Human Face

‘Tibak Rising’

Great title, great cover, great stories—ours.

The book launch last Saturday of “Tibak Rising: Activism in the Days of Martial Law” (Anvil Publishing) was a very well-attended reunion of sorts. What synchronicity, one might say, because while typhoon Ferdie was blowing and causing floods in some parts of Metro Manila, the book being launched and edited by Ferdinand “Ferdie” C. Llanes, has much to do with the 14-year martial rule (1972 to 1986) of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship that caused tens of thousands of deaths and disappearances and untold suffering among those who fought back.


While we all laughed at the convergence of the Ferdies, there was no stopping the flooding of memories about comradeship, struggle, pain, close encounters, death and even romance in the time of terror and in fields of battle.

“Tibak Rising” is a collection of 46 vignette-like stories by 39 writers. The stories are varied—serious, funny, personal, heart-rending. My piece is on page 128. One other piece I wrote (a funny one) had to be dropped because of space constraints but, who knows, there might be a second volume. This first volume—five years in the making—is just a foretaste of more stories to come.


Editor Llanes, a professor at the University of the Philippines and a commissioner of the National Historical Commission, and Joel Saracho, theater actor and president of T’bak Inc., collected the stories from far and near and put them together in a neat compilation enhanced by photos of yesteryears. If you were a tibak (short for aktibista or activist), the book is something you would hold close to your heart. The stories are familiar, if not similar to yours, the persons and places might be known to you, the events still burning in your memory.

Inquirer columnist and UP professor Michael L. Tan, himself a tibak in the health sector in those days, said in his foreword: “The Tibak stories remind us there’s more to transformation than slogans and the grim and determined politics of the streets (or the hills).

“We find friendships and camaraderies built even in detention, not just among prisoners but with the soldiers. History books tend to gloss over the details of everyday life; life histories capture the warmth and color of these encounters. On a sad note, the stories also highlight the irony of events that unfolded later, of former bosom friends becoming bitter enemies, of paranoia turning comrade against comrade.”

Wrote editor Llanes: “It was this generation that bridged the movement of the ‘flower generation’/First Quarter Storm and that of Edsa’s yellow forces … Indeed, in spite of its historic role and sacrifices, this generation seems virtually nameless in the pages of the national narrative or on the templates of the national consciousness, something like looking for Eman Lacaba’s ‘lost generation’ or Carlos Bulosan’s ‘subterranean subways of suffering.’ Collecting these stories … to bring out the big picture is an important though tedious task in writing a holistic, more just narrative of the nation.”

Llanes sadly added: “It was this generation that bore the brunt of killings, detention, torture and forced disappearances instigated by the State’s military and police forces. And then in a twist of deep irony, it was also this generation that had to (experience) death and suffering in the hands of its own leadership, an ideological mindset ossified in a schema of dogma and adventurism.”

The narratives in the book are grouped into varied aspects of tibak life—Transitions, Prison and Beyond, Friendships, Picket Lines, Icons and Symbols, Brave Moments, Turning Points, One’s Life for the People. Each chapter begins with a collage of photographs and an introduction. The story titles are so enticing, the stories cry out to be read. Here are some:

“The ‘Political Economy’ of Prison Pendants” by Ed de la Torre. “‘May Panahon’ as ‘Awit ng Petiburgis’” by Bong Romulo (with the lyrics of the song and guitar chords supplied). “2205 Cinco de Junio (o, nang muntikang maging ‘kandidatong kasapi’ si Nanay)” by Joel Saracho. “Gastambide” by Sibyl Jade Pena.


“Battle Queens” by Gilda Cordero-Fernando. “Lino Brocka and the 1985 Arrest” by Behn Cervantes. “Close(t) Encounters Inside the CCP” by Joey Flora. “Ka Popsing, ‘Toilet Brigade’ at Skateboard Supporter, at iba pang mga Tauhan sa Piketlayn ng Anson’s” by Leila Yap-Aboga. “Pregnant Mom on the Run” by Erlina Timbreza-Valerio. “A Bullet-Riddled Jacket and a Rosary” by Sanya Rusiana. And many more.

Edith Burgos, widow of press icon Joe Burgos and mother of missing activist Jonas, said it so well during the launch, that reading the book was like finding a community. Yes, because the stories and characters, though separate from one another in terms of time, distance and circumstances—and noms de guerre notwithstanding—are actually intertwined and have a point of convergence.

No wonder the book launch felt like a community/family come together. It was interesting to note that those at the gathering were mostly former activists, U.G. characters if you may, who are now in the mainstream, a number of them working in government institutions. I wondered if there were F.T.s present. Read the brief notes on the writers at the end of the book and see where they are now and how far they’ve gone.

Many more stories can be told, said Llanes. “The task therefore carries on—as continuing narrative and as celebration.”

So what are you waiting for? If you belong to the tibak generation and have a story to tell (1,000 to 2,000 words), e-mail it to me and I’ll pass it on to T’bak Inc. Contributors to “Tibak Rising” can claim their complimentary copies from Anvil (5709993, look for Jo Pantorillo). The books are now in bookstores (price: P475).

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