Hi, Alex. I’m still in shock over the news that you’re gone. Jo (Abaya-Santos) had been giving me updates as to how you were doing, and for the last three days I’d been under the relieved impression that you were doing better and on the sure path to recovery.
You were always such a good friend to me, Alex. Another soul who loved the written word and reveled in it. When we first met in 2002, you were immediately friendly and open and willing to share all that you knew.
I remember the time when we emailed each other extensively about books and poetry and writing and art and whether it was okay to give alms to beggars (we agreed that it was — nevermind the warnings that many beggars were actually members of syndicates: why ignore the opportunity to give an old woman or a reed-thin child enough money for one meal? Why take the risk of turning away from someone who really needs help? Giving alms, we agreed, was the least that anyone could do.) I remember you saying how much you were interested in history– it was like an archeological dig to you, you said. Always something new to discover in the past, you said. History, you said, always has something to teach us.
And you wrote about your brother and how proud you were of him. And your mother, whom you deeply loved. You were a family that wrote and read and shared what you read and wrote and through literature and learning you made life bearable despite the unromantic economic challenges that came your way.
Alex. I used to call you the angry young man (sorry, but you were younger than me!) because of your stories about how you often had to stop yourself from butting in on strangers’ conversations and wanting to correct their wrong views and opinions.
“It’s hard having to listen to naive-bordering-on-the-stupid-remarks,” you said. So as you rode the bus — a long journey from San Pedro to Manila then on to Quezon City — you plugged your ears with music to avoid hearing (1) ‘stupid remarks from strangers’; and (2) ‘idiotic commentaries from so-called broadcast journalists during their radio shows’.
And who could forget your stories about wanting to punch certain people in the face? Politicians, military men, high-ranking government officials. It always cracked me up how you could sound so angry one moment and then be smiling the next.
Oh but you kept your temper, and what anger you felt you channeled into your writing, your poetry. You controlled your temper and all the world saw was you smiling, even if your written words always betrayed that under that smiling exterior was a young man who felt such fire, such compassion for the poor, such love for the Revolution.
Alex, you made me stop writing poetry. I bet you didn’t know that. Ay Kasama, sobrang husay at sobrang bilis mo kasing gumawa ng tula, talagang inggit ako sa iyo noon! It always took me at least a day to give poetic shape and form to feelings, and everytime you emailed me your latest work, I felt envious and annoyed at myself for not being as prolific as you. So I said, crap, why write poems about (1) poverty (2) justice (3) freedom (4) the dawn we are all waiting for when Alex Remollino has already written them?
It was always good to hang out with you during rallies and symposia. You were an attentive listener, and could always be relied on to repeat things one missed hearing. I remember you sometimes getting emotional during rallies led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas or the Kilusang Mayo Uno– you were then the angry young man whose compassion made him bleed out poems that raged against the injustice suffered by the poor and working people. You shook your head as you shared news you’ve heard, and a sharp curse would sometimes escape you as you wished for the death of exploiters, those who denied life to so many, many others.
The last time we saw each other was during the launch of my book ‘Crispin Beltran: the Life and Struggle of Ka Bel.’ You had helped edit the book and combed through the dates and places mentioned in it, and I will always be grateful for how kindly and swiftly you responded when I first sought your help. (You could always be depended on to help fellow writers, Alex– generous with your time and thoughts. How many of the comments on my blog entries came from you, kaibigan? You were always sharing your enthusiasms and ideas, and you were such a kindred spirit.)
After the launch, you walked up to me and gave me that smile I will never forget. We shook hands, and you asked me to sign two copies – one for you, and one for your fiancee Becca. I remember how shy you sounded when you said her name, and how your smile deepened. Ah, Alex – that smile of yours was the smile of a man in love! Becca is lucky to have had you, and that night when you made me sign a book in her name, it was clear how you felt that it was you who was lucky.
And now, well, Alex, you were 33, just barely 33, and you will always be 33. Had you won your last battle, I know you would have written more poems about your ordeal and say how our commitment to the cause of freedom and justice is more than enough reason to fight for life and go on living. You fought the good fight, Alex, and this is what we, all of us who love you, will remember. Your poetry, your compassion, your deep and unabiding sense of right and wrong made you who you were, and we are honored to have been your friends. You have left us, but your words will never leave us, and in that way you will always be with us all the same.
Alex. The Revolution was your muse, and you served her well. Pinakamataas na pagpupugay sa iyong alaala, manunulat at makata, aktibista at Kasama. Goodbye Alex, and thank you for the friendship!
For my friend and comrade Alexander Martin Remollino 1977-2010.