Nelson Navarro, Journalist and First Quarter Storm Student Activist, Dies at 71

He died one day after the anniversary of Martial Law.
IMAGE Photo from Nelson Navarro's Facebook page

Veteran journalist Nelson Navarro, who witnessed and wrote about the most turbulent times in Philippine history, suffered a stroke on a peaceful Sunday morning. He was 71.

His family and friends announced the death on social media.

Navarro’s career as a journalist started at the Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman. He was its editor in chief and was active in the 1970 First Quarter Storm and the Diliman Commune.

In his autobiography The Half-Remembered Past, he wrote: “Our generation, I believe, was just plain lucky. We were the first to be born not as colonial subjects but as Filipino citizens. We breezed through our teens and college year when politics had some honor left and a few good men and women to crow about. We had no way of anticipating today’s socially regressive policy of exporting menial labor en masse instead of coconuts, bananas or manufactured goods.”


Navarro graduated from UP with a Business Administration degree and took initial studies in the UP College of Law. But as the national spokesperson for the Movement for a Democratic Philippines, he was falsely accused in the August 1971 Plaza Miranda Bombing and charged with subversion while in the United States on an educational trip.

He applied for and was granted political asylum in the U.S. Navarro was active with the exiled Filipino community who also fought Martial Law. While co-founding and editing the anti-Martial Law Ningas magazine, he finished a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University in 1976.

He chose to go back and give back to the Philippines after the People Power revolution in 1986. He wrote: “What mattered most was that my heart still resided in the old country. It was not enough to visit from time to time or to keep fires burning from the distance of a safe and comfortable country. Either I was a Filipino in the Philippines of real risk and turbulence or a pseudo-American clinging to Filipino identity out of guilt and convenience.”

Back in Manila, he wrote for Malaya, Manila Standard, and the Philippine Star and was a co-anchor of ABS-CBN’s Options and a regular panelist of GMA-7’s Firing Line. He wrote the biographies of Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez and fellow journalist Max Soliven, as well as edited the biographies of President Ramon Magsaysay and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Navarro also wrote the book On the Good Side of History about the UP Alpha Phi Beta Fraternity to which he proudly belonged.

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In his memoir, he exhorts us: “Now that we have been jolted by unflattering realities, our only choice is to remind ourselves and the younger generations about how it felt to be in the frontiers of hope and why we must never give up fighting to reaffirm what we cannot afford to lose forever. That this nation will rise again is worth living for.”

Details of his wake will be announced soon.


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