A TRIBUTE TO A PATRIOT FROM 10 THOUSAND MILES AWAY
Dr. Dante C. Simbulan, Former Dean, Philippine College of Commerce( PCC – now Polytechnic University of the Philippines)
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I learned about the demise of my friend and colleague, Dr. Nemesio Prudente, several days ago from an e-mail of my son, Roland Simbulan.
I wish I were there with you today to pay my last respects to a dear friend and colleague. Although I am ten thousand miles away, I cannot let this occasion pass without paying tribute and saying goodbye to a man I greatly respect for his unswerving ideals and steadfastness in our common struggle to effect meaningful social change in our country.
I first met Dr. Prudente almost 40 years ago. I was then teaching in UP and Ateneo, when I was invited to address the faculty and students of the the PCC (now the PUP). I had a long talk with him afterwards in his office, for he was then the President of PCC. I was impressed by the commonality of our ideals, his strong sense of patriotism, his concern for the poor and dispossessed and his enthusiasm to get involved in the movement for social and meaningful change in our society.
In 1971, during the growing protest movement against the corruption and abuses by the Marcos govern-ment, I became a victim of what student and faculty activists called Jesuit reaction and “clerico-fascism”. For helping organize and convince key members of the faculty of Ateneo University to take a stand on the serious issues facing the nation and to support the growing student movement for reforms, I was arbitrarily eased out of my teaching position as an Associate Professor, despite the protests of many members of the faculty and students.
Suddenly without a job, I got worried about my family. How would I support my wife and my six children who were all in school? Suddenly, I got a call from Dr. Prudente who was then the president of PCC: “Dante”, he said, “if the Jesuits don’t like you, I am inviting you to join us at PCC. Our Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences had just retired and we are searching for a new De We are offering the position to you and I hope you will accept.” Of course, I accepted and that was the beginning of our close relationship in the academe.
The PCC, like UP, was the target of government repression because of the high level of social awareness and militancy of both their faculty and students in their opposition to corruption, wrong-doing in the government, monopoly and abuse of power by a corrupt and greedy ruling elites. (Sounds like today, isn’t it?) During the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus
In 1971 and the actual declaration of Martial Law in 1972, many faculty members and students were arrested and detained in military stockades. Dr. Prudente, his classmate at the US Merchant Marine Academy, retired Philippine Navy Capt. Danilo Vizmanos and I were arrested and detained in various military stockades in Camp Crame, Fort Bonifacio and Bicutan. And it was only several years later, (in my case, after 2 and one-half years) that we were “temporarily” released through the intercession of friends in the churches, academe and Amnesty International who put pressure on the government of the dictator Marcos.
In the U.S., Dr. Prudente’s family also worked with us in the human rights and anti-dictatorship movement. His wife Ruth was very active in the Church Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines. Son Rudy and daughter Karen were also deeply involved in the anti-dictatorship movement in New York and in Washington, DC which worked for the termination of the military and economic support of the US to the dictatorship.
After his release, Dr. Prudente assumed position as President of the now PUP. I was able to visit him several times after martial law was lifted in the PUP campus. I told him that his dream of a university for the poor had been realized and I could still remember the satisfied smile in his face.
To Dr. Nemesio Prudente, a dear friend, colleague, a true and tested nationalist who loved our country and people, my salute to you. Goodbye, my friend. May you rest in peace and be assured that the ideals you fought for will be alive in us and, especially in the youth in whom we all put our hopes in the struggle for a meaningful change in our country.
April 2, 2008
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in Mar 5th 2008