Nick tried to convince me that he wasn’t a political animal. He told me more than once that he was more interested in his studies than politics. He said he left demonstrating to other students, but after what I heard next I wasn’t quite sure what to think. “More concerned about securing his future,” was what he said with a smirk on his face, but … but from day one he made sure I knew he was a Maoist. On day one he showed me a copy of THE LITTLE RED BOOK he carried with him and we sat under a Chinese … a red Chinese flag and talked. And he said he wasn’t a political animal?
He said he didn’t have time. Time for what? Politics and demonstrating. Yet he had definite opinions about politics, about Marcos, and from day one claimed he was a Maoist. He said he was thinking about his future. His future? What future did a Maoist have in the Philippines? I wondered. He said he wanted to be a professor … a political science professor … a Maoist political science professor. What future did a Maoist professor have in the Philippines? And he wasn’t a political animal and yet he wanted to teach and gain tenure in the political science department.
I wondered about his trip to China, Red China. I don’t know how he swung it … a trip to Red China … how he got in and out … what lengths he had to go to. Remember China, Red China was considered an eastern piranha then and that the Philippines was aligned with the United States. Rather than be non-aligned or unaligned the Philippines was aligned with the United States and that was one of the main reasons for the demonstrations on the UP campus. And somehow smuggled THE LITTLE RED BOOK and a Red Chinese flag back into the country. A Maoist professor on the UP campus. A Maoist UP professor who wasn’t a political animal and who went to China, Red China as a student. What was with this guy? When professors tended to be conservative he thought he could be a Maoist professor! It didn’t make sense to me.
“Yeah,” he began, recalling his China trip, “they rolled out the red carpet.” I asked him if he had his picture taken with Mao. “No, it would’ve been too risky.”
“Did you meet him?”
“No. I didn’t even get close.”
“That’s too bad, a shame.”
“It all seems risky to me.”
“It was certainly risky considering how Marcos was consorting with the United States … suckering them all the time he was lining his pockets.”
And that was how I found out what Nick thought about Marcos. And he claimed he wasn’t a political animal. But it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that it didn’t make sense to me. I had my contact, and I made friends with him. From day one were friends.
And what I eventually realized was that it didn’t matter to me that he was a communist. It mattered to a lot of people, but it didn’t matter to me. It would’ve mattered to my folks, and I hadn’t forgotten that we were fighting to stop communism, and it was the second war we’d fight to stop communism. As an American it should’ve mattered … given all the blood that was lost … all the American blood that was lost it should’ve mattered. But here was a self-proclaimed Maoist, and we became friends.
Now if anyone were to ask me about it I would’ve told him or her the truth. I would’ve told them that I was following leads for a story. And what kind of story? An unbiased one because I hate propaganda. Nick may have been a communist, but he was my friend. And I needed Nick. And I’d use him. And we remained friends … remained friends … remained friends to the end. And if indeed Nick were a communist … a Maoist like he said … would it make what he told me any less reliable? I was a grown man. I could take it … accuse me of being a sympathizer and un-American, I can take it. I hated propaganda then, and I hate it now. I think I was grownup enough then to recognize propaganda and not let it get to me. And I’m not dead yet, which says I wasn’t on the wrong side. Yet I missed a hell of lot, but in reality I wouldn’t have gotten a complete picture anyway. As an American, I couldn’t have gotten anymore.
But to pursue this: let’s say I found out that Nick was indeed a communist, a Maoist, and we became best friends, then didn’t it make me a communist sympathizer? I was an American, and I loved my country. I had to get away from my country for a while, but I loved my country. I didn’t approve of everything my country did, but I loved my country. And I know that Nick didn’t approved of everything his country did, but he loved his country. I’ve heard people say “love or leave it,” but don’t assume because I left I didn’t love my country. Nick was a Maoist, a communist, but he loved the Philippines. And this was something I often thought about…now I wonder. Um! Well, yes, a close friend of mine was a communist, a Maoist. And he told me on day one.
I don’t know if I believed him. Okay. There was no reason for me not to believe him. This wasn’t America. Where I knew how the majority of people felt about communism. About the Iron Curtain. About freedom. How we were fighting communism. Fighting our second war against communism. How I could’ve been in Vietnam. How I could’ve been in Vietnam fighting communism. How I should’ve been in Vietnam. How I should’ve been in Vietnam fighting communism, and I became best friends with a communist, a Maoist. And I’m not dead yet.
But Nick told me on day one that he wasn’t a political animal, and I wanted to believe him. I had to believe him. And it baffled me when they came after me with “you should’ve known.” I should’ve known. But it wasn’t that simple. Suppose you’re accused of being a communist because of your association with someone and you end up on a black list … just suppose. It could be worse. Yes, no and as much as you denied it people didn’t believe you. At least you’re not dead yet. Then you came under scrutiny after you wrote your piece, and they said, “Well, since you’re a communist, we can’t accept it.” You put your heart and soul into it and they wouldn’t accept it. You were blackballed when you were not a communist or a communist sympathizer, but you were a friend … best friend of a communist, a Maoist, and you’re not dead yet “Well, since you’re a communist or a communist sympathizer (when you were not), we can’t accept this.” You’re still lucky. You could’ve been dead. “But please don’t burn the piece because you don’t like the source.” And then in turn you could say, “I’m not a communist” as often as you like and leave it at that, or “don’t burn the piece because you don’t like the source.”
We each ate noodle soup, and afterward he insisted that we go to his room. He agreed to talk to me even after he found out that I wasn’t a student. He hesitated but agreed to talk. Right off he told me that he didn’t particularly care for Americans. I appreciated his honesty. I told him I appreciated his honesty and said I could see how he might feel that way. He didn’t particularly care for Americans and said I made him nervous. He invited me to his room, yet I made him nervous and he didn’t like Americans. He didn’t trust Americans … at least he said he didn’t, and still we became best friends. He told me that I made him nervous … on day one … in his room … he told me I made him nervous because I could darn well be … no damn well be working for the CIA. He said I could be working for CIA and he shouldn’t trust me. Why should he trust me? I was an American and could’ve been working for the CIA. And from his hesitation I got the distinct impression that he didn’t like Americans.
After he invited me to sit down on the edge of his bed … under a communist Chinese flag and he put on some Chinese martial music on his record player … “Freedom on campus is something I cherish,” he said. Funny how I didn’t feel trap. I have a nose for a story, and I felt like I was getting somewhere. “Academic freedom translates into personal freedom and yet in another sense freedom calls for restraint.” I was trying to take all of this in when he said this. And he said I made him nervous. He didn’t like Americans. We were talking. He was talking to an American. He invited me into his room, and we were talking.. And he talked about the university being a microcosm of society, and I kept wishing I could take notes but was afraid to because I didn’t want to spook him.
Then as I sat there I got the feeling that he could see through me … that he knew that I was something other than what I was pretending to be. He could see through me, and I became nervous. And although he didn’t come out and say it, he from day one knew that I wasn’t a student. That was when he told me I should stay away from the university. And that was when I felt I had to tell him I was journalist and when he agreed to introduce me to a few of his friends. … like the Student Government president and the editor of the student newspaper; the Kabataanng Makabayan and various other activists. I was in heaven then because I achieved one of my objectives.