Ericson’s friends said he could have been in a different field or in the mainstream, working as a playwright or a screenwriter and living a comfortable life. But in the end, they said, he chose and embraced life together with the people and fighting together with them in their struggle.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Friends, family members, comrades and colleagues gathered on the night of December 7, remembering Ericson Acosta who was brutally killed by the Philippine Army in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.
Testimonies from his friends showed how Ericson transformed from a happy-go-lucky guy to being a student leader, and later a peace consultant who chose to serve the marginalized.
Those who paid tribute also read poems and dedicated songs not only for him but also for his slain wife, Kerima Tariman.
“Ericson always had it in him to be an activist,” said Ina Silverio worked with Ericson at the Philippine Collegian.
“He was always kind and compassionate. He cared about what was going on about other people and their lives. It started there I think. But he went on visits to the urban poor communities facing challenges together with progressive organizations. These communities confronted challenges like threats of demolitions or private take over. He saw and learned things that he could do more than just write about. And I think that is where he decided that he could do more,” Silverio added.
Ericson as ‘thief’
Lawyer Reggie Ukol, Ericson’s classmate in UP and org-mate at the Amnesty International, described Ericson as a thief.
“Because he stole our hearts when we’re org-mates by making us all laugh,” said Ukol.
Ukol narrated how Ericson stole the name tags of viands in the CASAA food court only to use it as his name tag. “He would say, ‘today I’m menudo and the next day he’ll be pork adobo,” said Ukol, adding that Ericson also took signages or the reserved signs in restaurants.
Ericson also managed to get a book from the reserved section of the university’s main library, said Ukol, during an earthquake. “The bookshelves were falling down and we were scampering already. Eric did not go out immediately. He went to the reserved section in the library, got a book, placed it in his jacket, proudly showed and said ‘I got my reserved book now’,” said Ukol.
Xandra Bisenio who also worked with Ericson in the Philippine Collegian had the same memory about Ericson when he gifted her a book.
“I don’t know how the book that we both wanted in the gallery of old classics in the bookstore got into his jacket after we found out that it was expensive,” said Bisenio in Filipino. She added that during that time, they both had no money to buy the book.
Friends also fondly remembered their jamming sessions with Ericson, be it in the Vinzon’s Hall or elsewhere.
Michael Ac-ac, former editor in chief of the Philippine Collegian, said they were like brothers – blues brothers.
“We both love to play the blues. I play the harmonica and then he sings. We always jam with friends and with the staff of Kule (Philippine Collegian) until the police would come and we would run. Maybe it was part of being young,” Ac-ac said in Filipino.
Then student leader Renato Reyes Jr. also jammed with them. “In our jam sessions, Nato would challenge songs that we wrote. And eventually our jamming sessions changed. It was no longer for fun or getting drunk. There came a time when we sang in a school activity. One time we also joined a hunger strike for the release of political prisoners. We were called ‘pangkat kawayan’ because we got so thin (because of the hunger strike),” Ac-ac said.
Ac-ac said that from then on, Ericson’s journey changed. He was among those who founded Alay Sining, an organization of artists and cultural workers based in UP-Diliman. Ericson and Reyes also established a political alliance STAND UP, Ac-ac said.
Dong Abay also remembered jamming with Ericson at Vinzon’s Hall. Abay was a member of the group Patatag then and Ericson was still part of the Philippine Collegian.
“I met him when he was at the Philippine Collegian, we had common friends. We often discussed national issues, about student life and life in general and our aspirations for the society,” said Abay. He sang Patatag’s Masdan O Yahweh by Patatag and dedicated it to Ericson and his wife, Kerima.
Silverio said Ericson had lived a full and amazing life full of poetry, music and great love.
“When we’re young we do not know what we are going to be, only what we want to be. Given how Ericson’s youth went, or at least how it went based on what we saw – his friends in Kule in the mid-90s, no one could have predicted that he would become a true blue honest to goodness revolutionary,” she added.
Choosing the path less traveled
Ericson’s friends described him as someone who had a variety of talents. Aside from singing, writing poems or songs, Ericson also painted and did graphic arts. In 1996, he also wrote and directed a multimedia production called Monumento, which was about the life of Andres Bonifacio. He played as Bonifacio in the production to which his friends said he acted beautifully.
“Ericson was a very good actor and director. We only faced a challenge during the production because he is too thin, he has to wear layers of clothes just to put on some weight. But it turns out, he looked like Emilio Aguinaldo,” said Ninia dela Cruz who was with Ericson during their Alay Sining days.
Ac-ac, meanwhile, said with his massive skill set, Ericson could have been in a different field or in the mainstream, working as a playwright or a screenwriter and living a comfortable life. “But in the end he chose and embraced life together with the people and fighting together with them in their struggle,” said Ac-ac.
After the Department of Justice junked the trumped-up charges against Ericson in 2013, he became part of the peace process as a consultant to the drafting of Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).
“Speaking for myself, the story of how Ericson’s humanity evolved and that trajectory his life took are the stuff of novels and biographies. He was such an interesting character. Intelligent, kind, artistic and gifted. Yet simple in his wants and needs. Ericson is simple, as long as he was able to sing, paint or read a book, he would be happy,” Silverio said.
Meanwhile, his son Emmanuel or Eman said that he understood his parents’ choice to be with the masses.
“They have explained it to me that their family is not only us but also the oppressed masses. I understand that and I didn’t feel any resentment against the masses for that,” said Eman.
Eman also shared that he is his father’s number one critic.
“I always tease him because he doesn’t know how to play the guitar. When he writes songs, he only uses one chord. I call him the ‘one chord wonder’,” Eman said.
Eman also teased his father whenever he missed a note. “But I admire him. I admire his pieces especially now when I look at the lyrics of his songs. It was excellent and I appreciate it more,” he said.
Eman said he is proud of the decision of his parents. “They knew that their songs and poems are not enough, that is why they chose to live with the masses and I am proud of that,” he said.
Eman added that because of his parents, he knew, at a young age, that what they were fighting for is just.
“I hope that all of us here will continue the good fight,” Eman said.
The night ended with members and alumni of Alay Sining collectively singing Ericson’s song, Balang Araw. (RVO)