Ricardo Filio was known for fighting the good fight to defend those who are weak and powerless in society.
Ricky, as he was also called, was born on Christmas Day in 1953, the second of five children. His father Jose worked as a government accountant. Later the family moved to Jose’s hometown of Bacoor, Cavite. It was in Cavite where Ricardo, or Ricky, finished grade school. In 1967, the family moved again, this time to Davao City, where Jose worked with the Mindanao Development Authority (MDA). Ricky enrolled at the Ateneo de Davao High School, graduating in 1970. He then enrolled for an AB course at the Ateneo de Davao College.
History of political involvement
Ricky was a senior in high school when the First Quarter Storm (FQS) of 1970 swept Manila and created ripple effects in Davao. A 1970 editorial in the Ateneo de Davao High School Yearbook Vinta 1970 described the atmosphere at his school. Vinta described Ateneans as being spoiled by a “pleasant atmosphere” of a campus that was “well-furnished with books and equipment, has good recreational facilities and a vast playground.” The editorial continued:
“ … the only guideline to involvement is a person’s conviction for the humanitarian task one is about to do; for it is only when one is convinced of what one is doing that he will actually do something and not just stand around expressing all sorts of sympathy for the poor but whose words of sympathy are only in words, nothing more…”
In high school, Ricky was active in the Debating Club, the Ateneo Catechetical Instructional League (ACIL), and the Sanctuary Society. The last two were religious-oriented groups that helped instill social awareness among its members through exposure trips to nearby communities.
Ricky’s younger brother Edward remembers his Kuya Ricky as a protector. “Matapang siya. He fought our fight. Siya ang tagapagtanggol naming magkakapatid. And he was always in a fight he never started … He was my favorite brother, nice and caring.”
In college, Ricky joined the Ateneo chapter of Kabataang Makabayan (KM), the militant activist organization. He was an active member of KM, and was even instrumental in recruiting girls because of his friendly nature and good looks. His friend Jean Molina recalls that Ricky got many college girls from the ICC (Immaculate Concepcion College) to join discussion groups at the Methodist Student Center.
Ricky’s father had high hopes for Ricky and disapproved of his activism. But he could not prevent his favorite son from finding his own way.
Later, Ricky also was an effective fundraiser for the KM. Fellow former KM member Anastacio Jardin said he and Ricky would solicit from business establishments around the city to raise funds for protest actions. “We’d walk the lengths of the streets of Davao armed with a solicitation letter. We’d go see the manager if possible. Sometimes we got a donation, sometimes not. When we had nothing to eat at the (KM headquarters), Ricky would bring me to his house and we’d eat there.”
His friends remember Ricky’s strong love for his country. Jardin said Ricky “got dismayed when the Philippines was not included in this or that or was being belittled.” Molina said Ricky was “always at the frontlines during protest marches, holding high the Philippine flag.”
In 1972 when Marcos declared martial law, one of the houses raided in the city was the Filio residence. Edward, then 12 years old, remembers that the military raiders “searched every inch of our house, but Kuya Ricky was at our neighbor’s, unaware, because he was playing loud music.” Ricky learned about the raid only the following morning.
After the raid, Ricky decided to go to the countryside and join the rural resistance against the dictatorship in the mountains of Davao.
The year 1973 was a bad year. A long drought destroyed the crops, and rural people were reduced to eating finger-sized camote which were hard to find. Coming from the city, Ricky would have found the condition difficult to tolerate, but he never complained.
Ricky joined one of the first squads of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Davao. At that time, the squad’s primary aim was to defend the scores of unarmed activist-organizers who, like Ricky, fled to the countryside and made it their sanctuary from the dictatorship. But they also faced many risks, including military operations and the threat posed by fanatic groups and paramilitary troops. The NPA fighters and underground activist organizers tried their best to avoid military confrontations during those years. But many were captured and killed, among them Taking Lanzona, Nick Solana, Lito Semilla, and Fred Cayon.
Ricky himself died in an unfortunate misencounter with his comrades in Laac, now part of Compostela Valley, on March 11, 1976.
Military operations were going full blast in the area and Ricky’s group had divided into two, one led by Ricky to procure supplies, and the other, to keep guard. Ricky’s group missed a trail, however, and took the wrong way. The other group mistook them for enemy forces, and opened fire on Ricky’s team. Ricky was the encounter’s only fatality.
Edward says the family was unable to accept what had happened and remain bitter today. “I wish he had been caught during the raid in our house. Buhay pa sana siya ngayon,” he says. The last time Edward saw his brother was in early 1976. Ricky had come to the city bringing a wounded comrade for treatment. “We had a little family reunion… a sad reunion.”
Ricky’s neighbor and closest friend Ruben Basa says of Ricky: “Ricky served the people with lasting dedication and fervor until his death.” Fellow survivors of the First Quarter Storm continue to honor Ricky Filio in memorials for heroes who fought against the Martial Law regime.
Ricky’s death became the inspiration for a poem titled “Ricardo Filio, 21” written in 1977:
“The virgin ground is now drenched in blood and more blood
That the mountain children may look up to the sky.”
His life and death was also the inspiration for an extended short story titled “Sky Rose.” The story tells of a guerrilla killed in a mistaken encounter, sending his comrades into a tailspin of guilt and despondence.
Ricky was only 22 when he died.
Born December 25, 1953 in Tagbilaran, Bohol
Died March 11, 1976 in Compostela Valley
Parents Jose C. Filio and Luz Pojol
Siblings Five boys, one girl
Elementary Cavite Elementary School in Bacoor, Cavite
High School Ateneo de Davao High School, 1970
College Ateneo de Davao College, 1970-1972
- Anastacio “Nonoy” Jardin, Jr., colleague, August 1, 2016, Ateneo de Davao University.
- Jean Laurente Molina, colleague, August 3, 2016, Davao City.
- Ernesto Semilla, colleague, July 24, 2016. Brokenshire College, Davao City.
Electronic mail communications:
- Ruben “Benjot” Basa, friend.
- Edwin C. Filio, brother.
Ricardo Filio’s photographs from
VintaAteneo de Davao High School Yearbook 1970.
Vinta Editorial 1970
“Our Theme: Social Consciousness” by Tiny de la Paz, editor.
“Ricardo Filio, 21” by Felipe Granrojo, published in Pintig 1979.
Sky Rose published as a booklet in the Netherlands, 1978; reprinted by Buhilaman Publications, 1990; anthologized in Sky Rose and Other Stories, Macario D. Tiu, Davao Writers Guild, 2003 as well as in other books.