Ted Palacio (Part III): From a Brother’s Point of View

Posted on March 20, 2008

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[This blog has a new domain: http://philippineaffairs.com/]

Written by Roderick T. Palacio
Cartoon by Makuapo ni Beribentot
As a brother who resides abroad, the past week has been very difficult for me trying to keep track of what’s going on back home. I’m trying to balance the worries of being concerned about my brother’s safety and being concerned about the mental and emotional well-being of the other members of my family, especially my parents who are not used to this kind of stress and public attention. That is why, I found extreme joy upon learning from Atty Lil that several groups of people have come forth and extended their help in ensuring the hasty release of Ted. I tried to find more information about those people and I stumbled on your blog.

I have to say that the comments here enlightened me to a side of my brother’s personality that has never occurred to me. I learned some bits that he has always kept from our family, not exactly as a secret but on an “need-to-know” basis. And I have to say it warms my heart to know that Ted has touched a lot of people’s lives in a positive way.

Ted and I were not that close as brothers. I guess that goes the same for my other siblings. We grew up disconnected to each other and we ended up more attached to our friends in school. We used to be a lot closer when we were just kids because we have a lot in common. We were just a year and a half apart in age and 2 years apart in school grade. I’m the big brother who would always tag along my younger brother after school on a bike and play with other kids. We shared a passion for reading. We nurtured this, unashamedly, by being addicted to renting comics! I also remember I used to drag him with me to the old PNR station (we live in Magsaysay) in Triangulo, watching trains and travelers. It was our favorite pastime on Saturdays. I got so guilty one time when we came home and he caught a fever because of staying too long in the sun.

Ted has always been frail as a kid, even as a grown man. He has asthma as a toddler, he has travel sickness, and he developed an extreme case of myopia (grade of 700+), which I would myself be inflicted with at a later age. It was because of these weaknesses that our parents and elders used to go easy on him when he was a kid, an affection I would immaturely label as favoritism. He was also, undoubtedly, the brightest kid in our bunch, earning him school honors and the affection of my grandparents. When we started growing hairs and all, we started to drift apart, although physically, we were so close because we slept in the same bed. He started to get drawn to his high school friends and me got drawn on my own set of friends. You have to understand we aren’t the type of the ideal close-knit family who talks a lot to each other. I don’t know how it came to that, I’m still scratching my head until now, but that’s another story. Nonetheless, by the time we finished high school, we were so apart that we ended up fighting with each other a lot about doing household chores and all.

One of my fondest memories of my bro is the way he influenced my inclination to music. When we were in high school, there were only about two FM stations in town providing us the latest in music trends. Needless to say, I have such a bland taste in music then, limited to the likes of Air Supply, Barry Manilow and other cheesy balladeers. When we got our first Betamax video player, Ted brought home one day a video tape of a live concert of an “obscure” band. I berated him for it, saying it’s music for the drug addicts. One day, I was alone at home and bored so I figured I’d check out the tape, after all. The concert blew me away. It was like an epiphany of sorts. Right then and there, I was converted to a rock and roll music fanatic. The tape was “Under a Blood Red Sky”. The band was U2. Needless to say, I would go on to become one of U2’s ardent fan. We share that preference til today.

When I went to college, it was around the time when he started to show real potential in the game of chess. It was our dad who taught us this game and the three of us used to spend weekends playing against each other when we were kids. At the early stage, I have always beaten him and my dad occasionally but I got bored so I never took off from there. But he had other plans in mind. He was truly fascinated with the game and he followed it through by reading books and sparring with other people. That’s the time when he got nominated to represent the school in regional competitions. He was an almost permanent fixture in the Chess Center in Plaza Quezon. My parents didn’t take this as a positive but I’ve always felt truly proud when I would pass by the Chess Center and see my bro battling it out with the Torre’s, the Fischer’s and the Kasparov’s of Naga City.

When I graduated college, I went straight to review school in Manila, and landed a job shortly after the board exams. At this point, I lost touch of my brother’s travails. As I would only be in Naga for a few days on vacation, we seldom had the chance to talk. All I knew then was that he has developed a penchant for poetry. I read some of his works and was genuinely impressed. Those works showed early hints of his social awareness. I also noticed from his collection of books at home a fascination in developing artificial intelligence systems on computers. Interspersed among these collections are the odd books on socialism. I knew then that he has a great life ahead of him so I took things for granted.

At some point, I got a call one day from my dad about an event that would change our lives forever. He told me Ted confessed to him about leaving the teaching job in Ateneo and wanting to join an organization helping displaced farmers and oppressed laborers. He never told us in detail the nature of his work but it almost always involved him being out of contact for months. I was working all that time in Manila but I ended up coming home more often than him. I would only get bits and pieces of news that he is involved in mass actions.

This was a difficult stage especially for my parents, who are apolitical and devout Catholics. I guess my dad never approved of Ted’s principles but he learned the hard way to let go and just let him be his own. My parents would seldom ask me to talk my brother out of his fixation to activism, but I’ve always maintained to them, let him be. Aside from the fact that I really cannot get on a straight talk with my brother about personal choices, another thing that stopped me is I’m a silent supporter of his works. I see in him the things that I wish I could have done. I have the passion in my mind and my heart, I cried for the oppressed people too, I sang the songs for the masses, but I never did anything to actually do something about it. But with Ted, he made things happen. He made up for his physical weakness with the stoutness of heart and mind. There’s one line in one of Buklod’s masterpieces that always remind me of him…”buksan ang iyong puso, huwag ka nang magsawalangkibo; pagluha’y di sapat, ang kailangan ay pag ganap…”

I’ve now been in Thailand for more than a year and only had the chance to visit home once. The last time I spent time with Ted was more than two years ago when he spent a few weeks in my old rented house in Laguna. Last week, when my dad called me to break the news of his arrest, it didn’t come as a shock. What came as a jolting blow was the news that came out in the internet. I always knew he was involved in mass movements but I will never believe that he is involved in the armed struggle.

To his friends and supporters, please join our family in continuing to pray for his well being. My family was discouraged from getting in direct contact with him (for Ted and my family’s sake) so it’s only made it doubly hard for us. Nonetheless, we take comfort that Atty Lil told him that his family and friends are all behind him on this one.

Thank you very much.

Regards,

Roderick T. Palacio
Rayong, Thailand

(for comments, you may email me at : rpalaci7@ford.com)

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