I had a brief but unforgettable encounter with Freddie Aguilar in the early 80s. It was after the Malaya newspaper ran a series of stories about Negros Occidental, which covered these sensitive themes: the intensifying insurgency problem, scores of children wasted by malnutrition and a dying sugar industry that was crippled by a state-sponsored monopoly.
The series was not without a sidebar on life’s glorious ironies. A family that escaped from the Bolsheviks, part of the White Russian exodus from Russia after the 1917 Revolution, resettled in Negros Occidental. Instead of embracing the cause of the landowning elite, the 2nd generation White Russian family embraced the cause of the Negros sacadas and the exploited hacienda workers. In short, the same ploretariat whose rise to power forced the family to flee Russia.
It was the twist and turn of human emotions that you expected to take place in the movies but which played out in real life in the sugar haciendas of Negros.
A few days after the conclusion of the Negros series, Ka Freddie was a visitor at our newspaper offices along West Avenue with a demo cassette of a new composition, “Mga Bata sa Negros,” which sang of the malnourished children dying slow deaths at the mal-wards of the Negros public hospitals. He turned over the demo tape to the writer of the series, this typist, and a photographer snapped the moment for posterity. My attempt to make small talk failed and I was too embarrassed to tell him that music to me was humming Guthrie- Seeger-Dylan-Baez.
(But then, you tell yourself, who needs the journalism awards and the plaques when haunting songs are birthed in the studios from your stories.)
He shook my hand, the heartfelt thing that expressed kinship or commonality of cause, then left. Probably to prepare his songs for the anti-Marcos rallies as he was the first singer to get actively and fully involved in the mass protests. I have forgotten all about the song “Mga Bata sa Negros,” the series and my photo with Ka Freddie—and his principled stand against the dictatorship which he made early on and not during the dying days of the regime—until a controversy about his May-December affair with a 16-year-old became news.
And until the morality police entered into the scene to denounce Ka Freddie’s relationship with the teenager. As if it were the world’s greatest act of malevolence.
OK, except for the fact that it is awkward, I am asking the morality police this question: What is wrong about the relationship?
The relationship between Ka Freddie and his young, young thing has parental consent. It is perfectly legal. The teenager has declared to the whole world she loves Ka Freddie that much and she can’t spend nights without him. What is society’s problem with that?
There is nothing illegal. There is no coercion involved. Just two people in a relationship. This is the short and simple version of their relationship.
We have to call out the morality police and accuse them of trespassing into private lives and appeal to them to stop the nonsense. What two people do inside their homes and the bedroom should not be the affair of anyone but theirs for as long as it does not violate the law of the land.
Society should be open and tolerant about relationship and if we have any reservation or squeamishness about a particular relationship, it should be kept private. The whole world has moved on. The growing acceptance of the LGBTs is part of society’s evolution into a better, kinder and gentler one and the protest at Stonewall is now a remembered moment in US history. If we do not sanction the intolerant forces grouped under the morality police, who knows what would be their next step. Rail against the LGBTs ? Argue for less tolerance and openness? Agitate for out-and-out bigotry?
If there is any malingering folly that was exposed by the new-found adrenalin of the morality police , it is the fact that modern society has yet to render extinct the modern version of Polly Cayetano, who, in an earlier generation, led the burning of anything that she and her group of manangs and self-proclaimed crusaders against indecency, deemed as “smut.”
In press-covered rituals, Ms. Cayetano et al burned Betamax tapes, sex-oriented magazines (Tiktik and the like), tabloid that ran photos of scantily-clad women and anything that was deemed offensive to morality . Their mind-set was this: the tapes and the tabloids and sex-oriented magazines had been breeding all sorts of sexual deviants and rapists.
If the agents of the ancient morality were to confine their outrage to inappropriate relationships, the danger would be superficial. But the very same people who take the cudgels for ancient morality are the very same people that stop society’s march to openness.
They are the very same people predisposed to stopping the teaching of evolution, the people leading the charge against climate change, the people working to defund social safety nets, the people blocking the funding and progress of stem cell research.
The people hounding Ka Freddie should be stopped on their track before they migrate into other causes that would inflict real harm on the broader society. We should all tell them, “Let Ka Freddie be.”