“Today, as the whole nation remembers the lives of the departed, we commemorate the missing. We light a candle not for their souls to rest in peace but to shed light on their way home. We offer flowers not because we believe they are no longer with us but because they are deeply missed,” Mary Guy “Ghay” Portajada, daughter of a missing labor leader, said.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Lydia de Castro, 62, still sheds tears whenever she narrates how her husband Saulo disappeared 22 years ago.
Saulo, then organizer of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) in Pandacan, was abducted on Oct. 6, 1988 at a public market in Lucena City. He remains missing to this day.
Life has never been easy after Saulo disappeared. Lydia did all kinds of odd jobs just to feed her four children. At 16, her eldest daughter Lorena went to Japan and worked as the lead singer of a band to support her siblings.
Every November 2, Lydia joins other families of the disappeared in a gathering at the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran. Together, they light candles, offer flowers and say prayers for their missing loved ones. The Catholic congregation also lost Fr. Rudy Romano who was abducted 25 years ago and remains missing to this day.
“It has been four years since he went missing. People are asking me if I am still hoping that he is still alive. If you were in my shoes, would you not hope?”Romy Ancheta, brother of Leopoldo Ancheta, says. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/ bulatlat.com)
“Where do we light candles and offer flowers? We do not even know if they are still alive,” Romy Ancheta, brother of missing consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Leopoldo Ancheta, said.
Ancheta was reportedly abducted by unidentified men believed to be military intelligence agents on June 24, 2006 in Barangay (village) Tuktukan, Guiguinto town in the province of Bulacan.
“It has been four years since he went missing. People are asking me if I am still hoping that he is still alive. If you were in my shoes, would you not hope?” Romy said in a trembling voice.
Romy said Leopoldo’s youngest daughter celebrated her birthday last August. “There was a party but she was not happy. She still asks about her father.” Leopoldo’s eldest daughter recently gave birth to her first child. “She told me she wished her father is here to see his grandchild,” Romy said.
Meanwhile, Neo Roxas, does not know if he was lucky to have found his father.
Neo’s father Nicasio, then a community organizer in Caloocan, was abducted allegedly by state agents on Nov. 12, 1992. Neo, then only 13 years old, went with his mother to search for his father.
“We went to prisons, hospitals and funeral parlors to find him,” Neo said.
Finally, sometime during the last week of November 1992, they received information that a body was found somewhere in San Juan. Neo, accompanied by relatives of the disappeared, went to recover the body of his father. “I saw all his wounds, the bloated veins due to electrocution, the gunshot wound on his eye, the forcibly removed nails…” Neo recalled.
A makeshift “torture room” (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / bulatlat.com)
After his father’s burial, Neo underwent psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress. “I do not know if we were lucky to have found him, that at least, we had some closure unlike the others but the pain and the loss seem the same. Pain is difficult to measure,” Neo said.
At 35, Neo said he still misses how his father used to carry him. “He was a person with a sense of humor. I miss our simple conversations,” Neo said.
Like Neo, Mary Guy “Ghay” Portajada was still young when her father went missing. At 12, Ghay experienced searching for his father Armando Sr., then union president of Coca-Cola company. Armando was abducted by 15 armed men in broad daylight on July 31, 1987.
“Today, as the whole nation remembers the lives of the departed, we commemorate the missing. We light a candle not for their souls to rest in peace but to shed light on their way home. We offer flowers not because we believe they are no longer with us but because they are deeply missed,” Ghay, secretary general of the Desaparecidos, says.
According to Desaparecidos, hundreds have been victims of enforced disappearances since the Marcos dictatorship. Under the new Aquino administration, two have been disappeared.
The group called on Congress to pass the Anti-Enforced Disappearances Bill and the Aquino administration to sign the United Nations International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances. (Bulatlat.com)