Whoever came up with these clichés must not have known a desaparecido. The vivid narratives about their lives, heroism, and martyrdom endlessly told and retold by their families interweave truthful memories of those forced out of sight but can never be forced out of mind. The families’ vacillation between the hope of finding the disappeared beloved and despair over their unknown fate and whereabouts evokes immeasurable pain proving that what one doesn’t know is what hurts the most. And that without justice, no amount of time can heal the wounds inflicted by enforced or involuntary disappearance.
Hence, on All Souls’ Day, we gather at the Bantayog ng mga Desaparecido at the Baclaran church grounds not longing for tombstones to visit but truly energized to celebrate the sterling lives and struggles of our dear Desaparecidos. They started out as idealist human rights defenders (HRDs) but ended up heroes and martyrs to freedom and democracy.
Not unlike the HRDs at present, the Desaparecidos also staunchly fought for the freedom of expression and the right to dissent which ironically led to their being silenced and even brutally muzzled.
We, the inheritors of their enduring legacies, deeply commit to protest and resist the unrelenting assault on human rights and dignity.
Today, as we honor and pay tribute to the Desaparecidos, we listen, ponder on, and get inspired by their relevant and meaningful words of wisdom, three of which reverberate thus:
“Yes, Mother. There are six of us remaining. When I leave, there is still going to be five of your children with you. Won’t you give just one more of us to the country we all love?” – Ramon V. Jasul
“My friends, what good is it for one of you to say that you have faith if your actions do not prove it?… Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don’t have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, ‘God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!’ – if you don’t give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith; if it is alone and includes no action, then it is dead.” – Romeo G. Crismo
“But the youth must never stay supine… there is still cause for a demonstration. If only to register our opposition to an action of our government which we believe is wrong. If only to demonstrate that we do not sleep on our rights. And who knows, our rallies today may not produce immediate concrete results, but the little ripples that they are today could very well be the big waves of tomorrow.” – Hermon C. Lagman
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