CELIA L. SEVILLA
My uncle, Hermon C. Lagman, a human rights and labor lawyer, disappeared on May 11, 1977 – exactly twenty-eight years ago today. He disappeared before I was born, but while I had not been blessed enough to have known Uncle Mon in person, i grew up listening to anecdotes a mixture of fondness and grief. I listened to enough of them to conclude that my uncle was selfless, fearless, and is very sorely missed.
Uncle Mon was unmarried when he disappeared. He did not leave any children behind. Thus, while I grew up familiar with the pain felt by parents and siblings of a desaparecido’s disappearance on his or her children were unknown to me – until I met a group called SAD.
IN THE BEGINNING…
SAD or Samahan ng mga Anak ng mga Desaparecidos (Children of the Disappeared) was founded in 1990 by the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND). The Welfare and Rehabilitation Committee if FIND recognized that the children as well as the younger siblings of victims of involuntary disappearance needed spacial attention and rehabilitation. To ensure that their needs are adequately addressed, these children were organized into a group which was then included in the six lines of work of FIND. Thus, SAD was born.
The objective for founding SAD was to provide the children with much-needed rehabilitaion. In its early years, the focus of SAD was the attainment of this objective. Rehabilitation sessions and family conferences were conducted to help the children cope with their parents’ disappearance.
AND THEN THERE WAS MIGHT…
Gradually, as SAD evolved, it began to serve another purpose. The group became a very potent medium in projecting the issue of involuntary disappearance to the general public. It has since become an effective arm of FIND in the organization’s campaign against involuntary disappearance both locally and internationally.
In 1993, FIND together with Amnesty International (AI) launched a campaign against politikal killings and enforced disappearances. SAD actively t ook part in this activity, touring four European countries (Belguim, United Kingdom, Holland and Switzerland) to protest the killings and disappearaces through stage plays.
Two years later, SAD was again invited by the Dutch Section of AI to perform in the World Scouts Jamboree held in the Netherlands. This time, their performance depicted not just the phenomenon of involuntary disappearance, but encompassed the general state of human rights in the Philippines as well.
A decade has passed since the World Scouts Jamboree. Between thenand now, SAD went through periods of rough sailing. Still, it has managed to stay afloat. To learn about SAD’s more recent history, I talked with former Chairperson of SAD-National Capital Region (SAD-NCR) Eduardo “Waldo” Timbreza and current acting SAD-NCR Chairperson Edson Estojero.
Both Waldo’s parents were victims of involuntary disappearance. They disappeared when he was two years old and surfaced alive a year later. He became a SAD member in 1997 when he was thirteen years old. Two of his cousins, who were both members of SAD, invited him to join the organization. “They were preparing for a street play then. If I remember correctly, it was for the KNK or Kalbaryo ng Katarungan. That was when I was first welcomed by my fellow children of desaparecidos.
Waldo thinks that he gained more from SAD than SAD did from him. “A lot. I learned a lot during my stay in SAD. One thing, of course, is that while we act on stage we get to release our anguish and sadness over our paraents’ disappearance… Iwas only two years old when my parents disappear ed so I did not feel the impact of what happened to them too strongly. But when I saw how the other SAD members felt, those whose parents disappeared during their minds were sta rting to mature already… I felt their pain. I especially felt for my cousins. Their father disappeared and his body has not been found to this day.” Waldo also credits SAD for hining his thespian skills. “Theater itself. That was where acting skills were molded. Our talents in acting improved with the help of the other members who really persevered in teaching us how to act.”
Waldo remembers that at first, all their activities were related to theater. “It was almost purely theater. That was the medium we used to project the issue of involuntary disappearance to the public. Our first major disappearance to the public. Our first major production was at the PSSC (Philippine Social Science Center). We wrote the scripts ourselves, with the help of Direk Ernie Cloma of PETA.” Eventually, SAD conducted educational discussions for its members, aside from acting workshops. “In the succeeding years, from around 1998 until 2001, when I had to leave around 1998 until 2001, when I had to leave SAD because my family moved to the province, we had discussions about social issues.”