Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Joe Burgos

Dear Mouse, I heard about him from his brother-in-law. I did not meet the "legend" described by Larry Sipin to have fought the dictator eyeball-to-eyeball when all of media cowered or, at best, offered token resistance. He died a hero. A real hero. Soliven, the cousin has so much respect and adulation for the fallen Farmer Journalist. Lest, the column would not be accessible in the future, let me reproduce an excerpt. Farewell, Cousin Joe. That’s what I’d like to say to Jose G. Burgos Jr. today now that he’s winged his way to heaven, a newspaperman-farmer (a strange but edifying combination) gone home in the gloaming. There will be a lot of words said about Joe’s bravery, his defiance of the Dictator Marcos, in the days to come. I would like to add that he was a "happy warrior", smiling even in the throes of adversity or the humiliation of setback. We were happy in the International Press Institute – during our 50th Anniversary celebration in Boston in the year 2000 – to award Joe Burgos a golden trophy as one of the "50 Press Freedom Heroes of the Century". Truly, he deserved this recognition given by an international board of judges, and his being in the forefront of the heroes’ list made our country proud. When a pathetic few stood up to the martial law despot and his military goons and police torturers, Joe was in the front ranks of those freedom fighters. While others cowered in fear, or begged for crumbs from the tyrant’s overflowing table of looted riches, Burgos continued to fight the good fight, with publications like We FORUM and later Ang Pahayagang Malaya (The Free Newspaper). When this writer was released from Fort Bonifacio prison, nobody would dare employ me and almost all former "friends" would avoid me, in order not to incur the ire of the regime. It’s difficult to imagine such a scenario of fear, shame, and persecution today, especially with the Marcos clan not only back in the political swim, sunnily smiling, and cavorting with the best society (and perhaps Imee Marcos, now a congresswoman, even headed next year for the Senate). But in those days, when the Dictator and Superma’am Imeldific frowned on you, and you were a condemned "un-person" from the Gulag, you were shunned like a leper. Somehow, by a feat of legerdemain, Joe got the National Press Club to honor me – of all things – with the Pammadayaw Award as an Ilocano writer! Talk about moxie and chutzpah. Good-bye Mr. Burgos. The CAT


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