By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA –For the past decade, I have not attempted to write a personal note about her until today, the 11th anniversary of her death. I had always been overwhelmed by sadness and pain.
I still miss her. There are times I wonder how would it be if she were alive. We would have shared stories about motherhood, and politics, of course.
Politics brought us together. At the National Council meeting of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), she reported the accomplishments of the Davao chapter and I was impressed. And she was also the loudest to cheer when I presented the CEGP-NCR report. Our colleagues said we were members of “Mutual Admiration Club.” We were instant friends after that.
Now, I want the world to know how wonderful she was as a person.
Beng was a bubbly person. Her giggles were contagious. She laughed at the slightest joke.
She was a good leader, one who had charisma. Under her leadership, the local chapter in Davao and eventually, the chapters in Mindanao, were active in the campaign for press freedom and other people’s issues.
She was a very honest person. When she was campaigning for the position of vice president for Mindanao at the CEGP National Congress in Benguet in 2000, she admitted, matter-of-factly, that she shifted from Accountancy to Literature because she had difficulty in Math.
She was resourceful. Every national activity of the CEGP, she would bring items from Davao to sell so she and the other delegates from Mindanao would have enough money for transportation.
As a friend, she was thoughtful. She would send me anything — a shirt, a bracelet she made, an artwork by a progressive artist–whenever there was an opportunity.
We could talk for hours — from love life to literature to politics.
I last saw her in 2001, a few months after the ouster of then President Joseph Estrada. Her eyes were glowing as she talked about her decision to live among the Lumads in Arakan Valley. She talked about getting married to her dearest.
Before parting in April that year, she repeatedly asked us to go to Davao for the next CEGP Congress scheduled the following year.
And we did go to Davao for the CEGP National Congress and that gathering became a tribute to Beng. We staged protest actions against the military for the murder of a fine young woman who dedicated her life for the Filipino people.
Justice remains elusive as the main suspect — Sgt. Antonio Torilla — was allowed to post bail. This despite a resolution issued by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in July 2010 holding the Philippine government responsible for her death. Torilla is still active with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Impunity continues to reign in this country.
Today, I received tragic news that a military unit strafed houses of civilians in Mabini, Compostela Valley. A boy died and two other children were wounded. The AFP issued a statement, saying there was an encounter with the New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas. The victim was killed in the same manner Beng was murdered. And the military uttered the same lies after men in uniform shot her at close range twice.
If it is any consolation, I know that Beng would be happy to know that her mother and her siblings have continued the struggle for justice and human rights. I came to know them after her death. Memories of her brought us together.
Every time I would feel emotionally exhausted or helpless in reporting cases of human-rights violations, I think of her and other victims of extrajudicial killings and abuses and I know that I must continue, until my hands bleed.