Kerima Lorena Tariman-Acosta*
The first time I went to the countryside to integrate with farmers, government troopers tried to show me first-hand how fascism, counter-insurgency and psychological warfare work. As if to make sure I don’t forget, they gave me a minor grenade shrapnel wound, and a major, lingering fear of any man with a golden wristwatch who’d seem to loiter in public places to watch me.
They held me in a military camp, asked me tons of questions before I can even get to a lawyer, and presented me to media in handcuffs. They slapped me with a criminal charge of illegal possession of a high-powered firearm and had me imprisoned.
First to see me in jail was my father, a really anxious Pablo Tariman. Everyone knows he’s never the activist. He could only turn to his Pavarotti records whenever he’s down.
Then from out of nowhere, on my birthday, came Ericson Acosta, a dear friend from the Collegian. He probably spent his own birthday in transit to that strange town just to see me. He looked like he was in such a hurry to get there he even forgot to shave.
After I was released on bail, I found myself in an ABS-CBN studio confronted with the very showbiz question “Is there someone special in your life?” from no-less than Kris Aquino. The query came as a surprise, I might have quickly replied defensively in the negative. After two years, my court case was dismissed. It was also at that time I married Ericson. So in case she’s still interested, I guess Kris should be updated.
Ericson was arrested by the military in San Jorge, Samar on February 13. He was brought to court last September 21—significant date for an activist named after an FQS activist, too ironic for someone born the same year Marcos declared Martial Law. Now I couldn’t drop everything to see him as he did for me more than ten years ago, even if the world expects the wife to do so. Why?
To the AFP, Ericson is a “top personality of the Communist Party.” Once “dissident terrorist,” now “wife of a terrorist cadre” in the eyes of the AFP. That makes the vicinity of his prison cell very dangerous territory for me to tread.
But to people who know him, Ericson has transformed himself from a “troublesome” artist to a serious activist. His artistic and political awakening started early in the theater workshops of the PETA, which he joined since grade school.
He identified himself with artists and their eclectic habits but refused to join political organizations like the LFS, as a self-styled bohemian brimming with intellectual arrogance. As campus writer and editor, his grasp of social, political and aesthetic theory relied mainly on his collection of Marxist literature and books salvaged through missions of the notorious “Main Library Liberation Front.”
The split in the student movement during the ‘90s challenged him to seriously heed the call to learn from the masses. The slogan “The masses are the true heroes and makers of history” sounds passé, but it humbles even the disinterested once they realize its truth.
Ericson gave up his crazy drinking habit for the natural high of activism. He became a prolific poet, songwriter and cultural worker. Years under the obscenely corrupt Arroyo regime led us to choose to return to the countryside to live and learn with the people.
To our son, Ericson is tatay, the funnyman shipcaptain of the AcostaUniverse inter-galactic band. In robo-character, tatay tells him he is actually a Gordoxian child; we his parents need to navigate to and fro the distant Planet Gordox and that’s the reason why we can’t always be with him here on Earth. This sci-fi antic amuses him, but it still sounds stupid even to kids. So he tells us he knows that we just need to ride a bus and walk several kilometers uphill to be transported to another world.
Samar is one such realm, and its people continue to suffer from militarization even after Palparan’s time as general in the region. Now Ericson has gone from documenter of violations to human rights victim himself. It is this tragic irony that has underscored the political context of his case and has given us compelling reason to heighten the call for his immediate release.
Ericson’s fault was to bring a laptop to the barrios, just as it was botanist Leonardo Co’s fault to do research in the forest while the army was conducting “regular patrol.” The story that he could have blown his captors to smithereens with a grenade is like telling our son that his father was kidnapped by alien forces of the Bozanian bourgeoisie.
It is unfortunate that while PNoy promises accountability and justice, the AFP remains untouchable. Jeepney drivers halt operations to protest spikes in gas prices, government calls them “perjuicio.” Students strike for greater state subsidy, government mockingly advices them to focus on their studies. Bewildered families call on the son of Ninoy to release all political prisoners—his government says these prisoners don’t even exist.
I guess like Ditto or Donat, we’d always be associated to this paper as its “imprisoned members” – “’yung mga taga-Kulê na kinulong.” But from the time the PSR** was serialized in the Collegian’s pages, people have come to realize how big a prison cell Philippine society really is.
*Kerima Lorena Tariman, managing editor of the University of the Philippines student paper Philippine Collegian during AY 1999—2000, first served as one of the editors of the culture section under the editorship of Seymour Barros Sanchez.
**PSR - Philippine Society and Revolution by Amado Guerrero (Jose Maria Sison).