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‘U.G.’ redux

/ 05:08 AM September 12, 2019

Just out is the second edition of Benjamin Pimentel’s “U.G. An Underground Tale: The Life and Struggle of Edgar Jopson” (Anvil Publishing). The previous edition had a different subtitle: “The Journey of Edgar Jopson and the First Quarter Storm Generation” (2006).

This new edition is obviously for millennials and younger, but also still for everybody, among them the “millenniors” of the generation of Edjop (as he was known) who fought the Marcos dictatorship, survived and recognize in Edjop’s story strands of their own. Edjop was 34 when he succumbed to a hail of military bullets on Sept. 21, 1982, in Davao City. He was in the leftist underground (U.G.) movement.

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What makes this thicker new edition different? It now has introductory pieces by Edjop’s grown-up daughters Joyette Jopson (“What my father, Edjop, taught me about heroism”) and Teresa Lorena Jopson (“How I met my father, Edgar Jopson”); plus, a letter to Joyette, “Gusto kong sabihin sa ’yo na idol ko ang tatay mo,” by Rey Agapay; and “Would Marcos have forced  me to go underground?,” by lawyer Oscar Franklin Tan.

It still has the afterwords by Edjop’s widow and mother of their three children, Gloria “Joy” A. Jopson-Kintanar, and the late Sen. Jovito Salonga.

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In his new author’s note (“Edgar Jopson’s story still inspires”), Pimentel states the importance of the retelling of Edjop’s story, especially if read in a new light:

“Once again, the Philippines is in darkness, reeling from repression, abuse and fear. In 2017, the dictator Edjop sacrificed everything to defeat was proclaimed a hero. This disgraceful act was endorsed by a leader who has inspired a horrifying mass slaughter, who routinely bullies his opponents, and who has shown brazen disrespect for women, the poor, for anyone who dares to criticize and oppose the bloodbath he unleashed.” He is referring to current President Rodrigo Duterte.

“In 2018, the dictator’s daughter, Imee Marcos declared, ‘The millennials have moved on, and I think people at my age should also move on as well.’ Translation: forget the past, forget the plunder, the torture, the murder and the abuse.”

For political innocents past and present, U.G. is short for underground, or that political movement, armed or unarmed, that operated clandestinely at that time (and even now), and worked toward revolutionary change in society, and were/are therefore considered threats to the status quo. They were/are called subversives and hunted by the establishment. That is my loose definition of it.

“U.G.” tells the story of a young man from a relatively well-to-do family, educated at the Ateneo de Manila University, who gave up his life of privilege in order to pursue his dream of helping the poor and the powerless by working to change the oppressive structures in society.

The book is instructive for both political virgins and diehard ideologues as it traces Edjop’s transformation from being a student activist to a communist cadre and revolutionary. But this is not just one person’s story. As Jose “Pete” Lacaba notes in one of the afterwords, “This is not just the biography of one person; it is the history of a generation.”

Indeed, as one follows the personal journey of Edjop, one also reads about political developments, debates, skirmishes, decisions and movements around him and in the underground that make their impact above ground. As these are played out, characters take on real faces and personalities, and as Pimentel said, he was able to give real names.

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Pimentel deftly tells the story and keeps it moving with incidents, dialogues and debates between persons. He also does not fail to tell humorous and touching anecdotes that say a lot about the characters, Edjop especially. I wish I could tell even just one here. Not enough space, folks.

It is Edjop’s killing and the manner it was carried out that is gripping, even cinematic.

I have not been informed of a launch date.

Author Pimentel is a graduate of the Ateneo, the University of the Philippines and the University of California at Berkeley. He has authored four books in all. He was a reporter for several US publications and writes a column for Inquirer.net. He lives in San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Mara Torres, and their sons, Paolo Lean and Anton Diego.

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TAGS: Benjamin Pimental, Edgar Jopson, Human Face, leftist underground movement, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
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