I got hold of the news on Christmas Eve.
“comatose daw c N. Atienza.”
“delikadong-delikado! nsa mary chiles hosp, gastambide st.”
“3x nawalan ng heartbeat. really bad.”
“prob is he has no immedi8 relatives. we nid to arrange ang bantay sa knya.”
I texted my friend Faji, who loves Prof. Monico Atienza, our Sir Nick, as dearly I do. He rushed from Marikina to fetch me up and we ran towards Mary Chiles. We were advised to go straight to PGH-ICU where he was to be transferred that day. We were silent all through out our FX ride, trying but failing in attempts at small talk. It’s been a while since Faji and I last saw each other. He blurted out, “Grabeng lungkot naman itong date natin.” I couldn’t agree more.
Naiyak ako noong una kong makita si Sir Nick. He looked frail and helpless. He is only 59 years old but he looked a lot older. He was unresponsive, oblivious to the all the activity and flurry around him. One of his doctors was my batch mate in UPIS and he kept asking me what happened. Ano’ng nangyari? What was his medical history? Did he undergo surgery before? What meds were he taking? Was I a relative? Could they possibly talk to any relative for decision-making matters?
While we were being interviewed by the doctors, Faji was concentrating on keeping track of intervals while pressing Sir Nick’s oxygen bag (manually!). He said something about how ironic it was that PGH’s ER has a new automatic sliding door while the essential facilities were obviously very dismal. The ER was jampacked. Some patients had to make do with makeshift beds/blankets. The doctors and nurses were visibly grumpy. I asked my batch mate-doctor, “Dito na kayo magpapasko?,” and he irritatingly replied, “Obvious ba?”. I refused to say another word to him after that except to inquire every once in a while of when they were finally transferring Sir Nick to the Central ICU.
It was Christmas Eve and we eventually had to go back to our respective homes for noche buena. But my misgivings about leaving Sir Nick that Christmas Eve was immediately assuaged when I saw batches and batches of his friends, comrades, co-teachers and students arrive at the hospital to take turns looking after him. The next day I texted Ka Boni Ilagan, one of Sir Nick’s closest friends and collegues from at the First Quarter Storm Movement, “May ngbbantay po b kay Sir 2day? Kc bka hapon p ako mkbalik.” To which he replied, “D nwawalan, 24 hrs.”
I wish to write more about Sir Nick – who he was, who he is, what he did, how precious he was/is to the national democratic movement. I’m still looking through my old files for the interview I did with him for the Philippine Collegian when I was in my 2nd year in college. I never finished the article (I was assigned to do a feature on Tatang instead) but that was when my frequent visits to Sir Nick first took place. He used to call me his ‘Email sweetheart’ because we regularly exchanged correspondences via email when I was in college. He also remained very supportive and in fact helped greatly in the success of major projects of the youth sector through the years – Saksi, Sigwa, Sandata for the anniversary of the publication of the PSR in 2000, the production for KM’s 40th anniversary in 2004, countless fora, cultural nights, editing for manuscripts and other materials important for the better understanding of the history of the national democratic youth movement.
(with Sir Nick and Ka Boni Ilagan at Ka Bayani Abadilla’s book launching last November)
My latest project with him was the launching of Dakilang Alay, a book featuring the lives and struggles of youth martyrs, a project of Anakbayan in cooperation with the FQSM. He wrote a blurb for the compilation..:
“Marami nang kahanga-hanga at natatanging Pilipino: Manny Pacquiao, Bata Reyes,Django Bustamante, Ronie Alcano; milyun-milyong mga OFW, mandaragat,nangibang-bayang trabahador at empleyadong Pilipino. Palagi nang itinutungayawng gobyernong Macapagal-Arroyo at ng di na mabilang na tambulero’t upahangumalahokan ng gobyernong itong walang-kasinsiba, walang-kasintiwali,walang-kasing-mapanupil, at walang-kahawig sa pagpapakatuta sa dayuhang imperyoat monopolyo ng walang habas na pagtubo at pinansyal na pandarambong. Gobyernongpatuloy na pumupuri’t nagbubukod sa mga “katangi-tangi,” “bayani o mala-bayani,””modelo at halimbawa” na kababanggit, ngunit walang habas na pumapaslang,nangingidnap, nagtotortyur, at nagkukulong sa mga aktibista at mga tunay natagapagtaguyod ng mga karapatang tao, repormang agraryo, karapatan ng mgamanggagawa at maralita ng lungsod; mga taong walang ibang pinangarap at nilayonmaliban sa tunay na demokrasya, kasarinlan, katarungan at pag-unlad ngmilyun-milyong sambayanang Pilipino. Sa mga pahina sa loob ng DAKILANG ALAY na ito, tuklasin ang mga dalisay na halimbawa ng mga nagpapakasakit,nagpapakabayani’t nagpapakamartir para sa bayan at sambayanan. Sila ang patuloyna didilig sa tigang na lupa ng kawalang-katarungan, kawalang-demokrasya,kawalang-pag-unlad, kawalan ng buhay at kalusugan at edukasyon—sa ilalim ngpasistang rehimeng US-Macapagal-Arroyo. Sa kanila ang aking impit na pagpupugayat walang katapusang paghanga’t pag-iipong lakas. Mabuhay kayo!” (Ok na ba ito, Sarah? Dadagdagan ko pa ba?)
..and was very excited for the next volume. “Next year uli. Basta, Sarah, kumatok ka lang dito sa kwarto ko kahit hindi araw ng konsultasyon.” And he smilingly added, “Pero itetext mo muna ako kung tungkol saan. Ang dami-dami mong pinapagawa sa akin. Sabi ko’y pakinabangan mo ako at tinototoo mo naman! Ikaw talaga, Sarah, oo!”
My wish for him this new year is that he doesn’t go through any pain anymore. He has endured enough pain in his lifetime. I just wish him peace and all the love from his friends, family and comrades. He deserves to be cherished and appreciated for everything that he has done for the youth sector and the Movement.
He is still in a coma but is miraculously a tad responsive than before. Whenever I visit him I make it a point to talk to him, knowing that he still can somehow hear me and understand what I’m saying. It broke my heart yesterday when I was talking to him and a lone tear flowed from the corner of his eye. “Sir, nandito uli kami. Gumising ka na magbebenta ka pa ng maraming libro natin next year.”
“Sir, si Sarah po ito uli. Naririnig mo po ba ako? Babalik na lang po uli ako, marami pang nakapila sa labas.” I squeezed his hand. He faintly squeezed back. I left the room with a tinge of hope in my heart. ###
Prof. Monico Atienza is still confined at the Central ICU of the Philippine General Hospital. He needs all the support he can get. For those who want to visit, look after him or donate their financial support, please coordinate with TASK FORCE MONICO. Contact Ka Boni (09189225162) or Ka Albert (09185082338) of FQSM.