Maria Luisa Posa-Dominado:

Abducted and missing for almost a year,

and it is her 31st wedding anniversary today

 

March 28, 2008

 

 

   
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Photos and text courtesy of Maywan Dominado
           

 

The Reddest Rose

 

             March 28, 1977 was not a a day that stood out among the rest of the days of March. Not the least among detainees of martial rule who were detained indefinitely when freedom from prison would be the day of days. For the military camp, it was the eve of the NPA’s eight anniversary and thus the soldiers and Constabulary were on red alert for possible NPA attacks.

 

            The number 8 in the 28 was auspicious for a wedding according to the transcribed almanake in the possession of the Legislador family’s resident serhuano because of  the two round holes of the number 8. The to-be-wed couple  preferred the 29th of March but were prevailed upon by the sponsors to opt for the preceding day as the 29th has only one hole representing money and thus prosperity. Its not good form arguing with do-gooders over one or two holes when one is getting married under the circumstances then.

 

            A church wedding was the idea of  the groom’s Tiyay Ping, that is Mrs. Fe Legislador-Ticao. Having convinced her husband Tay Manuel, the then Director of NIA-WV, she got the consent of the bride-to-be family, the Posa-Arches’. An ex-Colonel friend of  Tay Manuel employed at NIA volunteered to broach the idea to the late Colonel Licup, then  the Iloilo provincial commander of the Philippine Constabulary in Marcos’ Martial Law regime. The ex-Colonel prevailed upon Colonel Licup to grant the request of the wedding couple’s family for a pass to go to a church wedding arguing that such marital state would usher the couple to normal life of people in submission to the powers that be being more enmeshed in domestic life. The persuasive clincher that even made Colonel Licup to volunteer as sponsor was the fact namedropped that the groom’s deceased father was the Dictator’s classmate in UP Law. Of course Marcos, at the height of his power then, cannot be bothered by one obscure wedding of two of his enemies  whoever they are related to.

 

            In the detention cell’s logbook, the day started with a pass-authorized letting out of the bride and groom at around 9 am and their return at around 4 pm. They were escorted by about four constabulary troops, although many other plainclothesmen were posted at other places that they went to and around the church as well as reception place. They started the day as separated detainees and ended the day detained together at the women’s section of the Western Visayas Rehabilitation Center with another woman detainee to boot. But we are getting ahead of our story.

 

            The groom had gotten a decent haircut in a barber shop under the watchful eyes of his escort before proceeding to the residence of Tiyay Ping for the customary bath and dressing up in barong before the ride to church. The bride was decked out in bridal finery made out from the old bridal gowns of her older sisters. The church and ceremony was austere but could stand muster for a wedding of two tight-budgetted couple. The wonder of it all was that the couple did not have any hand in all the preparations except for their decision to let their elders make all the arrangements and  getting married in their church of younger days—The Santa Teresita.

 

            Even the officiating priest was chosen by the groom’s sister then already working in the US. Father Nabor was a classmate of the sister’s husband and had to be brought in from Aklan to take the place of the parish priest. But first the former had to hear the confession of the couple. He was taken aback when the couple opted to make their confession together, sharing their thoughts of their individual wrongdoings according to the church’s litany of sins. Surprisingly, they could not think of one mortal sin and only some venial ones committed in the recent past which they did not deign to bother the young priest of. It was more a moment of shared intimate thoughts with the newly acquainted priest on the reason why they were in jail which was no sin at all. The priest granted general absolutions for any sin not mentioned even as he was more impressed with the reason for the couple’s detention.

 

            The sponsors and the crowd were more thrilled by the wedding than the couple who were quite uncomfortable with tne wedding ceremony as with any ritual that made them the center of attention. The couple were much aware, however, that the occasion formalized their relationship in the eyes of people they personally care for and those who went through a lot of trouble (even managing to have the much maligned couple’s detention suspended for a day in the midst of martial law). And then followed the  unending photo sessions and indeterminate combinations of  relatives and friend to be immortalized in photo pasted in albums of all relatives and friends. There were even ex-detainees in the crowd risking being associated once more with the couple.

 

            The plainclothesmen were, all the while, getting more nervous with the big crowd’s festive air that might distract their eyes from their prison wards. Both families of the bride and groom enjoyed sharing the occasion of marital celebration and bliss which spilled over to the reception.

 

            The reception was held in the Legislador family’s patriarch, the eldest uncle of the groom,  at his residence in San Antonio, Oton. Everybody in the family of the couple, parents of the bride (the groom was already orphaned), uncles and aunts even of the second degree, cousins, a delegation from far away Roxas of the Arches Clan came. The Posa Clan of Pototan came around, led by the octogenarian Lolo Luis whose one of his  favorite apo happened to be the bride.  Of course, sumptious food and drinks, the one thing the Legisladors could not do witout on special occasions, was consumed all around. Even the nervous armed escorts let their guard down when they were plied with food and drinks.

 

            There were the usual rituals, the high point of which was the couple’s dance around the floor. To the delight of all and to the couple’s discomfiture, of course, they have to go through the course. All the while, the relatives are pinning money on the bride’s gown. They have no memory of the music they dance to nor to the fact that they ought to dance in step with the rhythm. And then the long moments of last moment advices on family affairs and relationship as well as interminable goodbyes. Many of them would not have the opportunity nor the courage to visit the couple individually under the glare of martial law white terror.  

 

            Finally after all the toasts and well-wishing, after the putting away of bridal fineries and the goodbyes, the couple were unceremoniously brought back to reality—a honeymoon inside the women detention cell. This time, their love nest was on the second tier of a frail double deck wooden bed that wobbles in consonance with any slight movement. Reminds one of an eggnest of robins swaying in the wind.

 

            They pity the single other woman detainee in the cell who had no other bed than the bed tier below them. She was detained because she took the fall for homicide committed by her lover who accidentally fired a gun that killed an old neighbor. Really love is blind and could get one in jail.  The next morning, she requested to be transferred to other detention facilities and was bundled out forthwith.

 

            The wedding came to happen because the various motives of all parties involved combined to make the wedding come to be. The deciding factor was of course the military’s calculation that in a married state the couple would mellow in their militance and take the conventional option of subservience to martial rule and lay low.

They were aiming for the maximum objective of pressuring the couple to cooperate and betray their cause as later events have shown.

 

            The relatives and friends of the couple had  more personal and sympathetic reasons. They really wanted to provide comfort and safety and normalcy to their loved ones the way they believed laying low could provide for. They also hated the dictatorship but they thought seven of the couple’s prime years of dangerous struggle was already more than enough for the detained couple to sacrifice. For the couple,  marriage under the then given circumstances, formalized their decision to persevere in struggling against the dictatorship as husband and wife. It firmed up their belief that they could struggle even as they found and raise a family, convinced that a better future of the family that they had started to raise and of all Filipinos would be the fruit of their labor. And marriage would satisfy their families and friends wish for their happiness even if  happiness itself had different meaning for all parties.

 

The bare love nest they went back to under detention was never a tragic circumstance for them. Having survived martial rule so far with their belief intact and firmer was already fortuitous for them as others might say. Scores of their close comrades and friends have already died or were likewise in prison. They themselves have been survivors of encounters and raids by the armed elements of the state. The bride had accumulated three years in three detention while the groom also had two and a half years of detention under his belt. They were accustomed to living conditions far worse in material amenities but far better in freedom in the mainstream of struggle. Actually, it’s a small price to pay as contribution to the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship some eight years later.

 

 Also detention provided them the rare opportunity to be with each other,  a time and a place to rekindle their love they lost among the devastation that the martial law’s brutality wreaked. It mattered not if the regimented conditions of prison life presented seemingly insurmountable conditions, if courting would have to be done in front of the Camp Commander who was intent in censoring all suspicious meanings between lines of sweet nothings that lovers ply each other with. As life will out so will love out in  the vow to love each “in sickness or in health”, in prison or in freedom.

 

They already believed that marriage is better lived in freedom. Freedom under martial rule meant struggling against the dictatorship. They could have their marriage first and have their freedom a bit late. It would be only five months later, on August 22, 1977, when they eloped away from a detention that imposed more stringent conditions than before marriage—like  being forced to betray their cause. But this is another story told before.

 

            They planned to have children but only under the warm sun of freedom and not within the clammy chambers of a detention camp. Even if it meant being pursued by a company of Philippine army soldiers after having just giving birth to May Wan in the forests of Malinao, Aklan in the May of 1982. Or conceiving Tamara after having been just released from Luisa’s fifth incarceration in August 1991 just around Luisa’s 36th  birthday on August 10 of that year. Both were born on Labor Day exactly a decade apart.

 

            The couple were married at the ripe age of 27 for Tomas and 22 for Luisa. 31 years later they remain married even if Luisa was missing the occasion for the first time. They and the people  they served would still celebrate the 32nd anniversary of their commitment to each other and to the people’s cause the next time around.

 

           

     
     

Nilo Arado, chair of BAYAN - Panay, was abducted with Luisa. The third victim, Karapatan Iloilo coordinator Jose Ely Garachico, sustained gunshot wounds after three gunmen on board a white Mitsubishi L-300 van with plate number FVF-643 stopped the activists' vehicle in Bgy. Cabandanan, Oton, Iloilo province..

 

       

 

Epilogue:

 

Both parents of Luisa are already deceased and so was Lolo Luis, whom Luisa got her name from. Luisa is still missing and Tomas has continued working full-time in seeking justice for her, for the many others who were disappeared and extra-judicially killed, for the country and people under the boots of foreign and local oppressors.

 

Colonel Licup lived long enough to face Luisa on her fourth detention and, livid in anger, slapped her on the face once. He died in a helicopter crash, where he drowned in the waters of the Guimaras Strait, several years later. Marcos, of course, was deposed and shortly died later in a foreign land, unlamented.

 

Tiyay Ping and Tay Manuel are still living, loving and caring for each other in their retired and most advanced years. They are still celebrating their umpteenth wedding anniversary every year, just the two of them.

 

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