VYTIACO, Antonia Teresa V.

Vituico Ma. Antonia Teresa Villa

Nanette Vytiaco was a vivacious young woman from Bikol, studying in Manila and thoroughly energized by the hectic pace of student activism. And plunging heart and soul into that life was not enough for her – she wanted to share it with her friends and family.

In those days before everyone had a cellphone and connected through social media, people sent letters to each other in what is now called “snail mail.” Writing back home to her cousin Bing, Vytiaco described a typical day: “If I was not very busy today I should have gone to the picket at Retelco in Pasig.” Earlier, she had attended a rally in support of a jailed youth leader.  She was planning to join a group visit on a “Learn from the People” trip to Central Luzon. Knowing that her father would disapprove, she confided: “If he does not permit me, I will make takas.”

Torn between her father’s worries and her own enthusiasm to serve, Vytiaco mused: “Surely I love him so much,” she told Bing, “I know I will disappoint him. I, too, am aware that he has high expectations and dreams for me. But what can I do? Should I give in to Papa’s call or the Lord’s? The matter with us is that we are too selfish and this is what makes our country stagnant… Honestly, how do you judge me at present? Do you think I should return to the same old me, or continue pursuing my new-found life?”

President Marcos was then well on his way to declaring martial law, so that Vytiaco and many others found it easy to abandon their studies and devote themselves full-time to the political resistance. She met and married Nicanor Vergara, a fellow activist, and together they began organizing chapters of Kabataang Makabayan in the Bikol region, starting in her hometown of Bulan, Sorsogon. They also networked with government employees, coconut farmers, cargadores loading and unloading goods at the seaport, fishermen.  Humble folk who worked on their family’s land gave her shelter in their homes.

Although the situation had become especially dangerous, Vytiaco remained in close touch with her loved ones.  She was so happy to see her mother one day in November 1972, bringing her favorite food.  She was expecting a baby for the third time, having already suffered two miscarriages.

“Your Papa wants you to surrender, and says not to worry because the chief of police is our relative,” Mrs. Vytiaco said.  Nanette refused, saying: “Tell him that I have chosen this life.”

That same evening, a message was received from the town mayor, informing Mr. Vytiaco that a pregnant rebel had been killed, who could be his daughter.  “So I went up to the munisipyo and saw her body trussed up and hacked by a bolo… practically hacked to pieces. I did not say anything. I carried my daughter home.”

BORN                                    :               April 13, 1953 in Bulan, Sorsogon

DIED                                      :               November 10, 1972 in Bulan, Sorsogon

PARENTS                             :               Antonio Vytiaco and Marita Villa

SPOUSE                                                :               Nicanor Vergara

EDUCATION                       :               Elementary: Bulan Elementary School, Sorsogon;  Centro Escolar

University, Manila

Secondary: University of the Philippines Preparatory School, Manila

College: University of the Philippines Diliman



VILLANUEVA, Marcelino M.

“When I grow up, Inay, I will build you a beautiful house, with ten maids to help you. We’ll fill it with nice furniture too!”

His mother remembers her boy’s childhood promise, a dream that didn’t seem too strange at the time. Marcelino was bright and hardworking. After school, he helped her sell fruits in the crowded foreshoreland area of northern Manila where they lived. Instead of playing with the other youngsters, he attended to chores around the house.

Mrs. Villanueva’s second son was then on his way to getting a topnotch education, having passed the highly competitive examinations to enter the Philippine Science High School. He and his brother x x x were the first two graduates of their public elementary school in Tondo to be admitted to PSHS, where they enjoyed full scholarships from the government.

But it was the beginning of the turbulent 1970s, when many were warning that Philippine society was like a volcano about to erupt. Marcelino Villanueva joined an activist organization, the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan. Here he found answers to his troubling questions about glaring inequalities and what the future held for young people like him. He left PSHS and transferred to a high school in Tondo. He began organizing in the urban poor communities that were so familiar to him.

Abandoning his studies and his childhood dream of becoming a rich man, Villanueva instead began advocating the need to reject apathy, to be more aware, and most of all to undertake purposeful collective action in order to bring about real social change. He volunteered to join ZOTO (Zone One Tondo Organization), a church-assisted federation of community organizations. To combat the drug problem, he thought of involving the youth in sports and other activities like cleaning the drainage canals running through their neighborhoods.

In 1977 Villanueva was arrested and detained for four months in Bicutan Rehabilitation Center.  Upon his release, he asked to be sent to Central Luzon where he spent two years working among the small peasants.  Then he returned to his old base in Manila, where the groundwork had been laid years before, and was now the center of mass protests against the dictatorship.

The martial law authorities marked Villanueva as a wanted man, and in 1985 he was killed by constabulary troopers in a rented house in Project 7, Quezon City.

BORN                                    :               March 3, 1955 in Manila

DIED                                      :               May 21, 1985 in Quezon City

PARENTS                             :               Mariano Villanueva and Lagrimas Mercado

SPOUSE/CHILDREN         :               x x x / 2

EDUCATION                :           Elementary: Isabelo de los Reyes Elementary School, Manila

Secondary: Philippine Science High School, Quezon City;

Torres High School, Manila

SILVA, Lazaro P.

 Silva Lazaro

He was fun-loving and lighthearted – kalog.  Having gained admission to a high school with strict academic standards, he refused to be known as a nerd, claiming that all he wanted was to “pass, and have a good time”[1] with his barkada, the guys he hung out with.

Lazzie Silva went on to enter college in 1970, and it was there, as an Ateneo freshman, that he began joining rallies: at first by himself, and then as a member of the radical Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan.  The protest actions escalated.  In February 1971, someone he knew from high school (Pastor Mesina) was shot dead at a barricade at the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman.  Then, a few months later, he witnessed how government troops fired at a rally, killing four workers.

These experiences made a lasting impact on Silva, He now got serious, doing organizing work among the youth and the poor communities in Marikina and Quezon City.  Eventually he left school to devote himself full-time to the movement.  His commitment only grew stronger when President Marcos declared martial law.

In late 1973, he was arrested outside a printing press where he and another activist had been mimeographing a political manifesto. Silva was jailed for six months in Fort Bonifacio before being released (his father was a constabulary officer, and this probably helped).  While in detention, the many communal activities kept him busy; he even learned how to sew pants for himself and others.

But although he went right back to his organizational tasks afterwards, Silva had made up his mind to leave the city and join the armed guerrillas in the countryside. In the remote communities of Zambales, where he was assigned, life was very hard especially for a city-bred youth. But he was determined to share the people’s life: they taught him how to plow, plant and harvest; once, he helped to deliver a baby.  When his girlfriend suggested that he take a few days’ break back home in the city, he refused because “he might be tempted to stay.” She knew that he had “set a standard for himself and he was set on meeting that goal.” He asked her to come and visit him instead.[2]

But before that could happen, Silva met his death in an isolated hut somewhere in the hills. On August 13, 1975, a military unit was able to surround his group undetected. As they opened fire, Lazzie Silva decided he would stay on and hold off the attackers, so that his comrades could escape the cordon.

He was so young, just 23, said his girlfriend many years later. “The happy-go-lucky guy that I met turned out to be a real hero. He died fighting for his beliefs and in service to the people he loved.”[3]

BORN                                    :               March 4, 1952 in San Jose, Nueva Ecija

DIED                                      :               August 13, 1976 in Zambales

EDUCATION                       :               Elementary: Pio del Pilar Elementary School, [Quezon City]

Secondary: Philippine Science High School, Quezon City

College: Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City

[1] Personal communication, D. Bibat, March 16, 2001.

[2] Email, L. Castilla, March 2, 2001.

[3] Ibid.

PALABAY, Armando D.

Palabay Armando Ducusin

Armando Palabay, the eighth of nine brothers and sisters, was reared in the typical Ilocano fashion of frugality and simple living. His parents stressed the value of education, love for country, and the obligation to help others and serve the community. Armando, or Mandrake to friends, was a gregarious person. He loved to mix with crowds and had the gift of a quick and charming tongue. Yet he was also sensitive to other person’s needs and he wanted to help the less fortunate.

Living in the Ilocos and coming from an Ilocano family, Mandrake grew in a community that was loyal and devoted to then president Ferdinand Marcos and his family. Every family had one of a child named Ferdinand or Imelda in honor of the president or his wife.

But the Palabay family heard of rumors of abuses and injustices being committed by the Marcos government against students and ordinary citizens. Mandrake and elder brother Romulo, then also in high school, kept up with current events and discussed the day's issues with friends. Some evenings, they spent not wooing girls or playing with the boys, but getting into impassioned debates with their growing circle of activist friends. The Palabay house was the site of those nightly talks. The boys’ parents worried for the boys’ safety but they did not want to curtail their growing passion for justice and reform.

Romulo joined the local chapter of the militant Kabataang Makabayan, and the brothers were soon joining small rallies denouncing government abuses, or sometimes at the plaza, with a curious crowd, staging plays that offered sharp commentaries about the social situation.

The brothers moved to Manila in the 1970s for their college education. At the University of the Philippines, Mandrake joined the Student Cultural Association of UP (SCAUP), and later the Kabataang Makabayan and its cultural arm, the Panday Sining. He kept his interest in drama, helping organize and present street plays, singing protest songs during rallies, and holding poetry readings to interpret their burning search for justice in society.

After the 1971 First Quarter Storm and the bombing of the Liberal Party rally in Plaza Miranda, the brothers decided to return to the Ilocos to convince their fellow Ilocanos, still blinded by their adoration of Marcos, about what was going on. They enrolled in a local college and were soon organizing forums, protest rallies and discussion groups among youths and students in the province. They organized countryside trips to bring town‑based students to experience life in the village. In one of these visits, villagers complained that soldiers and members of the local militia had come and ordered local people to bring them food but never paid for them. The Palabay brothers organized a protest against the soldiers’ abusive practice.

Once more the Palabay household became a nightly scene of young people, discussing various views and possible alternatives. Some of the young people at these meetings came from as far away as Baguio or Manila. Some came from the villages.

President Marcos’ declaration of martial law in 1972 forever changed the Palabay household. Mandrake and Romulo were arrested, tortured and detained for half a year at Camp Olivas in Pampanga. After his release, Mandrake returned to UP, and found there a restlessness that saw even members of the faculty protesting against the repressive policies of the government.

Mandrake stayed for only one semester in UP. In December 1973, he left to engage in countryside organizing in Abra province, in particular, with the Tinggians of southern Abra. He learned the Tinggian language and took a short training in acupuncture and the use of herbal medicines to help him integrate into the community. He would handle nervous patients with humor, joking with them or telling them funny stories. He also helped in farm work, thus teaching himself about the labors of those who toiled the soil to produce food. He became part of an armed propaganda unit.

In a letter he wrote in October 1974, he told a younger brother:

"You have to render true and concrete service. I joined and learned the whole process of planting rice. Thus I realized how hard a peasant's life is. They use very crude and backward implements. They must use their hands in order to sustain life... "

Mandrake had been in Tinggian territory for nearly a year when his team of four moved to open new areas, a risky venture because it entailed moving into new unexplored territory. Mandrake's unit was intercepted by constabulary soldiers and members of the local home defense force. A firefight ensued, and Mandrake's team all died fighting. They were all buried in an unmarked grave near the banks of the Abra River. None of the bodies have been recovered.

Mandrake was 21 years old.

* Born 18 February 1953 in San Fernando, La Union

* Died 27 November 1974 in Sallapadan, Abra

* Parents : Francisco F. Palabay and Felicidad F. Ducusin

* Education :   San Fernando Community School, La Union, graduated with honors

La Union High School, in top 10 of graduating class

University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, 3rd year in BS Economics


MunozPalma Cecila Arreglado

“We shall be judged by history…not by what we want to do and can’t, but by what we ought to do and don’t.”

Cecilia Muñoz-Palma was associate justice of the Supreme Court when she spoke these words in a speech on International Law Day. It was the third year of President Marcos’ martial law regime, and despite being herself a Marcos appointee to the high court (in 1973) she was pleading for the return of the rule of law. It was an astoundingly brave stance, implying that Filipinos needed to resist the dictatorship despite their fear of it. The audience gave her a five-minute standing ovation. (But a senior justice called her “ingrata” – which made her proud.)

Under Marcos, magistrates sitting in the country’s highest tribunal had been turned into docile justifiers of his rule. Not  Muñoz-Palma. She declared: “My oath of office is an oath of loyalty to the Constitution, to justice and the people and is not an oath of fealty to the appointing power.”[1]

When opposition leader Jose W. Diokno petitioned the court to order his release from military custody – having been detained without charges for more than two years – the other justices wanted to turn him down; she dissented. Diokno was released even before the decision was made public.

When Benigno Aquino Jr. asked to be tried before a civilian court, the other justices agreed with Marcos that he should face a military tribunal; Muñoz-Palma dissented.  She was thinking of the effect such a majority ruling would have on the rest of the citizenry: “There rose before my eyes,” she explained, “this gruesome specter of one, a hundred, a thousand civilian Filipinos being dragged by the mighty arms of the military before its own created and manned tribunals…for offenses, real or imaginary….”[2]

After retiring from the Supreme Court in 1978 and desiring to continue serving the country, she sought election to the Batasang Pambansa that same year, representing Quezon City.

When Marcos was forced to call for a snap election in 1985, Muñoz-Palma played an important role in unifying the various opposition groups behind the candidacy of Corazon Aquino.  Appointed by the new president to be a member of the 1987 Constitution, and elected by the delegates to be the chairman, she fulfilled her task with integrity, foresight and statesmanship.

Cecilia Muñoz-Palma died in 2006 at the age of 92.

BORN                                    :               November 22, 1913 in Bauan, Batangas

DIED                                      :               January 2, 2006 in Quezon City

PARENTS                             :               Pedro Muñoz and Emilia Arreglado

SPOUSE/CHILDREN         :               Rodolfo Palma / 3

EDUCATION                       :               Elementary: St. Bridget Academy, Batangas, Batangas

Secondary: St. Scholastica’s College, Manila

College: University of the Philippines

Postgraduate: Yale University, USA


[1] The Mirror of My Soul: selected decisions, opinions, speeches and writings by Cecilia Muñoz-Palma, Supreme Court Printing service, Manila, 2001.

[2] 100 Women of the Philippines: Celebrating Filipino Womanhood in the New Millennium by Joy Buensalido and Abe Florendo, Buensalido and Associates, Makati City, 1999.

MALAY, Paula Carolina S.

Malay Paula Carolina Santos

Affectionately known as “Ayi” to a generation of antidictatorship fighters old and young, Paula Carolina S. Malay found the full expression of her life in the struggle to defend and promote human rights in the Philippines.

She was already in her 50s when she threw herself into the rushing stream of activities that propelled the people’s movement forward during the turbulent period of martial law.  Before it became easier to express open resistance through the “parliament of the streets” (especially after the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983), she dared to work even clandestinely because there was no other way in the earlier years.

She visited jails, raised funds, and distributed news bulletins from the underground and alternative press.  She marched in the streets, waved placards and signed petitions.She wrote letters of appeal to friends abroad, prompting them to pressure their own governments to oppose Marcos’ repressive rule.

Hosting innumerable meetings, Ayi participated in the forging of democratic consensus, and helped strengthen – through simple acts of friendship and compassion – the then-emerging community of human-rights activists.

Indeed, Ayi played an important role in encouraging the latter, most of them young enough to be her children, in their commitment to country and people under conditions of great personal risk.  Likewise, she tried to do what she could for the families of imprisoned peasants and workers.  All of them could come any time and unburden themselves for a while – and Ayi would cry along with them, sharing her own worries and problems.

The Quezon City home of the Malays (he was dean of student affairs at the University of the Philippines during martial law) served as a haven for friends from all walks of life who found themselves united by the need to resist the repressive Marcos regime.  When political prisoners were freed in 1986 after the dictatorship was toppled, it was in the Malay residence that a joyful reunion was held where hundreds came to celebrate.

Ayi’s involvement was rooted in her own strong political economic and social advocacy, mainly acquiredthrough self-study. But it was also very personal, as the entire family participated in the resistance movement as well.

Even after the fall of the dictatorship, Ayi continued to be active in the human-rights movement, especially in behalf of political detainees and children.

She died in 1993 at the age of 77.

BORN                                    :  April 4, 1916 in Obando, Bulacan

DIED                                      :  December 24, 1993 in Quezon City

PARENTS                             :  Ricardo C. Santos and Paula Guevara

SPOUSE/CHILDREN         : Armando J. Malay / 3

EDUCATION                       : Elementary:Obando Elementary School, Bulacan

Secondary: Torres High School, Manila

College: Philippine Normal School; University of the Philippines Diliman

MALAY, Armando J.


It was not easy for Armando J. Malay to openly take the side of the resistance to martial law. In April 1970 he had agreed to be dean of students at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, at a time when it had already become a hotbed of open defiance against the authorities.

The Diliman Commune some months later, when students took over the campus for more than a week, tested the limits of his ability to balance between his innate sympathy for the activist youth and the expectation that he would enforce rules and regulations in a very unruly situation.

After all, Malay used to be an impulsive young man who once resigned from a prestigious, well-paying job at one of the country’s leading newspapers because he felt that staying on would compromise his integrity as a journalist. Besides, he and other top UP officials, as well as President Marcos himself, were loyal members of a college fraternity that fostered close personal ties.

In 1978 Malay chose to retire from UP: “…tired of being caught in the middle between students who accused him of acting as a censor when he considered himself very lenient, and the military, who thought he was a radical because he allowed anti-government leaflets to proliferate in UP.”[1]

Freed from the obligations of being a UP official, Dean Malay happily returned to being a fighting journalist. The alternative press -- so-called because it published news and opinions that were suppressed by the pro-dictatorship media – had gained its footing. Malay began writing for Who, Jose Burgos Jr.’s pioneer independent political magazine under martial law. In 1981 he joined Burgos in We Forum, and enjoyed a wide readership for the critical columns he wrote three times a week. In 1982 he was among the writers and staff who were arrested and detained by the military for alleged subversion.

Particularly after the assassination of Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. (another fraternity brother),Malay had also stepped up to the frontlines of the human-rights movement. He was founding chair of Kapatid, a support and advocacy group in behalf of political detainees all over the country.  He and his wife Paula were among the many oppositionists and cause-oriented leaders indefatigably marching in rallies and demonstrations.

Having seen the downfall of the dictatorship and its aftermath, Dean Malay died at the age of 89 after a long and eventful life.


BORN                                                   :               March 31, 1914 in Tondo, Manila

DIED                                                      :               May 15, 2003 in Quezon City

PARENTS                                             :               Gonzalo C. Malay and Carmen de Jesus

SPOUSE/CHILDREN                         :               Paula Carolina Santos / 3

EDUCATION                                       :               Elementary: Gagalangin Elementary School, Manila

Secondary: Torres High School, Manila

College: University of the Philippines


[1]Marites N. Sison and Yvonne T. Chua, Armando J. Malay: A Guardian of Memory. The Life and Times of a Filipino Journalist and Activist. Pasig City, Anvil Publishing, Inc., 2002, p. 195.

HIZON JR., Manuel L.


Manuel Hizon Jr. had a well‑to‑do family. His father occupied an important position as chief actuary and senior vice‑president of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). His mother, who hailed from the prominent Llanes family of Ilocos Norte, was an entrepreneur who handled businesses engaged in trading and real estate.

Manuel, or Sonny as he was called by family and friends, was the elder of two sons. The boys grew up in surroundings of prosperity and wealth, but tempered by their parents with positive values such as respect for others and responsibility for one's actions.

Sonny had a happy disposition, and therefore, had many friends in campus, where he played in various sports, creating an incongruous image of the tall bespectacled athlete. He became involved in two socially-oriented groups, the Sodality Movement and the Student Catholic Action (SCA), where he later became chair. Later he joined the Ateneo Political Society, where he became its vice‑president for a time, and also served as representative to the Sanggunian ng mga Mag‑aaral ng Ateneo, which put him into Ateneo's circle of activists during that time.

Soon, Sonny was joining trips to urban poor areas and other poverty‑stricken places, earning him the tag "Catholic activist." Sonny saw faces and forms of poverty he never knew existed. In 1969, Sonny joined Lakasdiwa, an Ateneo‑based Christian Democratic organization. He engaged Lakasdiwa members in long discussions about the Christian faith and about the country's social problems. When he felt he was outgrowing Lakasdiwa, in 1970, he joined an even more militant group, the Liga ng Demokratikong Atenista (LDA). He started to read political material. With this deepening political consciousness, he started to shed some of the personal privileges he took for granted, including being chauffeured daily to and from school.

Sonny completed his economics degree in 1972 and easily found a job in a private firm. For several months he juggled life in the corporate world with his militant activism.

Meanwhile, he had joined the Kilusang Kristiyano ng Kabataang Pilipino (KKKP), an even more militant Christian group. Sonny was elected KKKP general secretary in 1972 and on his shoulders fell the task of organizing chapters around the country, holding education meetings, preparing the organization for political rallies, releasing statements on various issues, and even building up funds for the organization. Sonny took his new tasks in stride. He kept his sense of humor, played his guitar, and even had time enough to fall in love.

When a series of floods hit Metro Manila in the summer of 1972, Sonny left his job, worked fulltime, organizing, among others, volunteers for flood relief operations.

When Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law, KKKP leaders opted to keep the organization running and even expanding its chapters nationwide. Sonny continued to lead KKKP until in 1973, he decided to leave for Cagayan Valley to respond to requests for political leadership to armed units operating in the area. Later the unit moved to Nueva Ecija, an extremely risky move. His team often faced skirmishes with government soldiers. On one such fateful encounter, Sonny met his death. Sonny was 22 years old.

BORN                                    :               May 24, 1952 in Quezon City

DIED                                      :               June 17, 1976 in Nueva Ecija

PARENTS                             :               Manuel Hizon Sr. and Yolanda Llanes

SPOUSE                                :               Ella Valmonte

EDUCATION                       :               Elementary/Secondary: Lourdes School, Quezon City

College: Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City



One of the most well-known personalities of the antidictatorship struggle was a small, dark-skinned Catholic nun who worked tirelessly to seek out and defend victims of human-rights violations, presenting factual data that the regime could not deny.

For 21 years, Sister Mariani Dimaranan headed Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, (TFDP, popularly known as TFD), which had been created in the early years of martial law by the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines precisely to investigate and document human rights abuses and, whenever possible, intervene with the military for the release of detainees.

Under her fearless leadership, TFD played a critical role as an independent agency documenting and publicizing those abuses. She set up local TFD offices to provide direct service to prisoners and their families, worked out prisoner releases, and built up an international network to campaign against political detention in the Philippines. By 1986, the final year of the Marcos dictatorship, TFDP had 65 local offices across the country, and Sister Mariani’s name had become synonymous with the defense of political prisoners and human rights in the Philippines.

Dimaranan was a member of the Franciscan sisters (SFIC), and taught high school and college courses in the congregation’s schools in Luzon.  Before devoting herself fulltime to the work in TFD, she was the registrar and head of the social sciences department at St. Joseph’s College in Quezon City, and assistant dean at Our Lady of the Angels Seminary also in Quezon City.

Because of her concern for the plight of the poor, on her own she had been participating in protest actions as early as the 1960s. In 1973, Dimaranan was detained for six weeks in Camp Crame and Fort Bonifacio for alleged involvement in subversive activities. It was a disturbing experience. Being a nun gave a measure of protection from her military captors, but in detention she learned the truth about the huge number of those who had been arrested and tortured by the authorities. Thus, upon her release she volunteered to join the newly set-up TFD.

Dimaranan was an exemplary teacher who taught by example.  She trained countless volunteers in gathering reliable data, and trained staff and paralegals in development work. Today many Filipino aid workers who learned from her serve humanitarian organizations all over the world.

The fall of the dictatorship in 1986 did not convince Dimaranan that the defense of human rights had become irrelevant. Until her failing health obliged her to slow down, she continued to lead Task Force Detainees actively until 1996.  Still, she did what she could, until her death in 2005 at the age of 81.

BORN                                    :               February 1, 1925 in Lubang, Occidental Mindoro

DIED                                      :               December 17, 2005 in Quezon City

PARENTS                             :               Mariano Dimaranan and Maria Cuevas

EDUCATION                       :               Elementary: Stella Maris School, Lubang

Secondary: Holy Infant Academy, Calapan, Mindoro

College: Divine Word College, Calapan; University of Santo Tomas,


Postgraduate: De La Salle University, Manila; Maryknoll School of

Theology, New York (USA)

CRISMO, Romeo G.


Romeo Crismo was the eldest son of a government employee (his father was the postmaster in the small town of Cabarroguis, Quirino).  The family being devout Methodists, he and his six brothers and sisters regularly attended Sunday school and Bible studies.

Active in the 4-H Club, Crismo often represented his town in provincial and national meetings. In 1972 he was elected president of the high school student body, and was even conferred the school’s Politician of the Year Award.  He really wanted to take up law after high school, but enrolled in accounting instead, upon his father’s advice.

Crismo was very active in the United Methodist Youth Fellowship, rising to leadership positions from the local chapter presidency to the district presidency and the Northern Philippines Annual Conference presidency.  He was involved in redrafting the UMYF constitution, and in 1976 was elected as the organization’s first national executive secretary.

Crismo’s church participation was wide-ranging, from the youth leadership training program of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines, to rural youth projects undertaken for the Christian Conference of Asia, to education work for the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines.

After becoming a certified public accountant in 1977, he worked as a cooperatives examiner in Cagayan for the Department of Local Government and Community Development.  Later he was to join the Commission on Audit, becoming one of the youngest government auditors in Region II at the time.

Although he appeared to be leading a “normal” life and working at a “normal” job, the martial law dictatorship stirred a yearning in the young man for something else, a radical alternative. “In our hearts, we believed in the alternative that aimed to restore justice and freedom in the country,” said a close friend.[1]  In 1973, Crismo had already aroused the suspicion of church elders when he campaigned against the sham plebiscite being organized by Marcos to legitimize martial law.  He did go on to help establish an underground network in his church that engaged in active resistance to the dictatorship.

In 1980, Crismo and his new bride moved to Tuguegarao, where he began teaching at the Cagayan Teacher’s College and St. Louis College.  He had not been a teacher for long when he disappeared.  On August 11, unknown men tried to take him away in a van as he was leaving school for the day.  He was saved only by the presence of his students.  The following day, he failed to make it to his afternoon class.

Since then, despite years of patient effort, his wife Phebe has not been able to find any trace of her husband.

BORN                                    :               December 8, 1955 in Saguday, Quirino

DISAPPEARED                    :               August 12, 1980 in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan

PARENTS                             :               Pepito Crismo and Nellie Guilao

SPOUSE                                :               Phebe Gamata

EDUCATION                       :               Elementary: Saguday Central School, Quirino

Secondary: Nueva Vizcaya Comprehensive High School

College: St. Mary’s College, Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya


[1] Jefferson P. Tugawin, “The Northern Passion of Romeo Crismo,” a tribute delivered at the Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, August 12. 2000.

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