The 1970s was to be a decade of change. Soon after Marcos’ re-election, a never-before- experienced fury of mass demonstrations led by students engulfed Manila. This outpouring of protest, a sustained political upheaval during the first three months of 1970, came to be called the First Quarter Storm. Even then, prior to martial law, police brutality was flagrantly displayed and well documented by the media.
In 1970, my brother David Ryan F. Quimpo was 14, a high school student at San Beda College on the same street as the Presidential Palace. Since infancy, polio had affected both of Ryan’s legs. To this day, he walks with shoes fitted with steel braces and crutches or a cane.
David Ryan writes:
“I just turned 14 when the barkada participated as poll watchers in the 1969 presidential elections. We were interested in meeting girls and one of Ricky's friends recruited us as poll watchers... So there we were at the poll precincts - our attention riveted more on girls rather than the ballot boxes. And while our participation in poll-watching was totally insignificant, the exercise pushed me to be inquisitive about elections and the issues of the day.
Reform or revolution? The question was answered for me by the First Quarter Storm [of 1970]. Most of my older siblings were in the (earlier) January 26 demonstration [held outside the Congress Building where Marcos had just given his State of the Nation address], I was not. But hearing the blow-by-blow account on the radio, one could only empathize with the student protesters. A picture published in the newspapers reporting on the January 26 demonstration showed a dozen students trying to seek refuge in a jeepney. They were surrounded by riot police who kept swinging their truncheons despite the obvious fact that the students were unarmed, helpless and terrified. Young as I was, I came to understand the words “fascism” and “state violence.” I said to myself, these brutes only understand the language of bullets.
Weeks later, as I left school to go home, I heard pillbox bombs exploding on Legarda street behind San Beda College. It was another demonstration that was degenerating into street battle. The smell of gunpowder was in the air. At the back of my mind, something told me that the revolution was already here. It seemed that it was no longer a question of its possibility, or whether it could be avoided or not...the pages of history were turning fast.
In the two years that followed, I continued to join protest actions. In each demonstration or protest march, I tried to anticipate any violent repression, positioning myself in a "safe" area or making arrangements so I could leave early when danger was imminent. I didn't know it at the time, but this pattern of trying to anticipate danger and preparing for different possibilities would strongly influence my behavior for the rest of my life.
The Mendiola experience served to underscore what I was getting into – a revolution. It certainly was not a “dinner party.” It dawned on me that someone with a disability like myself, had perhaps little chances of surviving a revolution, much less a protracted one. Like countless of others however, I saw no other path to social change, and tried to muster the courage needed to face the challenges of the day. “
[Note: Under martial law, David Ryan had been feverishly hunted down by Marcos' military. Of my five brothers, he was the only one who repeatedly escaped arrest. In 1984, he was able to "smuggle" his wife and two toddler children out of the country to seek political asylum abroad.]