Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Detained artist sings for freedom in “Prison Sessions”

Ericson Acosta and Renato Reyes Jr (Sept. 20, 2011)

In the tradition of imprisoned artists like Francisco Balagtas, Jose Rizal, Amado V. Hernandez, detained cultural worker Ericson Acosta is writing…and singing, for his freedom.

Together with Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes, Jr, Acosta has recorded two albums worth of songs called “Prison Sessions,” all done while in detention at the Calbayog Sub-provincial Jail in Samar.

Acosta has been in detention for more than seven months now. He was arrested last February 13 in San Jorge, Samar by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He was unarmed at the time of his arrest and only had a laptop in his possession. However, that was enough to get him arrested, even if the soldiers were not able to open the contents of the computer. Acosta was brought to a military camp and subjected to continuous interrogation. After two days, he was brought to a police station. A total of 72 hours passed from the time of his arrest before formal charges were filed with a prosecutor. He was charged with illegal possession of explosives.

Acosta has since filed a petition for review wth the Department of Justice. His arraignment was deferred yesterday pending resolution of the DOJ review.

Acosta was a former cultural editor of the UP’s Philippine Collegian, assistant section editor at the Manila Times, and a UP student leader. He is a poet, thespian, playwright and singer/composer. A Free Ericson Acosta Campaign has been launched to help in his legal defense.

While imprisoned artists in the past would have to smuggle out their manuscripts on pieces of paper to be able to reach their target audience, Acosta’s Prison Sessions recordings reach their audience via Facebook and Twitter. The recordings are also downloadable. Aside from recordings, Acosta also maintains a blog which contains his prison writings.

"Prison Sessions 1" was recorded on April 6, 2011 while “Prison Sessions 2” was recorded on September 20, in time for the anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law. The songs were recorded "live and raw", with no special effects, just voice and guitar.

Acosta and Reyes first played together at the fourth floor of UP's Vinzons Hall in 1994, during their student activist days. Both were members of the student cultural group Alay Sining and wrote several of the songs still being performed by the group today.

The recordings are intended to raise awareness of the situation Acosta and other political prisoners who remain unjustly detained by the Philippine government. There are more than 360 political prisoners in the Philippines today, according to human rights group Karapatan.

“Prison Sessions” contains original songs on various social issues. Acosta also covered songs by artists like Binky Lampano (I read the news), Tambisan sa Sining (Patay na ang kabayo), Jess Santiago (Halina) and the Eraserheads (Kailan).

Listen to Prison Sessions here:


Prison Sessions 2 recorded at Calbayog Sub-provincial Jail on September 20, with detained cultural worker Ericson Acosta and BAYAN Secretary General Renato Reyes, Jr.


Kay Hirap ng Buhay (Reyes / Alay Sining)

Halina (Jess Santiago)

Kailan (Eraserheads)

Paalam (Acosta / Alay Sining)

Balang Araw (Acosta / Alay Sining)

Duyan (Acosta / Acosta Universe)

Pambihira (Acosta / Acosta Universe)

"Isang mintuong katahimikan" is an unfinished song written by Ericson inside the detention facility. It is a song about extrajudicial killings, a harsh reality in Eastern Visayas where Ericson is detained.

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