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Shout my name

People know me as an activist, if they know me at all. I fight for the rights of farmers. I help them escape the claws of capitalism and poverty, and the thievery of people in the government. I’m not a fan of irony. I don’t find it funny that the people who sweat blood to produce the food we put on our tables don’t have food to put on their own tables.

But as much as I’d love to tell you about my advocacy with the passion of a thousand burning suns, I can’t. I’m here to show you that I’m not one-dimensional; that I’m a person with many sides and facets; that I’m real and just… gone.

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I’m a son to my mother and father. I was never really the behaved type. I used to run around a lot as a kid. I had crazy experiences, like eating a dragonfly in the middle of the field when my parents said I shouldn’t. The more they said I shouldn’t, the more I did it.

But don’t get me wrong: I’m not a rebel. I’m a loving child, just slightly hyper. I love my parents a lot even though I had to leave to do what I have to do: to fight. I think I got this spirit from Dads (that’s what my siblings and I call our parents: Moms and Dads). Dads was always a fighter: He fought the dictatorship; he fought for press freedom. But my soft heart is from Moms. She has always been a great mother, kind and caring. If I stop everything I’m doing now, I can hear them: Dads protesting, Moms shouting my name with so much longing. They’re looking for me.

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I’m also a brother to four—two sisters and two brothers. I’m the middle child, but our parents all treated us fairly, I believe. As I have said, I’m a can’t-stop-moving-and-doing-fun-stuff-that-scares-my-parents kind of kid. I remember when we were young, my Kuya and I went to Ate’s room. We took all her dolls and “modified” them. We beheaded some and drew on the others’ faces. And then, we turned her room into a horror house/room. She screamed, of course. It stressed our parents out. But we had fun doing it.

I’m also the kind of brother that eats his chocolate bar fast so I can ask for more from my Ate. It always worked. I can hear them at the mall now, laughing at a memory of us, when we were still together. But now they’re stopping. Everyone’s wondering where I am. They’re looking for me.

As I grew older with my four siblings, I became an uncle. I’m a cool uncle, I tell you. I used to take care of Ate’s kids when she was at work. As time passed, I had more nieces and nephews. Every time I went to the farm where they stayed, I would bring them something. Sometimes, I’d bring them bangus from far away and we’d cook it ourselves. One time, it was one of my nieces’ birthday. I brought home a puppy. She asked me what we should name the pup and I said “Foofoo.” She scrunched her face but the name stuck. I’m a cool uncle, as I told you. From the distance, I can hear them running toward me now, the way they did whenever I arrived, excited and yearning. They’re looking for me.

After a while, I also decided to settle down like my siblings. I became a husband. My wife, she’s all the stars in the night sky combined, and I wish I could see her glow in the darkness  I’m in now.

She fought side by side with me, like a warrior brilliant and unwavering. We had a child after some time, and I became a father. My daughter, as I remember her, was exactly like me. She’s hyper. She laughs and smiles a lot. She holds spiders in her hands without fear.

She really was a carbon copy of me. I wonder if she still is. I wonder if she still remembers me because as painful as this sounds, I don’t know much about her now and the memories I have are little ones compared to what she is now. I have not seen her in 10 years. I’ve been gone for 10 years and I know that they have been looking for me for 10 years.

Ten years ago, I was separated from everything I love because I am an activist. Ten years ago, I had everything I love taken away from me. Ten years ago, I was abducted. They’ve been looking for me ever since then. I’m sure of this because my family members are filled with so much love, and I wish, I wish I am wrapped in their arms right now. I might look fearless but I am scared. I’m scared of this darkness I’m stuck in, and I’m afraid I’ll never see light again. As much as I want to look for them, I can’t, with my hands tied, my eyes covered, and my mouth filled with cloth. I know how to fight but my abductors don’t fight fair.

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Please help us win this fight. Help my family find me. Help my loved ones in their search. Shout my name with them and maybe, as soon as it becomes loud enough, I can follow your collective voice even when I’m in the darkness. Shout my name. Shout “Jonas Burgos!”

* * *

Bernardine Burgos de Belen, 17, is a senior high school student at St. Paul University Quezon City. She says she wrote this piece as she remembers her uncle, the son of Edita Burgos and the late press freedom icon Joe Burgos, and from the stories told by her family about him. April 28 marked the 10th year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.

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TAGS: activism, Edita Burgos, Inquirer Opinion, Joe Burgos, Jonas Burgos, Young Blood Bernardine Burgos de Belen
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