Nanay Mameng celebrates 86th birthday

I will only stop (being an activist) when I am already dead.” – Nanay Mameng


MANILA — Carmen “Nanay Mameng” Deunida celebrated her 86th birthday with a humble program at the University of the Philippines – Diliman on Feb. 15, Saturday night.

“I am recuperating and I will be back,” Nanay Mameng said.

Nanay Mameng became an activist at the age of 50. She was the oldest member of Kabataan para sa Demokrasya at Nasyunalism, a youth group at the time of the Marcos dictatorship.

She also became a community organizer of women’s group Samahan ng Maralitang Kababaihang Nagkakaisa (Samakana). In 1998, she was among those who founded urban poor group Kadamay and was elected chairperson.

Nanay Mameng served as its chairperson for a decade. In 2008, she was named as Kadamay’s chair emeritus, which, according to Gloria Arellano, Kadamay’s chairperson, is in recognition of her contributions to the urban poor’s fight for their right to shelter and to livelihood.

(Photo by J. Ellao /
(Photo by J. Ellao /

“I will only stop (being an activist) when I am already dead,” Nanay Mameng said.

During the program, leaders of progressive groups took turns in greeting Nanay Mameng and recalled how she inspired them in their struggle for genuine change.

Arellano recalled the fiery speeches of Nanay Mameng during protest actions, which later made her known as a small but firebrand speaker.

“Her speech back in 2002 during Arroyo’s second State of the Nation Address still reflects the conditions that we have today,” Arellano said.

Source of inspiration

Neri Guerrero, chairperson of Samakana, said Nanay Mameng was a source of inspiration and was among those who enlightened her about the harsh realities that many Filipinos are suffering from.

Guerrero said she would attend protest actions and from Nanay Mameng’s speeches, she said, she understood why many Filipinos are poor and how it is connected to issues faced by workers.

“I observed that every time there is a protest action, the youth would go in front to listen to her. She is truly an inspiration.”

Randall Echanis of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said Nanay Mameng was among the pillars of Anakpawis Partylist.

“Every time there is a rally, she manages to explain issues in a sharp and very clear way. Echanis said, adding that it is only from Nanay Mameng that activists could hear words such as “tyanak,” “peste,” “dorobo” and “markang demonyo” but she is able to maintain the militant spirit in her “colorful” speeches.

(Photo by J. Ellao /
(Photo by J. Ellao /

Echanis described Nanay Mameng’s speeches as “sapul na sapul,” as she would always connect various issues that Filipinos are confronting to the struggle of the Filipino people for genuine change.

Rita Baua of Bayan hailed Nanay Mameng’s ability to explain the issues being confronted by urban poor, especially in light of mainstream views against the urban poor.

Leon Peralta of the Anti-Trapo Movement said it was in a protest action back in 2009 where he first met Nanay Mameng. Since then, he regarded the urban poor leader as a mother to him.

“I look up to her like a real mother. Whenever I would attend a rally, she and Nanay Leleng (Zarsuela) are the two people I would look for. And when they are not there, I am worried that they might not be feeling well,” Peralta said.

Play on Nanay Mameng’s life

Excerpts of the play “Nanay Mameng, isang dula” was shown during the program.

An excerpt of Nanay Mameng, isang dula was staged during Nanay Mameng's birthday celebration  (Photo by J. Ellao /
An excerpt of Nanay Mameng, isang dula was staged during Nanay Mameng’s birthday celebration (Photo by J. Ellao /

Directed by Palanca awardee Bonifacio Ilagan, “Nanay Mameng, isang dula” would be staged on March 20 (3pm,7pm) and 21(7pm) at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines’ Tanghalang PUP, PUP-Sta.Mesa College of Communication grounds

Ermie Concepcion will portray Nanay Mameng in the play.

“The excerpts shown today portrayed Nanay Mameng’s life and struggle for genuine change. We were given a snippet on how tear gas is being used to quell the urban poor’s resistance. We also saw Nanay Mameng’s life. We are looking forward to see the entire play,” Roger Soluta, chairperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno, said.

Proceeds of the play would go to medical expenses of Nanay Mameng, who, according to Leni Jara of the Council for Health and Development, is on her way to recovery after her recent surgery. (

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