The Life of Selfless Struggle of a Desaparecido

Families and friends of Rogelio Calubad, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) who was abducted with his son three months ago, commemorated with songs and speeches, on the occasion of his birthday, his self-less dedication and contributions to the Filipino people.


As Rogelio “Rudy” Calubad turned 53 on Sept. 16, his family and friends gathered together, sang songs and gave speeches to celebrate it. But the celebrator was not present. Calubad and his son Gabriel, 29, are desaparecidos — missing since they were abducted by six suspected military men on June 17 this year in Bangkuruhan village, Calauag town, Quezon province.

A large tarpaulin with Calubad’s photo hung, with the words: “Ginugunita namin ngayong kaarawan mo ang iyong dakilang ambag sa sambayanan… Pagpupugay sa iyo, Kasamang Rudy, ang iyong kadakilaa’y hinding-hindi malilimutan” (We’re commemorating, on the occasion of your birthday today, your great contribution to the people. We honor you, Comrade Rudy, your selflessness will never be forgotten.)

The gathering, which was more of an appeal for justice than a celebration, was held at the Treehouse restaurant in Quezon City, where Calubad’s wife Elizabeth served a dessert of kakanin (glutinous rice cakes), cassava cake and buco salad to guests. She said these were Calubad’s favorite food.

A witness account documented by Karapatan said that father and son were riding a motorcycle on the way to a relative’s farm when two men on a motorcycle blocked their way and forced the Calubads’ motorcycle to crash to the ground. Four other men alighted from a dark blue van and took Rogelio with them. Gabriel was made to ride the abductors’ motorcycle. The Calubads’ motorcycle was left lying on the ground.

Desaparecido, the Spanish term for “the disappeared”, became the term for persons who were abducted by government forces who deny having them in custody. Human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights) reported some 184 victims of enforced disappearances under the Arroyo administration.

Evan Hernandez, mother of slain human rights worker Beng and spokesperson of the newly-launched victims’ group Hustisya (Justice), expressed support to the Calubad family and other families of desaparecidos. She appealed to other families of victims of human rights violations under the Arroyo administration to unite with her group and work to ensure justice is served.


Elizabeth displayed items left behind by the missing Calubad, which included his favorite mug, barako (robusta) coffee beans, cell phone batteries, a hand-crafted vase he made from dead wood, a small transistor radio which he used to listen to every morning, and his black clutch bag which he didn’t bring on the fateful day of the abduction. Elizabeth also showed a white bond paper with the name “Mamang” (Mother) which was the last letter he gave her before the abduction, and a red woven malong (blanket), “Na tanging kaulayaw niya kapag wala siya sa piling ko.” (His only companion when he is not by my side.)

Elizabeth, like most families of desaparecidos, still hopes that her husband will come home one day. She filed a habeas corpus petition with the Court of Appeals. Present at the gathering were relatives of other desaparecidos: Carmen Ancheta whose husband Leopoldo, another NDF consultant who was abducted in Bulacan province, Erlinda and Asher Cadapan, whose daughter Sherlyn was abducted also in Bulacan in June.

Calubad’s wife narrated how he had been an activist since 1972, and had dreamed and worked for a society where peasants and workers would be free from exploitation. She said her husband held on to the cause in spite of the hardships and sacrifices, including being away from the family.

The younger Gabriel, an only son and a radio technician, was not involved in any organization and Elizabeth lamented that he too was abducted by suspected government troops.

Calubad’s family sang inspiring, progressive songs as a tribute, and to uplift their spirits in their quest for justice.

His only daughter Liza sang Calubad’s favorite ballad which said: “Anong tamis pala ang sa lupa mabuhay, kung sa pagpapakasakit, ay may tagumpay.” (How sweet it is to live, because in struggle, there is victory.)

A niece, Joma Calubad, whose mother Marciana was a martyred activist, sang with Calubad’s daughter the song “Wala nang Tao sa Sta. Filomena” (There are no more people at Sta. Filomena) which was about a village turned into a ghost town by militarization.

Even a Didith Reyes love song was changed into an appeal for justice, as Calubad’s sister, Norma Calubad-Palle, changed the lyrics, and sang “Wala kaming kasalanan…hangad ko ay katarungan.” (We’re innocent… I long for justice.)

Calubad, as consultant to the National Democratic Front of the Philippiunes (NDFP), was supposed to be covered by the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). Signed by government and the NDFP, JASIG was a product of peace talks between the two parties in the ongoing armed conflict. (

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