How do you honor the dead?
Last January 19, lawyer Eduardo Araullo succumbed to a massive heart attack after his morning tai-chi exercise. He was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced dead upon arrival. He was an activist in his younger days, struggling against Martial Law during the First Quarter Storm. Throughout his life he remained involved in social causes that required a keen legal mind and a passion for truth and justice.
I first met him in 2010 when he was corporate secretary and, later, also compliance officer of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. The night before he died – a Friday - he gave me reminders for Monday. “Don’t forget!” he roared. “I won’t, sir,” I said, hastily backing out of his office, eager to get my weekend started. “’Bye, sir!”
His sudden death the next day was a shock.
Life takes unexpected turns. Why don’t we appreciate the people who matter to us while they are still around?
I was privileged to have interviewed him in July 2012 about his experiences during the FQS. He invited me and two fellow lawyers to merienda at a restaurant beside Manila Bay. It was a gloomy, rainy day. I took his photograph against a background of shades of gray—sky, clouds, sea, puddles on the concrete pavement. His arms are folded as he looks sternly at the camera. The hem of his short-sleeved white barong floats in the wind.
He was a student at the University of the Philippines’ (UP) College of Arts and Sciences, taking Political Science, and later Law, when he became involved in the student movement. He joined the Left; he was on the UP Student Council and a member of the Kabataang Makabayan and Sandigang Demokratiko ng Kabataan.
He became politically aware, he said, “in the summer of 1965, after I graduated from high school. I took summer classes at UP. Then came the Vietnam War. It was 1967.
“ I stopped praying in 1968. The existence of God is a non-issue to me. Ang importante, nakakatulong ka sa tao.
“ I became most active around the age of 20. I went underground when martial law was declared. I was placed on the Order of Battle because I was active in school, mobilizing people and conducting rallies. When I was arrested by the Metrocom for acts of “subversion,” I was taken to Camp Crame, where the Metrocom beat me with bats. Sinuntok ako at hinampas ng bat sa dibdib. I saw now-senator Ping Lacson there at the Metrocom office. Bagong lieutenant pa lang siya noon.
“ Then I was taken to Fort Bonifacio, then to the Youth Rehabilitation Center (YRC). Yung kulungan na iyon, showcase. We were well-treated there. Kasama doon mga delegates sa Con-Con. It was open to international inspection, kaya masarap ang pagkain.
“ My father visited me in the center. He asked me, “Kaya mo?” “Kaya ko,” I answered. Matagal na akong missing sa bahay noon. Sa UP dorm ako nakatira.
“Prison was boring. We were in a one-story structure like a school. It was for the schooling of the military. We’d wake up, clean our cell, eat breakfast. We played basketball and Monopoly games that lasted for hours.
“My family visited twice a week; my mother brought food. Puro sermon hanggang matapos. I was released six months later.
“ After I was released I went underground again. Raising funds and whatever was needed sa bundok. Ang ka-grupo ko sila Nelia Sancho. Nasa Malabon kami. One day, naiwan ako sa safehouse doon. Binabantayan kami kasi ang tiyo ni Sancho nasa Intelligence. That night, ni-raid iyon, dalawa ang pinatay. Ang katawan nila, dinaanan ko pa, nasa munisipyo nakabalot sa banig.
“There was a time I was ready to join the New People’s Army under the name ‘Ka Glenn’. The week after I went to southern Tagalog to join them, I was caught. The others proceeded. They were all killed by the military.
“ Why the name ‘Glenn’? Sa gupit ng buhok ko, kamukha ko ang artistang si Glenn Ford.
“Sino si Glenn Ford? I-Google niyo.
“I withstood it all because our attitude at the time was willingness to sacrifice for the country.
“I never considered myself weak, but I had weaknesses. Those years made me stronger. Mature. I learned that I am not afraid to die for what I believe in.”
What I wanted him to tell me about during that interview were his feelings, not only his actions. What was it all for? Why did he fight against martial law?
“Because it was wrong.”
What else aside from personal freedom had he been prepared to give up?
“I was ready to die.”
Would he do it again?
What did he learn?
“Stand up for what you believe in. It’s worth it.”
It was hard to elicit much from him beyond cerebral responses.
I asked, “What did you feel?”
Attorney Ed replied, “It was an intellectual exercise. I don’t get emotional about these things.”
Much remained locked inside him. I could go no farther; he would not let me in behind the barriers he had erected to keep the feelings in.
I took my leave of him and waited by the curb for a ride. He followed me and whispered a few words.
“I still grieve for them, for those who died. I always remember.”
A few days later I wrote a version of that conversation for this column. The newspaper grazed Attorney Ed’s desk as he read it in his office.
He put it down with a rustle. “I like it.”
“I’m glad you do,” I said.
“I didn’t know you heard what I said about grieving for them.”
He nodded, pleased. For that short sentence was his homage to the fallen, in it all the other words he could not say to honor dead comrades who gave their lives in the struggle for something they believed in, something they believed was worth dying for.
His daughter Sarah kindly let me choose from the collection of books he kept at the office. So I have a knee-high stack of books to remember him by, as well as an old Waterman fountain pen crusted with dried black ink.
The Ed Araullo I knew was a strong man – he had a strong voice, strong opinions, strong convictions. He was also curious. “Why?” was his favorite question. He didn’t judge, he just listened; if I was stumped for a reply, he would urge me, “Think!”
We honor the dead by remembering them.
I will honor his memory by thinking.
Let his words on this page be my tribute to him—lawyer, activist, thinker.
E-mail: email@example.com, Blog: http://jennyo.net, Facebook: Jenny Ortuoste, Twitter: @jennyortuoste