Saturday, December 13 was the anniversary of my first arrest and detention in 1974. But that was farthest from my mind when Girlie and I arrived at Alex Padilla’s place in Antipolo for the Ganito Tayo Noon…1980-1986 reunion.
The place offered a perfect ambiance for our reunion. Doming Anonuevo, one of the organizers of the event, reminisced about the days and nights they used to spend in the area, brainstorming, planning, and assessing during the heady upsurge of the open mass movement in the 1980s after Ninoy Aquino’s assassination.
There was some reminiscing about those days, punctuated with nostalgic laughter. But the reunion was mainly a chance to experience and express simple delight at seeing friends we hadn’t seen in years, plus some good-natured teasing at changes in our appearance. After the first flurry of banter and updates, some conversations led to deeper exchanges about how we feel and think, now after all those years.
Though billed as a reunion of activists, the dominant sensibility was simply Pinoy, starting with food, lots of it. There were plenty of pictures taken, with cameras and celfones. And songs, old and new, that spoke to our generation, most memorably from Patatag and Koyang Jess Santiago.
There were also poignant moments, as Dodong Nemenzo, Boy Morales, Satur Ocampo, Bobie Malay and other younger participants read out a list of comrades and friends who could not be at the reunion because they have passed away. After more names were added by those present, I think their number was bigger than those of us gathered that day.
Girlie and I were among the last to leave, since we were hitching a ride with Gani Serrano and Liza Dacanay who is another one of the organizers, and she had to stay for an informal assessment of the reunion. Activist habits die hard, and despite initial reluctance, the organizers all got into the spirit of pagtatasa at paglalagom.
In the activist tradition, assessments can be very serious sessions. But in keeping with the day’s spirit, Pinoy humor trumped any tendency to make the organizers’ assessment too structured. Those of us who were still around gave them well deserved applause, and asked them to take a bow for a very enjoyable day.
In addition to text messages, Facebook turned out to be a good channel for following up invitations, especially for younger organizers like Darwin and Monette Flores. But part of the teasing during the day was about those who still didn’t know what Facebook is. I think that was when I quipped that our generation has traveled quite a ways “from the Red Book to Facebook.”
Etta Rosales was quick on the uptake: “Ganito tayo noon…Facebook tayo ngayon.”
The most important decision from the assessment was also the easiest – “Let’s do it again next year.” At the same place, once Alex Padilla graciously agreed. On the second Saturday of December.
Equally important was the agreement to keep the spirit and loose form of this first reunion. No formal speeches. Even more songs, new and old, including community singing (though we may have to print out the lyrics for those who can’t remember all the lines). The suggestion to include some dancing was also welcome.
Since Girlie’s birthday is on December 14, I asked her the day before if she had any special wish. She said she wanted to enjoy a cultural performance, and thought we should try to catch the Christmas concert at the Pen.
But on the way down from Antipolo, she said, “This day was the cultural event I was looking for.” She bought the new CD of Patatag. I bought Jess Santiago’s new CD, including his impish love song that includes the line “You are the SIM card in my mind.”
As I write, I still recall Susan Fernandez’ lilting voice singing a salin-awit of Pete Lacaba, who also read from his collection of poems. Marra Llanot made poetry reading a husband and wife performance. Satur refused to sing, and instead read some of Pete’s poems. Gani sang his personal anthem “Imagine.” Iting and Mon Isberto, and (surprise!) Malu Mangahas led us in singing Mutya and Ibong Malaya. Susan Tagle and Joel Saracho provided comic relief, merging the political and personal, with added commentary from Arno Sanidad.
Liza scheduled me to sing at the end of the program with two “instructions.” She said I should not just be nostalgic, but also forward looking. “And end with something rousing.”
I chose to sing Andres Bonifacio’s Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa, but asked everyone to sing along, and consider one of the stanzas as an anticipation of the OFW, including activists who have settled abroad: Sa aba nang abang/ Mawalay sa bayan/ Gunita may laging/ Sakbibi ng lumbay/ Walang ala-ala’t/ Inaasam-asam/ Kundi ang makita’y/ Lupang tinubuan.
I thought Tumindig Ka could serve as a rousing ending. But even before I started singing, there was a request for another ending song that everyone could sing.
And so, in the slight drizzle that had started, we stood in the open grassy place, on a hill in Antipolo, and sang: Bangon sa pagkakabusabos/ Bangon alipin ng gutom/ Katarunga’y bulkang sasabog/ Sa huling paghuhukom/ Gapos ng kahapo’y lagutin/ Tayong api ay magbalikwas/ Tayo ngayo’y inaalipin/ Subalit atin ang bukas.