FIRST PERSON | Thoughts on the occasion of Valentine’s Day and One Billion Rising

Ferdinand Castillo and wife Nona Andaya-Castillo share a great love for the country. (Photo courtesy of the family)

On these occasions, I find it fitting to pay tribute to my wife, Nona, all the wives of political prisoners in our country and the women who will participate in One Billion Rising, a global movement against tyranny.

My wife and I have been together for 37 years, nearly five years as sweethearts and 32 years of marriage.

As a couple we have very different personalities. I am the reserved and circumspect type of person while Nona is outspoken and frank. She can face diverse personalities unfettered. We have our share of disagreements and crises but because we were able to hurdle all these, it further strengthened our relationship. We trust each other because we continue to be faithful to our vows of marriage.

I was a heavy smoker for many years and this was a major source of irritation between me and Nona, a staunch health advocate. Thankfully, I was able to quit smoking in 2002. Through the years, we learned how to listen to each other and respect each other’s opinions: criticize each other for mistakes we make.

Ferdinand Castillo and Nona Andaya got married on May 2, 1987 in a Church in Meycauayan, Bulacan. (Photo courtesy of the Castillo family)

I am grateful to my wife for standing by me despite my frailties as a person, husband and father. She carries the responsibility of providing the family financially when I continued my full-time work as activist. When I turned down the offer of a teaching job at the Math Department in UP Diliman and the corporate job offers after I graduated in actuarial science in mathematics, she respected my decision.

We both regard our own participation in the struggle against the Marcos fascist dictatorship and the current tyrannical and fascist regime as our humble contribution for social change. We adhere to the principle of simple living. Our lives revolve in providing service to our people. However, these principles unite us in a more profound level of love.

We both like the outdoors and love to travel with our daughter. We both practice and advocate a plant-based diet for almost three decades now. She recovered from many illnesses in the past through this lifestyle since 1991. When I contracted rheumatic heart disease in 1995, she nurtured me back to health under the guidance of a generous doctor friend. I was immobilized for two weeks due to very painful migratory joint pains. With the help of another lifestyle medicine doctor, we have been jointly managing my hypertension in prison through a plant-based diet and a regimen of physical exercise. I am deeply moved by her almost daily provision of vegetables and weekly supplies of rice, beans and other food items.

As one of the few International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) in the country, she has to take difficult periodic exams and has to undertake self-studies for these. She is well read on many studies and researches about chronic diseases and related subjects. She has helped thousands of lactating mothers, including activists, nurses and doctors, through her direct services and advocacies. Hundreds of thousands more benefitted from such projects as lactation stations in malls.

Nona, Ferdinand and their daughter Belle sometime in the early ’90s. (Photo courtesy of Castillo family)

She is exemplary as a writer, speaker, educator, event organizer and campaigner. Since my arrest in February 12, 2017, my wife has posted articles in the social media and has granted interviews to the broadcast and print media about our love story, our struggles against the problems of society and several articles and a petition about my personal background. I was not used to this kind of publicity but Nona convinced me that it will not only help in the Free Ferdinand Castillo campaign and the campaign of political prisoners but it will also present some humane aspects of the lives of activists like me.

My wife is a patriot, environmentalist and a human rights advocate. She is brave and independent and knows fully well the dangers of her advocacies. She works very hard but manages her time for rest and leisure.

I admire my wife’s courage and achievements but one thing that made her really precious to me is her passion to serve and help people and nurture the earth.

On a more romantic note, we both agree that we are so independent that we can exist without each other. However, I feel complete with her presence and I know she feels the same way.

More power to my wife and to all the wives of political prisoners! (

This is a letter of political prisoner Ferdinand Castillo to his wife Nona Castillo as part the love letter series in time for Valentine’s Day by human rights groups Karapatan. Castillo was detained since Feb. 12, 2017.


As the world celebrates Valentine’s Day, our political prisoners remind us of a more profound kind of love — a revolutionary love that ties the struggles of an individual to that of society. In the next hours, we will be posting several letters from political prisoners to their partners and families, a testament of their unwavering commitment to fundamental social change and just, lasting peace.

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