Source: Humans of Pinas

“Martial Law was introduced to me at gunpoint … an M16 rifle treacherously and arrogantly held by one of the soldiers of the raiding team that barged into our house like mad dogs on that fateful day in Baguio the summer of 1973.

Their every hostile move unnerved and enraged us because it was as if they were frantically hunting down a ferocious criminal. They turned our house inside out in the vain attempt to see my brother, Ed, materialize from out of those invisible hiding places.

What terrorized us most was the threatening stance of their commanding officer, a certain Col. Eduardo, who barked orders to his men to surround the infant’s crib where my niece, who was not even a year old, lay sleeping.

They knew she was his child as their surveillance team had seen the couple bring their infant daughter home.

My mother steeled herself, but her anger and anxiety showed as she kept an eagle-eye on the marauders who insinuated that they could otherwise take the innocent infant to lure my brother and his wife out of their underground existence.

My father was thankful the subject of manhunt was not around. He was composed, despite the commanding officer’s accusations that his son was a top-ranking member of the Communist Party and belonged to the same collective as the alleged founder and chair of the subversive organization.

Our neighbors were not spared from the brutish display of military arrogance. Soldiers barged into the house across the street, suspecting our neighbors to be harboring my brother.

Even our friends from Manila who were having their quiet vacation were interrogated by soldiers, their summer house searched. The military agents arrested the head of that family and my brother, Nap, who had just come home.

They were pushed into the police car and brought to the Baguio City police station where they underwent tactical interrogation.

They also took away our new helper, Carlos, and brought him to Ambuklao, on the outskirts of the city. Soldiers threatened to push him down a ravine if he did not confess that he was a courier for my brother and his group.

Carlos replied that even if they killed him, he could not give them any information, as he was just recently hired by our family.

Since that military raid, my family was placed under surveillance. We had an activist, a fugitive, an enemy of the state. All throughout my high school life, I wore this truth like a badge of courage.

My brother’s absence was more pronounced during the holiday season when my mother wept with anxiety and longing for her eldest son. The few cryptic missives sent to us through clandestine channels were read, passed around, read again.

My mother smudged it with tears sometimes as she pondered the fate of her granddaughter, separated from her Tatay and Nanay.

The phone would ring during birthdays and holidays and we had that uncanny feeling, listening to the silence at the other end of the line. We were tempted to utter his name, but knew our phone was bugged. So, we just let our voices be heard by him who pined and hurt for home.

When I entered UP Baguio in 1975, the air was rife with discontent and talk about our student leaders’ readmission after their release from detention. The clamor was for the restoration of the student publication and the student council that were banned upon the declaration of Martial Law.

We demanded that these be reinstalled as they were the only channels for the expression of academic freedom (a myth, actually at that time).

My brother was arrested in a hospital somewhere in Manila in September 1976. He was later transferred to Camp Bicutan in Taguig. A difficult and trying period for the family; the unease was assuaged by the fact that, at least, we knew he was alive and he shared a cell and collective with captured comrades.

There we heard and learned of harrowing stories of their other comrades’ fateful and tragic ends at the hands of Marcos’ butchers and beasts. It was in Bicutan prison where I first heard and learned songs of freedom from the US-Marcos dictatorship.

When I got my college diploma in 1980, I left for community immersion. I informed my family that I was heading for the countryside as this was what the times needed ─ dauntless youths who would defy the dictatorship by organizing the masses through political education, organizing and armed resistance.

The struggle of the Kalingas and the Bontoks against the World Bank-IMF-funded Chico Dam project was raging. Also escalating was the Tingguians’ resistance to the Cellophil Resources Corporation owned by a Marcos crony that was devastating the forests of Abra.

Never was I more certain that it was in the resistance of the indigenous people, whose patrimony could have been easily wiped out with a stroke of a pen, that I wanted to be counted. The stark reality of far-flung communities struggling to survive amid state neglect, oppression, and deprivation somehow always validated my need to be part of the resistance.

All those dark years, I kept a notebook where I poured my poems on missing home and being a child of different families who opened their doors to us and shared hearth with us. With the nom de guerre Lucia Makabayan, I would read my works in an underground publication, which I got to hold and read years later.”