Jo-Jo’s eulogy could’ve been repeated for every friend he lost. “Our cause is so deeply compromised and our struggle so far from over that the Philippines might’ve been better off if we’d simply loved one another.”
“Are you aware of the plight of the peasant? The victim of oppression? Of a system, in which only nine percent of the land is owned by the people who work it? Of a people who have to borrow from their landlord rice that they planted and harvested in order to feed their families? It had to have been bad for them to abandon a legal, parliamentary struggle. President Roxas relied on an iron fist policy.”
“Then came the insults, and at the same time the US played a role. And meanwhile, this idealist who some call a fool sits in a maximum security cell and is aware for his crimes, if convicted, whether he’s judged fairly or not, he could be sentenced to death.”
“But how would you know, if you weren’t there, seeing friends suffer and die…. the indignity of a mass grave…. and summoned to this…. back to our camp and the fresh grave of a lover, of those who never had a chance once we abandoned them…. will anything I say ease the pain? The real injury was, that some people interpreted my dissention and my hostility to mean that I embraced Communism, worshipped as an idol Marx, but nothing could’ve been further from the truth.”
“We needed to keep close track of our enemy’s movements. We were in the middle of the darkest days of our struggle. More than anything else the support of the people kept us going. What were the mistakes that led to the loss of friends and orphaned children?
“My girl’s death was only one of many deaths. Filomena died during a fierce fight in a sugarcane field. Even before the full impact of the loss hit me, I had had enough. And yet, “I didn’t dare surrender. To give teeth to discipline, before I could surrender, I would’ve been shot.
“As things stood, we had to compromise people who weren’t directly involved. While hiding in a barrio, they gave us a dance and entertainment, which was impossible to conceal. We bought bread and other things and paid the poor for all the rice, the vegetables and the fruits we could carry. We knew we exposed law-abiding and peaceful citizens. It not only cost them their freedom but crops, houses, and property, and too often also their lives. It was a policy of madness that led to an all out war.”
“As an American (since I still describe myself as one), I can be critical of my country. Long ago I stopped being an observer. I’ve seen human heads bobbing in rivers. Sirs, many of my comrades were shot in the back. The government, while impertinently announcing that I was dead, kept looking for us and warned people not to aid any bandit without risking execution.”
“Evidence at the camp confirmed what we heard on the radio. We found, however, little evidence of the resistance we all expected. We dug the graves by hand. I grieved as I dug. I was knocked off my feet by the outrage. After burying the remains, we said a few words and sang the Filipino national anthem as a commemoration.”
“Oh my love, hear my cry, without thee….”
Instead of complaining, Jack accepted his bride. He came to adore Anna for her beauty and poise. He thought he could make a good husband; and with emancipation, Anna blossomed. She wore a veil and a long white dress with a train ten yards long.
Now that she could do what she wanted, Anna set out to prove that her husband couldn’t tie her down either. She felt equal to him. The dowry Jack paid the bride’s mother, as usual, was smaller than what he gave her father. He compensated them both for raising Anna.
Jack never wanted to make trouble for his wife and her family. “I can’t bare to think that I could’ve been even partially responsible.”
Letters written to his parents in 1957 describe the tiny love of Jack’s life. He also wrote about Filipinos in connection with himself. “The more I’m with Filipinos the more aware of my own arrogance I become. To a great extent they’re too docile and imitate us too much. Nothing beneficial can come from it.” And he always wrote about keeping busy but omitted most of the details. ” I know you’ve talked to God about me. Mother, if I didn’t like the people here, I wouldn’t stay. So don’t worry about me.”
His hope was, “that the impossible was indeed possible: not that the world would ever be really ready for even a distorted expression of universal fairness. That will never occur until ample assurances are given that all men and women will receive the dignity they deserve.” And his letters would end with an emphatic plea for understanding and are just as poignant today as they were then.
Who would’ve thought Jack would’ve taken such a stand? It was pretty clear that he never sided with the masses; but how could he have betrayed his father-in-law? There came a point when he had to act; but did he afterwards hold himself accountable. Jack definitely bought into democracy. How could he have opposed his country then? Neither Jo-Jo nor Dr. Ramos could indoctrinate him.
During the time they spent on the mountain together, Jack and Jo-Jo became close friends. They had more in common than they expected. A shared love for basketball was one important factor. Everybody knew that come March nothing stopped a runny-nosed kid from Indiana from shooting baskets and getting all juiced up over someday playing for the U. Suppose Jo-Jo had lived on the margins of society in the Midwest and owned a motorcycle he loved to ride or suppose Jack grew up under the thumb of missionary parents in the Philippines, how different were they really?
So thoroughly they shared experiences, life in Indiana on one hand, in Central Luzon on the other that barriers that might’ve existed broke down. Sharing assured their friendship. Not a Huk, but a fellow American was what Jack saw, when he allowed himself to forget where he was. A welcoming smile helped him almost forget that he had entered the enemy’s lair.
But how could you compare Indianapolis with Cabanatuam? Paved streets to dusty, dirt ones? The Indy 500 was not just an automobile race, not just speed and danger, but a huge television event. Jo-Jo couldn’t have known how it felt to be a spectator and become tearful when thirty-three amazing machines battled for position going into the first turn.
Talking about General Douglas MacArthur, as to why he personally sailed with the fleet during the entire Inchan invasion: he never intended to let his six sitting-duck destroyers retreat. “If not victory, yet still hopeful; if not absolutely defeated, yet realistic, and counting the days….” this was how Jo-Jo tried to explain how he felt. He said that he wouldn’t give up. He could yet bask in his idealism. Ideas often dismissed as rhetoric kept hope alive. His stubbornness, from the “pacto de retroventa” to the dispossessed peasants wasn’t bullshit to him. But the great discussions the two had pointed them in opposite directions.
Jo-Jo’s keen interest in the United States and Jack’s incessant questions about Communism and the Huks seemed inconsistent with each of their orientation. It illustrated confusion that too often led to mistakes. While foraging for food in torrential rain, what did Jo-Jo want to talk about? “From where does Marlon Brando get the courage to play a role without a script? ‘On the Waterfront’ (another example)…. tense and tough….in that story lurks a overbearing sense of wrong.” Conversations that were for Jo-Jo essential.
The crackle of popcorn and the smack of bubble gum, as part of movie going, had long ago reached the bigger cities of the Philippines. Hollywood shaped many of Jo-Jo’s ideas about America, and checking them out became an obsession for him.
In the Paramount picture “The Lawless,” a mob wrecks Carly’s presses.” For both of them, this journey was never completed; nor did they ever have a coherent picture of each other.