Thursday, December 16, 2004

`Sick of the Times’

A weepy week it could have been, what with William Chua leaving for the Great Courtroom in the Sky. Sure this is a time for weeping but this is also a time for celebrating a great life. A great friend of 25 years William was to me and many others who had pen as weapon and to his fellow human rights lawyers who knew what a good fight meant. (See yesterday’s Inquirer front page news story.)

William passed in the evening of Dec. 13 after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer which he faced with vigor and grace. William spent his last few days at St. Luke’s Hospital where there was a big commotion because movie king FPJ was there lying comatose after suffering a stroke. (FPJ died a minute after midnight.)One had to wade through the endless stream of cars and the throng of fans and politicians. Parking was a nightmare. Oh God, I thought, would I ever get there? I did and by the time I left, the crowd had thickened.

The scene outside was surreal. Inside, in his own little space, warmed by soft lights and the prayers of family and friends around him, William waited then gently slipped away and passed on to the Great Beyond.

My story yesterday said that William was the anonymous publisher/editor of the well-remembered ``Sick of the Times’’ that spoofed and satirized the excesses of the Marcos dictatorship through jokes, essays and illustrations. Okay, I will now confess that I was one of the cub writers. The rest will have to remain unknown. But why will I not reveal that PCGG head and recent Magsaysay Awardee Haydee Yorac, William’s UP law professor then, also wrote for ``Sick’’?

I still have copies of the second and third ``Sick’’ issues. I’m looking for the first issue because that was where, I think, the languorous ``The Autumn of the Patriarch’’ came out. It was a take-off from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel about an ailing despot whose regime and body were slowly being corrupted.

No one knew if an issue would be the last so it had, near the masthead, ``Volume One, Only One.’’

The June 1981 issue had for its banner ``Luzon mortgaged.’’ The lead paragraph: ``The US State Department today announced its acceptance of the Philippine government’s offer to pledge the island of Luzon as security for its mounting foreign debts which as of March 1981 stood at $13.1 billion.

``Two real estate agents from Beverly Hills have been dispatched by Washington to sign the deed of mortgage. They will be met at the airport by Foreign Minister and designer-jeans tycoon Carlo Roma and his beautiful wife…Later in the evening, the two guests will be feted on board the presidential yacht RPS Sex-sex-sex. The sleek boat was reportedly donated by a Japanese sex tour operator.’’

Meanwhile…``Angarbo Angarapal became the 14th president of the University of the Foolipines following a protracted tsu-tsu struggle between equally talented sycophants…’’

But the side-splitting stuff were the trivia, letters to the editor, ads, comics and announcements. ``Try New Improved Boycott. Helps Relieve Dictatorship Pains.’’ ``Gagong Lipunan Government Primer’’ lists the government ministries with their logos and services. ``Ministry of Public Information—government agency hostile to facts. Training ground of the country’s leading fiction writers.

``National Bureau of Investigation–otherwise known as the Malacanang Garden Society because of its penchant for planting evidence as in the case of Quintero and Climaco’’ and so forth and so on.

Ministry of Settlements was ``shittlements’’ and the New Society motto ``Higit sa Lahat Tao’’ became ``higit sa lahat tae.’’

Among ``Kasey Sakim’s 20 Greatest Hits of the New Society’’ were ``Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’’ by the NPA Concert Chorus; ``You Light Up My Life’’ by Ed Olaguer and the Matchsticks (remember the Light-a-Fire Movement?); ``First of May’’ by Lando Olalia and the KMU Orchestra; ``I’ve Got You Under My Skin’’ by Ferdie and the Lupus; ``Leaving on Jet Plane by the Dewey Dee and Fluvio Magpayo Duet. And many more.

The hit song ``We are the World (USA for Africa)’’ was rewritten as ``We are the World (USAid Appearka)’’.

Read any good papers lately? ``Read Daily Eggless, Bulshittin Today and Tame Journal.’’ A warning notice: ``Mag-ingat sa ASSO: The rabid truth about tutas in the Armed Forces.’’

When I thought my house might be ``visited’’, I kept my stack of ``Sick’’ copies in a very unlikely storage spot. When the military came to search for persons and publications, they found nothing.

Once a huffing William arrived somewhere saying he almost drove right smack into a military search operation somewhere with his car full of ``Sick’’. He was paper white.

The last issue, named ``Nineteen Eighty Sick’’, came out during the 1986 the snap elections. The headline: ``Imelda declines VP slot.’’ Below it was ``Psychic sees FM win.’’ On the last page was Marcos’ last will and testament.

``I, Ferdinand E. Marcos, of legal age, married to Imelda Romualdez, being of sound and disposing mind, do by these presents declare this to be my last will and testament which I have caused to be written in the King’s English, a language which is known to me and better left alone by my wife…’’

William was ready to go and, I was told, that at some point he even looked forward to that wondrous moment. ``God loves me,’’ he would say. But he loved his family so much he wished he could be around for Christmas. During our last face-to-face talk, long before he lapsed into a pain-free sleep, I asked him how he would describe his life. William answered: ``There was no space left unfilled.’’#