“Ericson Acosta was physically in prison but his creative imagination and his political resistance soared above dismal conditions and made him free.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — A yearning for freedom reverberated in the halls of the University of the Philippines (UP) main library in the late afternoon of April 16.
Artists gave life to the text of “Mula Tarima Hanggang” written by a former political prisoner, activist and writer Ericson Acosta.
“Mula Tarima Hanggang” is a collection of Acosta’s poems which he wrote during his college years at UP Diliman, his years in Samar as a peasant advocate, until he was arrested and imprisoned for trumped-up charges in February 2011. Acosta was eventually released in January 2013.
The launch of Acosta’s book gathered together former political prisoners, human rights advocates, artists and writers. The occasion echoed the demand to release all political prisoners in the country, now numbering to over 500, according to human rights alliance Karapatan.
Chikoy Pura of the rock band The Jerks set music to Kawayanan, a poem about a family’s struggle for land.
Actor Anthony Falcon performed Well, a poem where Acosta used the persona of jail authorities speaking about Rolando Panamogan, an ailing political prisoner at the National Bilibid Prison.
Multiawarded screenwriter Rody Vera read Acosta’s translation of two poems from Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh’s Prison Diary.
UP professor Roselle Pineda and rapper BLKD performed songs written by Acosta some 20 years ago for Alay Sining, a youth cultural group based in UP Diliman. These songs have not been recorded but have been passed on from one generation of activists to another.
Acosta, together with Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), on the guitar and harmonica, performed three poems from the collection. Usok is a poignant poem written in prison. Astig is a poem dedicated to Tirso “Ka Bart” Alcantara, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. Mula Tarima Hanggang is a pledge to continue serving the people amid difficulties.
The performances were mere teasers to a hundred gems from the great poet.
Jose Maria Sison, in his Introduction to the book, encapsulated Acosta’s prison experience. “Acosta was physically in prison but his creative imagination and his political resistance soared above dismal conditions and made him free.”
Former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, himself a former political prisoner, said Acosta’s book is an addition to the prison literature in the Philippines. Ocampo said many political prisoners since the 1970s had turned to writing and painting to sustain their spirit.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, criticized the Aquino administration for denying the existence of political prisoners. She called on everyone to visit the political prisoners in various detention cells in the country.
Acosta dedicated his book to Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria, both NDFP consultants detained at Camp Crame. The book cover is patterned after the profile of Alan Jazmines, another NDFP consultant detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. Indeed, it is a reiteration of the call for freedom from political persecution. It is a reaffirmation of the commitment to struggle for genuine freedom and democracy.