MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 8 October) – I remember it was June of 1984 when I first met then Cagayan de Oro City councilor Lourdes “Inday” La Viña, during one of her frequent visits to the Task Force Detainees office at Saint Augustine’s Cathedral to read our latest documentations on human rights violations. Still fresh from MSU-Marawi where being fashionista was considered a mortal sin, I could hardly imagine the presence of a well-dressed lady, a city official at that, rubbing elbows with activists in faded jeans and collarless shirts.
Kagawad Inday, however, was no snob despite her social status. She treated me as if I were her own son, and I always felt free to exchange views with her on any issue of the day. If she disagreed with me on certain points, she would do so in an engaging manner. But the most flattering remark I received from her was “the quiet and handsome TFD worker.” Really?
Forget her accolade for me. Kagawad Inday one time put me on the spot by asking me to face the city council to present our report on the burning of civilian houses in a Lumad village in Misamis Oriental by Army soldiers. The invitation forced this timid probinsiyano to buy slacks, a long-sleeved polo and a pair of leather shoes for his baptism of fire before local legislators. The session ended with the council asking the military’s 4th Infantry Division to explain the incident.
Kagawad Inday’s advocacy for the plight of common people extended to the so-called parliament of the streets. She joined rallies, pickets and other protest actions. She was among those who led the first ever “welgang bayan” (people’s strike) in Cagayan de Oro, in late 1984, mingling with workers and peasants at the barricades. During that strike, a constabulary official whose name I forgot broke up one of the barricades, saying he had to safeguard “the rule of law.” Undaunted, she retorted, “No, you took the law into your own hands.”
But there were light moments with Kagawad Inday. After lengthy meetings she would invite me, the late Gerry Orcullo and Romi Gatuslao, and other people whose identities I’m not at liberty to disclose, to her sprawling residence for food and beer. There, in relative safety, we’d talk about local and national politics, including developments in the underground movement.
During one of those discussions her husband, lawyer Gabriel La Viña, who died ahead of her, surprised us with his articulateness on Marxist and socialist theories and apparent openness to armed struggle as a means to effect social change. It wasn’t surprising given the unbridled abuses and injustices at the time.
I never got the chance to see Kagawad Inday after the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship. But I’ll always treasure the privilege of having known and worked with her in those perilous times of repression and resistance.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)