Let us continue our trek along the paths Thelma Arceo treads in her Recollections. . .
Recollection 31 (July 18,2013) – Calling home
Whether in distress or in celebration Ferdie would communicate – write, call, or sendword.
Upon the dispersal of a big rally in Plaza Miranda which turned violent he called home. We are at the PGH (Philippine General Hospital). We jumped into a Press vehicle that would bring some wounded students. We are otherwise OK.
I gave him instructions: Go to your Uncle Nick’s drugstore across the street. Wait for us there.
When Reggie and I got there we found a bunch of weight young boys with Ferdie. They arranged themselves like a pack of sardines into our Food Mustang and we drove around, not taking the usual route to avoid detection, dropping each one in the vicinity of his home.
It was the longest ride from Taft Avenue to Quezon City.
Recollection 32 (July 18, 2013) – Liga ng Demokratikong Atenista
Everyday saw more students out of the classrooms and into the streets. Meeting places were set up. Ferdie’s Ateneo group formed the Liga ng Demokratikong Atenista, and set up a regular meeting place across the street in Loyola Heights. They rented an apartment, chipping in money for the rent.
Mornings when Ferdie stayed overnight I would drop by with coffee and pan de sal for everyone, after dropping off Bob at the Ateneo and Connie at Maryknoll.
On hindsight I think we were the commissary and rolling stock rolled into one.
Recollection 33 (July 18,2013) – Across the sea
On Aug. 29, 1971, Ferdie wrote Anne, his girlfriend:
. . .let me try to trace the developments up to the time it led to the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus. . . The contradiction between the few who have so much and the many who have so little has grown to such an explosive proportion that it precipitated a lot of protest rallies and gigantic demonstrations. . .
On Oct. 23, 1972 he wrote a letter addressed to all relatives abroad, describing the suppression of civil rights, newspapers closed down, arrests made; describing the civil courts as having jurisdiction only over cases involving chastity, change of name and another which is marginal in content. And he wrote on to appeal for support.
His passion for the cause of freedom was expressed in every way no matter the circumstance or distance.
Recollection 35 (July 9,2013) – “Things bigger than ourselves”
In one of Ferdie’s last letters in July 1973, addressing each one of us he said – as if gathering all of us in his embrace –
Let us hope that what will bind us together will not be limited to the confines of consanguinity but unity based on the “things” bigger than ourselves.
The political detainees at Camp Bicutan had this hand-painted and framed and given to us. We have since donated it to the Museum of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation.
Recollection 34 (July 18, 2013) – Family
In a visit to Ferdie’s baptismal godmother, an RGS nun, at the Good Shepherd convent in Baguio, Reggie and I were struck by a tapestry on the wall with these words painted on it:
There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children – one is roots, the other, wings.
All throughout these events and stories the thread that connects is family. The idea, the concept, the bonding, the caring, the melding of joy and grief, of hope and failure, of wishing and caring – bringing everyone together into one embrace.
Whether in his boyhood when he went to Baguio for a summer job and later in 1970 as a college student volunteering for community work in Cagayan de Oro City, his letters were the constant bond that kept everyone connected.
He shared this with his friends and fellow-activists who were alienated from their parents as a result of their contradicting opinions.
Many a time I would call a parent, introduce myself, and say your son is in my house. Don’t worry about him. He is safe.
Recollection 1 (April 5, 2013) – Hello. . .
Hello. . .do you have a son named Tibbs?
Who is on the line? (very graciously)
Jose Rico . . . of the military . . . You better tell the truth because this is very important (brusquely).
Mr. Rico, I have many sons, but my friends in the military tell me to be careful these days because there are military impostors.
(Girl’s voice) Tita, kay si Tibbs bala ara sa funeraria.
Nga-a, karon lang ako gina-pahibalo?
(Girl) Kay wala sang may nakakilala sa iya.
(Rico grabbing the phone from the girl)
O, is he your son?
I will go there first flight in the morning to identify him.
This was the telephone conversation one early evening, about 7:00 p.m. While the whole family was watching TV upstairs in 14-A Kalawag St. SFDM and called to the phone by a helper saying it was long distance from Iloilo.
On the way down I was debating in my mind whether I should take the call or not. Since it was from Iloilo, I thought it might be Ferdie. If not him, he might be held captive and if I don’t take it, I might never know what happened.
Recollection 36 (July 9, 2013) – A very private affair
After coming from Iloilo with Ferdie’s remains we set out to arrange burial services the following day. We told no one except a close family friend –Fr. Ben Villote, whom we requested to say mass. I called him that evening of the phone call.
It turned out that Fr. Ben decided to tell “just one” person because this person would feel bad if he found out later that he was not told. This was Fr. Joseph O’brien, who was then at the Jesuit House in Novaliches.
We would find out later in the evening why there were so many Jesuits and Ateneans at the funeral house. Fr. O’brien went to Loyola early morning and wrote on the bulletin board of the Faculty House: Ferdie, son of Reggie and Thelma, was killed in Panay.
While the coffin was being wheeled out of the funeral house towards the hearse, Tayen, our home companion of forty years, saw Gigoy go behind the door and give his older brother a salute.
Recollection 40 (July 18, 2013) – In memoriam
Reggie and I found expression of our own grief and comfort in the words of Khalil Gibran and the musical score of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. So one rainy evening the two of us, in a very crude way, recorded the musical score as background with Reggie reading some of Khalil Gibran’s relevant passages, ending with:
Brief were my days among you, and
briefer still the words I have spoken…
Farewell to you and the youth I have
spent with you.
It was but yesterday we met in a dream.
You have sung to me in my aloneness,
and I of your longings have built a
tower in the sky.
But now our sleep has fled and our dream
is over, and it is no longer dawn. The
noontide is upon us and our half
waking has turned to fuller day, and we must part.
If in the twilight of memory we should
meet once more, we shall speak again
together and you shall sing to me a
deeper song. And if our hands should
meet in another dream we shall build
another tower in the sky.
We cherish Ferdie’s incalculable gift to the Filipino nation—his very own life—sacrificed to the cause of Freedom and Social Justice. And even as we retrace the prints and traces of his revolutionary life in Thelma Arceo’s Recollections we call back to mind also the countless others who served and laid down their lives with equal commitment and passion as Ferdie’s.
Pondering on the horrible events during Martial Law we grieve the loss of precious youthful lives all because of the limitless greed for power and wealth of the Marcos Conjugal Dictatorship. At the same time we subscribe to the eternal truth — Freedom is priceless and no sacrifice is big enough than to offer one’s life for its flourish. For that the collective voice of the Filipino people resounds with the infinite call — Never Again to Martial Law!