Ateneo is a school known to have produced student heroes who died in defense of freedom and democracy in their country. The names Edgar Jopson and Emmanuel Lacaba come to mind. A less known, but no less heroic Atenean, was Nicolas “Nick” Solana Jr.
Nick was a bright young boy, earning consistently good grades in elementary and high school. He was a natural leader. He acted in school plays and was active cub scout and boy scout. When he was in his senior year in high school, he won an oratorical contest called National Voice of Democracy sponsored by the Jaycees and Meralco. Nick won by a unanimous vote over eight other contestants from other provinces. The tall and lanky Nick awed the audience with his passionate speech, anchoring his defense of democracy on what he felt was the “root of the nation: the family.”
On a scholarship, Nick enrolled at the Ateneo de Manila for college. His new friends called him “a regular guy.” He played basketball, drank and caroused with fellow students, played pranks on friends, always cracking jokes.
Nick loved music. He played the guitar every chance he got. He sang second bass at the Ateneo Glee Club and was part of the chorus that sang at the Ateneo Experimental Theater’s production of T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral. He joined The Ambivalent Crowd, a popular singing group at the time, helping arrange the group’s Davao tour and even hosting some of them at his family’s residence.
Nick became a member of a religious movement of Ateneo students called Days with the Lord, which promoted a joyful and personal kind of Christianity.
After college, Nick went back to Davao City and enrolled at the Ateneo de Davao School of Law. It was 1969, and the country was agitated over then President Marcos’s increasingly repressive rule. The situation in Mindanao was explosive – a militarized countryside and rural communities reeling from soldiers’ abuses such as massacres, bombings and strafings.
Nick did community work, introducing the Days with the Lord movement to poor people, particularly among Davao City seaside communities. Nick’s easy disposition and excellent communication skills served him well. He won over many people, including neighborhood toughies, to the Christian movement.
But Nick himself was changed in a fundamental way by the misery he became exposed to in these slum areas. Soon, Nick was talking about the need for “land for the landless.” While he continued to pursue his law studies, he joined a group called Malayang Lipunan, which gave aid to victims of calamities as well as farmers protesting a giant banana plantation spraying pesticides (and causing the locals to develop skin diseases). He believed that the farmers should resist the abusive conditions. When elementary school teachers at the Ateneo staged a strike to press for higher wages, Nick rallied fellow students to give their support. He spoke against the “miseducation” of the Filipinos who were being conditioned to serve the interests of the rich classes.
He finished his law studies in 1973 but refused to take the bar in protest of the imposition of martial law the year before. He instead chose to work with a non-government organization, and, by this time, with the left underground movement.
Nick was killed in a military ambush in early April 1975. He had been with an armed group.
Habagat, an underground newsletter, reported that Nick was killed by “three traitors and a PC-CHDF team.” The newsletter said that Nick (referred to as Ka Noni, his revolutionary alias), suffered from five bullet wounds and died instantly. Habagat said that Nick had been working fulltime in the underground for one year when killed. It described Nick as someone coming from a privileged family, but striving hard to live a simple and “proletarian” life.
His family grieved for what Nick had to give up for his beliefs, but they believe that he followed “where his conscience and faith led him.” People in the slum areas of Davao continue to speak fondly of Nick.
The late poet and fellow Atenean Emannuel Lacaba, who also later died as a revolutionary, wrote the poem “Sa Alaala ni Nick Solana:” Ipaghihiganti namin kayong lahat, / Mga martir, kayong natuklaw ng ahas / Paghawan ng landas tungong / katuktukang, Kasimbigat, Ka Nick, / ng iyong pagpanaw.
Parents Paulina Moralizon and Nicolas Solana
Siblings 1 brother, 3 sisters
Elementary Davao Central Elem. School, Davao City
High School Ateneo de Davao, Matina, Davao City
College Ateneo de Manila University, AB Economics, 1969
Ateneo de Davao Law School, finished in 1973 but did not take the bar