A Reckoning for Desaparecidos

“We must work hard as a society to stop all forced disappearances.”

In the fourth and final installment of this series featuring “Living and Dying- In Memory of 11 Ateneo de Manila Martial Law Activists” by Cristina Jayme Montiel, recounting the life stories of 11 Ateneans, we take a look at the life and times of two more selfless and courageous souls who sacrificed themselves to fight the tyrannical rule of the Marcos regime.

Nicolas “Nick” M. Solana Jr. was born 13 February 1949. A Davaoeńo, Nick attended the Davao Elementary School, earning good grades and showing leadership as a cub scout and later as a boy scout. He learned to go to school and come home by himself as early as the second grade. Then he went to Ateneo de Davao High School and entered Ateneo de Manila University, for college, in 1965.

Little is known about what influenced Nick’s decision to return to Davao. While there, he went into community development work in the slum areas. His exposure to the impoverished transformed him. Nick initially actualized his commitment to the cause of the landless poor by examining the inequities he perceived in the social and political system.

In early 1975, when Nick visited a friend in San Juan, he talked animatedly about his decision to go to the hills of Davao to join the freedom fighters. Several weeks later, as he moved about the hinterlands of Davao, a group of rebels was ambushed. Nick was among those who died. He was 26 years old.

In life as in death, Nick embodied human passion. His friend, Eduardo Robillo, recalls how Nick always took on any pursuit with unbridled passion – whether it was perfecting his oratorical delivery in high school, or finishing a song until the wee hours of the morning, or initiating the “Days of the Lord” sessions for the boys in the slum areas of Davao City, right after graduation. Or joining the fight against the corruption of the Marcos regime in the hinterlands of Davao del Norte or Agusan, where he was killed in an encounter with soldiers more skillful than he was in the art of war.

Emmanuel “Manny” del Rosario Yap was born 5 November 1951 in Cebu City, the eldest of four children, of accomplished and well-off parents. His father was Leyte-born bar topnotcher Supreme Court Justice Pedro Yap; his mother, Flora del Rosario Yap, was an orchid specialist. Manny finished his elementary education with honors at a public school in New York City. When his family returned to the Philippines, Manny enrolled at the Ateneo de Manila High School. Manny, though inclined to be self-effacing and shy, impressed his classmates and teachers with his calm, serious and intelligent demeanor. In 1969, Manny enrolled as an AB Economics major at the Ateneo de Manila. He continued to pursue academic excellence and remained active in debating and other extracurricular activities. His peers regarded him as an intellectual. At the same time, he acquired social involvement exposure by joining scholastic Ed Garcia’s Summer of Service program in 1969. He volunteered for social work in Sapang Palay, Novaliches.

His experience that summer affected Manny deeply. He began to devote more time and attention to the impoverished residents of Sapang Palay.

In 1970, a strong typhoon caused massive destruction in the country. As Manny helped out in relief operations, he met various activists from other ideological groups and engaged in discussions with them. As time passed, he journeyed deeper into the risky world of underground activism with increasing intellectual conversion. In the months following the declaration of martial law, he stayed in safe houses and devoted himself to underground activities.

On 14 February 1976, Manny was with his family for a lunch in a restaurant in Cubao. After lunch, his family dropped him off on the sidewalk along EDSA near Channel 7. Ten minutes later, they returned to where they had left Manny but he was nowhere to be found. He, it seemed, had vanished from the face of the earth and there was nothing that could be done to retrieve him. To this day, no substantial evidence has surfaced to indicate Manny’s whereabouts.

Fifty years after Marcos declared martial law, we must still work for the reckoning for desaparecidos – their abduction have that left holes in the hearts of many. Aside from Manny, there was a group of young women activists from the University of the Philippines Los Baños who are still missing. And unfortunately, even after the EDSA revolution of 1986, the practice of forced dissaperances continues – with Jonas Burgos, Sherlyn Cadapan, and Karen Empeño as the most prominent victims. Even in recent months, we have seen this happen, and with the new anti-terror law, we will see more of this, legitimized as it has been by Congress.

We must work hard as a society to stop all forced disappearances. And we must continue searching and determining the fate of all our desaparecidos.

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