Thursday, July 27, 2006


Just out of the presses is “u.g.: An Underground Tale” by Benjamin Pimentel which is about “the journey of Edgar Jopson and the First Quarter Storm Generation.”

More than 15 years ago, Pimentel came out with a book on Jopson, the young leftist leader in the underground movement who was shot and killed while being chased by the military. Two editions have since been printed but Pimentel, feeling that more needed to be told, recently came out with a more complete story. And so “u.g.”, the book, emerged from the underground, so to speak.

For total political innocents, UG means underground, or that political movement (armed and unarmed) that operated clandestinely at that time and worked toward revolutionary change in society and were therefore considered threats to the status quo. They were called subversives by the establishment. That is my loose definition of it. It still applies today.

“UG” is now part of the leftist jargon, like “mob” (for mobilization), “PO”, “CS”, “DPA”, “H”, “kasams”, “oryentasion”, to name a few. (Hey, someone should do a compilation of the undergroundspeak of the martial law era.)

Anyway, “u.g.” still tells the same story of a young man from a rich family, educated at the Ateneo, and gave up his life of privilege in order to pursue his dream of helping the poor and the powerless by struggling to change the oppressive structures in society. That was what the old edition “Edjop: The Unusual Journey of Edgar Jopson” was about. What “Edjop” did not have “u.g.” now has. “u.g.” includes the nuances of Edjop’s struggle.

Pimentel sent me an email from San Franciso saying: “For example, I found out that Edjop was aware of and was seriously disturbed by the allegations that the movement was responsible for the Plaza Miranda bombing. Also the names of some of the characters are now included so it is now easier to follow the story. In the first book, I could not even use the real UG names at the request of the interview subjects.”

Pimentel’s “u.g.” has an afterword by Gloria (Joy) A. Jopson-Kintanar, the widow of Jopson, and herself once part of the underground. Joy later married another communist underground bigwig Rolando Kintanar. They were both captured and briefly jailed in the 1990s. Kintanar was later assassinated by his own communist comrades.

“u.g.” also has a main foreword by former Sen. Jovito R. Salonga, himself a victim of the Plaza Miranda bombing, plus another foreword (by Edicio de la Torre) and another afterword by Ramsey Clark, both from “u.g.’s” other former incarnation (“Rebolusyon: A Generation of Struggle”).

I tell you, this book keeps evolving and reincarnating. Well, more and more information are finding their way above ground, shedding light on so many things that were once in the dark or rarely spoken about.

The book is instructive for both political virgins and die-hard ideologues as it traces Edjop’s transformation from being a student activist to a communist cadre and revolutionary. But this is not just one person’s story. As Jose “Pete” Lacaba notes, “This is not just the biography of one person; it is the history of a generation.”

Indeed, as one follows the personal life of Jopson, one also reads about political developments, debates, skirmishes, decisions and movements around him and in the underground that make their impact above ground. As these are played out, the characters take on real faces and personalities, and as Pimentel said, in this latest edition, he was able to give real names.

Pimentel deftly tells the story and keeps it moving with incidents, dialogs and debates between persons. He also does not fail to tell humorous and touching anecdotes that say a lot about the characters, Jopson especially.

Here are excerpts that I picked randomly:

His friends called Edjop “Charlie Brown,” after the wide-eyed comic strip kid who was always thinking of ways to improve the world……

“Do you know of Christians who joined the Communist Party?” he asked. “How did they resolve their belief in God?”

De la Torre said he knew quite a few. “But I said for the most part their belief in God was not the principal question. When they were invited to the Party, the CPP did not ask them first if they belief in God or not. For a lot of them, those who believed continued believing, and those who didn’t believe did not find any reason to assert that.”

“Edjop did not pick up the question too much,” De la Torre recalled. “But occasionally I would catch him at other meetings, look at me with a bit of a question. I also gave him some materials to read. The whole issue of religious belief in a revolutionary movement, particularly in a Communist movement which includes atheists, is a very difficult question…But it is ultimately a very personal question. I don’t know how Edjop resolved it, or whether he felt any need to resolve it.”

Aling Osang’s newest “relative” was called Gusting. San Roque’s residents could see that he was definitely not of the New People’s Army—not a gerilya…He was also too clumsy to be a gerilya. He often stumbled while walking on the levees. Gusting was not much of a farmer either. He planted the seedlings too close to each other.”

Published by Anvil, “u.g.” is now in bookstores. Author Benjamin Pimentel is a graduate of the Ateneo, UP and the University of California in Berkeley. He works at the San Francisco Chronicle and is co-anchor of Balitang America on the Filipino channel.