#NeverForget: A Martial Law Reading List: Pisay edition

Written by Mel Cardenas
(Former staffer, The Science Scholar, Sindi-Katok 1990–94, PSHS-MC Batch 1994, PSHS-MC Biology Unit 2001–06, and one of the organizers of the 2012 tribute to PSHS alumni activist martyrs.)

(For books that are available at the PSHS-MC library, their call number is included in each book entry.)

I was a frequent visitor of the Pisay Main Library in the early ’90s — and yes, back then, there was a card catalogue. In my more recent visits, in lieu of said card catalogue is now the “Mariano Lopez Collection.” It contains books donated by Batch 1969, Pisay’s pioneering batch. The collection is named in honor of their batchmate, Mariano “Rak” Lopez, whose name can be found on the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Wall of Remembrance. He is one of 11 PSHS alumni whose names are on the Bantayog Wall, and one of 15 who died during the Marcos dictatorship.

I also have a collection of books about the Marcos dictatorship period and the various resistance movements of that period. Many were published with heavy involvement from members of the Pisay community’s activist alumni and their immediate kin, so I took this into consideration in making a list for readers. Here are some titles, for those interested in starting or adding to their own collection, or even for the generally curious about “that Martial Law thingy.”

Martial Law 10(8)1: Anthology Starter Pack

Not on Our Watch: Martial Law Really Happened. We Were There.
Edited by Jo-Ann Q. Maglipon
2012, Publications Group LEADS-CEGP 6972 Inc.
[Call#: Fil 959.9 N843 2012]

It’s only right to start my list with an anthology written by members of the League of Editors for a Democratic Society (LEADS) of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines. Reading through the chapters, one realizes that beyond being editors and staffers of school papers, these young journalists and writers were at the forefront of the student activist movements in the years leading up to Martial Law. Must-read are the chapters contributed by two of our very own alumni: the gut-wrenching essay “Lest We Forget” by Roberto “Obet” Verzola (Batch 1969) where recounts his experiences as a detainee subjected to extreme torture, and “The First of Our Dead” by Jose “Butch” Dalisay Jr. (Batch 1971-A) which feels to me like a fictionalized account of the death of Francis Sontillano (Batch 1972) during a protest march with fellow students. The book is also dedicated to their fellow student journalists who did not survive Martial Law, including Antonio Tagamolila, father of an alumnus from Batch ‘89.

Kuya Obet’s essay is one of the reasons I started researching about Pisay student activists from the Martial Law period, which eventually lead to a tribute held at the Bantayog in September of 2012. A man who still does community and sustainable development work well into his 60s (teaching farmers efficient cropping methods, helping rural villages set up micro-renewable energy systems, developing renewable energy curricula together with batchmate Rey Vea), Kuya Obet is a constant source of inspiration. Aside from being a polymath, I suspect he’s a sage.

Militant but Groovy: Stories of Samahang Demoktratiko ng Kabataan
Edited by Soliman M. Santos and Paz Verdades M. Santos
2008, Anvil Publishing Inc.
[Call#: Fil 959.9 Sa59m 2008]

Compiled and edited by Sol Santos (Batch 1970) and wife Paz, as I was reading this book, I felt like listening in on a reunion of cool Titos and Titas (ah, well, maybe for the younger readers, cool Lolos and Lolas) sharing stories from their activist youth, organizing in their bell-bottoms and mini skirts. The book also includes vignettes from Butch Dalisay and Ricco Santos (Batch 71-A), UP SOLAIR Dean Jorge Sibal, and the late Behn Cervantes. It’s best read with Beatles (White Album onwards), The Doors, and Simon & Garfunkel in the backdrop — or, IV of Spades, if you wish.

Tibak Rising: Activism in the Days of Martial Law
Ferdinand C. Llanes, editor
2012, T’bak, Inc. and Anvil Publishing, Inc.
[Call#: Fil 959.9 T432 2012]

The Marcoses’ stranglehold on the Philippines lasted 21 years — longer than the lives of many who are currently reading this. Tibak Rising is an anthology written by the next wave of student activists, who, in the words of Ferdie Llanes, “bridged the movement of the ‘flower generation’/ First Quarter Storm and that of EDSA’s ‘yellow forces.’” Joel Saracho writes: “we… sang the Bagong Lipunan hymns in grade school and high school and obeyed — until Marcos banned the showing of the afternoon cartoon program Voltes V.” It is in this anthology that I read about Ma’am Tina Bawagan’s life-changing experiences. Ma’am Tina was my homeroom adviser in my 3rd year in Pisay, and later, a co-teacher. While I had some idea of her past as an activist, I only knew the details years after my teaching stint ended. I invite you to feel the quiet strength of her words in “Some Trying Times of My Life.” The compilation also includes experiences from women who are sisters of PSHS alumni — Judy Taguiwalo’s “Babaeng Makibaka sa Likod ng Rehas” and Susan Quimpo’s “Globe Steel”. Other stories spanning a wide array of topics — from beauty queen activists organizing rallies, to being a gay student activist, to the process of writing a protest song, to a daring, action movie-esque escape after 11 days of torture in a military “safe house” somewhere in Quezon City.

For those who like art in their literature

Isang Harding Papel
Kwento ni Augie Rivera, Guhit ni Rommel Joson
2014, Adarna House, Inc.
Winner, Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards

About two years ago, the progressive Raya School staged a musical by kids and for kids, based on “Isang Harding Papel.” I was able to watch the restaging at the AFP Theater (which I considered a gutsy move, given the topic of the musical) and was awed by what the Raya School community was able to achieve. I went home with a song about Nutribun (donated by USAID, but credit-grabbed by Imelda) looping in my head. Needless to say, I bought the CD. This story is based on the true-to-life experiences of the author’s cousin, whose father was killed when she was a baby, and whose mother was a political prisoner for most of her childhood. Young Jenny’s father is Ellecer Cortes, who is honored as a Bantayog ng mga Bayani martyr. Jenny eventually studied and graduated from Pisay.

Kwento ni Russell Molina, Guhit ni Kajo Baldisimo
2016, Anino Comics ng Adarna House, Inc.

This Filipino comic book follows a group of teenagers, members of a band, who were still out past the curfew imposed during Martial Law. The ensuing patintero with the police is peppered with ’70s lingo, while touching on issues such as human rights and curtailment of press freedom. What I love about this book is that it’s a great teaching tool as well — it contains lyrics to songs, but without a specific melody included, students can come up with their own interpretations. “Walastik ang tiktik/ sa gabi’y nagpapalit/ nagbabago ng anyo/ nagbibihis ng damit” can pass off as lines from a rap battle, while “Gising na/ Sa loob mo’y nagbabaga/ Ang apoy ng pag-asa” has the feel of an anthem. Volunteers from PSHS-MC Batch ’95 who donated copies of this book to a public high school in Candelaria, Quezon. I joined them in organizing a read-along with students, coupled with a talk by historian John Ray Ramos. Indigenous-folk band Sanghabi performed the songs set to melody by alumnus JM Arcilla.

For the budding social meteorologist

Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage: The First Quarter Storm and Related Events
by Jose F. Lacaba
First published 1982, republished by Anvil Publishing Inc.
Winner, National Book Award
[Call#: Fil 959.9 L115d 1982]

For anyone who has seen the black-and-white pictures of mass mobilizations in front of the old Senate building, of the Marcos buwaya and kabaong effigies, of students inside a jeepney being beaten up by police, of a firetruck in flames, and thought “Why so angry?” — this book may offer answers as it transports you right in the middle of the (First Quarter) Storm. Jose “Pete” Lacaba was a journalist for the Philippine Free Press (and later, the Asia-Philippines Leader) but he writes with such detail and drama that it reads like a political thriller, except that it is not fiction. One can expect no less from the writer of the most famous acrostic in Philippine history, a public “burn” published unwittingly by a government-sanctioned magazine in the early years of Martial Law under the name Ruben Cuevas, the one that begins “Mars shall glow tonight…”

Full Quarter Storms: Memoirs and Writings on the Philippine Left (1970–2010)
by Cesar “Sonny” Melencio
2010, Transform Asia Inc.

If Pete Lacaba’s Days of Disquiet… is a vivid recounting of the first three months of 1970 (called the First Quarter Storm), Sonny Melencio’s book offers a front row seat to his life as a member of the Philippine Left. Covering a quarter of a century and beyond, even up to the protest movements up to the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, it reflects on the evolving role of the political left, and bravely asks the questions every activist needs for soul-searching as part of the broad Philippine resistance movement. It’s a bit difficult to find a copy nowadays, but an excerpt is republished in Tibak Rising as a chapter “How I Escaped the Clutches of the 5th CSU.”

For a deep dive by advanced readers

To Suffer Thy Comrades: How the Revolution Decimated Its Own
Robert Francis B. Garcia
2001, revised edition, 2017
Winner, National Book Award

A first person account from a survivor of the internal purges within the CPP-NPA, this book is not for the weak of heart. One needs a pitcher of water and a box of tissues while reading. I include this in the list for two reasons — first, because Bobby Garcia is a Pisay parent, and second, in honor of Vicente “Enteng” Gonzales Jr. (B ’78) one of our activist alumni, who perished under Kampanyang Ahos some time in 1985.

Subversive Lives: A Family Memoir of the Marcos Years
by Susan F. Quimpo and Nathan Gilbert Quimpo (with the rest of the Quimpo family, and Maria Cristina Pargas-Bawagan)
2012, Anvil Publishing, Inc.
Winner, Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards for Essay Anthology in 2013,
Short-listed for the National Book Award (2013),
Nominee for the Manila Critic’s Coyiuto Prize for Biography (2014)
[Call#: Fil 959.9 Q41s 2012]

The dedication page reads: “For Mom and Dad, for Jan, Jun and other kasama who fought the Marcos dictatorship, and for the numerous families splintered by the struggle.” This is how one begins the journey with the Quimpo family, from which seven of the ten siblings joined the resistance movements against the Marcos dictatorship. Several experienced extreme torture and sexual abuse while in detention. Two brothers did not make it out of Martial Law alive: Ronald Jan Quimpo (PSHS B’ 71-B) is one of the many desaparecidos, and Ishmael “Jun” Quimpo Jr. (first husband of Ma’am Tina Bawagan) was killed by the military. This book broke me and shook me to the core — it is the epic, real-life version of Dekada ’70, and more. You are there with Nathan in a classroom in Cebu where he is blindfolded before being paraded across the campus in broad daylight. You are there with Jun and Tina in an underground house, somewhere in Pampanga, witnessing their marriage ceremony. You are there with Susan, wandering aimlessly during the UP Lantern Parade, anxiously awaiting news if Jun is really dead, and if her sisters were able to retrieve his body.

And that is why I am here, with Susan Quimpo, as part of a team that provides training for teachers on how to integrate Martial Law history in their lessons. Aimee Santos-Lyons (B’89), Caesar Octavius “Boboy” Parlade (B ’75, former PCGG Commissioner and Gawad Lagablab awardee for Governance), and Katrina Navarro, the daughter of Ronald Jan’s best friend from high school, are also part of the team.

I’d be remiss if I fail to mention these books, though I have yet to read them:

  1. Killing Time in a Warm Place by Jose “Butch” Dalisay Jr. (B ‘71-A and Palanca Awards Hall of Famer). Butch Dalisay’s first novel details his experiences as a student activist and political detainee. It also won the Manila Critic’s Circle “National Book Award.”
  2. Whose Side are We On?: Memoirs of a PMAer by Dante C. Simbulan (father of Dante Simbulan Jr., B ‘75). How did a military man become a political prisoner during the Marcos dictatorship? Read to find out. Dr. Simbulan, the author, is still quite active as an adviser to political organizations in the US — at 88 years old, Dante Sr. joined the picket together with Dante Jr. in front of the Philippine Embassy at Washington DC a few days ago remembering the dark days of Martial Law.
  3. I See Red in a Circle by Ceres S.C. Alabado (author of Kangkong 1896), published in 1972. It’s a semi-fictionalized account of the student activist movement in Philippine Science High School. This is a rare book, though Susan Quimpo and Jun Verzola (B’72) have copies. Kuya Jun thinks a lot of copies were confiscated, or hidden/ burned when Martial Law was declared. Seriously — only one or two copies are available in Philippine libraries, and only one copy is available in Amazon, somewhere in the US. So if you see one, let me know!





The official English-language publication of the Philippine Science High School–Main Campus.

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