Wednesday, August 29, 2007

International Day of the Disappeared

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances

  • (AFAD)
  • , Claimnants 1081, HIVOS- The Netherlands, and the Embassy of the Republic of France in Manila will be holding a tribute concert for all the Desaparecidos entitled, “Presente!” on August 30, 2007 from 6:30- 11:00 p.m. at the UP Film Center in Diliman, Quezon City.

    This is to commemorate the memories of the people who were victims of Involuntary Disappearance in the Philippines as well as increased awareness on the said issue through music.

    In the former Banana Republics of Latin America, “Presente!” is the word families, relatives and friends usually used to shout during the traditional calling out of the names of the desaparecidos to connote that even though the State and other nefarious powers have succeeded in vanishing them without a trace physically on the face of the earth, their memories will forever live in the hearts and minds of the people who were left behind.

    Performers are Noel Cabangon, Cookie Chua, Susan Fernandez, Jess Santiago, Manases Esmero, Brownman Revival and Akbayan Party- list Reperesentative Risa Hontiveroz-Baraquel.

    **Desaparecidos- is the Spanish Word for "The Disappeared" that was first used for the victims of involuntary disappearance of persons opposed to the military regime in the 1970's in Argentina and later became prevalent in the Banana Republics of Latin America.

    Here's a story I wrote which appeared in
  • Tinig
  • a few years back...


    A BARE-CHESTED man in his late teens was seated blindfolded in a wooden stool, his hands and feet tied inside a concrete dark window-less room while a solitary naked GE bulb shone on his bruised and swollen face. The putrid odor of cigarettes and urine in the air masked the stench of blood that flowed that night.

    A halo of light flickers in the dark portion of the enclosed interrogation room from the Marlboro cigarette wedged between the fingers of a young man in khaki uniform with the insignia of the Metrocom, the dreaded intelligence arm of the military, a year before martial law was declared.

    The year was 1971, a year that will forever change the course of the history of the Filipino nation. It was jus months after the First Quarter Storm and a month after the staged ambush by the country's Defense Minister and the Philippines is like a time bomb waiting to explode.

    Lt. Pacifico Laxa was a fresh graduate from the prestigious military academy when he was instantly drawn into the heart of the conflict against the perceived enemies of the state by his first assignment out of the academy—the Metrocom.

    He is the intelligence and operations officer of Special Project Alpha tasked to interrogate and gather information from captured activist and cadres of the growing CPP-NPA, an assignment that he did with relish, a fact that did not escape the eye of his Commanding Officer and mentor, Major Rolando Albarillo.

    Inside the room sat Noli Carpio, the leader of one of the student organizations suspected by the military to be a communist front. He was captured by the men of Lieutenant Laxa while conducting a teach-in in one of the depressed areas in Caloocan.

    Like many students of that time he was idealistic and believed they were fighting a just cause by exposing the ills of the so-called New Society that the Dictator espoused.

    After several hours of intense questioning and endless form of persuasion made by the boyish looking Lieutenant Laxa for Noli to tell on his comrades, the young activist simply refuses to talk and the patience of the young, bespectacled military officer is running out.

    "What were you doing in that area? Were you conducting a teach-in on Communism? Who are your companions?"

    Noli kept mum. This further infuriated the military officer, who was now beginning to lose his cool.

    "Goddamit, tell me now. I want the names of your comrades, how many of you are operating in the area? Is Ka Randy one of them? How many have you killed already? What are your plans?"

    Not getting a response from the captive activist, he kicked the stool with his right foot causing the chair to crash into the wall and for Noli Carpio to fall onto the wet concrete floor. As he struggled to get up, a vicious kick from his interrogator hit him in the kisser causing his head to snap back and fall to the ground for the second time. His mouth was now bloodied, but still not a word came from his mouth.

    Lt. Laxa removed the blindfold from the eyes of Noli Beltran as he un-holstered his standard-issued Colt .45 pistol, removed the magazine, and took several bullets from it.

    "You want it the hard way, I'll give you what you want."

    He told Noli who remained silent as he looked into the bloodied activist with his cold, calculating eyes behind the lens of his rimless glasses. Noli Carpio saw his eyes and dread crept into his entire body, for he saw nothing in them but coldness, the eyes of a heartless and vicious man. He knew that this man would kill him if he did not give in to his demands, but he was sworn to secrecy and he was not about to break that oath and endanger his comrades-in-arms.

    He saw the cigarette hit the ground before the rubber-soled combat boots of his captor stepped on it and felt the cold muzzle of the gun on his forehead. He looked up and saw Lt. Laxa look down at him and pull the trigger.

    Noli closed his eyes and steeled himself for a reunion with his maker when he heard the familiar click of an empty chamber followed by the boisterous laughter of the Lieutenant as he whispered to his ear-

    "I thought you're not afraid to die, huh, red fighter? I am not through with you yet. Oh, no, but if I can get the juice that I wanted from your comrade in the other room, you're history."

    Noli just stared blank into the blank wall while straining his ears for anything but only deafening silence of the dark room confronted him. His thoughts were on the fate that befell him and the last conversation he had with his mother yesterday just before he was captured with three of his Kasamas.

    Her mother has always warned him not to join the movement. She always reasoned out that where the country was heading was not in their hands; besides, the Dictator was so powerful and shrewd that he knew what he was doing.

    To which he would retort by saying the phrase, "Kung hindi tayo kikilos, sino ang kikilos? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?"

    To which her mother would keep mum and keep whatever thoughts to herself out of respect for her son's point of view. And he loved her for that though he was never the showy kind when it came to his affection. Still, he loved and admired his mother dearly.

    That fateful morning, she packed lunch consisting of his favorite tocino and itlog na maalat knowing fully well that her son would be joining a spiritual retreat of his class in Tagaytay, or so she thought, for he deemed it right at that time not to tell her that they were actually going to Bagong Silang for "immersion" with the urban poor community.

    Things did not turn out right for they were caught by the sona conducted by the elements of Metrocom and were hauled to this safehouse somewhere in Metro Manila. He decided that he needed to do something and escape from his captors.

    His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the lock being moved, followed by those familiar foot falls coming from the heavy wooden door.

    "I'm back," a grinning Lt. Laxa greeted him as he entered the room but his cold eyes betrayed him.

    At that instant Noli knew that his time had come, said a little prayer and closed his eyes as he felt the steel coldness on his forehead.

    Then his vision turned crimson and there was darkness. Noli Carpio, the young idealist was no more.

    Lt. Pacifico Laxa stared at his victim's face just before he pulled the trigger and fired splattering across the room the activist's blood and tissues. He spat on the man's lifeless body as he ordered his men to put it inside a sack and into the baggage compartment of an unmarked old Toyota, which was driven to the south of Manila somewhere in the jungles of Ternate where they burned the body till all traces of it disappeared.

    Somewhere in the stillness of the night, a mother is waiting for his son to come home.


    The thousands of Filipinos that went missing after the declaration of Martial Law in 1972 up to the present where still un-accounted for. Not a single person was convicted for the atrocities committed during the Philippines’ darkest period. Most officers like Lt. Pacifico Laxa went on to become heads of their respective units in the police and the military while some were even appointed and elected to higher government posts.

    The saga of the families of desaparecidos in the Philippines continues...


    Gina said...

    What a bone-chilling story...

    I know of someone who is has become a Desaparacido, he was an auncle of my very good friend in grade school. His name was Fr. Romano. Nothing was heard from him since the day he dissapeared from the face of the earth.

    mitsuru said...


    I remembered him, Fr. Rudy Romano who was abducted and never to be heard of again in Cebu in the waning years of the Marcos Dictatorship, right?

    snglguy said...

    And now the Marcoses are staging a comeback, no thanks to those stupid voters.

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