Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan: Fates Intertwined by a Desire to Serve the Masses

Cocoy, a close friend of Karen’s who talked to Bulatlat on condition of anonymity, described her as “a simple hardcore activist.”

Karen’s wardrobe is that of the usual activist – tubao (scarf) in her head, Mojo sandals, T-shirts printed with political words and images.

Karen is a jolly fellow who had the tendency to use gay language and expressions, such as “Ano veh?” (“Cut it out!”) each time someone teased her. She is also very playful, Cocoy recalled. “I feel dizzy. I need love,” she would exclaim, feigning to faint.

During one demonstration in front of the Senate to protest a bill that would revise the UP charter, Cocoy recalled how Karen maintained her mirth despite becoming so agitated when a policeman struck her with a truncheon. She was so angry at the police, Cocoy recalled, but a few seconds later, she was already laughing about it. “I lost my poise,” Karen said, grinning.

Karen’s life trajectory at UP was going toward being an activist. She stayed in the Sampaguita and Kalayaan dormitories during her first years at the university but later transferred to a boarding house with fellow activists.

This provided her room to pursue her activism; her playfulness did not disappear. She and her housemates would sometimes even play hide-and-seek at a nearby grocery, Cocoy recalled.

Cocoy said Karen would always see to it that the house was clean. “She is caring, like a mother. She would always remind us of little things. We call her Nanen, a combination of the words nanay (mother) and Karen.”

Beneath her cheerful disposition, Karen is a serious activist. “She is never late during meetings,” Cocoy said. “She wants to be as detailed as possible about plans.”

Cocoy said they would wake up early, have some coffee and Karen would play the guitar. Her favorite song is “Bangon, Maria.”

“I used to wake up late and was always late for meetings,” Cocoy confessed. Karen, he said, changed him. “She speaks her mind,” he said.

Karen is a good organizer. “She was among those who established the Anak ng Bayan chapter in Payatas,” Cocoy said, referring to a progressive youth group. Payatas is an urban-poor community in Quezon City.

“Her heart is pure. Her trust in her comrades and in the masses is genuine,” Cocoy said.

It was inevitable that, for her sociology thesis, Karen chose to study and chronicle the life of peasants in Bulacan.

Sherlyn Cadapan: Sprint Queen

Sherlyn is the second in six siblings. Her mother, Linda, described her to Bulatlat as a helpful daughter and sister. “She does the household chores,” Linda said.

Sherlyn’s father, Asher, said Sherlyn is also thoughtful. “She always called me up when I was working in Mindoro.” Wherever she was, she would always go home to celebrate important occasions with her family.

Linda Cadapan, seen here at a picket in front of the NICA building on June 26, is proud of her Sherlyn. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / bulatlat.com)

Sherlyn played the role of big sister to her siblings. She would often write to them, Linda said, reminding them of important things.

While studying in UP, Sherlyn made sure to look after a younger sister who was also enrolled at the university. “They had limited allowance. When it was time to eat, she would see to it that her sister had something to eat, too. She shared everything with her sister,” Linda said.

To support her needs in school, Sherlyn worked as a tutor. “Life in college was difficult. Sometimes, we could only give them just enough for their transportation,” Asher said.

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18 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. It tragic that these two women were abducted. But one must understand the bigger picture. The NPA and their supporters have declared war on the government and are killing people thru ambushes and land mines. So-called amazons (female NPAs) do their share of liking also. The army is doing all it can to stop these killings, and sadly, amazons must be taken out also. What I don’t understand is why these amazons, if they truly want to help the poor, do not find jobs and give money to the poor. What possible purpose could they have for inserting themselves among the poor? Is it to kill government soldiers? The poor don’t need another mouth to feed.

  2. The case of these two women only shows that the government still refuses to see what reality is. Moving towards advancement is definitely not a bad thing, but to serve as lapdogs for imperialist countries and cater to the whims of capitalists, is truly despicable. It’s bad enough that they have controlled the country’s economy for decades.

    Time to wake up.

  3. We really needs a total revolutions.just like what happen in thailand where people

    fights the corupt government and the millitary alot of bloodsheds happened there with the struggle of the poor people of thailand vs.corrupt government leaders abd the millitary. and they prevailed it againts the corrupt regime.

    its' a wake up calls to Us all filpinos

    the citizens of thailand is a role model that evry filipino should have to follow.they are not stupid.they are not tiklup tuhod.

  4. What is the government doing in a case of these young victims? The Military should protect our society againts socio and psycho path. I felt sad and disappointed of what was happening to our country and society…

  5. the revelation of melissa rojas regarding her torture and the way she deceived her captors for her to be released, will prompted the military abductors not to release anyone captured next time to avoid same controversy.

  6. Karen's case was shown recently on British Television (Channel 4 – Unreported World), and her case desreves international exposure. More power!

  7. Thank you for a wonderful article about two amazing women, their lives cut short but a Philippine elite ready to go to any lengths to protect its control of the land and the people. Here in Canada we are working to demand justice for Karen and Sherlyn. From your friends as the Centre d'appui aux Philippines / Centre for Philippine Concerns in Montreal, and the Philippine Solidarity Network (Canada). We will never forget!

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