Jun Factoran, freedom fighter and friend | Inquirer Opinion
The Learning curve

Jun Factoran, freedom fighter and friend

Human rights lawyer and former Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary during the Cory Aquino administration Fulgencio S. Factoran Jr., 76, left us quietly on Palm Sunday. Not a victim of the pandemic, but after a long struggle with his health challenges.

Jun was a special friend of the Women Writers in Media Now (WOMEN), a group of writers I belong to. We first met him, along with the other Mabini (Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity and Nationalism Inc.) lawyers like Joker Arroyo, Bobbit Sanchez, Rene Saguisag in the era of the Marcos dictatorship. The women journalists sought the help of human rights lawyers when they were summoned to military courts. Jun was one of 11 lawyers who defended Arlene Babst, Ceres P. Doyo, Jo-Ann Q. Maglipon in one case; we seemed to always be needing their help in those perilous times.Perhaps it was the trials and tribulations we endured together that gave the women writers and the human rights lawyers an extraordinarily strong bond of friendship. Jun especially seemed an integral part of our writing lives over the years, and our interactions went way beyond legal advice. He was himself an excellent writer, and to his dying day, we were urging him to write his memoir. He shrugged it off, thinking he had nothing significant to say.


Harvard-educated and a proud Rafael Salas boy to whom he credits his love for books and good restaurants, Jun hosted regular lunches with us, often with SF-based award-winning photographer Sigma Rhoan Rick Rocamora, because he said he enjoyed intelligent conversations—although I wonder how cerebral they really were when all I recall were his hilarious stories and much laughter as he counseled us on what we were engaged in, such as Rochit Tañedo as subdivision president and why Karina Bolasco and I must be on the go all the time. He was in awe of Sheila Coronel, Sylvia Mayuga, Marites Vitug, Cris Yabes. We tried to keep him company in the hospital as he faithfully kept watch over his wife Kay, whom he lost in 2012. We knew he was lonely and in search of meaning in his life again, and we offered him an array: a grief counselor, a therapist, Pilates, reading, writing?

He has left us in deep grief but enriched with many memories. Of the surprise 70th birthday his children hosted (yes, thoughtful, he said, but the bill went directly to him) when the WOMEN honored him with heartfelt messages and a crown of laurel—something that my florist could not understand until I showed her a photo of Balagtas! Of the day at lunch when he, Joker, and Rene brought out the rosaries in their pockets as testimonies of their source of strength. Of books we read and shared—of late, he wondered why his current favorites were about old men. Of Philippine titles he would always buy to read and to give away; the latest he wanted me to track down was Rolando Peña’s biography, “Crossings.” Of his heartwarming relationship with his eldest grandson, painter Jeffee, whose smile made every homecoming from the hospital special. Of his female law classmate who told me she would have been valedictorian were it not for Jun. Of my bantering with him about poor dating etiquette because while he would invite for plays and concerts, if you lived north of Manila, you had to Grab yourself home.


But he was there, like a beaming patriarch, when the Ateneo Library of Women’s Writings honored WOMEN in 2013 in an exhibit of our writings. And, even while hospitalized, he sent a generous check to a writer in need—a gesture difficult to match.

Paulynn Sicam calls him her lifesaver. Sol Juvida remembers delightful boogies with light-footed Jun. Gemma Nemenzo recalls how thoughtful he was about arrangements for her flight to Cebu when her father died that those meeting her wondered about their relationship.

Jun had accomplished much in his lifetime—his is a life and a legacy to be proud of. My only regret is that he did not live long enough to see the fruits of his crusading, the country as he dreamt it to be—progressive, truly democratic, adhering to the rule of law, affording equal opportunities to all. The latter was especially important to one who never forgot his humble origins.

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: Cory Aquino, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, human rights, Jun Factoran
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