MY HERO: Earnest Zabala.
(first published in SPOT.PH)
Entrusted to relatives as an infant, bundled up and taken by bus from Tarlac to Bontoc, Earnest Zabala was eight months old when Martial Law was declared in the Philippines. A time of documented oppression and rampant injustice, the year 1972 found Earnest’s parents joining the underground movement. Her father was a student of architecture at that time, while her mother was the Editor in Chief of her college paper. Both idealists, the couple decided to physically (literally) join the fight against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. I surmise that they went underground because they decided it was the best way to claim back a future that was free for their baby daughter. So in October 1972 they left. The couple never came back. They disappeared. Earnest never met her parents. She was raised by her grandparents and then subsequently lived with an aunt in Manila. She made it to the University of the Philippines, Diliman for college where she met her husband Buddy. (Buddy Zabala, bass guitarist of the Eraserheads and now of The Dawn.)
Earnest built her career in development work. She throws her resources and smarts forcefully behind the heaving campaign for the RH Bill. She tirelessly organizes projects with and for Rock Ed, especially the ones focused on alternative education for young girls. She spearheads Rock Ed’s The Dalagita Project and her chief consultant for this project is her pre-teen daughter Veda. I personally know Veda. Veda does very well in school, she plays the violin. She is polite while being outspoken and opinionated, an apparent testament to good parenting. Buddy, Earnest’s husband is the unusual rock star. He is focused on Veda and Earnest, keeps relatively normal hours, eats healthy for the most part, does not smoke, barely drinks, stays sane and steady – and I can see that a part of it is because of Earnest’s hand and presence. While juggling all these roles, Earnest earned her Masters Degree in Development Communication from UP. Imagine that.
Earnest is my hero because I watch her lead her life from up close and I can see that she optimizes her time, balances her work for others, never wavers on her love of family and knows just when to be stern. For someone who started with a lot less ‘psychological capital’ than most of us, for someone who doesn’t have a single conscious memory of her parents, she certainly gripped her life with more control than most of us who grew up with a lot more ‘givens.’
A single spectacular act can certainly make a hero but for my purposes I need to define that a hero is someone who left excuses unused, someone who took on her tasks dutifully, someone who never focused on what was lacking but optimized what was at hand to see what could still be done despite.
In Greek mythology a hero or a heroine came to refer to characters who, in the face of adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self-sacrifice. Plato said we should “tell each other stories because these stories shall be the education of future heroes.” Earnest is certainly my hero and I am grateful I was given this chance to share her story.
PS: This post is in honor of all Filipinos whose parents disappeared during and because of Martial Law.