NICK JOAQUIN, WRITER AND FIGHTER (May 4, 1917-April 29, 2004)
By Alexander Martin Remollino May 1, 2004 (Expanded from a note appended to another statement)
Nick Joaquin was, no doubt, a brilliant literary mind. His one-of-a-kind work, which often drives us to reexamine fundamental moral and psychological questions, will forever be etched in the annals of Philippine letters.
But aside from that he was also someone who, unknown to many, knew something about fighting for what is right.
In the 1960s, as elected union president at the Philippines Free Press, he thought nothing of earning the ire of management as he courageously pushed for his co-workers’ rights, and preferred leaving his job and treading on the uncertain ground of co-establishing a new publication (Asia-Philippines Leader) to making compromises.
A number of Nick Joaquin’s fellow writers at Asia-Philippines Leader were incarcerated during martial law, among them Pete Lacaba who is publicly known to have been heavily tortured by the late Col. Rodolfo Aguinaldo and his henchmen. It must be noted here that Joaquin, who was named National Artist for Literature in 1976, accepted the award on the condition that his detained fellow writers at Asia-Philippines Leader would be released. He got his demand, and personally delivered the release papers of each of his incarcerated co-writers.
Joaquin would later be seen often at human rights rallies against the Marcos dictatorship. Although he is not known to have joined any cause-oriented organization and was definitely far from being the iconoclast that his contemporary Renato Constantino was, he can be admired and remembered for taking a stand at a time when one most had to.