Rejoinder to Rowena Reyes’ letter

12:02 AM October 19, 2016

I feel sorry for Rowena Reyes, whoever she may be (“Hypocrites opposing Marcos’ Libingan burial,” Opinion, 10/12/16). She thought that she knew enough of me, and thus passed judgment on my person.  She can delude herself for all I care, but some things she said need to be set straight.

I was conditionally released from prison in 1976. In less than a year, I got reconnected with the underground antimartial law movement through Edgar Jopson. By 1977, I had already written the daring liturgical play Pagsambang Bayan, which prompted the military intelligence to threaten to revoke my provisional liberty and required me to resume my weekly reporting at the 5th Constabulary Security Unit in Camp Crame.


Because I was always between jobs, writer-friends working at the Presidential Center for Special Studies (PCSS) recommended me to Adrian Cristobal who headed the agency. (Like Reyes, I also needed to feed my children.) Cristobal didn’t know me, but when he learned that I was a writer and a former political prisoner, he took me in. If there was one thing that he reminded me of, it was his affinity with writers; he went out of his way to help the needy. Yes, he hosted meetings of PCSS writers and the members of his old UP writers’ circle called Ravens. We discussed literature and politics. Yes, in those meetings, we consumed food and drinks like regular humans. What’s the big deal, Ms Reyes?

As a researcher at the PCSS, I received what all other researchers my rank got, certainly not “fat.”  No “condo unit” or “well-funded project” for me, and I challenge Reyes to prove that I got any. In fact, when PCSS formed a group to visit China, I was left behind because the military refused to give me a travel clearance. While at PCSS, I gathered political intelligence for the antimartial law underground. Of course, the so-called activist Reyes, in her naivete, was incapable of thinking about that.

I bet Reyes had not read any issue of The Review Magazine where I worked as executive editor.  Contrary to her claim, it certainly did not deodorize martial law; it was critical of it and the prevailing conditions. In her simplistic mind, the magazine could only be promartial law since it was published by Cristobal’s Philippine Education Company.  However, never for once did the man meddle in its editorial affairs.  Reyes was being unjust to the independent-minded young women and men who ran The Review.

Reyes lies when she said that I was “concealing my long-time association with (Cristobal).”  In my resumé, I include in my work experience my stints in PCSS and The Review. I got no reason to hide the facts. Three years, by the way, could hardly be called “long-time.”

By the 1980s, when the military got wind of my connection with the underground, it listed me in its order of battle. I went underground again until I was rearrested in Benguet and tortured in 1994.

Hello, Rowena B. Reyes.

BONIFACIO P. ILAGAN, [email protected]

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TAGS: Adrian Cristobal, Bonifacio P. Ilagan, martial law, Presidential Center for Special Studies
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