"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.