“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