Desaparecidos, the national organization of the families of the disappeared, and Pagbutlak, the official student publication of the University of the Philippines Visayas College of Arts and Sciences, will be book launching Pagtatagpo sa Kabilang Dulo: Panitikang Testimonial ng Desaparecidos in Panay this January 8 at the Training Room 1 of the Graduate and Continuing Education Building in the UP Iloilo City Campus.
As the present Editor in Chief of Pagbutlak, I am honored to be part of this momentous event. Not only does the book contribute to the promotion of Philippine literature and culture, it also raises awareness on human rights violations, which sad to say remains part of Philippine realities more than two decades after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship.
If 3,257 extrajudicial killings were committed in a span of two decades under the US-sponsored Marcos regime, 1,118 cases of extrajudicial killings were perpetrated under the Arroyo regime in a span of eight years.
Like political killings, making critical voices disappear has always been one way for a regime to silence opposition and perpetuate itself in power. Since 2001, more than 200 cases of enforced disappearances has been documented by the human rights alliance KARAPATAN. Pagtatagpo sa Kabilang Dulo: Panitikang Testimonial ng Desaparecidos is a collection of testimonials from the loved ones of those who disappeared under the Arroyo regime Marcos, Aquino, and Arroyo regimes.
Unlike in cases of extrajudicial killings where the victims or martyrs are clearly dead, those left by the disappeared find it harder to deal with the lost of their loved ones. Since the fate of the desaparecido is ambiguous, there is always a hope that maybe he or she would surface again. There is no real closure and this is what makes it harder to bear psychologically.
Filipino cultural critic Rolando B. Tolentino notes that the process of coming up with the book was more difficult than the usual title because the contributors’ writing for the book was also a process of confronting their demons, a farewell to the desaparecidos, a confession of sadness, a commitment to make the powers responsible for such inhumanities pay, and a promise that those who disappeared did not just vanish into oblivion.
But the work is not only written in memory of the disappeared. It is not only the remembrances of those left behind by the disappeared. For Tolentino, the book does not have a narcissistic bent. Rather, it is a writing that more importantly interrogates an unjust system that made their loved ones disappear. It is a writing that looks forward to a just and more humane society that respects human rights. ■