MALICAY, Alfredo L.


Alfredo was the son of poor farmers from Davao. He was an affectionate and respectful son, and a hardworking student. He was also a natural leader, active in several groups such as the 4H Club and the Boy Scouts of the Philippines and in high school PMT. He won a college scholarship from the 4H Club and took an agricultural chemistry course at the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture (UPCA) in Los Baños, Laguna.

Alfredo showed exceptional literary skills in college. He wrote poems, and was editor-in-chief from 1968 to 1969 of the Aggie Green and Gold, the official student publication at UPCA.

Activism was then spreading in the campus, and Alfredo joined the chapter of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in the university and became one of its organizers. He also became a member and later officer of the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity, then known for its nationalistic and progressive leanings.

As KM organizer, Alfredo went around recruiting for KM in key schools in Southern Tagalog and in communities around the campus.  He wrote rousing articles for the Aggie Green and Gold, addressing the youth and urging them to embrace nationalism, democracy and academic freedom.

He also worked with friends from the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK), to launch campus campaigns to urge students to become involved in issues such as academic freedom, high tuition fees, and the lack of student participation in campus decision-making.  Alfredo and his fellow activists organized a Friday discussion group called UP College of Agriculture Cultural Society (UPCACS), which met and reviewed books by nationalist historian Renato Constantino and by the Chinese leader Mao Zedong, among others, and other articles and books, particularly about the Vietnam war.

Under Alfredo, the Aggie Green and Gold became a powerful instrument in rousing and organizing students to support the youth movement espousing nationalism, democracy and freedom.

He completed his undergraduate degree in 1971, but did not seek employment after graduation.  Instead, he went into fulltime organizing, moving from Laguna, to Quezon, to Batangas, calling on the youth to demand social reforms for the poor and exploited sectors in the Philippines.

In 1972, he went back to school to begin a graduate course in UP Diliman. But martial law intervened. He returned to Los Baños and resumed fulltime activist work against the Marcos dictatorship, this time in a clandestine setting.  He combined his organizational and literary skills and effectively guided the small anti-dictatorship groups in the region to survive the crackdown, recruit new members, and launch actions to give people hope in becoming involved in fighting and eventually toppling the dictatorship.

In mid-1973, a series of arrests of activists in their network alarmed Alfredo’s group so the group called a meeting in October to plan contingency and security measures.  Unfortunately, intelligence teams found the very same house where they were meeting in Malabon, Rizal. In the subsequent raid of that house, three were arrested, including Nelia Sancho, Tita Lubi and Rosemarie Rodriguez, and two were shot and killed, including Alfredo, and one Cesar Hicaro.

Because his family was too poor to travel from Tagum, Alfredo’s fraternity brothers took care of retrieving his body and having it buried with simple burial rites at the Navotas Public Cemetery. It remains there today. Three of Alfredo’s brothers later became also involved in the anti-Marcos resistance movement.

MARTINEZ, Asuncion "Ason" ICM


Sr. Asuncion Martinez came from a rich family in Leyte where her father was once governor. She was born Esther Martinez, joined the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (ICM) as a postulant in 1934, and took her vows and adopted her new name in 1937. She became Sr. Ason to friends and colleagues.

From 1937 to 1950 she taught high school and college subjects in congregation-run schools such as the Holy Family Convent, St. Theresa’s College Manila and the Infant Jesus Academy. She was the Belgian-dominated ICM’s first Filipina superior in 1950, and first Filipina provincial councilor from 1959 to 1969.

She also served as superior of St. Theresa’s College in Quezon City. Under her guidance, the school opened its doors to poor students, allowing them to pay reduced fees through eleven years of pre-college education. The school became known for its courageous stance for the unfortunates in society and for exposing its students to social issues and shaping them to become advocates for the poor, and for justice and truth.

When she was nearing 60, Sr. Ason responded to Vatican II’s call for the establishment of a “church of the poor” by shifting from school work to community work. The bishops had called on nuns to take rural assignments, and Sr. Ason went to Janiuay town in Iloilo, where she lived among farmers and sugar workers and worked with the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) and the National Federation of Free Farmers (FFF).

She helped organize her fellow nuns who responded to the same call into the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and became one of its two first co-chairpersons.

She was 63 years old when she started mission work in Manila’s urban poor communities. She became a trusted friend of the workers at the La Tondeña Distillery, and in 1975, was among the first outsiders to be told of a plan by the company’s casual employees who were seeking permanent working status to defy a martial law decree prohibiting labor strikes.

It was to be a sitdown strike by around 800 casuals. Sr. Ason was among the churchpersons who stood at the picketline as a supporter. Barely had it began when the Metrocom, the elite constabulary forces, swooped down on the striking workers and started dragging strikers into a bus to be hauled to jail. The workers and their supporters tried to resist the arrest. The 65-year-old Sr. Ason, quite prominent in her habit, clung to the bus window and dared the soldiers to arrest her also. Only urgent urgings from strike leaders that she could be more helpful “outside” than if she were also arrested convinced her to let go.

Sr. Ason later wrote that La Tondeña was her second baptism: “I acquired a new mind, a new heart, a new vision, a new understanding of my country’s history and my people.”

Laborers in other factories were heartened by the strike and a series of other strikes hit Metro Manila. The Church-Labor Center under the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines and the Rural Missionaries supported these strikes as the Catholic Church’s way of expressing dissent against martial law. The Friends of the Workers and the Kapisanan ng mga Relihiyoso para sa Kalayaan at Katarungan were born, followed by the Urban Missionaries (UM).  The workers organized the Kapatiran. Sr. Ason was involved with all these groups.

The La Tondeña experience is considered a turning point in the martial law period. It showed that martial law could be challenged and opposed. It broke the myth that there could be no strikes under martial law, and it opened the eyes of many to the potential of laborers and unionists as political activists and advocates for justice and democracy. Sr. Ason herself became a legend among Filipino church people taking the “option for the poor.”

At 68 years old, Sr. Ason went on to live in an enclave of the poor in Caloocan City, where she started organizing work. She officially retired in 1983, but she continued to manage a seminar house for her congregation. The Wooden House became a refuge and a meeting place for organizers and activists in the anti-dictatorship resistance.

She died of natural causes at the age of 84.

QUIMPO, Ronald Jan F.

Quimpo Ronald

Ronald Jan was a mild-mannered boy with an occasional rebellious streak. At the prestigious Philippine Science High School, where he had his high school, he joined fellow scholars in protest activities against poor facilities and bad maintenance.

Jan and his fellow high school protesters then got friendly with college activists from the nearby University of the Philippines and became activists themselves. A good number of PSHS students, including Jan, joined the series of protest actions in the 1970s against abuses of the Marcos government. Jan became a member of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM).

Jan once aspired to become a scientist or an engineer. Now he wanted to become a “kadre,” in his mind, someone totally dedicated to serving the masses in a revolutionary way. He started spending time in a nearby community of squatters eking out a living mostly by quarrying adobe blocks. The community was in the middle of the city but it had a rural feel, being swampy and overrun with grass, with sparse dwellings, and residents growing vegetables in small plots and fishing in the swamps. Jan and his friends called the place a “little Isabela.”

“Isabela” referred not only to the northern province with the same name and the remoteness it conjured for the restless city-bred youth, but also to the act of joining the guerrillas then operating in that province. It was seen as the ultimate destination for the dissatisfied, alienated young activists.

In this small rural-like community, Ronald Jan was introduced to the city’s seamier side. One of his friends was a tattooed gang member who had spent time in the national penitentiary. He discovered that residents routinely bribed the police for quarry permits.

In 1971, a sudden increase in gas prices triggered widespread demonstrations by students and protest workers. In the Diliman campus of UP, a student was shot to death at a student barricade. Irate students responded by blockading the university gates from raiding police and soldiers. The incident triggered what would later in history be called the Diliman Commune.  Ronald Jan, still a high school senior at the PSHS, was a participant of that historic event.

The situation wasn’t any calmer within PSHS. Students held daily protest actions and issued calls for walkout from classes. The PSHS faculty could not find enough students to fill their classrooms. Eventually, school officials decided to simply allow the two most senior batches to graduate. Jan got the benefit of this “mass graduation.”

Ronald passed the entrance exams for UP Diliman, but his heart was no longer into getting a degree. He went to school not to attend classes but to meet with fellow activists and to recruit others. Soon he dropped out completely and worked fulltime as an activist. Packing his bags, he left his parents’ apartment and went on to live at the KM headquarters.

On the 4th of April 1973, Ronald was at the house of schoolmate Marie Hilao, when a group of anti-narcotics troopers came, demanding to see Marie’s brother, also an activist. Failing to find their target, they took Ronald Jan and two other PSHS students they found inside the house. Two of Marie’s sisters were also taken in. All were subjected to physical and psychological torture. One of Marie’s sisters was Liliosa who, by the 7th of April, was dead, according to anti-narcotics officials, due to heart attack.

After Liliosa’s death, the torture sessions ceased. Jan was moved to a detention cell, and three months later, released.

After his release, Ronald Jan spent most of his time at home, cleaning house or quietly doing chores. Then he resumed his studies at the UP Department of Geology. But he declined invitations to resume his former involvement. He joined a fraternity and occasionally hung out with old friends from high school. He also continued to support his siblings who were also activists.

One day in October 1977, constabulary soldiers raided the Quimpo house, looking for Ronald Jan’s younger brother Ishmael Jr., who was out at the time. The soldiers left without arresting anyone. Two weeks later, Ronald Jan left home one morning, saying he was coming home for dinner. He never returned.

All attempts by the family to find him failed. They received reports that Ronald Jan was being seen in several public places, curiously turning away if a friend tried to approach him. The conclusion they have made was that he had been arrested and was likely being used to trace other activists. But these reports stopped coming in not long after, and Jan was never again seen.

He was 23.

Juan Manila Express: Bantayog Is a Must Visit Place in QC

From Juan Manila Express: "As part of historical tour, Bantayog ng mga Bayani should be included in travel agencies list of places to visit in Quezon City." Read the rest here.

JASUL, Alfredo Villaflor

Jasul Ramon Villaflor

Alfredo became an activist during the late 1960s and 1970s when the student movement for nationalism and democracy raged in most schools in Metro Manila. Alfredo was then a student at the Far Eastern University (FEU) taking up AB in Political Science.

Alfredo joined the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in 1970, where he seriously took to heart two principles: learn from the people and serve the people. Several months after joining the KM, Alfredo left FEU and went on to live with farmers in Tarlac. By 1971, he was working fulltime as organizer of farmers in that province. He helped the farmers form an association that demanded fair treatment from their landlords. They sought a stop to the charging of exorbitant land rents by landlords, as well as the prevalent practice of usury, both of which were keeping the farmers in perpetual poverty. Alfredo taught the farmers new ways of looking at their agrarian situation and showed them how their situation was in common with the peasants in the whole country.

Towards the last quarter of 1971, Alfredo moved to his hometown of Lucban in Quezon where he also started organizing farmers and the youth. He helped the farmers form self-help groups (bayanihan, locally known as turnuhan). The turnuhan met regularly, discussing farmers’ problems and seeking solutions to these problems. The military identified Alfredo as a dangerous presence and put him under surveillance.

When martial law was declared in September 1972, the turnuhan fell under what the military considered as a subversive organization. Alfredo went into hiding and then joined the armed resistance against the Marcos dictatorship.

On January 13, 1973, soldiers raided a house in Tayabas, Quezon, where Alfredo and five others were killed. Alfredo died from multiple gunshot wounds. Fellow activist Eugene Grey was also killed in that incident.

A newspaper account the following day said that six “insurgents” were killed in Tayabas in a clash with Philippine Constabulary troops.

Alfredo’s involvement in activism did not make his parents happy and his death devastated them. But Alfredo’s younger brother Ramon followed in Alfredo’s footsteps, became an activist, was abducted by the intelligence operatives in 1977, and is today counted as among the hundreds of the country’s desaparecidos. Alfredo’s other siblings helped the brothers in various ways during the dark years of martial law. Eventually the entire Jasul family came to be proud of the Alfredo and Ramon’s heroism.

The communities where Alfredo stayed and worked in continue to remember him and appreciate him. Besides supporting their peasant struggles, they realize that Alfredo also gave up his young life in order to fight a dictatorship. Alfredo died at the very young age of 21, one of the many youthful martyrs of the national democratic movement.

LONTOK, Bayani

Bayani Lontok

Bayani was second of five siblings, as well as eldest son. Siblings remember him as a kind but strict kuya. He had a good tenor voice and played several instruments, spending long hours playing music with his brothers and sisters. Music was something that Bayani and his brothers and sisters enjoyed together even when Bayani became involved in the anti-martial law underground.

Bayani enrolled in 1966 at the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines, taking up engineering. The following year he moved to UP Los Baños and shifted to a course in agricultural engineering.

In 1968 and 1969, he joined a group of students from Los Baños headed by his friend Aloysius Baes in a student-farmer summer integration program where the students lived with farmers in Quezon and Laguna. Of the experience, later he told his sister that “if a person investigated well enough, he would learn that seemingly individual problems were deep-rooted and situational.” Bayani became convinced that poverty in the Philippines might be solved with higher food production, and rural mechanization and industrialization.

As Bayani began to grasp the realities in rural Philippines, he started writing critical articles in various publications. He joined the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan and the UP College of Agriculture Cultural Society. In 1970, he wrote an article for Aggie Green and Gold, entitled “Austerity: Isang ‘maginhawang’ lunas (Austerity: the purported solution).” In this article he criticized the austerity program that Marcos was promoting to solve the country’s economic woes. Bayani pointed out that the Marcos solution of allowing devaluation and an increase in prices while limiting workers’ wages and reducing the number of workers, was a disastrous plan.

Bayani wrote: “Ang maliit na mamamayan ay nabubuhay tulad ng isang boksingerong baldado na at pabarabara na lamang ang pagsuntok niya. Kahit saan ito tumama, basta makatama (Poor people are like maimed boxers hitting their opponent drunkenly.)” What happens then? Bayani said that crime and rebellion would spread. Marcos’ austerity program was a “shadow of a system” that was run not by Filipinos, but by foreigners, particularly Americans, Bayani wrote.

Bayani stayed longer and longer in farmers’ communities. By the late 1971, he was working fulltime in Mount Banahaw, with peasants from Dolores, Quezon. Bayani grew to love kundimans, of which Southern Tagalog had in abundance. He liked the old kundimans and rousing marching songs of the Hukbahalap, which were still popular in Southern Tagalog. Bayani also liked talking to old Hukbalahap organizers, including those with prison stints in Muntinglupa, or farmers who knew and had interesting stories to tell of past well-known Hukbalahap commanders.

Bayani himself was killed together with three of his comrades in an army raid of their camp. He was sick with flu on that cold wet November day in 1972. The bodies of the three killed activists were later taken to Camp Vicente Lim and buried in unmarked ground. Family and relatives tried to claim Bayani’s body. The bodies have never been recovered.

DE GUZMAN, Lucio Estanislao "Boy" Parungao


Boy came from a close-knit middle-income religious family in Roxas District, Quezon City. His father was a teacher and his mother a pediatrician. Boy was the 5th child and 2nd son in a brood of seven children. Because there were seven of them, Boy and his siblings were taught to share and be generous and considerate of others; so that when food was passed around during dinner, the last child usually got the biggest share.

Boy was a playful, naughty, inquisitive young boy. He was prime suspect when anything got broken. One of his elementary class cards showed a progressive tendency: 1st grading - “Quiet in class”; 2nd grading – “Becoming talkative”; 3rd grading – “Very talkative.” He was indeed talkative, and he read a lot for his age.

Boy’s mother was a devout Catholic, which had a marked influence on her children. The young Boy would often gather his siblings for “mass,” using a towel for an alb and thin banana slices for communion hosts. (Worried that the youthful play verged on sacrilege, his mother once consulted a priest, who told her that early interest in Christian rites and religion was welcome.) Boy eventually enrolled at the Christ the King Mission Seminary for high school.

Life at home and in the seminary instilled in Boy the qualities that would later drive him to give up his life for the cause of the downtrodden. He was generous and always ready to help. Boy also showed early signs of peace-making skills, often settling fights among his siblings.

Boy absorbed the progressive, pro-poor ideas of his mentor-priests, particularly Fr. Constante Floresca, SVD, and soon, Boy was involved in community work among urban-poor families.

As a college student, Boy became an activist with the 3K, a community-based organization, then in 1970, he joined the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK). His undertook teach-ins. He was seen in demonstrations and marches. He participated in relief operations in typhoon-devastated areas. Boy had mestizo features and often played the role of Uncle Sam in street plays. He joined picketlines in support of workers on strike, sometimes sleeping on carton boards or sharing a meal of sardines and misua with fellow activists.

When President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, SDK launched a “back-to-school” campaign among its members, and Boy was sent to organize students in private girls’ schools in Quezon City and Marikina.

Eventually, Boy’s activities caught the attention of Marcos’ spies, and Boy cut himself off from his family for the next three years. His silence distressed his family until they managed to trace him in Bicol. After that, Boy would visit, particularly on special occasions. He would write letters to his family, written in small sheets of paper folded to the smallest size possible. His mother and siblings attended his wedding in 1986.

Life in the mountains was hard, but Boy coped. He took to the simple life, sharing the gifts and donations from his family and patrons. A sister from abroad would send him clothes and shoes. Boy kept for himself only three sets of clothes and a pair of rubber shoes, and gave the rest away.

Boy’s concern for the villagers in his area of operation went often beyond politics. On his rare visits home he would sometimes bring local products with him in the hope of finding a market for them. He also found work in the city for some villagers. By then an acupuncture expert, Boy would treat sick villagers, who often had to wait their turn with him, their favorite acupuncturist, mediator, family counselor, friend and mentor.

The assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983 led to bigger protest actions and alliances. Boy, who had by then moved his operations to Mindoro, helped mobilize as many people as possible to the great rallies that erupted after the assassination, particularly the Lakbayan in 1984, a march that started from southern Luzon and culminated in Ugarte Field at Makati. However, when the EDSA uprising brought down Marcos’ rule in 1986, Boy stayed put in Mindoro, unconvinced that the new government under Corazon Aquino represented a genuinely democratic government.

On the 4th of November in 1987, Boy and a local leader were on board a motorcycle when the vehicle started having problems. The two stopped on the roadside, just as soldiers on foot patrol were passing by, together with a civilian informer who recognized Boy. This led to Boy’s and his friend’s arrest. Boy was tortured for days, and on the fourth day, executed. Later the military reported that several New People’s Army rebels had been killed a firefight.

Photographs taken and accounts from witnesses revealed that little of Boy’s body was spared by his torturers: his bones were broken, his skin bruised and full of cigarette burns, his testicles bashed, and his eyes and his brain all showed the suffering he went through. As his mutilated body lay exposed in the town plaza to instill fear among the people, many asked: How could such brutality happen when there was no longer a dictator and the country was marching towards democracy?

Boy’s family learned of his death from newspaper accounts. They claimed his body and brought it to Manila for cremation. His ashes are buried at the Holy Cross Memorial Park in Novaliches. Later the New People’s Army in Mindoro named a Lucio De Guzman Command in Boy’s honor.

Once Boy wrote his sister a letter that said: Hanggang kung buhay ma’y ialay ay walang pag-aatubili para sa kalayaan at demokrasya. That was exactly what Boy did – he offered his life for the dream of freedom and democracy in his country.

BLAS, Catalino Deldoc


Catalino was an active and smart child, an honor student through his elementary and high school years. He graduated top of his class in both elementary and high school. He was a natural leader in his school and in community.

In 1971, Blas started attending meetings organized by the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK) where issues of pollution arising from the operations of the Bataan Pulp and Paper Mills were being discussed. Catalino showed himself an outstanding youth leader. He organized and mobilized young people in Samal, Bataan, to seek solutions to the pollution being caused by mill.

Because his family could not afford to put him through college, Catalino opted to work after high school. He applied as an apprentice at the US Naval Base in Subic, Zambales, and was accepted to work in the US base’s naval repair facilities. He impressed his American supervisors with his skills.

During this time he became active with the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in Central Luzon.

Later he was admitted as a scholar at the University of the East (UE) in Manila. He continued to be active with the KM chapter in the university. He had been in college for only one semester when Marcos declared martial law in 1972. Immediately, Catalino went home and started organizing among the villagers in Samal, Bataan. He was a key figure in the Lakbayan, a march that started from key cities in Central Luzon and ended in Metro Manila, demanding the restoration of freedom and democracy.

On October 25, 1972, just over one month since the declaration of martial law, Catalino was arrested by soldiers as he was conducting a meeting. The owner of the house tried to hide Catalino by wrapping a mat around him, but the soldiers riddled the mat with bullets anyway.

Catalino died at a very young age of 21. Hundreds of local people came to his burial, most wearing red as a symbol of their support for their young hero, who showed courage and commitment and took up issues in their behalf.

His family had high hopes for Catalino and hoped that because he was bright he would be the family’s way out of poverty. His death destroyed this dream. Nevertheless, the family is proud of how Catalino led his life to serve his neighbors and his countrymen. To them, he died a hero.

MESINA, Pastor "Sonny"


Pastor “Sonny” Mesina was the youngest in a brood of six. He was born in Davao where his father was then a government building official. When Sonny was five, the family moved to Pasay, and here Sonny studied at the Jose Rizal Elementary School where his mother taught music and home economics.

He liked to do scientific experiments, and in 1966, won a scholarship for admission to the Philippine Science High School (PSHS). Students in this school were chosen through exacting examinations. Sonny was among PSHS’s second batch of graduates.

The young Sonny was meticulous, whether he was cleaning his father’s shoes, helping in the kitchen, arranging his clothes, or creating a daily schedule of activities. He had a time set for study, play, watching television, and sleeping. He was also a practical person. He ran a neighborhood comic-book rental and he sold quiz paper to classmates.

Sonny loved the Beatles, and had a collection of Beatles songs as well as of other singing groups.

Once when he was five years old, and watching his sisters go up a stage to receive honors, he said he would himself get up that stage and receive a medal of his own.

At the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Sonny took up Chemistry thinking it was a good preparation for becoming a doctor. By then he had become more people-oriented. Friends recall how once he said he would not enroll in ROTC because “it did not serve the people.”

The university was roiling in protest and criticism. The last week of January 1971 marked the first anniversary of the historic First Quarter Storm. The dollar-peso rate had been devaluated, inflation was rocketing, militarization was rising, and civil rights were being brutally suppressed. The suspicion was rife that Marcos planned to declare martial law. When oil prices, which had stayed steady for several years, were raised from 30 to 33 centavos per liter, a whopping ten-percent increase, the public reacted with outrage.

The university swirled with even greater turmoil. Students joined activist groups, held teach-ins, rallies and marches. Protest posters flooded the campus. Sonny, then a freshman, was attracted to the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK).

On February 1, a huge multisectoral rally was planned. Education officials cancelled classes in an attempt to forestall organized protest. But Marcos remanded the order, refusing to show fear or weakness. With classes uncertain to be held in the university, some of Sonny’s friends planned to see a movie, asking Sonny to join them. Instead, Sonny joined his SDK friends in a protest march that proceeded to the University Avenue. The protesters put up a barricade along the avenue to try to enforce a boycott of classes. The air was militant but festive.

Then, without warning, a mathematics professor named Inocente Campos, whose sympathies were known to be for Marcos and against activists, brought out a rifle, took aim at the students standing in what is today the CP Garcia crossing, fired, and in the next instant, Sonny Mesina fell bleeding to the ground.

Sonny was taken by his friends to the university infirmary (he didn’t want to be taken to the nearby Veterans’ Hospital because it was a “military hospital”). Sonny fought with death but succumbed three days later. His death shocked the entire UP community. The UP student council issued strong protests. What was at first a protest against oil price increases had grown into a full-blown student revolt against authorities and for academic freedom. As the outrage in the university spread, the government sent in soldiers and helicopters, agitating even the then UP president Salvador Lopez to protest the “violations in academic freedom.”

The turmoil in the university rose to what would become the historic Diliman Commune of February 4-9, 1971. Sonny and the Diliman Commune would always be linked together in history, with Mesina earning the honor of being considered UP Diliman’s “first martyr.”

Sonny’s death and the Diliman Commune would open up reflections by the whole UP academic community of what “serving the people” meant to people in the university – to instructors and students of medicine, engineering, fine arts or theatre, journalism, literature or law. The events of January and February 1971 forced many to rethink their academic assumptions. Sonny did not live to join these debates that followed after his death. But he gave his life for academic freedom, and he gave a meaning to what people in academe would refer to whenever they said that academics and professionals should “serve the people.”

DEL ROSARIO, Nimfa "Nona"

del rosario

Nimfa del Rosario, or “Nona,” was the third of 8 children. Her parents were both government employees, with her mother a teacher in a public elementary school and her father serving with the Department of Public Works and Highways. Both parents wanted to give all their children a good education.

Nona’s family was large, and so she grew up in an atmosphere of fun and noise, squabbling and socializing. She was always cheerful and gregarious, never timid about expressing her opinion, or shy about striking a conversation, even with older people or with strangers. People usually noted her affability. Her brothers and sisters regarded her as some kind of peacemaker. On one occasion, Nona helped an alienated older brother make peace with the rest of the family. Nona was barely nine years old when her mother died, and in that occasion, relatives remember how she showed maturity and fortitude in dealing with the family loss.

Even as a child, Nona showed signs of leadership when she would organize programs and events at the Colegio de Santa Isabel where she completed her grade school. She also showed academic excellence when she passed competitive examinations for admission to the elite Philippine Science High School in Quezon City, and when she won several highly-respected scholarship admission tests for college.

It was at the Philippine Science High School where activist ideas captivated Nona’s intellectual curiosity. She became involved with the Serve the People Brigade (SPB), and later she led the Philippine Science High School Chapter of the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK). In college, she joined the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) and led in discussion groups, participated in rallies and other political mass actions, organized youth groups, recruited members, and advocated for socio-political reforms. She quit the university after her second year and started to work full as a political writer for the various organizations she served.

Nona and fellow UP activist Alex G. Torres started a relationship during those turbulent months of 1970 to 1971 which saw the First Quarter Storm and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus by then president Ferdinand Marcos. When universities were temporarily shut down during the early days of martial law, Nona, with Alex, went into the communities in various parts of Quezon City and Marikina, helping organize clandestine opposition to martial law among the community youth.

In June 1973, Nona, Alex and Alex’s brother Boy were arrested by intelligence operatives in a combined operation of the 5th MIG-CSU-NISA. At the time of their arrest, they were conducting a teach-in with a group of laborers. The brothers were detained at the CSU headquarters in Crame, where they were tortured under interrogation, then later transferred to Fort Bonifacio’s Ipil Rehabilitation Center, where Nona was also detained in the center’s women's quarters.

Nona was released after a ten-month detention, as were the Torres brothers. The three friends kept in contact with the comrades they left behind in detention, and even secretly supported their escape plans.

As former political prisoners, Nona and Alex, together with Boy, had to report weekly to camp authorities. At that time, Alex and Nona were living with the Torres family in an apartment near Katipunan in Quezon City. After a few weeks the activists felt stifled by their post-detention conditions, and decided to pursue their activist commitment in the countryside.

Alex and Nona moved to the Hapao-Hungduan area in Ifugao, Alex as political officer of an armed unit, and Nona as propagandist.

Although city-born, Nona adapted quite easily to the harsh physical conditions in the mountains, showing none of the usual urban sensibilities. She seemed to revel, in fact, in the new conditions. The local people loved her and her mostly male comrades respected her because she asked for no special treatment as a woman and as a city-bred activist.

She became a writer-contributor to the local newsletter Dangadang. One of the reports she made involved the senseless shooting by soldiers of an 11-year-old boy harmlessly resting in a hut after a days’ work. Nona’s report later became the basis of an incident report on the same case at the TFD Monitor of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines. She also learned to do first aid, herbal and acupuncture treatments, and basic medical work for her comrades and local residents who appreciated the rare medical attention they were getting.

The armed propaganda unit faced danger all the time because they worked in expansion areas where conditions were unpredictable. Around 1975, Alex was taking a trip outside of his work area when he was captured in Kabayan in Benguet. Witnesses claim to have later seen him in military camps in Benguet province and in Quezon City.

When Alex went missing, Nona left her unit for sometime to help in the search, but Alex was never seen again. As the search stretched on indefinitely, Nona returned to Ifugao to pursue her own work. A few months later, Nona herself died in a violent incident.

A village road was being widened near the famous Banaue terraces, mainly to encourage tourism. The project threatened the residents, however, because it would bury ricefields and no compensations were offered. As the tension rose in the area, the New People’s Army sent two propaganda units to investigate the conflict. Nona’s unit was sent to do interviews near the roadside, a particularly risky endeavor. The interviews were made every evening, after residents came home from work, and often long into the night.

Nona had the dawn watch the day she died. It was still dark when she completed her watch, and Nona was preparing to return to sleep when an alarm sounded that soldiers were coming. Nona and a female comrade prepared to flee but shooting erupted at once. Nona got separated from her companion. When her comrades regrouped they could not locate Nona. Upon further investigation, they learned that she had been killed in the attack and that her body had been brought to the Banaue town center by the soldiers.

The death of Ka Mia (Nona’s alias) was mourned by the local people as well as by her comrades. Nona’s body was retrieved by family members and buried in Manila after a long funeral procession attended by scores of friends and relatives.

Nona and Alex left no offspring.

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