Of tears and rage: How the first quarter storm radicalized me

'This started the road to my personal transformation from a moderate to a radical student'

I was on my last semester in UP Diliman in January of 1970. I was mentally and physically prepared to enter the UP College of Medicine by the following school year 1970-71. My load was light during this last semester because I finished all the requirements for med school in the first semester of that year.


Ferment in the UP Diliman campus was getting more progressive. Students becoming more radicalized with the questionable results of the 1969 Presidential Elections with Marcos winning a second term against Osmeña for the post. There were already signs Marcos wanted to perpetuate himself in power and fears that the military would be put to good use against protesters and demonstrators on the streets. The conjugal dictatorship of the Marcoses was rearing its head.

Cold war 

The Vietnam War was escalating. The United States needed a strong ally in the Pacific. The Philippines was a perfect outpost with US military bases as platforms for the war in Vietnam. Marcos knew how to play his cards in terms of the strategic value of the Philippines to the USA. His continuous leadership would truly be needed by the USA to maintain the strategic military and economic partnership.


I considered myself a moderate activist during my years in UP Diliman. I was a strong personality in the UP Student Catholic Action, considered indeed a moderate force in campus. The radicals were the Kabataang Makabayan (KM), the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK), the Bertrand Russell Foundation, and the UP Student Council.

Flying coffin 

January 26, 1970 was a significant day. Marcos was going to give his State of the Nation Address in Congress near Manila City Hall and Luneta. Disenchantment with Marcos was growing by the day. There has been a campaign led by the UP Student Council in the campus to join the protest starting with a march from UP Diliman through Quezon Avenue, España, Quiapo, Lawton and onto Congress on that day joining masses of students from other universities.


Together with a core of non-radical friends, I joined this protest march out of sheer curiosity. We were also interested in the welfare of where the country was going. So it was a “Yes.” With just a few close friends from UPSCA, we did join the protest march all the way from UP to Congress near Luneta. The Presidential Limousine did arrive. The front of Congress was full of protestors, all with red flags and placards. In the late afternoon, as Marcos was about to get out, students carrying a coffin symbolic of the death of democracy came in surging towards Marcos. And all of a sudden, chaos and pandemonium started. The police, the Metrocom, the military, the Presidential Guards armed with their truncheons just attacked all the students and other protesters at random. There were tear gas explosions everywhere. Shots were fired into the air. We were all hit by the truncheons while running and scampering towards Quiapo, our eyes tearing from the gas.


We were peaceful protestors but why were we being hurt just like criminals and thugs? So irrational and so fascistic. We managed to get to Quiapo, on the run, but with several bruises on different parts of the body. This started the road to my personal transformation from a moderate to a radical student. The rest is history. January 30 came with larger participation of protests. The Malacanang gates were rammed down by students from various universities with a fire truck. And students continued their protests in alliance with farmers and workers and the society at large.


I did finish my Bachelor of Science joining the “teach-ins” in campus, interacting with various political groups, continuously analyzing the national situation especially why the Philippines remained poor despite being rich in natural resources. When I entered the UP College of Medicine, I already had a totally different understanding of Philippine Society, appreciating it with more nationalism, coming into grips of the reality of American imperialism, neo-colonialism, the new forms of feudalism and the interplay of politics and corruption.


I resolved that my destiny will be a Filipino Doctor for the Filipinos serving the rural and urban poor. – Rappler.com


Professor Jaime Z. Galvez Tan, MD, MPH, or “Dok Jimmy” to many of his friends, found his vocation in a small island in Palawan in 1968. The image of health inequity inspirited him in his study of Medicine. Graduating in 1974 from the University of the Philippines, he started heeding the challenge of ensuring health as an unalien­able and inviolable right, especially to the most marginalized and disenfranchised.


January 25 marks the 44th anniversary of a series of student protests against the Marcos regime that later came to be known as the First Quarter Storm. For an excellent reportage of the events that took place during those tumultuous times, read Pete Lacaba’s Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage.

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