Wenceslao: Jovy

Bong O. Wenceslao

A FORMER brother-in-arms died the other day. He was battling diabetes and other illnesses that partly resulted from it, like kidney trouble. And he had lung cancer. But he didn’t go away without a fight. The last time we talked in the hospital, he was calm and even smiled at my jokes. He was once a Marxist and apparently accepted the reality of life like all Marxists do. The dialectics of life and death.

I often ribbed Jovy about that time when we were arrested separately in 1988. I was the first to fall in Bohol and he was nabbed weeks later in western Cebu. One of my captors approached me and told me about his arrest. I pretended I didn’t know him but still I was brought to Toledo City where he and another captured rebel was brought.

“You know him,” was one of my captors’ confident claims. In Toledo, we weren’t even forced to confront each other. It was enough for my captors that Jovy would see me from afar. “He already told us everything,” one of my captors later told Jovy. That was enough for him to spill the beans too. That incident ended up being told and retold during our drinking sessions when we got back to the mainstream of society.

I purposely skipped an episode in my UG life during interrogation, and that encompassed the months we were in “far north.” That was precisely to spare Jovy and the others. When Jovy talked about it, my captor naturally confronted me about that missing episode. Jovy would reason out that he really thought I already told my captors about it.

The first time I met Jovy and his wife was in the early 80’s in a house that was at the hemline of the Cebu City mountain ranges. We were young then and the couple tended to quarrel often on even small things. I never thought the relationship would survive but it did beyond the day when they already had their first grandchild. That, I should say, is what principled love is about.

I remember the first time when I arrived in a far north village and saw Jovy’s wife and their eldest, who was still a young child then, in the house of a farmer-fisherman. Mother and child were in a playful mood amidst the rural setting. Even now, I can still hear in my mind the line of the hit song then that Jovy’s wife was singing to their child: “I wanna dance would you like to cha-cha... “

I still don’t know where the wake would be but I hope it would be in Guadalupe Church where Jovy once was a member of the choir. He played the guitar well and a talent like that is useful everywhere, like writing and, yes, translation work. I write and know Cebuano words and that has served me everywhere, even in bourgeois politics.

I always admire people who sacrifice everything to advance a belief or a cause. Outside of the movement, Jovy and his wife struggled so the family could lead a decent life. I used to visit him wherever he resided until they settled in Kalunasan. Those visits got fewer and farther between when I, too, raised a family.

But bonds like what we had was one that survive distance and absence.