Ericson Acosta’s Journey from ‘Troublesome’ Artist to Political Detainee

As an editor of the Collegian, he helped put together issues that contained articles that paid tribute to the student paper’s reputation as an activist publication. He also led the publication of a literary folio, something that the Collegian had not done in decades. It was an anthology of poetry, fiction and essays that combined both art and social commentary and it’s been said that it became a benchmark for the rest of the campus press when it was their turn to release similar publications.

Ericson, however, was not satisfied with just writing or singing.  It was then that he started to organize students through musical and cultural activities. He helped establish the youth organization Alay Sining and go on to  write, direct and act in the first original production of the organization, “Monumento.”  It was a multimedia production on the life of proletarian hero Andres Bonifacio and the continuation of the unfinished revolution of 1896.

Palanca-award winning poet Jovita Zarate even once made a comment that Ericson was the genuine thing —  an artiste.

Acosta was involved in establishing Stand UP in UP Diliman.


By Ericson L. Acosta

Be wary you say
…of its claims
lest you waive art
to us millions unworthy
of taste and manner
lest you be christened
peddler of images
alien in form
pagan in content
lest your license
be forfeited
your ear for resonance
your feel for the sublime.

And so while you summon
the litany of worlds
your own words fashion
you annul my existence
and those of millions
whose narratives you say
betray poetic tone
make burlesque of beauty
and thus like scarecrows
set even the most heretic
muses scurrying back
to their sanctum of rules.

And so in recollecting
your epiphanies
you elude the void
which is my hunger
the famine of millions
the empty bowl of history.

And so with your eulogies
to passion
to rage against time
to pledge with life’s gift
you lull the birth
of noise
of revenge
of bloodshow
that shall feed millions
complete history
and perhaps spare poetry.

(Published in “F1”, the 1995 Literary Folio of the Philippine Collegian, U.P. Diliman, edited by Ericson L. Acosta)

Ericson wrote many songs for Alay Sining, collaborating with Reyes and other activist friends. Some of the songs began as poems he had written previously. He never played any instrument, but he was still able to put together melodies in his head. The chord making he left to friends who knew how to play the guitar. He had a good voice and he sang songs, a cappella, from different musical genres, from rock to alternative, to revolutionary.

PinoyWeekly editor Kenneth Guda includes Ericson in his list of favorites musicians. He cites  Ericson’s “At Nakalimutan ang Bayan” (his version of The Wuds’ “At Nakalimutan Ang Diyos”) in his blog entry  of all-time favorite songs.

Reyes said Ericson was also involved in establishing the student alliance Stand UP in the waning years of the ‘90s, becoming its chairman during its early and difficult years.

Other friends attest that he was like a “machine” when it came to cultural work – tireless, very productive, effective. He had a sense of humor that made it easy for people to like him, and even when pressure was mounting, he never lost his temper and instead controlled his stress by singing “stage-performance” level.

“It was during these challenging times that Stand UP  sought to establish itself as the progressive alliance of students. This period paved the way for the eventual victories at the turn of the 21st century. Ericson more than played his part in making sure that the student movement in UP grew stronger, organizing students who loved music and art and helping them embrace their roles as iskolar ng bayan,’ said Reyes.

“He served the people even when he was no longer in UP. He remained a dedicated cultural worker and activist. He brought his talents and skills closer to the struggling masses,” he added.

Worries of Torture

Ericson’s friends and former colleagues are all understandably worried that the military tortured him after he was arrested. It’s a well-justified worry, given the military’s reputation as the No. 1 human-rights violator in the country.

The AFP’s release of a picture showing Ericson looking pale, gaunt and tired but otherwise alive and in one piece have not allayed fears. One friend said that the soldiers could have beaten  Ericson in places covered by clothes, or where bruises will not immediately show.

Bayan’s Reyes said human-rights groups led by Karapatan  and a lawyer have already been able to visit Ericson in the Samar sub-provincial jail in Calbayog City.

“Whatever the real circumstances of his arrest may be, we his friends believe he is not a criminal and that he should be released. His safety must be assured and his human rights respected,” he said.

As of this writing, former colleagues in the Philippine Collegian and friends from Alay-Sining, Stand-UP and the LFS are putting together a plan of action to press for Ericson’s release. (

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