Satur C. Ocampo | Perceptions

By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star

Today it has been a full year since I began writing this weekly column on Aug. 21, 2010. In this piece — the 52nd in as many weeks – let me look back and share with you, dear readers, certain reactions to what I have written and my responses.

Until my 39th piece on May 21, 2011, when I began putting my email address at the end of the column, I wondered how readers may have reacted or responded to what I had written before. Save for a truly touching personal note, sent through courier to my residence. It came from National Artist F. Sionil Jose. He wrote:

“Your column about your mother moved me – it is seldom that I am impressed by columnists – I am much too old (and sometimes, even cynical) to really bother with the normal drivel which appears in our newspapers. Where there is sincerity, however, expressed simply and with great feeling – then you have it, a testament not only worth reading but remembering. Your paean to your mother is one.

“What surprised me is how you called her Inang. This is what I called my mother, too. Upperclass Ilokanos call their parents Papa or Mama, but not those of us who are down there.

“Now, here is a suggestion which your elegy on your Inang evoked. Why not write more about your personal experiences, those things you feel deeply about, those years in prison, in journalism, your youth. In a sense, your autobiography. It will be a political memoir too.”

I keep Sionil’s note in my personal file, as a reminder to heed his suggestion to write that memoir sometime soon. Tapping my chest, he reiterated his suggestion at the Philippine STAR’s 25th anniversary party.

Another piece that evoked a somewhat similar response was my August 6, 2011 paean (to borrow Sionil’s term) on the health boons of “green and delicious” indigenous Filipino vegetables. A reminiscence of how my 11 siblings and I had been nourished to adulthood in our farm home with meals consisting of food we raised, foraged and caught in the ricefields.

“I like your column today. More of that!” texted Pilipino poet-fictionist Domingo G. Landicho, a college classmate and a friend of over 40 years. Like Sionil, he advised me to write more on personal matters. He reasoned: “Masyadong political ang imahe mo. Sa amin tao ka muna, higit sa lahat. ‘Toka ko maghugas ng kinanan,’ hehe.” (He was referring to what I wrote — that in our household of two, my role in the kitchen is as dishwasher while my wife is the cook.)

Doming’s observation is valid. A number of the emailed reactions I have received tend to affirm that probably many people, who have not known me personally, perceive me to be too political — or rigidly ideological. This is not surprising, since my history of political activism, my past involvement in the Left underground revolutionary movement, and my several years as a militant political detainee under the Marcos dictatorship and after are publicly known.

Thus, someone (he requested that I should not mention his name) appreciated but was astonished over my piece on June 18, lauding Andre Agassi’s undertaking the construction of 75 charter schools for poor children in the US, funded by a $20-billion investment firm. He emailed (partly):

“… My mindset about you is that indeed your worldview is that of a communist, your economic philosophy is that of a central government monopoly in the name of laborers and peasants. And thus, private ownership of any means of production has no place whatsoever . . . (I) cannot imagine that a communist/socialist mind like you will write a column singing hosannahs to the benefit of private enterprise, such as what Agassi is doing…”

Then there is DP (his initials). After commending me for fighting the Marcos dictatorship, he caviled that my column pieces were “all the same . . . very predictable; they are anti-government, anti-military, and anti-American . . . Nakaka-umay na, nakakasuka na, at nakaka-irita na.” Why not write on China’s intrusion in the West Philippine Sea for a change, he nudged me.

After I wrote on the Chinese intrusion, urging that we stand firmly against China (June 25), DP was ecstatic: “Thanks for the article on China. That’s great. Give these [expletive deleted] hell.” He added: “I know you are a true nationalist. People say you are a hard-core communist. Maybe. But if you are a nationalist first, for me it does not matter.”

DP might have digested well what I wrote to him earlier:

“If you analyze my articles closely… you’ll note that I just don’t fulminate and rage, I just don’t accuse or condemn without basis. I cite facts and quotes from subject personalities and let these data and statements basically deliver, or back up, the message of my piece. I try to provide a deeper and broader perspective on the issues that are real and persistent in our national life, like human rights violations, among others.”

Oh yes, I have also received responses of appreciation and gratitude. Many say that I have helped them understand better the issues I wrote about.

Fair enough. Thanks, everyone — including my critics.

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