by Judy M. Taguiwalo, BSSW, Class 1970
The most vivid memory of PURIFICACION PEDRO or Puri that I have is her singing “Climb Every Mountain” ala Maria Von Trapp of the Sound of Music. This is nothing unusual for Filipinos who are known for our love of singing regardless if we can carry a tune or not. But it was singing on the peak of one of the mountains of the Cordillera, it was during martial law, and Puri and I were part of the people’s resistance to the Marcos dictatorship.
Puri belonged to the class ahead of mine but we were classmates in Judo. She was easy to get along with because she had such a sense of humor. Most of our classmates were freshies and sophomores while I was in my junior year and she was graduating so it was natural for the two of us to bond during this class. We liked to kid around. We had a young male instructor who would show us the various judo moves. One of the lessons was learning how to defend ourselves from unwanted attempts to embrace us. After teaching us the moves, the PE instructor, (male, young, good-looking) announced that he would play the role of the attacker, would try to embrace us, and we should be able to defend ourselves by throwing him on the floor. Puri’s plan was just to allow the instructor to embrace her and she would embrace him back! I cannot remember if she actually did this but it shows the kind of fun we had during our undergrad years.
Puri graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Social Work in 1969 from UP, and placed 10th in the National Board Examinations for Social Workers. After briefly working at the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, she opted for community work and became a social worker at the Immaculate Conception Parish in Quezon City where she helped organize a cooperative and set up a day care center. She was also in the midst of relief work during the 1972 floods that devastated Central Luzon. In 1974, two years after the imposition of martial law by Ferdinand Marcos, Puri decided to deepen her immersion with the poor and went to the Cordillera to work with the indigenous communities.
In January 1977, Puri went on a clandestine visit to Bataan to be with friends who joined the New People’s Army. While there, she was wounded during a military operation and was captured. She was confined under military guard at the Bataan Provincial Hospital. Family members took turns watching her, fearful for her safety under her captors. “On her sixth day of confinement (January 23, 1977), constabulary intelligence men from Manila came and forced their way into her room. They drove out Puri’s watcher, saying they were interrogating Puri. Puri was left alone with them for one hour inside her hospital room. After they left, Puri was found dead, strangled inside her hospital bathroom. She was 29 years old.” *
An excerpt from Puri’s letter to her family written (undated but sent during the martial law period) clarifies the spirit of service that characterized Puri’s life and death:
Hindi lingid sa ating kaalaman ang mga hirap at panganib sa ating gawain. Subalit marami na akong natutunan ngayon ,kung kaya’t panatag ang aking kalooban sa lahat ng nangyayari. Ako’y natutuwa’t nasisiyahan sa karera kong pinili. Hindi ito dahil sa pananalaping benepisyo na habol ng ibang propesyonal. Higit pa rito ang karanasan kong makipamuhay sa mga tao, ang mga mahihirap at ang mga nakaririwasa…na ang hangarin at pagsisikap ay para sa isang tunay na makataong kaunlaran. Alam kong nag-aalala kayo sa akin, at nagpapasalamat ako sa lahat ng inyong panalangin, subalit huwag kayong mag-alala. Nakatitiyak kayo na aking ginagawa ang sa wari ko’y nararapat, at matibay ang aking paniniwala na lahat ng ito’y para sa kapakanan ng nakararami—ang mga dukha’t sinisiil, ang pinaka-aba sa ating mga kapatid.**
* Bantayog ng mga Bayani write-up on Purificacion Pedro. http://www.bantayog.org/node/172 , accessed April 8, 2012
Mga Tagapatotoo sa Hanay ng Kababaihan. (no date)
**Mga Tagapatotoo sa Hanay ng Kababaihan. (no date)