HomeCommentaryI choose to be an ambassador in chains

I choose to be an ambassador in chains

The aftermath of the repeated and prolonged sharings is a prolonged period in recovering the desired calm

It is not always easy to recall memories of martial law days without feeling the deep void that I first experienced when my husband succumbed to cancer. You see, for the past ten weeks, I have been invited to numerous gatherings, small and big, to share my experiences during martial law in the Philippines. Interviews were requested to recall how it was possible for the “WE Forum” and “Malaya” newspapers to survive martial law.

My husband is always the main character in all my stories because it was truly Jose G. Burgos Jr., publisher editor of “WE Forum” and “Malaya” and his young staff members, then young students-turned-reporters and writers, who are the heroes of my stories.

In the build-up activities toward the commemoration of the anniversary of Ninoy Aquino’s assassination last August 21, and the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law last September 21,2022, the recollection of the events during martial law called for a re-living in the heart. But even after September 21, the educing continued, this time to encourage new initiatives brought about by realizations that more must be done to preserve and defend history.

It was inevitable that the stories became very personal. The narratives surrounding the “We Forum” and “Malaya” chronicle, was also the story of the Burgos family. Intertwined with the day to day labor of putting out the newspapers during the height of martial law, was the day to day struggle of a mother and father, trying to give their growing children a simple but happy family life amid economic difficulties. The unweaving was not possible if I were to be true to the stories.

I have always been grateful for the special grace of the extra effort of the husband to expose the kids to various adventures which allowed us to hoard memories and which we now go back to after he left and after a son became a victim to enforced disappearance.

Who would have known that Joe would die at the young age of 62 and Jonas would be taken at the age of 37, depriving the family of more precious memories we could have stashed away to tell the next generation?

For example, the family draws much joy just by remembering how the father would lead the brood in singing “Sing your way home,” after every camping trip, never mind if the mother was out of tune. Now just humming the tune would evoke laughter.

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Thus for every talk and interview there would be an anticipation of pain. It is not the pain from grief that emanates from missing someone, but that bitter-sweet recalling of beautiful moments that will not come again.

Then also, there is the recurring question, “If we were not involved in publishing during martial law, would my son, Jonas, not have suffered the fate of being a victim of enforced disappearance?” that once again surfaces with every talk I deliver. My son Jonas Burgos, was abducted on April 28, 2007, by agents of the government for his organizing activities with the farmers.

Without much analysis, it is easy to presume that my son must have developed a heart for farmers and other victims of oppression while listening to his father’s stories over dinner about how the farmers were the least served sector in our country. Would he have had the courage to leave family to serve others if he didn’t grow up in the press room, the printing press, and the home where standing up for what was right was a principle to live by?

But the prick that comes in the anticipation of the talk, is subverted by a higher call to be true to the truth. A discipline developed through the years of objective sharing has not diminished the sting. The cross is always on one’s shoulders, sometimes it is light and other times it becomes heavier. Yet because it has been embraced it has stayed on. “Holy Cross, our only hope” (Edith Stein) says that where the cross is, there glory is, too. And we believe that where there is pain, He will give you the peace to bear it.

The newest realization is that the aftermath of the repeated and prolonged sharings is a prolonged period in recovering the desired calm. And today, the calm though threatened by the democratic space getting smaller and smaller, concretely expressed in legal harassment filed against me and ten others and as we dread the possible dawning of the state of unfreedom, we choose the better option, to be “an ambassador in chains, that I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:20)

Edita Burgos is a doctor of education and a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. Gunmen — believed to be soldiers — abducted her son Jonas Burgos in Manila in April 2007. He is still missing. She was general manager of the publications WE Forum and Malaya.

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