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(As Book Launched by the National Press Club of the Philippines)

 Hermie Rotea

Reforms or Revolution?

    The Philippines, like an angry volcano, finally erupted as the decade 1970 started.
    On January 26 and 30, I saw the face of revolution.
    The nation reeled under the impact of two upheavals on those days – first, when student rebels stoned President Marcos and succumbed to police brutality in front of Congress; and second, when they stormed Malacanang Palace, his official residence, only to be killed, dispersed, or caught by soldiers.
    I witnessed both bloody incidents.
    The Manila Times and Taliba published my exclusive eyewitness report on February 2, 1970 under the headlines, "Behind the Barricades: I Saw Them Aim and Fire!" and "Gabi ng Riot".
    Here now in this book is the complete and unexpurgated story of what really happened before, during, and after January 26 and 30.

                                                                                                                                                                    – The Author


    In writing this book for first printing, I was like an excited man hurrying up to his wedding and in his dash to the church, forgot to zip his pants and adjust his tie well, so much so that when he finally faced the altar to exchange "I do" with his bride, he looked awful, if not funny.
    It was also like editing a newspaper for tomorrow's edition, so that in the effort to beat the deadline, the copy fresh from the typewriter, after a hurried blue-penciling, swiftly passed on to the Linotype operator, then to the almighty proofreader for corrections, and back again to the Linotype operator if there were mistakes, and so on, until the whole process of printing is completed.
    Naturally, as in all rush jobs, there were bound to be errors in this book.
    If I had my way, I would have wanted to take my own sweet time with this book, my first attempt at book-writing. I would have wanted to sleep on it or get lost for a while from the crowds at Taza de Oro, National Press Club, and Congress.
    And if I could afford it, or did not have to continue earning my daily bread or rice in-between chapters, I would have wanted to engage a hotel suite and put the sign "Do Not Disturb" on the door, or disappear entirely to a remote island, away from the noise and crowds of the city, where the air is fresh and clean, until the book is written.
    But of course nothing of that sort happened, not in my wildest dream, for I am not a rich man, unlike those who belong to the Establishment, as they call it, and who hold the fate of our country by the palms of their hands.
    Nevertheless, I console myself with the thought that, despite certain limitations, and with the help of a few well-meaning friends, this book was finally written and printed the best way I knew how under the circumstances, and as fast as was humanly possible, while events are still fresh and continuing, so that you may appreciate its freshness and timeliness, which was the very reason why this book had to be rushed.
    Significantly also, what I originally thought would just be a mere episode in the life of this nation, has now turned out to be the story, if not practically the history, of the Philippines as of April 1970.

                                                                                                                                                                     – Hermie Rotea


  1. The Decade 1961 – Page 1
  2. The Supreme Irony – Page 10
  3. Calm Before  the Storm – Page 19
  4. State of the Nation – Page 28
  5. The January 26 Incident – Page 42
  6. The Morning After – Page 59
  7. The President's Dilemma – Page 72
  8. Palace Confrontations – Page 81
  9. The Siege of Malacanang Palace – Page 94
10. The Battle of Mendiola – Page 105
11. Chaos in Downtown Manila – Page 112
12. Martial Law? – Page 121
13. Tales of Horror – Page 131
14. Voices in Congress – Page 142
15. The Senate-House Probe – Page 154
16. The Vigilantes – Page 173
17. Cabinet Rigodon – Page 179
18. Militarization of Manila – Page 189
19. The People's Congress – Page 201
20. The People's March – Page 214
21. The People's Tribunal – Page 225
22. The People's War – Page 239
23. The Day Manila Almost Burned – Page 246
24. How The World Reacted – Page 252
25. Rebels With a Cause – Page 263
26. Young Marcos and Quezon – Page 275
27. Left or Right? – Page 287
28. The Economy – Page 298
29. Anatomy of Revolution – Page 310
30. Summing Up – Page 319
Plus 48 Pages of Photos


The Manila Chronicle
June 3, 1970

A New Book on a Turbulent Decade

By Francisco de Leon

    "Behind the Barricades: I Saw Them Aim and Fire!" is a brand-new book of a brand-new author who has joined the thin league of Filipino writers who had written a book or two as their legacy to posterity. Written by Hermie Rotea, an over-worked, self-made journalist who combines as an editor, publisher and printer of The Daily News, still found time to watch behind the barricades, the violent clashes between the student activists and the Metrocom and Manila police in those tenseful hours in front of Congress and subsequently last January 30 in what is now known as "The Battle of Mendiola."

    For a maiden effort, Rotea spun of coherent and uninhibited account of the unexpected developments which, according to the author, had the face of revolution." The people thought it was the second "Cry of Balintawak" which had erupted into the streets towards Congress, City Hall and Malacanang, the principal bastions of power and challenged authority. But it was not actually an armed uprising which sought to shake but not however, replace the duly-constituted authorities.
    The author traced the chain of incidents which culminated in the January 26 and 30 violence. He recalled the darkening scenery in the way he saw it. He was poignantly ruthless in his analysis of the nation's ills that if he were not a journalist by profession, if he were a student – he would have joined the marchers, the "People's Congress" in Plaza Miranda or the parliamentarians on the streets. For his paragraphs were dripping luridly with critical perceptions of the plague which continue to "wreck havoc and sap our very vitality . . ." And he sees "the ugly side of life, the malignant cancer" behind what he called the lapses in our economic, political, social and moral fields of national endeavor that the youth on October 24, 1966 – under the aegis of President Marcos "broke the myth that youth demonstrations were nothing more than emotional display of mama's boys. Thus, he added, "almost overnight, the students became the country's reservoir of hopes and energy in a decade torn by crimes.

    Rotea traced the erosion of the students' faith in the status quo.
    "Demonstrations were rich with issues, for they were many and almost unlimited: high prices, unemployment, low pay, graft and corruption, robbery of the people's money, police excesses, Chinese control of the economy, criminality, sacada system, abuses in American bases, Vietnam, etc."
    He then described in easy details the developments which unfolded starting from the state-of-the-nation message of President Marcos that was almost obscured by Fr. Pacifico Ortiz' invocation. Fr. Ortiz, president of the Ateneo, said more things than were usually intoned in ceremonial invocations. The book reprinted the controversial invocation which had visibly made the First Lady and the President listen to such big words and phrases which priests had never said before: "To have lost our political innocence and to know this, and yet not to despair is for us, O God, to touch and know Your healing hands; but also, for a free people it is to stand on the trembling edge of revolution.

    Then the author described the riotings and gave an eyewitness account of "The Battle of Mendiola." It was a fearless account of police brutalities.
    Rotea minced no words, pulled no punches, and even mentioned the names of radio and television commentators who were said to have received monthly Malacanang Palace subsidies amounting to P5,000. He identified them by name and use a source – another radio and television commentator – for the expose. The expose which had been enshrined in the book is bound to touch off protests and perhaps some interesting tussles. But that is the stuff Rotea is made of. He is a give-them-hell editor.
    Rotea had gone through the same pitfalls of early authors. He was apologetic in his preface. It is a complex for new authors in seeking the readers' or critics' forbearance.

    "In writing this book for first printing," wrote the author, "I was like an excited man hurrying up to his wedding and in dash to the church, forgot to zip his pants or adjust his tie well, so much so that when he finally faced the altar to exchange 'I do' with his bride, he looked awful, if not funny."
    "Behind the Barricades: I Saw Them Aim and Fire!" is a readable book. It is the product of a turbulent age in the early Seventies. The violent demonstrations and the subsequent student, teachers and other mass upheavals have curved a new chapter in the social and political life of our new nation. And Rotea has captured this violent turn into the Seventies with an authentic account of the gunfire and bloodshed that marked the youth's awakening.
    ". . . what I originally thought would just be a mere episode in the life of this nation," he wrote, "has now turned out to be the story, if not practically the history, of the Philippines as of April 1970.
    Perhaps the book is a contemporary development. It is part of the constant struggle of local journalists to break out from the shell of sheer newspaper work into the more exciting though tedious realm of authoring books. They may not be prize-winning efforts nor top sellers. But Rotea has contributed his share in toppling the barrier towards a new era in journalism.

    AUTHOR'S NOTE: A plan is underway to make this collectible book an eBook project.
Author & Screenwriter
P.O. Box 547, Harbor City, California, United States 90710
Email: hrotea@netzero.com • www.rpictures.net • www.hermierotea.com