Tuesday, May 23, 2006


During the period of martial law, from 1972 to 1986, it is estimated that close to four thousand civilians were detained, tortured and summarily executed without due process by government forces. Their only crime was, in the eyes of the Marcos military enforcers, subversive activities. We are not talking about armed combatants or guerrilla fighters here. We are talking about students, professionals, blue collar workers and political oppositionists who spoke their minds, and tried to rally others to what they deemed a just cause.

Probably one of the better known victims was a young man named Edgar Jopson, known as Ed or Edjop to his friends.

I single him out not because he was a more popular figure or a more well known name than the others. I choose to remember him because he was my childhood friend.

Ed was probably a couple of years younger than I was. When I met him, we were both still in short pants (part of our Catholic school uniform) going to Ateneo de Manila Grade School in Loyola Heights, Quezon City, a suburb of Manila. We both lived in the same gated community called Philamlife Homes in Quezon City. We rode the same school bus to Ateneo, and often chatted either waiting for the bus or during the bus ride itself.

I remember Ed as a good-looking, good-natured kid then, with a cherubic face and a crew cut. His parents owned a chain a grocery stores, and in fact, owned the first grocery at Philamlife Homes, called Jopson’s Supermarket. Ed was also good friends with my younger brothers who also went to Ateneo.

At some point, we lost contact many years later. I believe his family moved out of Philamlife Homes, and we went to different colleges. I only learned of his death many years after the fact, when I had already emigrated to the U.S.

From accounts I have read, the brutality of Marcos’s martial law radicalized Ed from a student leader and a “Ten Outstanding Young Men” awardee to a fire-breathing activist, “aktibista” in the vernacular. When I hear that word, I usually remember the Kabataang Makabayan (KM), young radical activists usually from public schools leading sometimes violent rallies in the streets of Manila, braving tear gas and rattan truncheons in pitched battles with heavily armored riot police and military.

On Sept. 20, 1982, Ed was reportedly captured or cornered in a safehouse in Davao, and in the vernacular “salvaged” meaning executed.

It is difficult for me to imagine Ed as a radical activist. He came from a wealthy, loving family. He had received the best possible education from an elite Jesuit university. He was poised for success, his whole young life ahead of him.

It is even more difficult for me to imagine Ed dying a violent death like that. It is hard to reconcile such a mindless finality and my last image of Ed, a vibrant, gentle, popular teen-ager full of life and good will towards his fellow man.

On a human note, I was gratified to find out that Ed was able to marry and actually start a family even while on the run.

Ed died a true blue-blooded Atenean, as we say in Ateneo, a Filipino patriot, and a loving family man. Ave atque vale, Ed. Hail and farewell, old friend.


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