Boredom, stupidity, vanity, even search for a meaning came with my youth. Too much time did not come with it, though. I had to work for my keep.
I was a student leader during the days of unrest. I threw bottles on buses during transport strikes, attended a few teach-ins, led a demonstration to skip class(and got severely punished for such), sympathized with the radicals and thought Mao’s little Red book and Amado Ma. Guerrero’s Philippine society and Revolution were cool and Amado K. Hernandez’s Isang Dipang Langit was my generation’s Huling Paalam.
It was in one of those teach-ins when doubts started unraveling the romanticism of a Communist revolution. I asked how all the rosy things that they promised could be achieved and how the proletariat could rule. How the dictum “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” would be a reality. All the answer I got was “makibaka, huwag matakot”.
Then Marcos declared Martial Law. There was media silence that day yet life at the “palengke” moved just like before. I called several former classmates in high school wondering if they knew anything. Nobody did. Strangely, I felt calm. I was never part of KM, SDK, NUSP and other radical student groups. I had nothing to worry about.
A few days later, the Metrocom descended in Galas and bulldozed the whole squatters area to the ground. The tattooed panty-wearing gang bangers of my neighborhood who used to binge drink alcohol right on the streets, harass passers by and stage mortal combat with knives, bolos and home made “panas” were gone. Suddenly, the “palengke” was peaceful, even quiet when curfew came. Perhaps, more than anything else, discipline was what the Filipinos needed.
School resumed soon after with visible order on the streets. People lined up at jeepney and bus stops, in banks, in restaurants. People waited for their turn. Civility and respect were imposed. If only the people inculcated such into their being.
Personal handicap and God’s gifts made me take the PMA entrance test on December of 1972. Passing that started the trek I would always be thankful for, one I would do all over again.
During the NP screening interview, Dr. Dayan asked why do I want to enter the Academy. Without batting an eyelash, I said, to serve my country, sir.
I was seventeen.