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WHERE WAS I WHEN MARTIAL LAW WAS DECLARED ?

Ric Reyes


Ricardo Basilio Reyes or " Ric " known to many, and Carding to his contemporary Pasiguenos, is a native son of Pasig. Studied elementary at Pasig Catholic College, high school at Rizal High School, college and masteral at UP Diliman. At 18 years old, he joined activism in UP, became national vice-chair of Kabataang Makabayan before martial law, and its secretary general during the initial years of martial law. He became an underground resistance leader during martial law and the early part of the new EDSA regime . He pursued his activism in the parliamentary arena, becoming national chair of Akbayan and national coordinator of the biggest agrarian reform civil society network in the country. He is currently helping the new administration of Pasig LGU with its housing program.


The week before September 21, 1972, the National Council of Kabataang Makabayan met in Baguio City at the residence of the patriot and revolutionary who died recently, Dr. Ed Villegas. I was part of the meeting as Vice-Chair. Lito Alvarez presided over the meeting as Chair. Mindo David who was our gensec that time was in prison. So was Nilo Tayag who was the elected chair by the last Congress. The main agenda of the meeting was the preparation of the organization for what we deemed as the impending martial law crackdown. The year before, little was done in organizational and technical terms. There was only propaganda and education work. The NC meeting was meant to correct this.


I could feel the excitement in the air. We were about to do battle with a looming fascist regime. Digmaang Bayan laban sa Martial Law ( People's War vs Martial Law ) had been our battlecry since Marcos hurled his martial threat, two years before, to stop the crescendo of protests and defiance since the First Quarter Storm 1970. There was also, however, the feeling of uncertainty and fear because we never experienced this before, young as we were in our early twenties, and we had little knowledge of how previous revolutionary generations confronted a similar challenge. But the overwhelming spirit was that we would learn by doing.


In charge of external affairs, I went down to Session Road several times to call Manila. All I got was that it was a matter of days before the axe would fall. That was the same information received by other comrades posted in the National Headquarters in Kamias St., Quezon City. So we packed up and went back to Manila after agreeing on immediate emergency measures. We did not finish our agenda, leaving it to further discussions for the next few days.


September 21, we regrouped to discuss further and plan at my family residence in Bagong Ilog, Pasig City ( then Rizal ). Some of us even spent the night over. My worried father told us of rumors of massive arrests. Next day, everybody left except me who remained. The nation learned a bit later that the arrests started the day before. On September 23, with the announcement by Marcos of his martial law declaration, we learned of the list of those arrested and detained.


My name was on the list. But they did not come after me in our house. How could that be? . I learned later that the military took in my namesake at UP, a student of metallurgical engineering. I know him; we were classmates in some of our University College subjects. Funny, at times I found credited to me engineering subjects in my grading report at the end of the semester and he, political science or economics subjects. Years later, we met and he told me that being my namesake gave him a lot of trouble applying for passport and visas for trips abroad. We laughed and blamed the old style large and heavy computers in use at that time by UP.


I did not leave our house the night of the televised announcement by Marcos with Tatad beside him. A curfew was imposed. I did not sleep and stayed vigilant in that part of our house nearest to the fence so I could jump over to our neighbor's lot in case the raiding party came.


Early morning, before the sun rose, I left our house. Tatay bid me adieu: take care and keep in touch. Anything you need, just tell us. My crying Nanay embraced me: Magdasal ka lagi. ( Always pray ). My youngest sibling, Baby, then only six years old, who would much later become an NGO and Akbayan activist, wondered why I was leaving and my Nanay crying. Then she told me : Kuya, I heard your name on the radio. Why ? I only smiled and pinched her cheek.


I paused and looked back longingly at our house. Then I looked up at the horizon. Totohanan na ito. Gone are my dreams of pursuing studies abroad and whatever else. So be it. For like the young Katipuneros and our young soldiers during WWII, and the thousands of young men and women like me who opposed a fascist dictatorship : Country first. The working class and the peasantry first. Serve the people.

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