What’s Really Exhausting

(L to R) Reynaldo B. Vea, Soliman M. Santos Jr., Pastor R. Mesina, Jan F. Quimpo, Francis Sontillano. Collage by Ericka Aala.

It gets exhausting — having to engage in the endless debate about whether or not to bury the late President Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB), believing we won’t get anywhere.

In today’s culture where politicians push their own ulterior agenda and democracy is determined by a meme, it gets easy to stray from the political involvement. Citizens are all but pawns — some sly, some moronic — in a time when murder is normalized and no one but the highest seat of this country is deemed trustworthy.

As students of the premier high school in the country, we are fortunately taught that the so-called glories of the Martial Law are balderdash. And yet here we are, limiting our protests to online posts and intellectual conversations with our elite group of friends, always knowing, never doing. It seems imperative that, as students, we take action later, once the rains have tempered, after we graduate. But then we get a job, get tired, and don’t.

Maybe what we don’t realize is that our privilege — by virtue of considering Marcos merely a subject of great discourse value — and the resulting indifference — by virtue of our academics superseding the value of protest — are central to our faults as students.

Pisay students weren’t always like this.

In the “First Quarter Storm (FQS) of 1970” — a pre-martial law series of protests against Marcos — Reynaldo B. Vea, valedictorian of Batch ’69, the first batch of PSHS-MC, was among the protesters.

In a message to students of the Ateneo de Naga University last September 2015, Judge Soliman M. Santos Jr. of Batch ’70, recounts his encounters in high school with Vea and how he was the perfect example of an exemplary student, being able to balance his activism, academics, and personal life. Vea later became the National Chairman of the radical national-democratic youth activist organization Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK).

Santos Jr. also paid tribute to another Pisay student, his batchmate, Pastor R. Mesina. He died in a blockade against the police in what is now called the 1971 “Diliman Commune” after his pro-Marcos Math professor killed him. For Santos Jr., that marked his “own activist baptism of fire.”

There was another Pisay graduate, Jan F. Quimpo of Batch ’71, who, in 1977, left home promising to return for dinner but never came back. According to the Inquirer, his first taste of activism was when, along with other Pisay students, he rallied for the improvement of their school’s living conditions. At the same time, Quimpo and other Pisay students organized alliances with college activists from UP-Diliman, particularly those from Kabataang Makabayan (KM). Back then, stipends arrived late and their test tubes were allegedly coke bottles. They were bombed by police forces.

Among those who died in that bombing was Francis Sontillano of Batch ’72. Susan Quimpo, Jan Quimpo’s sister, wrote on Rappler about meeting Francis’ family last 2012, when PSHS-MC honored 21 alumni martyred in the Marcos regime. She talked with his sister Siena and her daughter Lexley. Search for “Remembering Francis Sontillano” on Facebook and you will see a page created and managed by the then-11-year-old Lexley as a tribute for her uncle. And Francis is just one of those 21 colorful, loved lives.

Twenty-one is a lot of young lives sacrificed in an era. So what gets really exhausting — nay, frustrating — is that come 21st century, where the times have not gotten any less interesting, we are just here. Times have never not been interesting; there’s always something wrong to fight against. As millennials, we just become more aware of that.

However, social media has contorted historical fact and politics as a memetic goldmine. We, as scholars, know this, and yet, far from taking action, we are just here seated on our philosophical high horse, always in a passionate intellectual discussion while never taking it beyond that.

Our great privilege is undermined by what we consider exhausting. Complaining about our heavy academic workload and the “stupidity” of those less educated than us doesn’t make us any more intelligent.

It makes us moronic.

Perhaps the recently erupted issue with Marcos’s burial at the LNMB is a wake-up call. We have to unseat ourselves and take a stand outside the comforts of academic conveniences. If street protests are not possible right now, then we have to initiate more social programs, sign petitions, engage in conversation with students outside Pisay, and share our information to as many people as possible in person.

Let’s rid ourselves of the idea that the best thing we could do is write notes and memorize things we’ll completely forget anyway. The Marcos regime is something you don’t — and shouldn’t — let others forget. Someone who has destroyed the lives of a past generation of youth deserves no less than our vehement repudiation. To engage in legitimate active participation against the revision of history, as is the case in his coming burial, is the best thing we can do.

Marcos is no hero, of that I am sure. But, like the 21 beloved student martyrs of our institution, we can be.