BOOK REVIEW: Nene Pimentel?s ?Martial Law in the Philippines: My Story?

After Marcos, Pimentel created a lot of political and, perhaps, even personal enemies in and out of Cagayan de Oro. Aquino knows this and so she writes: "I appreciate his willingness as my first Secretary of Local Government, to absorb the political blows from our massive purge of entrenched local officials identified with the Marcos regime with our appointment of officers in charge when we took over the government after the dictator fled in 1986."

What happened after Marcos is outside the range of interest of the book. Yet the fact alone that it was written by someone who not only saw martial law but fought it–and was deeply scarred by it–makes this over 500-page book a must-read.

He may not have been imprisoned for 27 years for fighting a government that had an apartheid policy, but by God, Pimentel is one of the closest things this nation of some 83 million Filipinos has to Nelson Mandela. Which is why I recommend that all the schools in this country, especially in Mindanao, buy copies of Pimentel's book for their libraries because it can be used to inculcate the right values into the young generation–our leaders of tomorrow who, years from now, may find themselves needing guidance if and when they take the road less traveled. A few years from now, when they've grown a bit bigger, there is no way I'd allow my children to miss this book.

I had thought I have had enough of the written accounts of the infamous martial law. I had never have believed that this was my kind of book, but let me say now without batting an eyelash that the more I read, the more I had to read.

He spent two years writing "Martial Law in the Philippines: My Story." Yes, for two years, Nene Pimentel reconstructed the Marcos years with rich and fascinating detail, and now, I couldn't get enough of it. It's not exactly a Dan Brown but just like "The Da Vinci Code," Nene Pimentel's masterpiece is page-turning as it is eye-opening. Let me just say here that it deprived me of enough sleep; this book is unputdownable.

Cagayanons and Misamisnons who have seen Nene Pimentel at close distance and whose lives were touched by the man will find the book most interesting in that it provides a first-person account of numerous events that took place in the city and province during the Marcos years.

The book tells revealing and damning stories behind the martial law story. In it, Pimentel writes about very interesting things that could never have been written as news, and thus the matters were left unreported in the mainstream media.

I have never read an excellently written book with references to people I personally know or who I've rubbed elbows with or whose stories I have covered as a journalist. For us, Cagayanons and Misamisnons, this is a book that tells stories about the people-next-door.

In the book, Pimentel mentions the names of many Cagayanons and Misamisnons or names that would ring a bell insofar as people in this part of the country are concerned. Some are dead, some are living.

In the long list are Maning Pelaez, Lino Abrio, Pepe Abbu, Claudio Aguilar, Berchmans Abejuela; Henry Bacal, Rene Barrientos, Enriquito Beja, Mordino Cua, Jun Damasing; Dongkoy Emano, Ben Emata, Fred Gapuz, Tinnex Jaraula, Inday la Vina; Dodong Lugod, Alex Magbag, Miguel Paderanga, Jun Pepito, Oloy Roa;
Dante Sarraga, Rody Villaroya, Jun Calub, Rosalinda Caragos, Ramon Yap;
Bono, Cecilio and Gerry Adaza; Ambing and Anita Magtajas, Reuben and Solona Canoy, Camilo and Concordio Diel, Tito and Ruth Guingona; Ed and Lili Marfori, Jacob and Philip Montesa, Ronnie and Luz Sabanal, and many others.

Virgilio Garcillano a.k.a. "Hello, Garci" didn't escape the pages of the book. At least nine pages speak of Pimentel's sad experience with Garci, then a Comelec director here, long before Gloria Arroyo's best friend's 2004 shit hit the fan.

For those who were scarred by martial law and who participated in the fight against Marcos here, Pimentel's book will evoke nostalgia. For those who were not yet around or who witnessed martial law but were too young to understand what was really happening, the book will provide a context on why those who were ahead had to do what they did.

The wonder is that the book is chockablock with historical detail and yet, that doesn't slow the action but draws the reader deeper into the story. Nene Pimentel masterfully concocts an intelligent and lucid story that marries the gusto of Pinoy politics with historical facts and fascinating firsthand information culled from 1972 to 1986. Interweaving all these–and crisp writing–is an art only a few writers can carry off.

History writing doesn't get any better than this. This is pure genius. The book is absorbing and perfect for Philippine history buffs and anyone who appreciates a riveting read. A dazzling performance by Nene Pimentel, I should say. Even to those who hate Pimentel or have become his political enemies, this masterpiece should be mandatory reading. (Herbie Gomez is the editor-in-chief of The Mindanao Gold Star Daily based in Cagayan de Oro city.)