Sunday, December 2, 2012

EJ : Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson

This post was taken from soc.culture.filipino by TatangREtong in order to preserve the culture and beauty of the Pin@y people. Copyrights belong to the original owners. This production, being the last in a series of five (5) plays, ends Tanghalang Pilipino's 21st theater season. “EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Eveli Javier at Edgar Jopson” is scheduled to open on February 8, 2008. It will run for four (4) weekends: February 8-10, 15-17,22-24 and February 29-March 2, 2008. Email: or Landline: 7245704 (residence) or 8323661 (Tanghalang Pilipino office) SYNOPSIS EJ : Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson Martial law under the Marcos dictatorship was one of the most traumatic periods in Philippine history. Lasting for almost fourteen years, the authoritarian regime of Ferdinand Marcos—with its massive corruption, crony capitalism and brutal repression of dissent—kept the Philippines a backward, impoverished country. With more than half of the country subsisting in poverty, the long-standing elite structures of feudal privilege and political patronage remained intact under strongman rule, which was propped up by a military organization notorious for gross human rights violations, and which enjoyed the support of the US government until widespread popular opposition to the dictatorship forced it to withdraw this support. Opposition to the Marcos regime was already intense even before the declaration of martial law in 1972. The forces of the Left—the clandestine Communist Party and its New People’s Army, as well as legal progressive organizations representing various sectors in Philippine society (workers, peasants, fishermen, professionals, academicians and students, religious and lay workers, etc.), and various parties and personalities in the political opposition, fought against Marcos rule. With the political opposition virtually silenced by martial law, it was the Left that persisted in the anti-fascist struggle. One of the most interesting figures in this struggle was Edgar Jopson, former president of the moderate National Union of Students, criticized by the revolutionary Left for his advocacy of “superficial” reforms in government, and who would later stun the protest movement by joining the Communist Party, later turning out to be one of the most effective, respected, and courageous leaders of the underground Left. For almost ten years he worked tirelessly to advance the radical vision of National Democracy, until his death at the hands of the military in 1982. As the Marcos regime lurched from crisis to crisis, the ranks of the liberal-democrat reformists were fortified by the emergence of young leaders like Ateneo law graduate Evelio Javier, who served for one term as governor of the province of Antique, defeating the political dynasty represented by Arturo Pacificador, a stalwart in Western Visayas of the KBL political party of Marcos. The paths of Javier and Pacificador would cross several times in a bitter history of political rivalry, which came to a head when Javier campaigned for Cory Aquino against Marcos in the snap presidential election of 1986. Cory won handily in Antique, a province that was supposed to have been secured for the dictator by his local henchmen. Less than two weeks before the EDSA People Power Revolt sent the Marcos family into deserved exile, Javier was gunned down by soldiers of the regime, reportedly acting on orders of its local warlord. His death was seen as martyrdom for the cause of democracy, and further stoked the fury of protest leading up to the popular uprising against Marcos on EDSA. Ed Jopson and Evelio Javier died four years apart. Both had been outstanding Ateneo students, but had never met, even if both had been active in the anti-Marcos protest movement. The play attempts to intertwine or interweave the stories of Edjop and Evelio—who were fated never to know each other, much less join forces in their personal involvement with the anti-fascist struggle—and to hypothesize the nature of the discourse they might have engaged in, being representatives of parallel forces in Philippine society working for change—the Left and Liberalism, that is to say, Revolution and Reform. The most important aspect in the life of Edjop was his transformation from a politically moderate, reform-minded liberal activist – who was in fact described as a ‘clerico-fascist’ by elements of the radical left at the beginning of the First Quarter Storm – into a National Democrat or ‘natdem’ labor organizer, and eventually a CPP-NPA-NDF leader who believed in armed struggle as the only way to end centuries of underdevelopment, poverty and injustice. On the other hand, the most important aspect in the life of Evelio was his principled stand against the dictatorship by taking the path of parliamentary struggle, participating in the electoral process under martial law, running against the political subalterns (‘mga galamay’) of the Marcos regime, and his belief in the viability of democratic process under martial law, by appealing to the better instincts of the Filipino electorate, until such time as just rule and governance would have been reestablished. In both cases, the two EJs met death at the hands of the Marcos military. Both were shot in cold blood—Edjop when already wounded as he tried to escape the military raiders of his UG hideout, and systematically peppered with bullets before he was brought to the hospital; Evelio when also already wounded and trying to flee from his Philippine Constabulary assassins, and finished off as he lay trapped in a shed. The military as enforcer of repressive policies masquerading as national defense or ‘human security’ measures, as extra-judicial executioner of actual and suspected subversives, was official policy under martial law. The practice has persisted under all subsequent Philippine regimes. Throughout history—from the crucifixion of Christ to the execution of Edjop and Evelio—agents of a ruling regime have had no qualms in ending the lives of the high-minded and the heroic, because their deaths lessen the threats against tyranny and injustice, and presumably terrorize the malcontents into submission, or so goes the fascist mind-set. The ‘obvious question’ is begging to be asked: who was more correct in his interpretation of what ailed, and ails, Philippine society, and whose method of effecting change was more valid? The play, however, does not presume to answer this. One could say that while they took divergent roads towards their social vision, there were convergences in how they viewed society, and they were totally committed to fighting the dictatorship even though they were aware of the extreme danger which they were facing. In a very narrow sense, they seemed to have failed in their life’s mission, because they both were killed by the regime long before they could even glimpse the early dawn of the society they dreamt of. And their executioners were never brought to justice. The PC officer who led the raid on Edjop was eventually promoted, while the suspected architects of the murder of Evelio are scot-free, one an asylum seeker in Canada, the other politically active again in Antique. Worse, the regime that they sought to bring to an end never really vanished even after the so-called ‘People Power Revolution’ of 1986. It continued to mutate under succeeding administrations, well into the new century, while retaining its basically elitist and kleptocratic structure, propped up by the state’s armed forces, while going through various superficial democratic processes such as periodic elections which foist upon the broad masses of the poor the illusion of free choice and the empty promise of salvation. But in a very broad sense—in the long view of history—they succeeded in elevating themselves into historical, transcendental symbols of heroism and the selflessness that some human beings are capable of, when they are prepared to make the supreme sacrifice for an altruistic, higher humanitarian goal. They, therefore, represented the true essence of the Atenean ideal of ‘a man for others’ (translated by the playwright as ‘ang mabuhay para sa kapwa’), indeed of the deeply idealistic Christian and Marxist principle of laying down one’s life for the sake of humanity, and this was the same impulse that must have motivated the other Ateneo revolutionary martyrs of that period, who figure in a cameo appearance or symbolic presence in this play: Eman Lacaba, Ferdie Arceo, Bill Begg, Jun Celestial, Sonny Hizon, Dan Perez, Ditto Sarmiento, Lazzie Silva, Nick Solana, and Manny Yap, all compelled towards radicalism by the sheer magnitude of social injustice in the Philippines. It could be argued that Evelio Javier might have been the genuine prototype of the new, the radical-reformist Filipino politician had he survived the brutal Marcos regime, having been the best exemplar for a liberal-democratic type of a corruption-free and progressive politics. And up to this day, many would still agree with Edgar Jopson’s vision of a national-democratic society where power truly emanates from the people through the genuine representation of the vast majority of Filipinos. The fact that the insurgency he was a leader of survived several waves of suppression campaigns is evidence that unrest and discontent have very deep roots kept alive by iniquity, inequality. The play traces the beginnings of the social consciousness of the two protagonists, how they reacted to social realities and articulated their growing awareness of the role they were prepared to take on. For Edjop, realization came early in life, as he learns about poverty in the rural areas of the country from stories told him by their househelp. Being the “son of a grocer”—as he was famously called by Marcos—he had first-hand experience of people who hire out their labor in exchange for wages, and later as an organizer he would even instigate the formation of an employees’ union in their family-owned business, a significant gesture that would underscore the integrity of his political ideology. The incidents in Edjop’s life that have become part of the legend built around him are explored in the play, but laced with expressions of self-doubt, of ‘Damascene’ moments during which he plumbs deeper into social issues and re-assesses his original beliefs. Thus, he is shown as the voice of moderation as he leads the mainstream student movement against the pre-martial law Marcos, engages the would-be dictator in an altercation right in the presidential office as the leftists begin to storm the palace. But he also begins to analyze the position of the radical left, despairs at the failure of the ConCon, and when he tours socialist China as head of a youth delegation, he sees alternative possibilities for the Philippines. The declaration of martial law finally ends all his illusions about peaceful means of reforming society, and he sets out on a collision course with the violent guardians of the status quo. Evelio, in contrast, belonged to a family of politicians, and grew up as did his province mates in the shadow of a dominant political dynasty in Antique. Fired up by a natural idealism further kindled by his Jesuit mentors at the Ateneo, and witnessing the centuries-old extreme poverty of hundreds of thousands of Antiqueños who hired themselves out as sacadas or seasonal workers in the sugarlands of the super-rich Visayan plantation owners, he enters politics with a new message of liberation—a caring governance that combined upland development projects, political and economic empowerment of the poor, principled and honest elections, and cultural pride in Antique’s history exemplified by the Binirayan festival. He campaigns hard to catch the attention of the people, bringing the message of a new kind of politics that begins to inspire the youth and gives a new hope to the impoverished masses, and he inaugurates a new era in Antique history. In the process, he threatens the dominance of the trapos (‘dirty rags’, ‘traditional politicians’) in the province, and they begin to move against him. The play depicts the sequence of events in the lives of the two heroes—never intersecting but resonating with the same theme—as leading to an identical tragic resolution that was not willed by either (although both were aware of it and were prepared for it), but forced by the logic of repression willed by the regime they rebelled against. In this inexorable journey, both have two strong persons by their side, Joy Asuncion, Edjop’s wife and comrade in the revolutionary movement; and Precious Lotilla, Evelio’s wife and teammate in his crusade for a progressive Antique. The songs in this play are evocative of the special relationship that characterized the courtship, marriage and love life of these two couples—in the case of Edjop and Joy, sharing the idealism of their student activist years, the hardships of living underground for years without seeing their children for long periods, and the joy of living with the ‘masa’ in the countryside to whose welfare and liberation they were totally committed; in the case of Evelio and Precious, sharing the rigors of a political campaign waged against staggering odds, the satisfaction of bringing new hope to the poor of Antique through their grassroots development and community work, and the sadness of temporary separation when Precious has to take care of their children in a foreign country while Evelio returns to the homeland to wage his final battle against the dictatorship and its localized manifestation in his province. This play, then, is all about love—for the beloved, for deeply held ideals and values, and for humanity in the all too real shape of a people oppressed and marginalized throughout history, in a land where affliction seems never-ending. Ed Maranan

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