January 29, 2010

By Ceres Alabado

This is Chapter 5 of the author’s creative non-fiction, I See Red in a Circle, published in the summer of 1972, one year after the First Quarter Storm.

Tony came in the morning to finish the painting he had started out the week before the 26th; the hammer and sickle on a red flag on the wall behind our library door. It was lovely, but it was too high up, almost to the ceiling. You couldn’t see it with eyes level to the wall. Below it, the whole width of the narrow wall, he had already scattered some monstrous red and yellow teardrops and stars. He stood on the last rung of a ladder, whistling, a small paint brush in his hand.

I sat on the floor, read a poem out loud from a sheet of paper:

“The rugged men that worked in the field, fattened it,
But now enriched the few –
The hands that, callous, toiled the vale of tears,
But now skyrocketed the soft –
The soft men that sit chair in comfort
Now hold the world
With grasp that grabbed the Dove,
And tat planted the Hammer and Sickle.
Out of this trodden field, the Seeds must grow,
And grow hard,
Hard for the Dove to settle on,
Hard for the Hammer and Sickle to pierce.”

“Know who wrote that?” I asked
“Karl Marx,” he answered.
“A seminarian in Naga, friend of Mama. Name’s Ed Lucero. Ang labo, Pare, no? If it’s hard for the Dove, why is it hard for the Hammer and Sickle, too? There’s a contradiction there.”

“That’s it, exactly. The contradiction’s the core of the poem,” he explained. “That’s one way to read it. The Dove and the Sickle are two conflicting forces, or are they? Yet they can both be repulsed by a seed grown hard on a trodden field.”

“And the other?” I asked.

“Say, do you want me to paint or to rewrite that poem?” he asked.

“Okay, okay, paint. Let me see. The other’s this: the hand that grabbed the Dove planted the Hammer and Sickle. You think that’s the line?”

No answer. I put a record on the player: “Listen to the Pouring Rain” as sung by a blind man, accompanying himself on a guitar.

“. . . it’s raining, it’s raining
the old man is snoring
went to bed and he bumped his head
and he couldn’t get up in the morning.
Listen to the pouring rain, listen to it fall . . .”

That’s all we did, Tony and I, the whole morning, he painted and I, listening to my favorite records or reading. I took out my mimeo sheets of English 5 readings and read some passages aloud:

“ ‘. . . It is true that today students are looked upon as being connected with politics in many parts of the world…. This question is important because the traditional division of university and society is nothing but the expression of a normal repressive capilatistic division of labour in both intellectual and material production. Intellectual and material production has been divided simply because of the wish to better organize the maximum returns and profits for capitalism. Those who produce society’s wealth and those who make use of this for themselves are differentiated.

“ ‘. . . We devote ourselves to a knowledge of capitalism rather than a knowledge of the people. This is true from philology to mathematics! We not ask questions but accept the structure as it is, and thus as students and scientists we become more or less useful idiots within the system of maximization of profits . . . Where in this society is science not an instrument of oppression, an instrument of capitalism?

“ ‘. . . the students and the professors have a wonderful opportunity, a chance to understand what is happening to them. To be able to think systematically is a privilege that we possess and which the masses do not, and in this respect we hold a sociological middle-position . . . on the other hand we run the risk of educating ourselves for interests which are not our own, the interests of the rulers . . . By pretending to be uncommitted . . . we make ourselves instruments of the system . . .’ ”

“That’s you, capitalist! Say, isn’t your hammer smaller than the sickle?” I asked, looking up to see the progress of his painting.

“Well haven’t you ever seen a real hammer and sickle before? That’s the correct proportion,” he said, surveying his painting.

“Here in our country, wonder how we should represent our masses? The jobless, they don’t hold no hammer, no sickle, no work, no land, basta patambay-tambay lang,” I said.

“Those are the lazy ones,” he remarked.

“Will you say Clay was lazy? It’s the only kind of job he knows but he was laid off. And it’s not because he’s been replaced, said Clay. The whole shipping company’s in trouble.”
The whole Philippine economy seemed to be in trouble. They said a lot of money was in circulation due to the elections, yet at the same time it seemed to be scarce. It was said to be losing its value, yet there wasn’t enough of it to make it that useless. Heck, it was a crazy thing. After four years of Marcos, our poor society had really become great!

“Now listen to this,” I said, “from the same nut, Rudi Deutschke. He’s talking of the new fascism:

“ ‘. . . By this I mean a basic structure of authoritarian-fascism. People are not being molded into anti-authoritarianism, filled with a sense of their own power, able to understand history as being their own, but every day they are moulded into being useless, frightened. They are being made into `function, made afraid of society, afraid of the bosses, afraid of losing their jobs,’ – that’s Clay – `afraid of examinations’ – that’s us.

“ ‘. . . We began to organize anti-authoritarian movements in the universities . . . I consider this to be politics in a new sense. It has nothing to do with the ruling party politics. In reality, we take the party of the under-privileged, the party for our own interests and needs, for that which we have realized is right and human. We do not allow ourselves to be made into functions any longer! When we began this struggle it was very clear that we would meet with total resistance from the authoritarian . . .’ ”

“No wonder Marcos scolded your professors . . . teaching you that!”

“Who told you what?” I didn’t know what he meant.

“That there are communist and subversive professors in the U.P. In fact yesterday he pointed to one, the papers said, who was in the group in Malacañang . . . “
“O what, did this one have ten deadly fangs?”

“No, he was as meek as a lamb.”

“ ‘Afraid of the bosses, afraid of losing their jobs . . .’ ”

“Never mind the idiots. Continue your reading. It’s good background for my art. Besides, it’s good education, it’s never heard at the Ateneo.”

“ ‘And the central point of our organization work is always and to this extent we are revolutionary Marxists – the third paragraph in Feuerbach – ‘The educator must be educated.’ This means that the new politicians must be characterized by the fact that they take part in a steady critical dialogue . . .’ ”

“I like that,” Tony exclaimed in glee. “Not like our teachers and parents. They always think they’re the only authorities, the best. What they say is right, you children, you know so little, we – we have the experience and the education, you must believe us. Shit!”
“Wait, let’s go back some pages. I missed this:

“ ‘We must not pretend that Vietnam is something which has nothing to do with us.’ ”

“Right! That’s why Marcos sent the Philcag.”

“Gago! Unless what you mean is for us to be on the side of ‘the systematic slaughter of a people, the systematic suppression of a social revolution.’ ”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what I mean,” he said absent-mindedly, as he climbed down the ladder and dipped his brush into a can of paint thinner.

Just then Clarence and some of the MKK Science School leaders, Ronald, Cirilo, Arthur, and my cousin Ja, barged in.

“Say, what are you two doing? If you’re not going yet, we’ll leave you behind. We can’t wait for you. Our assembly point is at Lyceum, before we proceed to Congress. See you there,” said Clarence, as he and his group hurried away. “I forgot, here’s our manifesto. Please give a copy to your Ma.” And he handed me a handful of pink sheets.

“Naku, pink sheets, ha!” And I read the manifesto aloud:


The Malayang Katipunan ng Kabataan (MKK) strongly condemns the fascistic methods of the Marcos administration in front of Congress last January 26, 1970.

The police instigated violence which erupted in the January 26th demonstration gives further proof of the growing repressive stand of the present administration as regards the national democratic demands of the people. Moreover, it further exposes the preparedness of the present administration in using the state police and other puppet agencies in quelling the free exercise of our constitutional rights. This latest proof of harassment constitutes a grave act which should not be left unchecked and unpunished. Therefore, it is mandatory that the police and other elements who took part in committing atrocities against the students be put to justice and that a pledge be made that the one-sided brutality displayed by the police will not be repeated.
The uncontrolled police brutality shown during the January 26th demonstration signifies the surging fascistic tendencies of the present administration in dealing with student demonstrations. Moreover, the blatant use of force by the puppet government riot squads signifies the desire of the ruling oligarchs in our country to stop the rising power of principled student activism.
The MKK salutes the militant youth who participated in the January 26th demonstration.

Moreover, the MKK calls all the Filipino youth and masses to unite in a nationwide revolutionary movement to combat the atrocities committed by the police, Metrocom, and army units through the direction of the state.



Students, Unite!

Tony himself left shortly after, with the promise to pick me up after lunch. Mama left just before lunchtime. She said she was attending a luncheon meeting of the Citizens Council for Mass Media to discuss film censorship which she didn’t believe in but was attending anyway, and how to write an open letter to the President of the Philippines and tell him to appoint the censors quick or else. This letter, Ma said, would be published in a full page ad in a newspaper and would really be open for everyone to read, not just the President. But what such newspaper space would cost, you can’t imagine. Thousands of pesos. If only those were for helmets instead, Ma had sighed. But who would ever think of donating thousands of pesos for the protection of student heads. They had much rather use that money to bash them. I’ll bet you on that.

Papa and my brothers came home for lunch. There was no need to talk about the afternoon’s affair, and so Papa didn’t open the subject. Just before he left for the office, though, he turned to me and said:

“It’ll be better if you stick close to your brothers, Mars. Don’t think you can go it alone.”

“I’ll be with my gang, Pa,” I promised. “I’ve got my own group; Joe, his.”

Papa drove off. He knew how hopeless it was to argue with a monster like me.

I went back to my records and readings. I forgot all about the time. I didn’t hear my brothers leave. It was so quiet all around. When I looked at our big clock by the stairs, it was four o’clock. I rushed to my room to change my dress and got ready to go. Tony was taking a lot of time, I thought. I was about to leave and walk alone to school when I met him at the gate.

“I fell asleep. Are we late?” he asked, rubbing his eyes still heavy with sleep.

“You bet,” I said, walking past him. He followed and soon overtook me with his long uneven strides.

We were both empty-handed. Clarence had taken with him all the placards and banners we made.

“What about the gang? Seen them?” asked Tony.

“Nope,” I said. “What about Yong and Clay?”

“What for, they say. As usual. If I give them paltik or grenades, they’ll come along.”
U.P. was as deserted as home. A few students, one of them my classmate Danny, were happily playing basketball. But no Betty, Charis, Jerry around.

As fast as we could, Tony and I jumped into a bus bound for Quiapo. From Quiapo we took a jeep and decided to skip Congress and proceed straight to Malacañang.

“No sense going to Congress. It’s five o’clock. By the time we get there, there’ll be nobody there, not even the congressmen. Let’s just meet them in front of the Palace,” said Tony.
“Oh my God, Tony, look!” I exclaimed in the jeep as we got within sight of Malacañang. “Doctors and nurses and ambulances! What do they expect, the siege of Malacañang?”#


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