Instead of a Eulogy

One of the things I do very early in the morning when I wake up is to read the local news posted in the Internet. I don’t read everything and most of the times I just end up skimming through the mass of headlines lined up on my screen.

Like any other morning, I also went over all the headlines last Monday morning. One item that caught my attention was the news of an armed encounter between the military and alleged communist insurgents. It was titled “3 killed in Negros Oriental clash.” Not that I felt it was something special, I am after all, like most people in this information-saturated society, desensitized to most accounts of violence. It was the proximity of the said event, the conflict occurring only an island away from Cebu, that “seduced” me to read the article anyway.

When I read the news item, I was surprised. I was shocked for I personally knew one of the names listed as casualties in the encounter.

Happier times.

Happier times: Rachelle Mae Palang in the May 2007 electoral campaign.

The front page of the local paper’s hard copy version even carried a different headline of the same story, “Cebu student killed in clash.” I knew Rachelle Mae Palang from two years ago when I was still chairman of the UP Cebu Student Council and later on with the Kabataan Partylist for the 2007 Elections.

Rachelle Mae was a stout, bubbly, but outspoken nursing student who was editor of Velez College’s school publication, Vital Signs. She was also an officer of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) – a national organization of campus journalists.

Needless to say, reading the news was depressing. After all, we were together in several causes – especially those related to students’ rights and the educational system.

The last time we saw each other was during the opening of the school year in 2007 at the Arts and Sciences Lobby of the UP Cebu College. She was returning the book about how to write press releases that I lent her.

I cannot say that the military’s insistence on Rachelle’s brandishing of long arms in Negros is true. After all, it is characteristic for contenders of any armed conflict to ornament the truth for their own ends. The news of her unexpected death makes me sad. She was only twenty one.

Rachelle Mae raising her fist during the May 2007 multiparty miting de avance of the Kabataan Partylist, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and Gabriela at Colon St. That's me in the extreme left.

Rachelle raising her fist during the May 2007 multiparty miting de avance of the Kabataan Partylist, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and Gabriela at Colon St. That's me in the extreme left.

But what if the military is right: what if Rachelle really carried an M-16 rifle? This hypothesis leads us to question what made her forgo a successful career ahead of her to go to the countryside and take up arms against the State. What made some of today’s youth give up on peaceful means for the attainment of social change?

The lamentable state of the nation is such that our youth either, like most, join the diaspora to other lands or, like a few, are led to believe that the only solution is heading for the hills. ■

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38 thoughts on “Instead of a Eulogy

  1. It’s a sad, sad thing. Sayang, what this lady would have achieved not only for her own good but beyond herself. What a crying shame for those responsible for her death.

  2. I personally was depress about hearing a lot things in news, in TV and in newspaper about Rachelle..

    Being one of her old classmate in high school, I could say it a great loss for her family and for us to lose such wonderful person and a very good friend….

    Whatever they say or accusations laid on Rachelle, I just settle on the idea that ” They can’t bring her back “.

    And the only think for us to do is cherish all the wonderful and wacky times we had together…

    We will forever miss such person!!

  3. I was petrified when I heard the news yesterday. I never thought that at an early age Ate Rachael’s life would be taken in just an instance.

    A sad faith, indeed, that incident was for the family of ate Rachael. As a member of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Visayas Chapter I greatly condemn the people behind her unfaithful death. I and the rest of the guild, undeniably, mourns over her tragic death.

    Shame to those who have dug her grave. Her death signifies a great lost for the organization. Thus, an eye-opener for the entire Filipino youth that this regime knows nobody who obstructs their way, young or old–male or female.

    Long live CEGP and bon vouyage Ate Rachael…we will miss you!

  4. MykeO: Sayang… – a sentiment shared by many. Thanks for leaving a comment, sir Myke.

    benny naya: And?

    grinalk: Yes, one thing that’s left for us is to cherish all the times we had with her… Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

    niño: A sad fate, you mean: F-A-T-E not F-A-I-T-H. And what made her death unfaithful? What does “this regime knows nobody who obstructs their way” mean anyway?

  5. hello. associate editor ako ng atenews, ang student pub ng ateneo de davao and member ng cegp. pwede magamit ang pics mo ni rachelle para sa aming october release? magsusulat kasi kami ng article tungkol dito, and maganda sana if makakuha kami ng mga pictures. thank you.

  6. karlo bringas: Wow, same name. Sure, no problem. By the way, the photo documentation for that activity was posted online by Cai. You should ask her too. Haven’t met her and other CEGP people for quite some time already.

    Dada: Yes. But then again, everybody is lost in one. It just manifests different forms.

    Amen.

  7. Sa among panahon, daghang sa akong mga kauban ang nangahanaw uban sa ilang mga damgo tungod lang kay nibarog sila sa ilang giutuohan…

    Ingon sila duna nay kagawasan..

    duna nay kauswagan…

    Hain?

    Samtang ang kabukiran guigakos pa sa tumang kalisod…

    Pipila pa ka mga tinun-an nga mopili sa dulom ug mingaw nga daan sa pakigbisog, kay sa masanag nga ugma…

    Madungog lang ang ilang tingog…

  8. Rachelle was a great leAder.,one of the few peopLe i look up to.,she had this strength of character yet a gentle naTure in her. someone u can truly depend on.

    for those of us who knew her.,we know how significant a-loss it has been not only for her family but also for this world.,she could have made a big difference.

    it’s quite sad.,how the news are coming about her untimely death., one thing’s for sure though.,for us whose lives she has touched.,she’ll forever be remembered as that one great leader,student,daughter, and friend.

    rachelle,rest in peace.

  9. Ka Bino: Salamat sa pagbisita. Pasensya na wa ko nagpainterview sa imong radyo program sa ABS-CBN. Peace! :D

    Anne Elizabeth: I fully agree with you. Much thanks for taking your time to leave your comment here for everyone.

    angelica: I couldn’t believe it at first too. Thanks for sharing your experiences with Rachelle to all of us.

  10. Some updates:

    1. Statements by Rachelle’s colleagues in the activist movement can be read in the following links:

    a. Rachelle Mae, R.N.
    b. Rachelle’s ideals
    c. A Paragon of Virtue
    d. Rachelle Mae Palang (1986-2008), press freedom fighter and nurse for the people

    2. Atty. Frank Malilong, a former CEGP member, shares his thoughts in his Sun.Star Cebu column here.

    If she was in the company of armed rebels during the encounter, it does not really matter whether or not Rachelle held a gun. And I don’t think there is a rule of engagement that says you can’t fire back towards where the enemy fire came from. Note that the military’s claim of an encounter has remained undisputed.

    I’ve said it before: death diminishes us all. I am saddened that one so young should die before her dreams could bloom and fully flower. Her idealism would have made her chose to stay home and serve her people rather than fly away to distant shores for the money.

    But I think all these outcries over her death do not do her justice. Rachelle chose to follow a path and pursue a cause she strongly believed in. Many may not agree with the things that she did and stood for but that she was willing to pay the supreme sacrifice for her beliefs shows character.

    In this sense, her death was no less heroic than those of the other CEGP casualties in the battle for freedom.

    3. While we’re waiting for the results of the Commission on Human Rights’ probe on the incident, today’s Sun.Star Cebu editorial sheds light on what could have happened in the encounter that led to Rachelle’s unexpected demise:

    THEORIES ON THE DAUIN ‘CLASH’

    SOME people thought something was out of whack when reports said that government troops found identification cards on two of the three people killed in last Friday’s encounter between the military and rebels in Dauin, Negros Oriental.

    Of particular interest to them was the case of Rachelle Mae Palang, whose body was immediately identified because of her ID card.

    But underground elements go around their areas of operation using aliases, thus logic dictates that they won’t carry anything that would give their real identity away.

    That Rachelle still had her ID card when she died could mean her status at that instance was still “legal” or above-ground, or she would have already disposed of that pesky item.

    Armed?

    By the way, not all rebels are New People’s Army (NPA) members.

    The NPA is the armed component of the Communist Party of the Philippines, much like government has its Armed Forces.

    And not all those in government are soldiers.

    So before labeling somebody as an NPA element, be sure they are not, say, but peasant organizers.

    And did Rachelle carry an M-16 rifle?

    She may or she may have not, considering that, with the rebels’ limited firepower, they won’t surely give a high-powered rifle to somebody new and presumably untrained.

    Note that Rachelle had companions, including the two who were killed with her.

    Some of them possibly lugged the guns found at the encounter site.

    Investigation

    In interviews with Rachelle’s relatives, they said the young woman told them she was going on a medical mission.

    So it is possible her stay in that area was not intended to be long, unlike had she wanted to work underground fulltime.

    Some sectors believe Rachelle was on “exposure” trip or used her nursing skills (she just passed the board) for her “friends” in that place.

    If what happened was a legitimate encounter, then Rachelle could just have been with the “wrong” companions at the wrong time.

    And if she was not “NPA” or was not armed, she most probably was with people who had guns, considering the “encounter.”

    In that case, the risk of getting killed is high if by chance your companions are in a firefight.

    This, of course, is but one view, and the truth can only be found after a thorough and impartial probe of that incident.

  11. although i met her for a single time when she review for her board exam….i miss her so much she was like a sister to me…she was kind, and a good friend…lets continue what she start….love you ate mae-mae

  12. I heard about what happen to Rachelle from my brother since rachelle’s family is one of our family friends, and her mom and dad are my brother’s ninong and ninang. I’ve known her by her nick name, may-may..Like you, I was also shocked upon knowing her tragic death. I know her as a very intelligent and a very good student, daughter and ate. I used to tutor her younger brother so whenever I go to their house, I used to have a little chat with her. Taga lacion mansad ko..Until now i still could not believe on what happen to her. I felt really sad. I am still reading articles about her and watching news from TFC. All I can do is just pray that the truth will come out and justice will prevail.

  13. “But what if the military is right: what if Rachelle really carried an M-16 rifle? This hypothesis leads us to question what made her forgo a successful career ahead of her to go to the countryside and take up arms against the State. What made some of today’s youth give up on peaceful means for the attainment of social change?”

    We can forever mourn for Rachelle but that won’t bring justice to Rachelle. I guess, her death should serve as a wake up call to us, to everybody, especially, to those who’ve known her personally.

    It’s about time that we take time and ponder on the question stated above, for the only justice we can give to Rachelle is to pick up her fallen pen and continue the struggle that she had left: the people’s struggle for justice and freedom.

  14. But let us not limit ourselves to that question. Is the historical alternative offered by her armed companions really a better way of alleviating man’s struggle for existence when measured against the established way of organizing Philippine society? Secondly, are the social costs required to attain their goals acceptable considering that this involves the deaths of thousands of future “martyrs,” young and old alike?

  15. Until now questions been running through me mind. Was she really doing something that was against the government? If she did, what made her do it, “fighting against the government when her parents are in fact working in the goverment office? Were the witnesses telling the truth? What made her do what the news said she did? Was the news telling the whole story? What if she was just there for her “personal” medical mission to reach out to the poor?
    She was such a very intelligent girl and I don’t believe that she will do something that is not really worth doing.. she will not fight for something that is not worth fighting for. Lots of questions have been bothering me lately. Whenever I think of her, I want to think of the happy rachelle and not the rachelle who was lifeless and was tied in a pole like what I have seen in the news.
    I am feeling the agony that her family is feeling right now. Let us continue to pray for rachelle and her family. Let us continue to pray for the youth and for our country.

  16. charlene: A letter to the editor that was published in the papers today should put some perspective to your questions:

    MURDER OF A YOUNG IDEALIST

    By (Name of writer withheld upon request)

    RECENTLY, classmates, friends, teachers and relatives mourned the death of Rachelle Mae Palang, a Cebuano who walked Cebu’s streets, studied Cebu’s schools and just recently became a registered nurse.

    The military who claimed credit for the “successful” operation, would do well if they can empathize with this grief and sense of terrible loss of a life prematurely snuffed out, instead of giving conflicting statements that Rachelle Mae had with her an M16 rifle (Col. Cesar Yano, head of the 302nd Infantry Brigade said in a conversation with the father, she didn’t have a weapon with her).

    How do we reconcile the thought of nurturing the young and educating them to be future leaders of this country and killing them? Something’s terribly wrong with a society where one aspect lovingly nurtures, and another without regret kills.

    The military should see the social face of the one they have killed, that she was a loving daughter, a bright student, a nurse that cares for the poor.

    If she was an ideologue, it’s tragic she had to die for her ideas. There are other countries in the world where people need not die for their political beliefs. Ours is not one of those. We are politically immature, we are afraid of contrary political ideas.

    If she was with combatants, it wasn’t the people they were targeting as there were no reports of such. The state has weapons; the NPA also takes up weapons. The battle is for political control of the nation. One group believes the need to reshape Philippine society by eradicating class divisions and with the state controlling much of the economic activity to ensure (unsuccessfully in many cases) egalitarian wealth distribution. The other believes in the continuing elite-dominated governance (which proves unsuccessful too in improving the life of many Filipinos living in poverty.) It’s the second group, currently in power that the military supports.

    Do we really have to kill each other for the ideas we believe in? In far mature democracies, communists and conservatives can run for office carrying with them their political beliefs and their societies benefit from the democratic debate between unhampered free enterprise and limited state control. No one gets killed.

    To justify Rachelle Mae’s untimely death, the military said she was a combatant. Will murdering a young idealist solve anything? Society allows the state the use of force in enforcing the laws. But it should be with restraint, a reasoned and sound judgment for after all, who was it they murdered if not a fellow Filipino?

    When Caesar’s army battled that of his co-triumvir Pompey, Caesar was pained in seeing Romans killing fellow Romans.

    What honor did Centcom achieved that they pinned medals on the triumphant soldiers? Like Caesar, it should be with a pained heart that they face up to Rachelle Mae’s death if they believe that was necessary. And if it wasn’t, be men enough to admit their mistakes. There was no triumph in those killings.

    No honor in killing a fellow countryman. We remain in an undeclared civil war.

  17. The “he-said-she-said” tug of war on whether Rachelle Mae Palang was merely on a medical mission or was New People’s Army combatant is now a settled issue. The Pulang Mt. Talinis Front Command of the insurgent army just issued an official statement on Rachelle Mae Palang’s death. She served as some sort of medic for the insurgents at the time of the encounter:

    Rachelle Mae “Ka Hannah” Palang, 21 years old, of Consolacion, Cebu, was a dedicated legal activist and nursing board passer who sought to better understand the most numerous yet most neglected sector in the country – the peasantry… As a reserve element (i.e., unarmed) in the NPA unit, she was always there to offer her knowledge and skills both for NPA regulars and the peasant masses during her brief but meaningful exposure to Negros’ remotest parts…

    Ma’am Mayette Tabada’s caustic Sunday Column have the following to say on the poems that came with the above quoted statement:

    I confess that when I opened the attachment, “HALAD SA MGA MARTIR.DOC,” I worried more about potential virus. After scanning the three poems, I sent my standard reply: thank you for your contribution. I no longer edit for a paper but you may wish to contribute this to…

    It is hours since I emailed my reply. I am still uneasy.

    I realize now my mistake of seeing the forest for the trees. I should not have worried over the contradictions in who you said you were: a “Red fighter” whose nom de guerre of “Ka Dom Pantaleon” includes a title synonymous with “don,” adopted by royalty and Church hierarchy since the word’s root lies in the Latin “dominus,” meaning “lord” or “master.”

    I should not have searched for authenticity in the empty militancy and stiff imagery of your poems: “Build peasant organizations/ In the heat of agrarian guns.” I fail to see how a poem entitled “S.O.W.” (for the revolutionary jargon of Solid Organizing Work) can be a tribute to fallen comrades.

    I don’t write poetry. (I have too much respect for it.) I don’t believe in making a religion out of martyrdom. (We are diminished by any death, Red fighter, soldier or bystander.)

    Dom Pantaleon, stay alive. Write and do not line your grave with a tired cause and petrified metaphors.

  18. Not everyone can lived and sacrificed like what Rachelle Palang did. Only someone with an unconditional love for the poorest of the poor can fully understand why Rachelle had chosen to walk the path she had walked. I salute Rachelle’s spirit of courage and commitment to understand what the poor are experiencing.

    We will miss her terribly but I pray that what she stands for and her noble legacy would be remembered by the youth of today and the following generations.

    Long live, Rachelle. You have inspired us to be heroes too!!

  19. I dont know much of this gurl but one thing is for sure….. the statement released by the government was all a hersey… they do it all of the times to cover up some conpiracies… this is why we are not growing………. I salute the gurl for what she did …. but to those who had killed her, i hope it wont happen to your family. damn all the government officials and puppet soldiers of the government… yes….. dumb soldiers, i am refering to you asholes@!!!!!

  20. Hi, I’m thomas from Dauin, Negros Oriental. I am afraid to say the truth but I was there during the encounter. I saw how Rachel suffered from the unforgiving military. Please pray for me so I can have the strength to expose the truth. In due time, I will be out and truth shall previal. The nearest camp knew Rachelle was not part of the NPA.

    To Rachel’s friends and family, my condolonces and forgive me if I have failed you.

  21. The truth about what really happened to Rachelle will eventually be told by those who killed her. Their conscience will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Rachelle Mae’s martyrdom will bear much fruits.

  22. Rachelle Mae Palang will never be forgotten for she followed and gave her young life and promissing future in oder to show her innermost conviction, i.e…. which was to make a positive difference in helping the peasants in the mountains and to lift up the life of the downtrodden. Her strong commitment to confront so many social issues and to offer her talent and education to find solutions to these challenges resulted in her giving up her life so many others may live and be given the opportunities to haave a better life. Only in the final judgment before our just Creator when we will all realize that her young life was indeed a fully-lived life according to God’s Divine Will. It will also be in final judgment that those who killed her in a mysterious manner will find justice for their action and false statements. God knows eachone of us and what we have done her eon earth. Long Live, Rachelle Mae Palang. You came from God, you return now to GOd after finsihing your God-given mission. Thank you for inspiring us all to serve and to love the poorest of the poor among us. May God reward you for your ultimate sacrifice!!!

  23. dugo sa mga maisog ang naglatay sa iayang kaugatan, dugo sa usa ka Pilipino kang kansang mga tinguha mao ang ang pagtabang sa iyang ka isig ka Pilipino.
    ni saludo ako sa kabayani ni mae -mae,,
    sakto si ka bino, padayon gihapong gigakos sa kalisod ang kabukiran, padayong gipiyong sa gobyerno ang ilang mga mata, aron dili sila makakita sa nag ilaid nga mga taga bukid,
    gisap ungan nila ang ilang dunggan aron dili sila makabati sa hilak ug agulo sa mga kabos,,,

    gikan sa yuta kung natawhan sa tuburan, ako mismo kita ug unsa ang dagan sa mahal kung tominjao. lisud,
    Busa alang kanino Mae – mae, akong pag ampo sa kahitas an nga dili masayang ang imong gitunguha nga kausaban.
    Mae -mae is one of the true filipino who saw the real situition in our life.

  24. it almost 5 months when mae2x died…but the pain because of her dead is still here…
    its very hard to forget a person like her….if she still leaving she will help lots of people in our corrupt country…i miss you very much. i love you♥♥♥3

  25. ganito pala talaga kalala
    ang ating bansa…
    mga taong tumutulong
    para umahon ang bansa sa kahirapan
    ay siya pang pinapaslang…
    napakalupit ng ating bansa at ng ating hustisya,,,
    sa malaking halaga
    pinag papalit ang dignidad at respeto
    para sa sarili…….
    kinain na ng apoy ang knilang mga konsensya….
    all peace will be with you all GloRia!!!!!

  26. Pingback: Going Against the Current? « (Mis)readings

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