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

Eventually, Sherlyn stopped schooling so that her sister could continue her studies.

Linda said Sherlyn had only three subjects left before she could graduate from her course, sports science. Before Sherlyn was abducted, Linda was trying to convince her to finish her course.

Sherlyn was a sprint champion. She started her career in track-and-field when she was in second year high school.

Early on, she won in regional competitions and qualified for the national competitions. In one of those games, she was runner-up to Nancy Navalta, one of the country’s fastest runners, and had the chance to be trained by Elma Muroz.

Sherlyn qualified as a varsity scholar at the College of Human Kinetics (CHK) in UP Diliman. “She was focused on sports and on her studies,” Asher said.

During her days at the university, Sherlyn would run around the university’s oval early morning. Like any disciplined athlete, she never got tired of practice and workouts.

At UP, Sherlyn became a student leader. She was a member of the Beta Lambda Kappa Sorority and was elected CHK college representative in 1999.

A close friend and fellow student leader, Nerve Macaspac, said Sherlyn was popular in her college. “Fellow varsity players would always look for She whenever they had problems in academics, in sports and even in personal matters,” he said, using Sherlyn’s nickname.

Sherlyn has a shrill voice and speaks loud, Nerve added. She has a hearty laughter and, like Karen, often uses the gay lingo “chorva.”

Sherlyn was warm to her colleagues at the University Student Council, Nerve said. “During the campaign period, many candidates would ask her to massage their backs. Most of the time, she would end up giving in to all of the requests. Each time, she would ask them, ‘Who will massage me then?’”

Sherlyn, with her STAND-UP comrades, was active in various campaigns inside the university. She was among those who were vocal against the budget cut in UP, the commercialization of education, tuition and laboratory fee increases. She also took part in the protest actions against oil-price hikes, corruption and other issues against the Estrada administration.

Nerve said Sherlyn was a good organizer. She was able to recruit many of her sorority sisters and college mates. “She was disciplined and hardworking. She was always agitated and did not easily get tired when it came to her political tasks,” Nerve said.

Being at the student council provided Sherlyn the opportunity to confront many social issues. Sherlyn led various forms of protests, Nerve said. She always encouraged other activists to integrate with the striking workers or with the peasants picketing at the Department of Agrarian Reform.

“She was one of the most active activists I know,” Nerve said.

In fact, it was while on an immersion with the picketing workers of SM North Edsa in 1999 that Sherlyn had her first taste of state repression. While the police was violently dispersing the picket, one of them took hold of Sherlyn and nearly strangled her.

“I think the SM strike immersion consolidated her as a student activist, to be more involved with the basic masses,” Nerve said.

That experience, as well as the ones before it at the university, had a profound impact on Sherlyn. Soon, she found herself among peasants in Bulacan, immersing with them in their poverty.

Fates Intertwined

In a perfect world, the fate of Karen and Sherlyn never would have intertwined. But it did.

The two women did not know each other at the university. Sherlyn, who was 29 when abducted, had gotten out of UP ahead of Karen, who was 23. Although it is not yet clear when and how exactly did the two women meet, it is apparent that they were brought together to the depressed communities of Bulacan by their desire to change society.

Share This Post

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!

Comments are closed.