Luing with us again in Aguilar interview

It is April 12 again, three years to the day that our friend Luing - Luisa Posa Dominado - was abducted by armed men, along with her companion Nilo Arado, and never heard of since. The driver of their van, human rights activist Leeboy Garachico, was shot in the neck and left for dead. For three years, there has been no news of the wherabouts of Luing and Nilo, despite the continuing protests, legal proceedings, mobilisations and campaigns for justice. Family, friends and comrades have marked her birthdays and anniversaries and have spent many tears and frustrations.

Cover Pagtatagpo sa Kabilang Dulo.jpg But Luing was among us once again thanks to the recent book, Pagtatagpo sa Kabilang Dulo: Panitikang Testimonial ng Desaparecidos, in which an interview done with her ten years before her disappearance by Filipino-American academic and friend Delia Aguilar was published for the first time. And we would like to share this discovery with you.

Aguilar's introduction and description of Luing captured the essence of the revolutionary woman she embodied, and we would like to quote:

"Luing's life has been an extraordinary one, an exemplar of dedication to the highest ideals of a people struggling for genuine independence and a more humane social order. Luing speaks for herself here in a way that is at once starkly simple and powerfully eloquent. Even so, I want to remark on her steadfast commitment, her "durabilty", as she puts it. I asked her a rather naive question about her previous involvement in Makibaka ( a women's organization founded in 1970) suggesting how, because of this, young women might view her as a role model. But it is neither Makibaka nor the teachers' union nor any women's group she has associated with that speaks to her gendered commitment. It is, instead, the complete absence of the slightest hint of self-importance in the telling of her life story that I find most compelling, something I have countenanced only in revolutionary women. This is not to speak of self-denial, or a weak sense of self. It is the opposite: here is someone - a woman, and to me this is key - who has come to an understanding of herself and the world around her in a way that has empowered her to give, and to give with neither the demands for praise or tribute nor the claims of sacrifice."

Aguilar's interview with Luing, revealed the accuracy of her description.

Aguilar: This label "Commander Posa", you became a legend, didn't you? Do you think that had an effect on women then, especially since you were in Makibaka? Does this have an effect on women today?

Luing: (laughs) this is only my impression, and I can't really say for sure because I'm not that involved in work with women at the moment. My impression is that in U(niversity of the) P(hilippines) and in other circles around here, if they need someone brave to speak up. (...) Whenever they need to call on someone they consider "courageous" (laughs) to speak, they invite me. I have opportunities to speak to various sectors like women, the urban poor, the peasants. I'm not sure (long pause), but probably people's initial impression is what they'd heard about me. Maybe once they see me, they realize that the myth of Commander Posa is hard to believe. (Laughs).

You see, the women who up to now have remained legends in Iloilo are the combattants; for example Teresa Magbanua, Waling-waling.

Aguilar: But that was an earlier era. For the current period it's you.

Luing: But as for women like myself, maybe the people can see for themselves that we're not really capable or up to that. (Laughs). Maybe it's just a matter of durability, that I spent more years of my life inside the movement than outside.

I joined at age 16, and now I'm 44. So the greater part of my life has been in the movement. Even in my family that's the same impression. In the beginning they were just tolerating my participation in the movement because they couldn't do much else. They couldn't convince me to quit. They were simply waiting for the time that I'd tire myself out. But in time I think they began to see that since I remained resolute, maybe that drew even just empathy with the cause. My guess is that if I weakened, the effect on them would have been different.

So maybe that's the same effect on other people. It's probably not so much the "legend" they've heard about, but what they see in you, that you still keep on going."

The interview is filled with many other thoughtful insights from Luing and is a revealing reflection of the period - 1999, a period following the turmoil and change in the movement to which she devoted her life. Her interview reveals some of the lessons drawn from struggles that had rocked the movement, and the steadfastness of her own commitment.

The movement is alive and well, as this entire book shows. It is filled with testimonials, poems, tributes, stories, including the writings of Luing's two wonderful daughters, MayWan and Tamara, along with those of the families and relatives of so many others - Leo Velasco, James Balao, Jonas Burgos, Karen Empeno - men, women who had such an important impact on those around them whose 'life blood is trickling into people's consciousness', as Bebing, another friend of Luing says.

Another good friend, Aya Santos, a spokesperson for Desaparecidos, writes to her father thus: "Along the way, while searching for you, I have encountered others who are also searching for their son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, father or even both parents.... We understand each other's feelings: we know how painful it is to long for missing parents. We share the same rage against your abductors and their bosses and this repressive system. (...) We are the children of the Desaparecidos. We are also the chidren whose parents have fought for their principles and have served the oppressed."

Rose Arado, the wife of Nilo Arado, who was abducted at the same time as Luing, writes on their wedding anniversary: "I cannot light a dinner candle for two and embrace you tightly. This night will be cold, but I will just keep the flame of courage burning in my heart to give me the strength each day as I wait eagerly for your safe return. (...) When you opted to live a life with the oppressed, just like Luisa, you knew the consequence of being tagged a communist, terrorist, a destabiliser, a threat to the society. This is the price of being faithful to the cause of building a just and humane society. This is truly a nobel endeavour. And I have never regretted that we are together in this cause. And until that night of April 12, when some unidentified armed men forcibly abducted you and Luisa, I almost couldn't believe that we are now starting to face the fascist attacks of this regime. (...) My love, on this day, I will make a vow to myself. I am reaffirming my love to you as my husband, as the father of DM, and as my comrade in the service of the people."

The testimonials, most in Tagalog and a few in English, are an inspirational read and leave one filled with hope, and the conviction that the truth cannot be snuffed out by killing those that dare to say it, that on the contrary, it spreads all the more like fire or a virus. Fan the fire! Catch the truth!

Published by the group Desaparecidos and the Amado V. Hernandez Resource Center, the book, Pagtatagpo sa Kabilang Dulo: Panitikang Testimonial ng Desaparecidos, is available from those organizations and in Canada from the Centre for Philippine Concerns in Montreal.

Marie Boti and Malcolm Guy
Montréal, April 12, 2010

See our short film about Luing and the disappeared:
Philippines: Democracy that kills
envoyé par Productions_Multi-Monde. - Regardez les dernières vidéos d'actu.

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