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Minekaniko ni Monico: Remembering Prof. Monico Atienza October 7, 2012

Posted by quiapo in Uncategorized.
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October 5 marked World Teacher’s day, I never really got to take the occasion seriously as I was too busy with work. Fortunately, I read Doc. Margie Holmes latest blog post for Rappler.com and you have to be impressed with the woman’s insights, not only is she a sex therapist, but she writes a great blog tackling the latest social issues, and her writing is full of  good, little known information.

On her latest piece for Rappler’s Move.ph section, Margie Holme’s was discussing Bongbong Marcos, Enrile and their attempts to revise history with their latest statements (a book in Enrile’s case) about their actions/roles on martial law. The blog mentioned Monico Atienza, who was tortured almost to death by soldiers.

He also happened to be my prof for PI 100, or Rizal.

I had his class during an impressionable time of my youth- I was 19 and balancing my youthful idealism and the reality that hyper-idealism won’t get me anywhere in the real world.  It was during the time of the impeachment trial of Joseph Estrada. I fondly remember Prof Atienza going to class during the first day of EDSA 2, almost yelling at us and saying something like “Bakit kayo nandito sa classroom? Doon ang klase natin sa EDSA! Hindi ito panahon ng lecture, ito ay panahon ng pag-kilos!” (why are you here in the classroom, when our class should be in EDSA. This isn’t a time for lectures, this is a time for action!). And with those words, any hesitation I had of joining the protest rallies had been removed.

After his short speech, I joined the rallies, all of them in fact. I was in EDSA from day 1 until Gloria was sworn in as president by Davide.  Whatever hesitation I had before (what if the venue was bombed, what if we got arrested, what if my my mom finds out and kills me, what about my other subjects, Ortigas was too far to go to on foot-and I was wearing leather shoes) was removed from my system by Prof. Atienza’s simple speech. Such was the power of that man and his voice, as it should be, for the man has experienced it all, and that speech just told me to man up and fight for a good government. That Gloria turned out to be a worse president should not diminish the efforts and ideals of college students that formed bulk of the crowd of EDSA 2. Estrada was corrupt, he had to go, and only Gloria was the logical successor.

But now back to Prof. Atienza.  I don’t know how Rizal was taught in other classes, but Prof. Atienza’s class wasn’t a class on history but a class on sociology. I still remember his lectures, not the actual discussions about what happened to Rizal, but how he related Rizal and our ancestors’ struggles for freedom against the Spanish, and how their struggles are still relevant in the present times. And when he discussed martial law and all the hardships that he personally suffered during that period, sometimes even holding back tears as he detailed the types of torture inflicted on him, how the government broke his psyche, it sent shivers down my spine.

To say that he was tortured during martial law is a gross simplification of what happened to him. If I recall correctly from his talks, Monico Atienza was repeatedly beaten to a bloody pulp, his body, especially his head and private parts were hit with steel pipes and 2 x 4 wooden blocks, his testicles electrocuted, he was molested, starved, emotionally and psychologically tortured… every method done to break a man’s will. And in fact, it did break his will for a time as he confessed to our class. And this happened all because he was against Marcos’ oppressive rule.

After Prof. Atienza was released from imprisonment, he went back to UP and if I recall correctly, he was allowed to teach while he was still completing his much delayed undergrad studies. His post-revolutionary life was spent mostly in the university, teaching subjects like PI 100. He was even famous for being a prof that was a sure guarantor of student loans for students that he knew. It was just sad that not all the students paid their loans, and thus some of the unpaid loans were deducted from his salary.

Personally, I knew Prof. Atienza as a very simple person, he was always reflective, he spoke softly in class but was prone to raising his voice and being animated when he was very engaged in discussion. Some thought he was a little grouchy, but I never saw that in my limited time as his student. Or perhaps I was also close to someone in pain and thus understood his occasional moodiness , as he reminded me of my grandfather who was suffering from a terminal illness also around that time. My grandfather taught me the horrors of World War 2, Prof. Atienza taught me the horrors of Martial Law.

On a lighter note, I also remember that he somehow lost my term paper, and he was humble enough to talk to me after class, ask me if I submitted mine, admit his mistake and ask me to resubmit my paper. Not all profs would do that, in fact, some professors would’ve given me an automatic 5 for that and would just assume that I did not submit my paper.

Prof. Atienza and his lectures are some of the big reasons I’ve been getting into online arguments all over the internet about martial law and the Marcoses. While the youth is currently being poisoned into thinking that martial law was a great time for our country, especially by well funded but baseless Youtube videos done by the likes of pinoy monkey pride, and by a renaissance of Marcos supporters (that I fondly call the neo-loyalists), I’ll always oppose those views. I’ll always see martial law as the biggest tool that was used by the Marcoses and their cronies to stay in power, to enrich themselves at the expense of the country, to beat the rest of the country into submission via their dictatorial rule, and to justify all the human rights violations they inflicted.

I was never too close with Prof. Atienza, although I did enjoy his lectures and the small chats we had after class. However, he was one of the professors that left a big impression on me. And with this blog let me honor his memory. Belated Happy Teacher’s Day Sir! May you rest in peace.