Source: Humans of Pinas

““Take off your shirts and pants,” was all I can remember of the woman soldier’s words inside the small room after the gate. I was 16. Demeaning as it was, we obliged because we were a few minutes away from seeing my father, Joe Burgos.

It was more than a week since the military closed down our WE Forum newspaper and Dads, together with other columnists and staffers were jailed at Fort Bonifacio. With me was my mother, Edita, while my brothers were “searched” in a separate room.

That was no place for children but we had to be there. Aside from wanting to see our father, our parents had a reason. We had to divert the attention of the listening soldiers. (Of course, the room was tapped. Luckily, there were no CCTVs yet at the time.)

We were ushered to a room, somewhat like a receiving room, and left alone by the soldiers. After the hugs, kisses and “we’re proud of you, Dads”, we had to do our thing.

My brothers started chasing each other, jumping up and down the sofa while we all loudly laughed and shouted. Dads and Moms started to talk in hushed voices. Dads had written an important note that we had to deliver to his lawyers. Since we only had a few minutes,

Moms hurriedly tucked the note inside her shoe after we noticed that the soldiers did not ask us to take off our shoes in the screening room.

On our way out, we had to hold our breaths as we stripped again while the soldiers searched us. True enough, we had our shoes intact. I believe it was a combination of prayers and luck that we were able to slip that note out.

Looking back, it seemed such a brave thing to do for children aged 12-16. But then again, we always did things as a family.

Because of the situation, all the members of our family had to do our share in publishing WE Forum. As kids, we had to help sell newspapers on the streets of Luneta Park.

As a teen, I had to help in proofreading and typesetting, while my brother had to help deliver the newspapers to the more receptive news boys before dawn. My mother had to take care of the finances and the administrative side of publishing.

While many of those resisting the Martial Law of Marcos were forced to go underground, we were in the foreground putting up an opposition paper. Dads and Moms openly discussed issues to us at dinner or family time.

They believed that the public had to know the truth. And we, as their children, had to know. It was not a time to be cowed into silence because we were on the side of truth and justice. After all, our tagline was “to seek and live the truth and share a vision.””

Photos by JL Burgos, from the film Portraits of Mosquito Press