Martial law martyrs: Maria Lorena Barros (a.k.a Kumander Mila)

(Ed’s note: A proliferation of Marcos era revisionism is going on in the Philippines. It is clearly aided and abetted by President Rodrigo Duterte and the Marcos family who is funding the campaign to re-write history. We publish this account of history from one who experienced Martial Law.)


By Floro Quibuyen

September 22, 2020 (Facebook)

Sydney, Australia

I couldn’t sleep last night. I couldn’t get the image of the lifeless body of Kumander Mila on a table surrounded by the folk of Mauban Quezon out of my mind. 

When the military attacked the hut, she told her comrades to run but stayed behind to ward off the attackers. She kept firing despite being hit several times but then her armalite jammed. 

She calmly told the first soldier who reached her, “You’re lucky that my rifle jammed. Shoot me, coward”. She was shot in the nape. All her comrades managed to escape. That day was March 24, 1976, just six days after her 28th birthday.

Flashback to 1965. I was in my second year, planning to enter the BA Philosophy program at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, aged 17. Maria Lorena Barros was a freshman, planning to enroll in the BS. Biochemistry program. 

The two of us and another friend, Enya Cruz, were the principal actors in Claro M. Recto’s one-act play, SOLO ENTRE LAS SOMBRAS (lit. Alone Among Shadows; but translated by Nick Joaquin as Shadow and Solitude). 

I was Andres, the physician husband of the sickly Gabriella whose sister Marina—played by Lori Barros—was a physician with whom I was carrying a secret affair. To cut the story short, Gabriela found out that I was having an affair with her sister Marina/Lori Barros and died of a heart attack. Marina/Lori Barros, siezed with guilt and grief-stricken at the death of her beloved sister leaves me. I am left on stage, alone…among shadows. End of play. 

It was a play I shall never forget—especially Andres’ kissing scenes with Marina/Lori Barros and Gabriella/Enya Cruz. The play was directed by my friend, PCC [his initials], and sponsored by our cultural organization, Sanduguang Kayumanggi.Lori and I became close after that stage play—I became her confidant. 

She revealed to me her secret love (who was a good friend of mine; rather handsomer than me) but she made me pledge to keep this a secret. 

That was in 1965 when LorI was still a freshman, age 16—a period that I would call her “pre-radical freshman year”. Of course, I didn’t tell my good friend. 

The following year Lori left our moderate, culturally oriented student organization to join the more progressive, radical Kabataang Makabayan. 

I never saw Lori again until I graduated in 1968 and then began teaching Philosophy, Rizal, and Humanities I at UP Tarlac. I completely forgot about Lori.

Years later, when I was teaching Philosophy, History, and the Social Sciences at UP Manila, I learned that she had shifted to the BA Anthropology program and graduated MAGNA CUM LAUDE in 1970. 

I was amazed to hear that she had turned down her election into the Phi Kappa Phi international honor society and, rather than marching on to the stage to receive her diploma, she stayed outside the ceremonies to protest, along with other militant graduates of batch 1970, the colonial education that UP had been offering to the “scholars ng bayan.”

 I was humbled by Lori’s dignity and courage—I had accepted my Phi Kappa Phi gold pin when I graduated in 1968 (my reason was selfish—I had wanted to give it to my future girlfriend). 

And then I learned that Lori died in a military assault in 1976. I regretted that life could end too soon for a beautiful and brilliant young woman who had so much to live for and to give. But I didn’t feel sorrow—for, preoccupied with worldly concerns, even the year I had been close to Lori—1965–had receded from memory.

It was only last night, Sept 22, 2020, after having seen a photo of Lori’s corpse, juxtaposed to photos of her youthful undergraduate years—and refreshed images of our acting on stage in 1965 and that day she confided in me her secret love—that I began to miss Lori profoundly. 

To console myself, I listened on youtube to Danny Febella’s Rosas ng Digma/Tugon. For the first time, shaken by the image of the youthful Lori and her lifeless body stretched on a table at Mauban, I cried.

Ako’y nangangarap na ika’y makasama

Taglay ang pangakong iingatan kita

Ang ganda mong nahubog sa piling ng masa

Hinding hindi kukupas, di malalanta

Gaya ng pag-ibig na alay ko sinta

Rosas ng Digma

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top