Remembering Edjop

August 31, 2018

On his 70th birth anniversary, the Ateneo de Manila community remembers the hero that President Marcos had so disdainfully referred to as a “son of a grocer.”

Edgar Jopson (G.S. ’60, H.S. ’66, BS Management Engineering ’70) was the President of the Ateneo Student Council and the National Union of Students in the Philippines; he was skilled in debate and was part of AtSCA and AIESEC; and he is most famously known to have stood up to the dictator right to his face.

Ed during his college years, at the family’s supermarket. He had just attended a business training so that he could set up a photo shop in the store. Photo courtesy of An Underground Tale

Read on to learn 9 quick facts about this Atenean Martial Law martyr.

1. He was named after Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of the Tarzan novels, which his mother loved.

2. He got the nickname “Edjop” because Fr. Bill Kreutz SJ mispronounced his family name, “giving the ‘J’ the English rather than the Spanish pronunciation.”

3. He was a devout Catholic, and the Jesuit education offered by Ateneo reinforced this. He attended and served mass at the high school chapel before classes started; he always carried a rosary in his pocket; and he always wrote “AMDG” on all his books, notebooks, test papers, and diaries.

4. He graduated valedictorian of his class in high school, and in his address he said: “We will not just dream our goal in life without doing anything about it. We shall develop all our talents and gifts to the fullest, in order to serve you, our neighbor, and our country, to the best of our abilities.”

5. He was a member of the Ateneo Student Catholic Action (AtSCA) and had been assigned to do civic work at the Sergio Osmena High School. It was there in his sophomore year that he met his future wife, Joy Asuncion. She and Edjop were set up by his sister, Inday, who also chaperoned for them.

Ed in April 1970, during Ateneo’s 111th Commencement Exercises.   Photo courtesy of Edjop: The Unusual Journey of Edgar Jopson

6. He graduated cum laude in 1970, completing his five-year course in only four year. Fr. Raul Bonoan SJ recalled that “when his name was called, ‘the crowd broke into the loudest and longest applause in the evening,’ for Edjop represented ‘everything the Ateneo could hope for: brilliance of mind, academic excellence, fresh and vibrant leadership that made him a national figure at the age of twenty-two.’”
7. “In January 1970, the President invited some ‘moderate’ student leaders to meet with him inside the Palace. Among them was Edgar Jopson, a grocer’s son; from the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University, who would be heard of again in a few years’ time. Marcos was stunned when the young man thrust a piece of paper and demanded, ‘You sign that. You are not running for a third time.’ Marcos replied that he had already repeatedly given that assurance to students whenever he met them. But Jopson, who led the National Union of Students of the Philippines yelled ‘We don’t believe you!’ Marcos snapped back with contempt: ‘Is this what the groceries produce?’”
Edjop at a student rally in Plaza Miranda, 1970. Photo courtesy of Edjop: The Unusual Journey of Edgar Jopson

8. “In September 1982,” according to Associate Dean for Core Curriculum Benjamin Tolosa, Jr. (AB Economics-Honors ’83) “at the Ateneo College Chapel lay the brutalized body of former student leader Edgar Jopson who had been killed by the military only a few days before. It was a moment that provoked strong yet conflicting emotions and raised urgent but often troubling questions among those of us who were trying to live out what was then already an institutionalized university thrust toward the service of faith and the promotion of justice.”
9. He was the typical Atenista: prone to speaking in that well-know “Arrneow” accent (which he shortly began to drop in 1968, after the release of Salanga, Esguerra, and Lacaba’s “Down From the Hill” manifesto) and excelled in the liberal arts, particularly history and theology.

Edjop in his photos in Ateneo yearbooks. Photo courtesy of An Underground Tale

Edgar Jopson was unique in his leadership, and fervent in his passion and love for the country—which he had channeled into his activism, to fight for justice and truly become a man for others.

Anecdotes and photos from Edjop: The Unusual Journey of Edgar Jopson and An Underground Tale: The Journey of Edgar Jopson and the First Quarter Storm Generation by Benjamin Pimentel, Marcos Martial Law: Never Again by Raissa Robles, and Down from the Hill: Ateneo de Manila in the First Ten Years Under Martial Law, 1972–1982 edited by Cristina Montiel and Susan Evangelista