Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sins of My Father

"How do you write to a family that your own father hurt so much?"

Thus begins a CNN item about Sebastian Marroquin, son of the notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. The quote comes from a letter Marroquin wrote to the sons of two of his father's most prominent victims, featured in a new documentary by Argentinian filmmaker Nicholas Entel entitled "Sins of My Father."

Rodrigo Lara was the son of Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, Colombia's Justice Minister in the early 80s, who was one of the first to aggressively pursue cocaine traffickers and was murdered in 1984. He has followed his father's footsteps and is now a Senator.

Juan Manuel Galan and Carlos Fernando Galan are the two sons of Luis Carlos Galan, a presidential candidate who publicly decried the drug cartels until he was felled in a campaign rally in 1989. The two Galans, likewise, have followed their father's lead and become a Senator and a Councilman, respectively.

Marroquin was born Juan Pablo Escobar, son and heir of Colombia's most terrible drug emperor. But unlike the progeny of his father's victims, he turned from his father's path, changing his name and leaving the place of his birth after the death of Escobar Sr. in a rooftop shootout with authorities in 1993.

And now, after a silence of 16 years, he wrote a letter to the sons of his father's victims, who were roughly the same age as him when a culture of greed and violence engulfed their parents, asking forgiveness for crimes he did not commit.

"I learned many things from my father," Marroquin says in the documentary. "The most important one was that if I want to live, I have to do the opposite of what he did. That was my lesson."

We live in a culture that has plenty in common with Latin America, foremost the overriding priority of familial ties over anything else. We tend to put our immediate family over and above broader things like community and country, and the results have been patronage politics, palakasan, and political dynasties, to name just a few.

One might say that it was easy for Marroquin to break away from his father's path; the elder Escobar, after all, represented all that was evil about Colombia. And yet, his father's footsteps must've dogged him at every turn, for as that immortal line from Shakespeare's play about another prominent man's dubious legacy goes:  "The evil that men do live after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."

By revealing himself, Escobar's son risks incurring the whiplash of his father's violent legacy. And yet, perhaps this is the only way he can exorcise the demons of a shared and terrible past. By exposing them to the light of truth, the admission of his father's guilt, and the hope of forgiveness, closure, and healing.

If only more children of prominent Filipinos who have committed unspeakable atrocities against the country and its citizens could do half as much. Then perhaps, as Rodrigo Lara remarked, "True reconciliation comes from justice being served."

"To forgive, one must remember, the other choice is to forget," Lara said.

But before we can forget, we must first remember.

Before we can forgive, the transgression must first be recognized.

Before we can go forward, the sins of our fathers must first be rectified.

Because if the next generations do not acknowledge and correct the missteps of their forebears, the circle of life degenerates into a cycle of death. An ever-spinning spiral of wrongs. A vortex of destruction that sucks in everything that is good, that is true, that is beautiful about what "family" truly is.

Something to think about now that certain families and their spawn continue to plot and scheme and send the Filipinos and their families into a tailspin.


  1. you think too much rudely. too much a luxury for your free time.

    but your thinking im always eager to read. :)

  2. @ ash : Believe me, I'm far happier as a shallow man. But this story struck several chords with me. Why is it so difficult for us to look beyond family ties and genuinely think of the greater good of community and country? Is this why there is no Filipino "nation" to speak of beyond the confines of our clans? How myopic, how tribal, how tragically sad, isn't it?

  3. i always imagine how it would feel like to be the brood of a popular (in this case infamous) personality.

  4. @ engel : I've often wondered about that myself. Are children of criminals and politicians, in particular, doomed to be like Michael Corleone? Initially repulsed by and repudiating all that their parents stand for, only to tread the same path themselves later on?

    Or do they simply turn a blind eye to their parents' sins against other people's fathers, other people's children, simply because blood is thicker than water?

    No parent is perfect, but when imperfections become ignominies, when do we rebuke them in the name of the greater good? Is family so sacrosanct that ties cannot be sacrificed, even if to do so would be to do the right thing?

  5. ruddie: the fruit doesn't fall out from the tree.

    worse, we even (subconsciously) marry our own father/mother.

    with that in mind, it'll be a herculean effort not to commit the sins of our own parents.

  6. Two things.

    First, I really related to the familial bind being depicted here. I think we all could.

    Second, I nodded after reading this line: "Believe me, I'm far happier as a shallow man."

    You write brilliantly, rudeboy.

  7. @rudeboy..salamat..if not for iurico's post, hindi siguro ako magkakaroon ng lakas ng loob na isulat's been nine years after ive received my high school diploma.but the horror is still there

  8. @ Ming : Siguro puede nating itanong kung tayo ay Kapamilya, Kapuso, o Kabayan, no?

    @ Eternal Wanderer : I asked you once about your friend, who is a child of She Who I Find Most Loathsome. The fact that your friendship kept you from commenting about whether or not your friend is aware of how abominable his/her mother is - and whether or not s/he actually gave a damn - spoke volumes.

    Magkaibigan lang kayo and yet your loyalty to your friendship inhibited you from voicing an opinion. What more the fruit of her loins, indeed?

    @ Manech : I often accept compliments in a self-deprecating manner, and so here goes: you just made me blush even better than Cover Girl can.

    @ anteros : Your dreaded high school reunion is a microcosm of the world. Some people wronged you. The question is: what do you fear? Your life has gone on and gone splendidly without the ghosts of a past best left forgotten. But perhaps, like Escobar's son, you seek a sense of formal closure. I hope an apology is forthcoming from your tormentors. But if it does not come, do you really need it in order to continue the happier life you have now?

    Maybe Rodrigo Lara, the son of a victim and by extension a victim himself, said it best : "To forgive, one must remember, the other choice is to forget."

  9. highly relevant now. I have a friend who is an Ampatuan and I've no idea how to begin to console her.

  10. i used to think these things only happened in movies. i wish i could be just as naive.

  11. @ Johnny Cursive : It's a quandary, all right. While the sons should not bear the sins of the father, I came across something that put it so simply yet so eloquently:

    "The sins of the father shall be visited upon the son a thousand times. This is simple if you look at the way in which we teach our children then we teach them to sin as we sin. Thus they watch our ways everyday to figure out how to behave and if we do not set appropriate examples they do not learn appropriate ways. Then to introduce the things that society teaches the children experience the sins of the father in multitude. with each passing generation the world decays in morals and the children decay in moral values a little more thus showing this exact statement the signs of the father shall be visited upon the son a thousand times. we see this everyday and will continue to as long as we do not stop the way the world functions."