Scotty, Dee and Emmett:
Their fight against Marcos repression
By Frank Cimatu
NO CHRONICLER of the martial law regime should ignore William Henry Scott, Dolores Stephens Feria and Emmett Brown Asuncion, all American teachers detained during the start of those terrible days of Philippine history.
That they fought against Ferdinand Marcos and what he represented showed that the fight against repression need not require a visitor's visa.
That these three emerged triumphant and went on to influence millions of Filipinos showed that they are, above all, teachers and their lives their own lessons.
They all chose to stay in the Cordillera for the rest of their lives, hoping, of course, that Emmett, the only one living of the three, should go somewhere else.
Scotty, a fixture in Sagada, Mt. Province almost as permanent as its magnificent caves, died on Oct. 4, 1993. Feria died on March 22, 1992.
Scotty was an Episcopal lay missionary with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chinese Language from Yale University when he first came to Sagada in 1954. He taught there until 1963 before going to the University of the Philippines for his Master of Arts degree in History.
His thesis, which later became the book, ''Pre-Hispanic Source Materials,'' debunked well-loved history myths like the barter trade of Panay and the wave-migration theory.
Scotty later became the only non-Filipino teacher of Philippine history at UP in Diliman, Quezon City.
His love for Cordillera and the Cordillerans never wavered. In December 1971, he was the keynote speaker of a convention of militant Cordillera students and was among the first to wage the war for genuine Cordillera autonomy.
He was detained right after the declaration of martial law.
Manny Loste, himself a history teacher at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, remembered seeing Scotty at one of the detention centers.
''He was wondering what he was doing there. He saw no reason to be detained as almost everyone else,'' Loste said.
Scotty was almost sent to Engineers Island to be deported to the US but the whole town of Sagada rallied for his release. He went on to write 15 more important books on Philippine history and ethnography.
It would have been a pity (almost an act of treason) if Scotty was deported in 1972 because the country would be wallowing in a sea of historical ignorance.
The late historian Renato Constantino Sr. had written: ''Despite his nationality, William Henry Scott belongs more to the Filipino than to the foreign group. He had been assiduous in unraveling many strands of our past. Moreover, he has done so not from the vantage point of Spanish colonialism or American imperialism but from that of the Filipinos' struggle for emancipation.''
''We were able to regain a sense of pride in our history, a distinct identity and self-respect. Without these, we lose our peoplehood,'' said former St. Mary Academy student and now Sagada Mayor Tom Killip during Scotty's burial.
''He respected us more than we respected ourselves,'' he said.
Emmett, whose father was Filipino, came from New York and in 1965, established the University of Baguio Science High School together with UB founder Fernando Bautista Sr.
The UB Science High is the oldest science high school in the country. And despite the fact that the students had to build their own bunsen burners and test tubes, it has managed to survive without government subsidy.
Everybody who studied under Emmett can blame him for sometimes waking up sweating in the middle of the night.
Every alumnus knew the feeling of losing one's voice during choir practice or Latin classes. Anyone who properly graduated from the UB Science High may not turn up to be science nerds but they always have an opinion on anything.
A free mind is what he wanted his students to possess even if he would beat him with a walis tingting to instill that in him.
He never told his students about his detention during martial law.
INQUIRER correspondent Nathan Alcantara remembered Emmett as very liberal.
''He used to invite KM (Kabataang Makabayan) leaders to talk with his students,'' recalled Alcantara, who was only 15 when he was arrested by the military.
''If there is something I can say about martial law, it is that it stole my childhood,'' Alcantara said. He finished his high school under Emmett.
Emmett remained a firebrand even after he became a born-again Christian. Stage a discussion about John Hay and his students will be there. Invite poets and artists in a gathering and be sure to see his students taking notes.
Last March, the UB Science High building was razed by fire. While waiting for a new building, Emmett held classes under the trees and any available school room in UB.
''Let the world be your classroom,'' he bellowed.
Emmett and Scotty, like most of their colleagues, were surprised to have been detained during martial law.
Dolores Feria, or Dee, knew that she would be arrested but not in the way that transpired. She was born in Sta. Clara, California, an earthquake country, and she knew how to live on the edge.
She taught English and Comparative Literature in UP and Silliman University. In 1972, she went underground and wrote for the Communist Party of the Philippines' news organ.
In June 1974, she was among those arrested in connection with the sinking of the MV Doña Andrea in the South China Sea off the coast of Pangasinan. The vessel was supposed to deliver arms to the CPP.
Dee was among the ''hardcore'' underground members although she did not know how her part in the dragnet known as ''Project Sea Hawk.''
''She was cool, more concerned about her kids. She stood out in the crowd because of her complexion,'' Loste recalled.
Dee kept a journal in her 112-day stay in maximum security prisons. It was bereft of sentimentality and sometimes critical of her prisonmates. It was her way of keeping her sanity in a dehumanized world.
''I have reached a major resolve--to keep this prison diary, no matter what the cost. The day will come when we will all be called liars although that is statistically impossible. An even sadder time will come when this painful period in our history will be forgotten or piously diluted, like the 1950s or the sufferings of Ka Amado
Hernandez, a good and noble creature whose spirit was almost destroyed. Someone has to write these things down. God only knows how this will survive discovery. But it has to be. It will have to be written before sunrise, the only safe time,'' she wrote.
Dee's ''Barbed Wire Journals'' should be read and discussed in schools to remind us of the horrors of martial law and how easy it could come back.
The journal was published posthumously in 1993. After retiring from UP, Dee settled in Baguio to live a monastic and simple life.
also published in:
Philippine Daily Inquirer (09-28-1999)