Volume 88 – December 2016
(This editorial is based on the author’s response on behalf of the families and friends of MEDIA AND PROFESSIONAL honorees – including the author’s late wife Chit Estella-Simbulan – who were recently included in the Wall of Remembrance of Martyrs and Heroes who struggled against the Marcos
Martial Law Dictatorship, Bantayog ng mga Bayani Memorial Center,
November 30, 2016)
by Roland G. Simbulan
It has been a cliche to refer to departed friends and loved ones as having lived “a full life.” Yet one cannot think of any easy way to describe the lives of beloved icons who are also freedom fighters: the three from the media sector namely Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, Chit Estella-Simbulan, and Tony Zumel; an actor/director Behn Cervantes; a feminist teacher Maita Gomez; and a soldier of the people Dan Vizmanos. They have contributed in no small way to this country’s history in its struggle against dictatorship and tyranny.
Martial law brought out the worst in the Filipino that inflicted great suffering, cowardice, and fear as we would never forget. But it also brought out the best in us, Filipinos.
When many journalists during martial law became its cheerleaders, others showed phenomenal courage and bedrock devotion to truth. It is the storms, and contrary winds that bring out the strengths of individual character that has made the difference. Even in the “praise release” newspapers and magazines controlled by the martial law regime to revolutionary underground mimeographed newsletters, they took great risks and became the voices of truth in exposing the Marcos dictatorship where the only thing that made it look good was the absence of a free press. They were among the best mold of journalists to confront martial law repression during those dark years.
They showed us with their writing and their example the kind of integrity journalism is all about: a commitment to human rights, exposing injustices and manipulation and muckraking, digging, ferreting, carefully researched writing that gets at the hard facts. The media honorees Letty Magsanoc, Chit Estella and Tony Zumel personified the fierce independence of journalism from the unquestioning acceptance of government spin. During those times when limitations to civil liberties were justified and compelling arguments for their suppression were made, these journalists and editors took a stand. As Chit once told me,” it was the only right thing to do.” For them, repression of dissent is repression of press freedom. They fervently loved our country, viewing freedom of the press as crucial for keeping it true to its ideals. They taught their colleagues that real objectivity is when reporters dig into documents, find a credible whistle-blower source in the bowels of government where the real good sources are, or learn things on their own and verify them.
In the case of the professional honorees, Maita Gomez, Behn Cervantes and Dan Vizmanos, one would expect that their militance during their youth would evaporate as the realities of adult life an raising a family set in. These professionals chose the road less taken and with their courage and brilliance, resisted the Marcos dictatorship during our nation’s darkest years. Their torches have inspired others.
They have now passed the torch to us, the living and the young generation of millennials. Rest assured that we will not allow the flame to be extinguished. We will hold it high to our last breath. To the honorees whose spirit I am sure are with us today: your names will be etched not only in granite, but in our hearts and will always remain a symbol of commitment to achieve a better life for our people and nation.
I would now like to speak of the honorees as part of a wider family, both at the political and personal level. We, as family, especially those nameless among our people they have touched with their lives and example, stand here together to say to all of you people of this beautiful land. Thank you.
On behalf of the families of the media honorees and professionals, we thank Bantayog ng mga Bayani for this honor they have given to our loved ones who braved the storms and contrary winds and whose lives have made a difference. Their spirit will never die, even more so in contemporary conditions which show ominous signs of resurgent fascism. Their memory hold a steady course of inspiration in all seasons, and we now know that there are many-millions of kindred souls who will be the keepers of the flame.
And we, are so grateful for this honor.