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It’s been an aw­ful sea­son for writ­ers and lovers of art, as I noted last week. I thought that the pass­ing of Edgardo B. Maranan last May 8 was go­ing to be the last of these woe­ful events, but no sooner had I spo­ken at the necro­log­i­cal ser­vices for Ed than I was be­ing asked to help put sim­i­lar rites to­gether for Sen­a­tor and former UP pres­i­dent Edgardo An­gara, who died a few days later on May 13. What an odd co­in­ci­dence, I thought — first, we lost the two To­tis (Bautista and Vil­lalon), and now we were bid­ding two Eds goodbye.

But among all of those who left us, I felt that it was Ed Maranan whom I knew best. I’d writ­ten a bi­og­ra­phy for Ed An­gara, but biog­ra­phers never re­ally josh their sub­jects, the way I could do with Ed Maranan. Ed M. in­vited that, be­cause he dished out a lot of hu­mor­ous ban­ter him­self, even and es­pe­cially in the worst of times. He could have been in ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain — and I’m sure he was, in his worst days — but he just couldn’t pass up a chance to play with words, as all true writ­ers do.

Most of the eu­lo­gies de­liv­ered at Ed’s brief wake memo­ri­al­ized and lauded him for his ac­tivism — Joma Si­son even sent in a state­ment from Utrecht prais­ing Ed as a “com­mu­nist,” which he was, at least at some point, as far as I knew. But the Ed I chose to re­mem­ber was no dour doc­tri­naire. He loved and en­joyed life im­mensely (not that com­mu­nists don’t), and I never heard him spout the Party line; he was too spon­ta­neous, too freely minded, for that.

He was older than me by some eight years, but Ed and I be­longed to the same gen­er­a­tion of play­wrights in Filipino who came of artis­tic age in the 1970s, a brood that in­cluded the likes of Bien­venido Nor­iega, Boni­fa­cio Ila­gan, Nonilon Queaño, Malou Ja­cob, Reuel Aguila, Rene Vil­lanueva, and Isagani Cruz.

I moved on from writ­ing for the stage to screen­writ­ing later in that decade, thanks to Lino Brocka, and Ed soon asked me if I could help him break into the movies, too. I did — I passed on an as­sign­ment that I might have been too busy to do then, a project star­ring a pop­u­lar sex siren (and to this day, I won­der why I gave that one away). Later, Ed and I would share an­other ex­pe­ri­ence — be­ing shafted out of our fees

(“na­suba,” in Pi­noy screen lingo), and we learned to shrug our shoul­ders in dis­may and dis­gust.

Our paths crossed again in the mid-1990s, when I got a writ­ing fel­low­ship to Hawthorn­den Cas­tle in Scot­land, and had to pass through Lon­don — my first trip ever to Eu- rope, or some part of it. Ed had found a job as in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer with our em­bassy by that time, and he be­came my gra­cious host. Hav­ing ush­ered at the Na­tional Theatre, he took me out to free show­ings of Shaw and Pin­ter. Hav­ing noth­ing to re­pay him with, I washed the dishes in his apart­ment near Gold­hawk Road.

We were both named to the Palanca Hall of Fame in 2000. At that point, with 16 Palan­cas, I stopped join­ing, and told Ed that it was about time we hung up our gloves. He wasn’t lis­ten­ing. Like his arch-ri­val Rene Vil­lanueva, he went on and on, un­til he had racked up more than 30 to Rene’s 27 (Rene sadly passed away in 2007). It wasn’t the prize money, but the ex­hil­a­ra­tion of join­ing and win­ning, with those two.

A few years ago, in writ­ers’ work­shops in Palawan and Puerto Galera, I watched Ed in clas­sic form, charm­ing the ladies with his un­stop­pable if atro­cious puns. I kept rolling my eyes but the ladies kept laugh­ing, much to my grow­ing an­noy­ance. But that was his hu­mor, sly and gen­tle, as easy on the ears as the gui­tar he loved to strum.

And then his body be­gan giv­ing up on him, here and there, and he’d mes­sage Beng to say, with a rare sigh of sad­ness, “How the heck did I get a liver prob­lem when I don’t even drink?”

It had been his great dream to go to Hawthorn­den Cas­tle like I and some other Filipinos had done, and he had been ac­cepted and was all set to leave, but now it was not go­ing to be. Last March, he wrote Hawthorn­den to say he could barely write with his fin­gers, and couldn’t come. I could see the deep frustratio­n in his words.

But now he’s off to that great fel­low­ship in the sky with Rene Vil­lanueva, and I hope they hold a ce­les­tial edi­tion of the Palan­cas to keep both guys busy and to set­tle, once and for all, who the more pro­lific prizewin­ner is. Toti Bautista is also go­ing to be there, of course. I hope he en­joys puns be­cause he’s go­ing to get an ear­ful — nay, an eter­nity of them — from Ed.

So here’s a sad goodbye to a good friend and one of the truest gen­tle­men of let­ters I knew. Paalam, kaibi­gan.


Poet and STAR colum­nist Ed Maranan, on a boat to some­where


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