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INTERVIEW WITH SR. MARIANI DIMARANAN, SFIC
Volume 20 Number 1
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 17:23

Editor’s note: Below is an excerpt from an interview with Sr. Mariani Dimaranan, SFIC on January 30, 1985.  To give tribute to Sr. Mariani - her colorful personality, how she became almost synonymous to TFDP, and her deep commitment to help the victims of oppression, we are reprinting this interview, done 11 years ago.  TFDP is also commemorating its 32nd year of existence, and this interview is a fitting way to go down memory lane on how TFDP started.

The AMRSP survey was organized by Mary Hollsteiner, but motivated by Mayo and Christine.  There were almost 20 other religious people who felt the same way.  The survey concentrated on the effects of martial law and how people reacted to martial law.  There were so many reports of military atrocities and abuses in Mindanao, so the AMRSP had to do something concrete.

I was fulltime registrar at SJC.  I just defended my thesis at La Salle in 1970.  My field is math.  And I was taking my doctorate at UST.  There were frequent rallies and I was teaching at Our Lady of Angels Seminary (OLAS).  Frequent pa noon ang rallies. [Rallies were frequent then.]

The AMRSP survey was organized by Mary Hollsteiner, but motivated by Mayo and Christine.  There were almost 20 other religious people who felt the same way.  The survey concentrated on the effects of martial law and how people reacted to martial law.  There were so many reports of military atrocities and abuses in Mindanao, so the AMRSP had to do something concrete.

AMRSP also became concerned because of the many arrests, including Luis Jalandoni in September, Charito Planas, Fr. Hagad, ako [me].

During my 47 days inside, the survey results were processed, the convention was called and the task forces were formed.

When I was released December 6, I had no work.  I was sort of isolated and I went on retreat in Sta. Ana, where my friends like Ed and Max were able to see me and we discussed what could be done.

During the AMRSP convention, some conscienticized elements were active in the deliberations.  The AMRSP response was significant.  But it was also that because the need of people for such a response was great.

The task forces were decided after the AMRSP leaders had biblical reflection for days, and then among themselves.  There was this bright idea to create vehicles to respond to the situation.

I’d like to stress that these task forces had two-fold general purposes: (1) to respond to the needs of victimized people, and (2) to create vehicles by which the religious can be closer to the people.

Mel Brady was well situated to be chairman because he is a canonist, a lawyer.  He could relate well with (Former Undersecretary of Defense Carmelo) Barbero.  Being a canonist, he’d know what to say.  Being white, he’d be treated more carefully.

We just naturally elected him because there was also that mentality that he was the priest.

He placed a high value on human rights.  And that is what moved him to join TFD.  He is a sensible man.  We used to ask him to do things because he was the only man in TFD.  Step by step, we encouraged him to do what should be done, as in going to camps.

But, Helen, Anne and I really did most of the work.  Some sisters helped visit camps.  Later, Ching and June came in.

Mel stayed for only three months as chairman.  Now he’s in Rome.

Later, Lope Castillo of MSC who replaced Fr. Mayo in the AMRSP-Men was also very helpful.

AMRSP gave TFD a seed fund of P10, 000 - and no more since then.  But we were able to get funds here and there.  My own congregation helped me tremendously, both materially and spiritually.  In Holland, I am sometimes given up to $120, 000 by the Franciscans.  It is also because they know I hold the funds.

Only the task force data gathering (Ichthys) was unbroken until it was raided in 1977.

Caloy and others used to handle Task Force Conscientization of Church Personnel, essentially awareness-building among the religious, giving education in the convents.

I was elected chairman April 1975 after Fr. Mel left.  I had just decided to work fulltime in TFD then.  In fact, I had to resign as OLAS dean in January.  I was on the phone 2/3 of the time - those worried relatives wouldn’t stop calling.  I also didn’t resume work in SJC.  I felt that they’ve become afraid of me.

I was asked to choose and I chose TFD.  Sr. Giovani who was just elected as our provincial, trusted me and supported me.

At first, we had a personnel problem.  So few understood and had a certain orientation fit for the work.  We had to take in some who knew nothing about the work, but who knew not only how to type or make files but also how to work quietly.

Up to about 1978 or 1979, I had good rapport with the ODA people.  The assistant to the ODA, Olano, and another colonel in Barbero’s office were friendly.  I could insist to them that we send even ten sisters to visit the camps.

Olano once told me he had a relative who was a nun, which explains why he was friendly.  He had no doubts about our motivations.  We used to have long talks after office hours.

However, one Easter, I made a mistake.

I usually gave the military one-week notice if we wanted to visit detainees and hold mass inside.  This time, I forgot to give early notice.  On Tuesday of that week, I told the military we wanted to have mass inside the following Sunday.  On Wednesday, I kept insisting.  I told Olano, “kaya mo iyan, sige na.”  [You can do it, please.]  So, he took it up with his superiors.

There, my dossier was opened and Olano was told that I was not only a former detainee, I was even a suspected member of the underground.  Olano later told me, “I understand why you didn’t tell me about yourself.  Anyway, I know you are motivated as a religious.  You are doing great things.  But I’m telling you frankly.  Lie-low a while.  And be careful, you are being watched.”  Then he showed me a bunch of papers with a blue cover - my dossier.

Bernard continued with the camp visits.

I’m not saying that TFD lasted this long because I am chairman.  Pero, nasa nanghahawak din iyan. [But, it also depends on who heads it.]

Back in 1975, I had to go to Mindanao because of the reports of military abuses there.  The people there were asking that we visit them.  I had all sorts of misgivings in getting into military camps, because I myself have been in prison.  And I’d never even been to Mindanao before.

I was still reporting religiously (to a military reporting office) because this was required of all released detainees.  I had to ask permission to go to Mindanao and even specify all places there I intended to see.  My excuse was that I was appointed administrator of one AMRSP program and that the work was now in Mindanao and that I had to see some sisters - which were all true enough.

In Cebu, I had a bank security guard sign my permit.  How was I expected to know that not all people in military uniform were not with the military?

I was able to go practically all places in Mindanao.

In Davao and Oroquieta, I had soldiers actually sign my paper but I told them these papers were for my superiors’ information.  I’d fold that form so they wouldn’t see the rest of it.  I’d earlier learned that the more numbers a soldier’s uniform had, the lower the rank.  So I’d look at the soldiers’ patches.  Orlando Carvajal and Roger Antalan even suggested I memorize the numbers and they’d sign any form, instead of the soldiers.  But I said no.

In Oroquieta, I told Sr. Fely Camacho (FMM) who’s always cooperative, “Let’s have Bible Service inside on Sunday.  I will bring bread and other things.”

I bought bread and the usual things we bring to camp, including dinuguan.  I told myself, I may have to spend for dinuguan, but I’d have plenty of documents when I leave.

Oroquieta was full of detainees.  A small cell had 26 people, one on top of the other.  We had rosary and bible service.  I kept on my bla-bla with the soldiers.

When the soldiers have eaten and were full, I told one, “I also have a superior, just like you do.  And since this is my apostolate, she has to see I really came here.  Can you sign this for my superior?”  The soldier said, “Do you really have superiors too?”  And he signed without bothering to see that it was a military reporting form for detainees he was signing!

The military refused to give me my permanent release because I have been “violating the points of agreement.”  Actually, I’ve really been granting interviews right and left, which was a violation according to the rules.  So, I decided, I had better release myself.  I simply stopped reporting and no one bothered to run after me!

So, one has to think carefully, at the same time be daring.  Ako, mapagpasok, but I only risk what I can afford to back out from.

Once I did something I don’t think I’d ever do again.  I had just been released when I joined a camp visitation.  Sisters were being given slots in visiting camps and I don’t remember now why no one in our congregation could go.  Sayang [too bad], I thought.

I also wanted to see Luis and Gani at YRC and all sorts of friends of mine inside, like Fr. Hagad.  I decided to join but I would not enter the prison area.  I told myself I’ll just teach the sisters how to go about visiting, where to register, where the detainees were, and all those.

At the camp, the cell doors were of thick steel with small opening slits.  But Gani saw me, so I came nearer and explained that I couldn’t come in because I was already an ex-detainee.  I was thinking along the lines of “maybe I will be recognized, and I cannot take that risk.”  We had very fertile and subjective imaginations at that time.


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