take “the road less traveled by.”

This is not just the biography of one person; it is the history of a generation.

Jose F. Lacaba
April 1989

1 comment:

TheCoolCanadian said...

Ka-Pete-sa patalim:

The 1970s were the gloomiest and the most turbulent times in the Philippines after World War II.

In the late 1970s, one of the seven TV drama anthologies I was writing for was INFINITUS, an historical, sci-fi TV drama produced by NMPC-TV 4 using the ABS-CBN Studio facilities on Bohol Avenue (after the government had taken control of the network). Snooky Serna, an adolescent then, played the role
of a city girl from the 1970s, who, while time-travelling, encountered the National Hero (played by Tommy Abuel) in the late 1800s. The meeting broke Rizal’s heart when he realized that the struggles of the Filipinos in the 1970s paralleled with those of his own era: against corruption, colonialism, and hegemony. Rizal wondered whether the sacrifices of the younger
generation of 1970s Philippines were worth it, because, according to him, everything that his generation had fought for was all for naught.

This is exactly what I felt when I was there as a teenager, and I put these words in Rizal’s mouth. Many lives were lost, and for what?

I have no right to speak about how painful and difficult it was for
the families and loved ones of all those young Filipinos whose lives were wasted by the Marcos regime, since I’d never had any immediate family member fall victim to his tyranny. Yet, every time I recall the horrific goings-on at that time, a swath of painful memories always cuts deep into my heart.

I feel for the families of the fallen victims – young people who tried to initiate change in their country and by doing so, gave their lives unselfishly. They all started it, and Ninoy finished it, so that Cory could begin a new hope of freedom.

Yet, looking at the sad political scenario we see in the Philippines today, I wonder if the Filipino politicians who had experienced Marcos' dictatorship even care now for those who selflessly sacrificed their lives to give future generations brighter days to keep them constantly hoping for a new tomorrow.

Hope, according to Nietzsche, is the greatest of all evils because it
prolongs the torments of man. But, for the Filipino masses, hope is the only tree branch where they could hang on tightly, so that they would not be gobbled up by the quicksand of political abuse and corruption.