By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – On the 10th death anniversary of their mother, Dana Marie and Ara did not choose to just relive the pain.
Together with their father, Orly, the sisters led the protest action in front of the Department of Justice (DOJ) marking the 10th death anniversary of their beloved mother, Eden Marcellana, and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy whom the siblings called “Lolo Eddie.”
The older daughter, Dana Marie, 17, is now a member of the Southern Tagalog Cultural Network (STCN) and Ara, 15, is a volunteer for Anakpawis Partylist.
“We want to continue what Nanay has left behind,” Dana Marie said in Filipino in an interview with Bulatlat.com. “We are inspired by what she had contributed to our country.”
Losing a mother
Ara could remember the day her mother told her she would go on a fact-finding mission in Mindoro Oriental.
“She woke me up to say goodbye. I did not want her to go,” Ara, only five years old at that time, said.
It was only during summer breaks that the two siblings would enjoy the company of their mother.
“We would have bonding activities,” Dana Marie said. “She would treat us to our favorite fastfood and buy us some clothes if she had money.”
“I did not know that was the last time I would see her alive,” Ara said, tears welling up in her eyes.
In April 2003, Marcellana, former secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog, and Gumanoy, former chairman of Kasama-Timog Katagalugan, led an 11-member quick reaction team that would investigate human rights violations in two towns of Oriental Mindoro. On their way back to Calapan City, they were abducted by armed men linked to then Col. Jovito Palparan Jr. The two leaders were found dead the next day.
Life had never been the same for the siblings.
“Somehow, we have been used to having no mother by our side,” Dana Marie said. “But sometimes, it is still painful.”
Ara feels the same way. When invited to attend a cultural night dedicated to their Nanay and to their Lolo Eddie, Ara said she broke down.
“As they uttered words in honor of Nanay, memories flashed back in my mind,” Ara said. She did not realize that the wound, after a full decade, is still fresh.
“We still miss her,” Ara admitted. “She would always tell me and Ate not to quarrel, that we have to help each other.”
As though losing a mother is not painful enough, the two sisters, for a time, also had to be away from their Tatay.
Orly Marcellana is one of the 72 activist leaders of Southern Tagalog who had been slapped with fabricated charges in 2008. The case was eventually dismissed.
Dana Marie and Ara still yearn for justice.
“Until now, justice has not been served not just for Nanay but for the other victims of extrajudicial killings as well,” Dana Marie said. “Under Noynoy Aquino, nothing has changed.”
Now activists themselves, both Dana Marie and Ara draw inspiration from the life of their Nanay Eden.
“It [being an activist] was not easy,” Dana Marie said. “But we are always reminded that what we are doing is not for ourselves or for a small group of people but for the Filipino people.”
As a member of SCTN, Dana Marie says their performances portray the real situation of the oppressed and marginalized sectors.
During the protest action in front of the DOJ, Dana Marie herself portrayed her mother in a skit reenacting the incident. Ara also performed as one of the cast. Members of the audience shed tears watching the short skit.
“It was difficult,” she told Bulatlat.com after the performance. “I could not help but cry.”