Martial Law Stories Young People Need to Hear

Shakira Andrea Sison is a two-time Palanca-winning essayist. She currently works in finance and spends her non-working hours writing stories in subway trains. She is a veterinarian by education and was managing a retail corporation in Manila before relocating to New York in 2002." width="300" height="300" />
Shakira Andrea Sison is a two-time Palanca-winning essayist.

(Written by Shakira Sison for Rappler)

Majority of comments on articles about Martial Lawseem to be from staunch defenders of that era. There are and will always be citizens who see those years as an era of peace and prosperity in our country.

We don't need to debate that. Instead we simply need to tell, retell and listen to the stories of those who survived those years. As the younger generation we need to do our own research, take the blinders off our eyes and learn what exactly life was like during Martial Law before coming up with flowery images of those years as a beautiful moment in history.

Silence by force

You would never have seen an article such as this as I would have already been taken, tortured, and killed for my opinions. If Martial Law were still in effect, bloggers who wrote anything even remotely critical of the government or its cronies would be jailed like they do in other countries.

There would be none of your Facebook rants about the administration,Metro Manila traffic, or even the outfit a politician is wearing. In fact, there wouldn't be Facebook, Instagram, and Gmail in the Philippines the way these websites are banned in China.

If I wrote during Martial Law, I could be taken from my home the way 23-year-old Lily Hilao was for being a prolific writer for her school paper at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. In April 1973, Lily was taken by the military, and was raped and tortured in front of her 16-year-old sister. By the time Lily's family retrieved her dead body, it bore cigarette burns on her lips, injection marks on her arms, bruises and gun barrel marks. Her internal organs were removed and her vagina was sawed off to cover signs of torture and sexual abuse. Liliosa Hilao is considered to be the first female casualty and martyr of Martial Law.

Zero criticism

Martial Law engineer Juan Ponce Enrile defined subversion during a 1977 BBC interview: “anybody who goes against the government or who tries to convince people to go against the government – that is subversion.” Proclamation 1081 gave the military the authority to arrest, detain, and execute anyone who even dared to breathe sadly about the Marcos administration.

Archimedes Trajano was only 21 when he questioned Imee Marcos on why she was the National Chairman of the Kabataang Barangay during an open forum. He was forcibly taken from the venue by Imee's bodyguards, and was tortured and thrown out of a building window, all because the presidential daughter was irked by his question.

Maria Elena Ang was a 23-year-old UP Journalism student when she was arrested and detained. She was beaten, electrocuted, water cured, and sexually violated during her detention.

Dr Juan Escandor was a young doctor with UP-PGH who was tortured and killed by the Philippine Constabulary. When his body was recovered, a pathologist found that his skull had been broken open, emptied and stuffed with trash, plastic bags, rags and underwear. His brain was stuffed inside his abdominal cavity.

Boyet Mijares was only 16 years old in 1977 when he received a call that his disappeared father (whistleblower and writer Primitivo Mijares) was still alive. The caller invited the younger Mijares to see him. A few days later, Boyet's body was found dumped outside Manila, his eyeballs protruding, his chest perforated with multiple stab wounds, his head bashed in, and his hands, feet and genitals mangled.

Trinidad Herrera was a community leader in Tondo when she was arrested in 1977. In this video she recounts being electrocuted on her fingers, breasts, and vagina until her interrogators were pleased with her answers to their questions.

Neri Colmenares was an 18-year-old activist when he was arrested and tortured by members of the Philippine Constabulary. Aside from being strangled and made to play Russian Roulette, he witnessed fellow detaineesbeing electrocuted through wires inserted into their penises, as well as being buried alive in a steel drum.

Hilda Narciso was a church worker when she was arrested, confined in a small cell, fed a soup of worms and rotten fish, and repeatedly gang-raped.

Necessary methods

60,000 were arrested during the first year of Martial Law alone, and many of their stories will never be told. Michael Chua wrote a paper detailing the torture methods used during the Marcos regime.

Aside from electrocution of body parts and genitals, it was routine to waterboard political prisoners, burn them using cigarettes and flat irons, strangle them using wires and steel bars, and rub pepper on their genitals. Women were stripped naked, made to sit on ice blocks or stand in cold rooms, and were sexually assaulted using objects such as eggplants smeared with chili peppers.

Forty-three years have passed. Time, as well as the circus that is Philippine governance make it easy to forget Martial Law as the darkest and most terrible moments in Philippine history. Many of its victims have died or have chosen to remain silent – silence being most understandable because these stories are truly difficult to remember, and much harder to tell.

Stories need to be told

Yet these horrific stories need to be told over and over until we realize that the pretty cover of the book of the Marcos years is actually full of monster stories. We need to bring the graphic accounts of torture and murder to light so that those who rest comfortably in their illusions that the Marcos years were pleasant will at least be stirred.

Instead we often hear from those who want to erase the evils of the past, those who tell us that these young people, many of them barely past their childhoods when they were tortured and killed, were violent rebels who sought to overthrow the government. Never mind that it was one of the most corrupt and cruel dictatorships the world has ever known, and that it was by the efforts of these young heroes that the reign of the Marcoses ended.

Majority of Martial Law victims were in their 20s and 30s at that time – the same age our younger citizens are now – those who have the luxury of shrugging off the Marcos years as a wonderful time. Unscathed by a more cruel past, the younger generation is only too eager to criticize the current state of our government and our people as being undisciplined and requiring an iron fist such as the one Marcos used to supposedly create peace in the past.

They forget that if we were still under Martial Law (or should it return), such sentiments of “subversion” could cost them their lives, and that the same freedom and voice they use to reminisce about a time they know nothing about would have been muted and extinguished if we did not have the democracy we enjoy today.

Hindsight is always 20-20, as they say. It's convenient to look at the past with rose-colored glasses instead of memories of needles in your nail beds, electric wires attached to your genitals, and a barrel of a gun thrust inside your mouth, the way thousands of Martial Law victims suffered and still suffer to this day.

Just because it didn't happen to you or your family doesn't mean it didn't happen to more than 70,000 victims during that time. Just because you were spared then doesn't mean you will be spared the next time this iron fist you wish for comes around.

Saguisag to Bongbong: Forget Martial Law? No Way!

From an article written by Rey Langit:
I recently reminisced with Senator Rene Saguisag on the dark days of Martial Law on my program “Kasangga Mo Ang Langit” (6-7am) on DWIZ882 KHz.

To his recollection, Martial Law was declared not on September 21 but September 23. Except that former President Ferdinand Marcos, he explained, was a numerologist, and wanted a multiple of 7 so the declaration was officially made the 21st. “But to me,” he recalled, the 21st of September 1972 was just another day in the office.” ( Proclamation No.1081 which imposed martial law was dated 21 September 1972. – eds.)

Saguisag remembers he was in San Beda, monitoring the rally of Ke Pepe Diokno, Bal Pinguel and Charito Planas in Plaza Miranda on the 21st. Historians, he says, should correct the date and establish that nothing eventful except on paper really happened on the 21st.

Read the rest at ManilaSpeak

The Jabidah Massacre of 1968

(From Inquirer's In the Know. The above photo of graffiti left by Tausog "jabidah" soldiers in Corregidor before they were massacred is from

Out of the roughly 27 Muslim youth allegedly summarily executed in 1968 in what is known as the Jabidah Massacre, only Jibin Arula survived to tell the tragedy.

Arula recounted the alleged massacre in interviews with the Inquirer in March 2008 and March 2009.

In his account, Arula said he was among those who were brought to Corregidor island on Jan. 3, 1968, to train on guerrilla tactics in preparation for “Operation Merdeka,” an alleged top-secret plan of the Marcos administration to invade Sabah in Malaysia.

Named after a beautiful woman in Muslim lore, Jabidah was the commando group that was to carry out the operation. “Malaysia was the target of our mission. We were to invade Sabah. If Malaysia would file a formal complaint in the United Nations, the government was to deny us. It (the government) would claim that we were members of the private army of Sultan Kiram (of the sultanate of Sulu),” Arula said.

“We were promised P50 allowance per month but we received not a centavo. We were fed dried fish, and for coffee, we would use rice leftovers. The commanders were living in luxury while we were living with almost nothing at all,” Arula added.

To air their grievances, the trainees wrote a secret petition to President Ferdinand Marcos. But the letter most likely was intercepted by their training officers, which led to the tragedy, he said.

Before dawn on March 18, 1968, the training officers fired at them on Corregidor’s airstrip, Arula said.

Arula, who was wounded by a bullet in his left knee, swam for his life on Manila Bay, only to be fished out of the waters off Cavite province the next morning.

On March 28, 1968, opposition Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. delivered an exposé speech titled “Jabidah: Special Forces of Evil?” in which he alleged that aside from the recruitment of Muslims to infiltrate North Borneo, former convicts and former members of the Hukbalahap had also been enlisted to wipe out the opposition in 1969, an election year.

Aquino said: “I charge President Marcos with building a secret strike force under his personal command, to form the shock troops of his cherished garrison state.”

Marcos dismissed the accusations as an opposition plot to discredit the administration.

The Jabidah Massacre inspired Nur Misuari, then a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, to establish the Moro National Liberation Front, which fought for a separate Moro homeland in Mindanao.

Arula died in a vehicular accident in 2010.

jabidah (1)

The following report is from Paul Whitman and posted at

The codename for the destabilization plan was Operation Merdeka. The plan involved the recruitment of nearly 200 Tausug and Sama Muslims aged 18 to 30 from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and their training in the island-town of Simunul in Tawi-Tawi. Simunul was where the first Arab missionary Makhdum built the first mosque in the Philippines in the 14th century. The recruits felt giddy about the promise not only of a monthly allowance, but also over the prospect of eventually becoming a member of an elite unit in the Philippine Armed Forces. That meant, among other benefits, guns, which Muslims regard as very precious possessions. So from August to December 1967, the young recruits underwent training in Simunul. The name of the the commando unit: Jabidah.

On December 30 that year, from 135 to 180 recruits boarded a Philippine Navy vessel for the island of Corregidor in Luzon for "specialized training."

This second phase of the training turned mutinous when the recruits discovered their true mission. It struck the recruits that the plan would mean not only fighting their brother Muslims in Sabah, but also possibly killing their own Tausug and Sama relatives living there. Additionally, the recruits had already begun to feel disgruntled over the non-payment of the promised P50 monthly allowance. The recruits then demanded to be returned home.

For the Jabidah planners, it seemed that there was only one choice.


As the sole survivor later recounted, the plotters led the trainees out of their Corregidor barracks on the night of March 18, 1968 in batches of twelve. They were taken to a nearby airstrip. There, the plotters mowed the trainees down with gunfire. Jibin Arula, the survivor, said that he heard a series of shots and saw his colleagues fall. He ran towards a mountain and rolled off the edge on to the sea. He recalled clinging to a plank of wood and stayed afloat. By morning, fishers from nearby Cavite rescued him.

The truth of the massacre took some time to emerge. In March 1968 Moro students in Manila held a week long protest vigil over an empty coffin marked ‘Jabidah’ in front of the presidential palace. They claimed “at least 28” Moro army recruits had been murdered. Court-martial proceedings were brought against twenty-three military personnel involved. There was a firestorm in the Philippine press, attacking not so much the soldiers involved, but the culpability of a government administration that would ferment such a plot, and then seek to cover it up by wholesale murder. The matter even made its way to the Supreme Court in 1970, on a preliminary issue.

Although the exact number of deaths still continues to vary depending upon the source of the reference, there is no denial of the fact that Corregidor was host to a massacre on that night.

Ferdinand Marcos Became President

Senator Ferdinand Edralin Marcos wins the Presidency against re-electionist Diosdado Macapagal.

Notorious Barrio Self-Defense Units

Ferdinand Marcos publicly endorses the BSDUs, later to be known as Civilian Home Defense Forces CHDF.

FAVALI, Tullio


A Roman Catholic priest who had been serving in Mindanao for less than a year, Tullio Favali was the first foreign missionary to be killed, in 1985, by the martial law regime’s paramilitary forces.

Favali was a native of the northern Italian city of Mantora (or Mantua), and was ordained a priest in June 1981. He belonged to the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), an international society of priests and brothers exclusively dedicated to the evangelization of predominantly non-Christian nations and underdeveloped countries. In the Philippines, they are assigned in the Zamboanga provinces, North Cotabato and in Metro Manila.

Arriving in the Philippines in November 1983, Tullio Favali was named parish priest of La Esperanza in Tulunan, North Cotabato, in June 1984. At the time of his murder he was just beginning to adjust to a different culture, but his parishioners loved him for his gentleness, simplicity and humble ways. He was always ready to serve.

Large areas of Mindanao, including the North Cotabato area, were then in the grip of armed pseudo-religious cults who roamed around sowing terror among the people. These groups, of Bisayan origin, and which came about in the late 1960s, originally acted in defense of Bisayan settler communities against Moro attackers, who in turn accused them of grabbing lands belonging to the Moros.

Under the dictatorship, with the growing strength of the revolutionary guerrilla movement, the fanatical cults were turned into useful pawns for the government’s anti-insurgency campaign. They were accorded recognition as paramilitary units and allowed to freely operate as Barrio Self-Defense Units or BSDU, later renamed Integrated Civilian Home Defense Force or ICHDF.

“The pacification drive to counter the growth and influence of the dissidents has assumed the character of a sordid war which does not spare any civilian who nurtures discontent with the present political, social and economic system,” observed a fact-finding mission that investigated Favali’s killing. “Entire communities have often been labelled ‘hostile territory’….”

The Manero brothers, including the wife of one of them, led the Ilaga group in Cotabato; they even garnered citations and medals from the AFP. Notorious for their killing sprees, which included cannibalism, they enjoyed the protection of the military and powerful local civilians. (Their father was barangay captain of La Esperanza.)

On April 11, 1985, Norberto, Edelberto and Elpidio Manero along with other members of their ICHDF band had already been drinking in public all morning and brandishing their high-powered weapons. Elpidio Manero brought out a placard showing a list of people they suspected to be siding with the rebels. When asked by one of these persons (the local tailor) to explain why he was on their list, the group got angry and Edelberto fired his gun, hitting the man.

The tailor and his wife fled into a house nearby, and others in the neighborhood also took cover. Some ran to find the priest and ask for his help. Mounting his motorcycle, Favali rushed to the house where the people had sought cover. Outside, the militiamen set his motorcycle on fire causing Favali to hurry out, asking, "What have you done to my motorcycle?" Edelberto then replied, "Father, do you want your head blown off?" He proceeded to do exactly that, shooting the priest pointblank in the head; he further desecrated the dead body by kicking it in the head, shooting it again in the face, and stamping his feet on the corpse.


The killing provoked a huge outcry from the public and from the Vatican and the Italian government. It called international attention to the Marcos dictatorship’s human rights violations, including the rampant and uncurbed abuses of the paramilitary forces, the continuing recruitment and arming of civilians for military uses, and the military’s encouragement of fanatical pseudo-religious cults in counter-insurgency.

Because of the outcry, the martial law authorities arrested the Manero brothers in 1985 after several months of dilly-dallying. That same year, seven individuals were convicted for Tullio Favali's murder, including Norberto Manero. However, they continued to be seen in public even if they were supposed to be in prison. In 1999, President Joseph Estrada granted Norberto pardon and let him out of jail. But Estrada had to withdraw the pardon because of the overwhelming negative reaction from the public. Norberto Manero was rearrested in 2000 and remains in prison.

CALDERON, Jose R., Jr.


The young Jose R. Calderon was his school's most outstanding student from first grade to fourth year high school. He showed interest in the arts, particularly in drama and dance, and was active in the Methodist Youth Fellowship.

Addressing his classmates as their valedictorian upon their graduation from high school, he stressed the role of the youth in helping create a society where economic justice and political freedom prevail: "We may not live to see the fulfillment of this dream but certainly, we can lay down the foundation of its beginning. Let us therefore dedicate our golden hours, enthusiasm and energy to the challenge of the times – economic development, freedom and security."

When he entered the University of the Philippines as a political science major, campus activism quickly drew him in. He joined the Nationalist Corps of the UP Student Council, the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan and the Alpha Sigma fraternity. Summer breaks found him and his friends living in the rural areas, as part of a "learning from the people" campaign.

Calderon was active in the big demonstrations in Manila, in what would later be known as the First Quarter Storm of 1970. When student rallies were violently dispersed on January 30 and 31 in Mendiola, near Malacanang Palace, he was there.

Reared in the Methodist Church, Calderon interpreted his growing involvement in activism not only as a social demand but as an expression of his Protestant faith. When in July 1971 he finally decided to leave the university and commit himself fulltime to the movement, he wrote his parents:

"Kung tatandaan lamang ninyo na narito sa kilusan ang aking kaligayahan at wala sa pag-aaral, marahil ay matutuwa pa kayo sapagkat ang anak ninyo ay nakatagpo ng magandang kahulugan para sa kanyang buhay—isang buhay na sa aking palagay ay higit na kristiyano at maka-Diyos kaysa sa palaging pagpunta sa kapilya nang hindi naman isinasabuhay ang turo ng bibliya." (If you consider that it is being in the movement and not being a student that makes me happy, you may be glad that your son has found positive meaning in life – it’s a life that I think is more christian and godly than if one were to spend his time praying in the chapel but without practising what the Bible teaches.)

He asked his parents not to blame themselves for his decision. "Blame the system," he said, "which created millions of poor people, exploited by foreigners and a few greedy Filipinos." As long as that kind of system prevailed and a fairer system not put in its place, he wrote, "more parents will lose their children, more children will lose their parents, and more husbands or wives will lose their spouses." He was ready, he declared, to give up his life in the struggle to establish this radical change in society.

In July 1971, Calderon went to the jungles of Isabela in Northern Luzon to join the New People’s Army (NPA), then a newly-organized guerrilla group. In his letters, he described the numerous hardships and sacrifices they were going through, as the Marcos regime launched all-out efforts to eliminate them while it was still early enough. Taking the name Ka Elmo, he served with the NPA until he was killed in a battle with government forces in May 1974 in San Mariano, Isabela.

His letters have been compiled by his family in a book Mga Liham ni Ka Elmo (Letters from Ka Elmo), a record of his patriotism and bravery, his efforts to overcome material and emotional difficulties, and his unwavering solidarity with the people.

CASTRO, Rolando M.


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.

CATALLA, Cristina F.


As the child of a government auditor whose work assignments took him and his family to various areas of the country, Melania Cristina Catalla was born and spent her early childhood in Manila but lived and studied in Mindanao for several years, before finishing high school in Quezon City.

Her father was then assigned to the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, Laguna. Cristina, or Tina to friends, enrolled at the College of Agriculture, majoring in economics. She was soon active in many extracurricular activities. Besides the UP Student Catholic Action and the Delta Phi Omicron sorority, she joined the Cultural Society where she became active in the education committee. In her senior year, she was named associate editor of the campus paper Aggie Green and Gold where she wrote thought-provoking columns.

Although she was a quiet young woman, in 1969 Catalla already began actively participating in university-wide protest activities. Friends saw her everywhere: sitting in discussion groups, marching in rallies, going to protest concerts, attending lecture-forums. The following year, she joined the militant Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan.

For many student activists, the 1971 suspension of the writ of habeas corpus by President Marcos was a turning point. Catalla became filled with a sense of urgency and mission. She stopped going to school, deciding instead to work fulltime as student and youth organizer. At first she worked in areas around the campus then later moved to the nearby towns of Laguna.

She showed outstanding leadership qualities as she helped organize marches, mobilizing the public to protest Marcos' growing abuses and imminent move towards creating a dictatorship. These efforts culminated with the organization of the Southern Tagalog Movement for Civil Liberties in 1972. Catalla was put in charge of coordination for Batangas sectoral organizing, as well as the training of instructors for popular education courses.

She was with five other youth activists in Makati, Manila, when all six disappeared on July 31, 1977. Family and friends made repeated efforts to find them – Catalla, Manuel Sison, Rizalina Ilagan, Jessica Sales, Ramon Jasul and Gerardo Faustino – but they could not find the youths. In 1978, military authorities wrote to the families of the three missing women, saying they had been killed in an encounter between soldiers and New People’s Army guerrillas in Mauban, Quezon. However, no bodies have been produced, except for Sison’s which was found in a common grave at the public cemetery in Lucena City.

CHUIDIAN, Mary Consuelo Remedios


Remedios Chuidian, later known as Sister Mary Consuelo or Sister Elo, was born into a life of privilege. She had her fill of parties and pampering, and she was able to study for a master’s degree abroad. Many were surprised when in 1961 she chose the life of a nun, joining the Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS).

She surprised many again by volunteering to be assigned to Mindanao. Martial law had been imposed; the Roman Catholic church was actively promoting its social teachings. With these new developments, Chuidian’s lifestyle, priorities, and even the target of her apostolate, were also changing.

As she embraced a life of poverty and sacrifice among the oppressed and marginalized people in Mindanao’s rural areas, the woman with a conservative upbringing turned into an “ibong pumipiglas” – a bird struggling to be free, celebrated in the song “Bayan Ko.” She began attending protest rallies. She started giving awareness seminars. She opened her school facilities to be used for meetings and forums by tribal groups, labor groups, and others who could not afford to rent expensive venues.

Her first assignment as a missionary sister was in Maragusan, Davao del Norte, where upland farmers grew coffee and cacao, and life was very hard. People depended on rain for water. They had no electricity. Landslides hit frequently.

Among the Mansaka, an indigenous community, the nuns started a program to train lay apostolates, "kaabag," who went out to the villages to hold prayer services and give communion in the absence of a priest. The sisters also trained catechists and organized a social action center. Sister Elo learned to wear bakya or wooden clogs, and to bathe in the creek, like everybody else.

She learned to take these difficulties in stride, in the same way that she remained unfazed by the mistrust shown towards them by government troopers and New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas both operating in the same area. "You don't have to shout," she once told an angry soldier, in a cool tone that distinguished her as a lady from a refined background.

Her next post was in Laac, Davao del Norte, where the people had been forced to relocate from their original communities and regroup in so-called hamlets, so as to remove them from the influence of anti-government guerrilla units. (This was a counterinsurgency tactic used in the Vietnam war.)

The people could not return to their farms, so there was little food and much discontent. The hamlets, under the strict control of the military, had no running water, no toilets, and no bathrooms. Epidemics broke out, and children were getting sick and dying. One Christmas Eve, Sister Elo and another nun had to bring a sick person down a bad road from the hamlet to a hospital in town. The nuns ate the same food as the other people, mostly camote, corn and bagoong. Sister Elo lost a lot of weight. Her letters to her family, however, spoke not of her own difficulties but of military atrocities, corpses, torture, weeping widows, starving children, droughts and floods.

In 1982, Chuidian moved to Davao City when she was appointed superior of the RGS community there. She was also elected chair of the Women's Alliance for True Change and coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines for South Mindanao. She became a leading figure in the Sisters' Association in Mindanao and the Association of Religious Women of Davao.

These new responsibilities allowed her to help more people suffering from martial law, victims of ambushes needing medical attention, families forced to live in hamlets, activists on the government's wanted list seeking refuge, rape survivors, and even wounded guerrillas.

Sister Mary Consuelo Chuidian, nicknamed “Rubia” as a child because of her naturally light-colored hair, transformed into the much-loved, ever helpful Sister Elo who lived to serve the poor. She was much admired for her sincere spirit of self-sacrifice. She was one of those who died in 1983 when their ship, the MV Cassandra, sank on their way to a meeting in Cebu. Survivors said the nuns were among those who took care of the children and helped organize the distribution of life vests, not taking any for themselves.

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