They were really close friends, these three: Rolando Castro, Claro Cabrera and Pepito Deheran. When Roland’s eldest son was baptized in church, Peping Deheran stood as godfather. When the second boy was baptized, Lito Cabrera was asked to be his godfather.
Castro was the first to get married and raise a family. He and his wife Elvira met while they were working at a hotel: he was a laborer and she washed bed linens. Upon settling down in Angeles City, the young husband supported his brood by driving a tricycle. Sometimes he would also find temporary work, building houses, at the nearby US military base. “He was a good man, thoughtful and hardworking,” Elvira said. “I never had any problem with him.”
When Roland became an active member of Concerned Citizens of Pampanga, a cause-oriented organization that campaigned against human rights violations by the martial law regime, he didn’t exactly inform her but she knew. “When he made remarks about Marcos’ policies not being good for the country, I thought to myself that he was probably hanging out with the activists. That was three or four years before he died.”
She would learn from his friends about the rallies they joined. “Once, Roland was gone for a week. It turned out he had joined a Lakbayan [protest march]. He showed us pictures of him and his friends. Many people from Sapang Bato were also there.”
Castro divided his time between his growing family and his community work, where he aimed to help the youth spend their time wisely by teaching them handicraft skills and involving them in sports activities. The three buddies built themselves a small hut near Cabrera’s place, and used it as their own sort of clubhouse.
The three became very active in the campaign to boycott the 1984 Batasang Pambansa elections that the Marcos regime had called. It was obviously intended to pacify the people’s raging protest movement, especially after the assassination of Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. On the local level, government supporters had instructions to suppress any dissenters and push through with the exercise.
Shortly after the elections had been held, Castro, Deheran and Cabrera were abducted from their little hut by a team of militia led by a soldier. They were brought to a military detachment where they were interrogated, beaten and stabbed repeatedly. Afterwards the bodies of Castro and Cabrera were dumped into the nearby Apalit River. Deheran survived, and made a statement before dying later; in it he named two of their attackers.
Elvira was left to raise their four boys by working again as a laundrywoman. The families of the three friends sued but the case did not prosper.