Luing’s life has been an extraordinary one, an exemplar of dedication to the highest ideals of a people struggling for genuine independence and a more humane social order. Luing speaks for herself here in a way that is at once starkly simple and powerfully eloquent. : Here is someone—a woman, and to me this is key—who has come to an understanding of herself and the world around her in a way that has empowered her to give, and to give with neither the demands for praise or tribute nor the claims of sacrifice.
BY DELIA D. AGUILAR
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 12, April 27-May 3, 2008
It has now been over a year since the abduction of human rights workers Maria Luisa (Luing) Posa Dominado and Nilo Arado by three armed men in Iloilo on April 12, 2007. Today the two are still missing, their whereabouts and condition unknown. In February 2007 UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston issued a report indicting the Philippine government for human rights violations of “significant proportions,” at that time consisting of 839 extrajudicial killings of suspected protesters, among them grassroots organizers, church people, journalists, and students. He concluded then that the number of violations, while “corrosive,” carries less import than the warning it conveys: “a message of vulnerability to all but the most well-connected.” Such a message, he added, functions to “seriously undermine(s) the political discourse which is central to a resolution of the problems confronting this country.”
Human rights violations have far from abated since Luing’s and Nilo’s disappearance. The latest report from Karapatan places summary executions at 902 and enforced disappearances at 180, seven years since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency in 2001. In spite of the UN report and the government’s own Melo Commission report, the Arroyo administration has not only continued to deny responsibility but, at the UN Human Rights meeting in Geneva this April, even attempted to project itself as the bastion of human rights. Meanwhile, none of the cases documented by the UN and Karapatan has been solved.
I conducted the following interview with Luing on June 30, 1999 in Bellevue Inn in Jaro, Iloilo City. Luing’s narration became inaudible toward the end because of a tape recorder glitch; for this reason, I did not write up the interview for publication, thinking that I would contact her to supply the missing part. I did not, something I deeply regret. On reading my transcription recently–the interview was in Hiligaynon–I discovered that her story as I’ve recorded it is, in fact, complete. UP Professor Judy Taguiwalo, a good friend of Luing, kindly provided some of the missing or inaccurate information.
Luing’s life has been an extraordinary one, an exemplar of dedication to the highest ideals of a people struggling for genuine independence and a more humane social order. Luing speaks for herself here in a way that is at once starkly simple and powerfully eloquent. Even so, I want to remark on her steadfast commitment, her “durability,” as she puts it. I asked her a rather naïve question about her previous involvement in Makibaka (a women’s organization founded in 1970) suggesting how, because of this, young women might view her as a role model. But it is neither Makibaka nor the teachers’ union nor any women’s group she has associated with that speaks to her gendered commitment. It is, instead, the complete absence of the slightest hint of self-importance in the telling of her life story that I find most compelling, something I have countenanced only in revolutionary women. This is not to speak of self-denial, or a weak sense of self. It is the opposite: here is someone—a woman, and to me this is key—who has come to an understanding of herself and the world around her in a way that has empowered her to give, and to give with neither the demands for praise or tribute nor the claims of sacrifice.
Delia: I’d wanted to talk to you since we first met in 1996. The political climate has changed since martial law, and some of those involved in the past have dropped out because of life-cycle changes. They’re no longer young and now have family concerns. But you seem to have kept on. At least that’s what I’ve heard. I’d like to know what your thinking is now, what pressures are on you and, of course, how you got involved to begin with.
Luing: Let’s see. I was 16 when I got involved, that was before the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. I’d just gone for my first year in college in San Agustin and became an activist there. Prior to that I was a collegiala in Pototan, then went to San Agustin where there was student activism. We put up an anti-fascist student organization, Causa [Cultural Association of the University of San Agustin], patterned after Scaup.
On my second semester I became a full-time activist in the city in preparation for the underground. Students were at the time slowly building the countryside component of the struggle. Makibaka was formed around that time in Panay. We were the pioneers, along with June Abordo, Judy Taguiwalo, Tita Sabandal. That was in late 1971.
When martial law was imposed I was no longer here. I was in Bacolod and Capiz forming Makibaka.