ALMOST simultaneously as Filipino American youths were angrily remembering the 45th year when martial law was imposed in the Philippines in front of the consular office in Los Angeles, older members of the community held a forum at the nearby Pilipino Workers Center (PWC).
One of the forum’s guests, Charice Nadal, was supposed to read a statement from Af3irm, a multi-racial political organization of women, but the intensity of the moment triggered a flashback of sad memories. She instead ended up narrating the travails of her own family during the martial law years.
Nadal recalled that because her parents were known to be against to martial law, the entire family was in constant surveillance by the military.
When the anxiety became so unbearable, Nadal — who was then a little child –was sent to the United States.
“It took so many years until I was reunited with my family,” revealed Nadal who is now a professor in a southern California university.
“The reason why it is not easy for the victims of martial law to move on,” explained another panel guest Carol Ojeda-Kimbrough, “is first and foremost — justice has not been served.”
Kimbrough’s first husband, Rolando Federis was abducted by the military while travelling to Bicol with two female companions in 1976.
Prior to the abduction, Federis has been regularly communicating with his wife and their child who were both in the US.
“The communication stopped but they told me not to worry,” Kimbrough said, recalling the mental and emotional pain that she endured for months as she waited for news about her missing husband.
It turned out that Federis and his companions Adora Faye De Vera and Flora Coronacion were brought to a military safe house somewhere where they were tortured.
Both De Vera and Coronacion were raped. Federis and Coronacion were executed later. De Vera was spared because the military officer who led the operation took interest on her.
The said officer made De Vera his “girlfriend.”
De Vera’s account was documented by Amnesty International. She testified in a Hawaii court on the class suit against Marcos.
The remains of Federis and Coronacion were never found.
In 2011, Federis’s name has been inscribed in the Bantayog ng mga Bayani’s Wall of Heroes and Martyrs in Quezon City, Philippines.
An account of torture while under detention was provided by Myrla Baldonado who was abducted by the military while then a labor organizer at the former US naval base in Subic in Zambales, Philippines.
Myrla recalled how she was stripped naked and “waterboarded,” — a form of torture that was known then as “water cure.”
Under this form of torture, water was forced into the victim’s mouth while she was lying down until she was bloated. And then at that point, the tormentors would force the water out from the victim’s body by all means imaginable.
“Every time they do this to me, I passed out,” Baldonado recalled.
Throughout the ordeal, Myrla said she trained her mind to forget anything that she knew.
“I didn’t want to spill any name because I knew that if I did, they would suffer the same fate as me,” Baldonado intimated.
“I became so good at it (forgetting names of people) that when friends began visiting me in prison, later on, I couldn’t remember them,” Baldonado recollected.
The forum was organized by Human Rights Watch-LA, Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA) led by Augustus Pedalizo and Justice for Filipino American Veteran Art Garcia.