By RALPH TUMANENG and VENMAR CECILLE
MANILA – She never felt alone.
Gabrielle Capuyan, 21, knew that she and her father Dexter, a community organizer in the Cordillera region, would always be together.
Last month, however, Dexter suddenly went missing, along with another activist Gene Roz Jamil “Bazoo” de Jesus. While this distressed her, Gabrielle still had the courage to look for the two desaparecidos.
“There were intense feelings and anxiety. But I also have the strong urge to go help and do what I can in searching for him,” Gabrielle, Dexter’s only child, told Bulatlat.
Both Dexter and De Jesus are among the victims of enforced disappearances under Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Prior to their disappearance, Dexter’s name and photo were included in a poster of alleged “communist terrorist group personalities.” Rewards were offered for their capture, dead or alive. In Dester’s case, his bounty was P1.85 million ($33,213).
“His big heart is not only limited to his family but extended to the masses and to the community,” Gabrielle said in a program held at the University of the Philippines – Baguio.
As a father, Gabrielle said that her father always finds the time for his family despite his hectic schedule with the communities where he works.
This includes helping her with her school project as a grade schooler, like when they sewed a stuffed toy. Gabrielle can still remember how her father stayed up all night to teach her how to do it.
“Even if the outcome was not the best, at least, he taught me something,” she fondly recalled.
Growing up, she said that their family would go out together and his father would always encourage her to take photos “to capture the moments that we have together.”
“Despite our limited time together, we would bond through talking and sharing stories. This made me feel like I was seen and heard as a child growing up,” Gabrielle said.
His father’s support of her, she said, never wavered. They were able to maintain an open communication.
Gabrielle, who is now taking up Fine Arts (major in Visual Communication) at UP Diliman, said that her father never discouraged her from pursuing the path she likes. “He told me that I should always do what makes me happy.”
A father with formidable strength and persistence
The most challenging part as father and daughter came in 2016 when her mother Bernadette passed away due to lung cancer. Her father served as her rock in these difficult times.
“He always reminded me of my mom’s unwavering fighting spirit as she battled with cancer – that we have to be strong and prepare ourselves for any eventuality and prepare whenever she has to go,” Gabrielle said in a speech during the solidarity gathering held at UP Baguio.
Both of them stayed by her mother’s side as her health deteriorated as “Dad and I were one of Mama’s joys and source of strength to carry on, to fight, and to live longer,” she said.
When her mom passed away on March 27, 2016, Gabrielle shared that her father continued to honor the memory of her mother as they built a support system within their family as they go through their grieving.
After her mother’s passing, Gabrielle shared that his father gave her one of his favorite books titled “ “Hope for the Flowers” by Trina Paulus.
On the cover it read: “a tale – partly about life, partly about revolution, and lots of hope for adults and others (including caterpillars who can read).” The story is about two caterpillars Yellow and Stripe, and their journey in finding the meaning of life.
She shared an excerpt from the book that encapsulates her father’s life as a student leader and community organizer:
“How does one become a butterfly?” she asked pensively.
“You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.”
“You mean to die?” asked Yellow, remembering the three who fell out of the sky.
“Yes and No,” he answered.
“What looks like you will die but what’s really you will still live. Life is changed, not taken away. Isn’t that different from those who die without ever becoming butterflies?”
“And if I decide to become a butterfly,” said Yellow hesitantly.
“What do I do?”
“Watch me. I’m making a cocoon.
“If [it] looks like I’m hiding, I know, but a cocoon is no escape.
“It’s an in–between [houses] where the change takes place.
“It’s a big step since you can never return to caterpillar life.
“During the change, it will seem to you or to anyone who might peek that nothing is happening – but the butterfly is already becoming.
“It just takes time!”
After reading the excerpt, she said that this made her understand why her father has chosen to serve the people.
Dexter is a Bontoc-Ibaloi-Kankanaey who serves as a community organizer in the Cordillera region. But he could have chosen a different path as a lawyer, said Gabrielle.
Dexter’s family pushed him before to study law. But Gabrielle said that his father preferred working directly with farmers and workers, particularly his fellow indigenous peoples.
For this, Gabrielle added, she is proud of her father.
This sense of pride is extended to the people that Dexter has worked with in the past.
Willy Alangui, a fellow activist in the Cagayan Valley, said that he learned a lot from Dexter, whom he lauded for choosing the “selfless path” as a full-time community organizer.
Another activist and recently-released political prisoner Daisy Macpanpan said that both disappeared activists Dexter and Bazoo are “products not only of UP Baguio but [of] the conditions of our society.”
Gabrielle, for her part, remains steadfast in her search for his father. “His activism taught me three things. First, it gave me a sense of awareness, drawing my attention to the issues that are often overlooked by society. Second, it educated me on why these issues are important. And third, it helps me empathize with the struggles of the marginalized individuals and groups.” (JJE,DAA)