Monday, September 27News That Matters

This agonizing story reminds everyone how political activism destroys someone’s future

It was June 2000 when Carmelo Luna Jr. entered the University of the Philippines – Los Baños as a freshman taking BS in Agriculture. Carmelo was among the top students who graduated from Tanauan Institute, a private high school in Tanauan City, Batangas.

Carmelo Jr. is the eldest son of Jeepney driver Carmelo Luna Sr., and his deceased wife Lucinda. Lucinda died of breast cancer two years earlier, leaving Carmelo Sr. with three kids (Junjun and his two younger sisters).

Carmelo Sr, or Meloy as called by his neighbors, is a frustrated lawyer. He studied Political Science at San Beda College, but because poverty struck his family after his father died, he was not able to graduate and settled driving Jeepney after he got married at 24.

Meloy’s hope relied on his son Junjun.

After passing the UP scholarship program, Meloy started to dream not for himself but for his whole family, especially his two young daughters, who were both in primary school.

Meloy did never missed reminding his only son to study hard so he can support his two younger sisters someday.

Meloy’s family has 5-hectare land in Tanauan, but due to a lack of money to finance, the land has been rented to other people for years. It was only in 2001 that Meloy got his share of 12,000 square meters (1.2 hectares) after his mother passed away. The siblings divided the land.

In 2001, Meloy learned that Junjun started joining rallies against the Estrada administration. His grades went down dramatically – a thing that caused him grave concern.

Meloy talked to his son and tried to convince him to stop what he was doing, but the son was aggressive and told his father some things that the latter find it hard to understand. In short, Junjun’s mind was totally corrupted by the beliefs of activists.

Filipino activists protesting against the Duterte administration

Melo saw his hope and dreams started to shatter as his son became more and more active in campus activism.

“I didn’t know him anymore. I think I was talking to a stranger. He seldom visits us in Tanauan. After seeing his grades went down and finding it hard to convince him, I decided to cut his allowance”, Meloy said.

The lowering of his allowance angered Junjun, and he threatened his father to report to DSWD for abandoning him. Meloy was not bothered by his son’s threat, and instead, he saved the money for his older daughter’s tuition who will enter high school the following year.

The second time that the father and son met, the arguments became intense as the son told his father “brainless”.

Meloy succumbed to tears after his son left their home in Tanauan. Meloy’s heart was broken into pieces as he saw his son walked away from him. He promised himself that whatever happens, he will only support his two remaining daughters in his custody.

“Junjun was full of pride and arrogance. Masyado siyang humambog at yumabang na akala mo alam kung paano patakbuhin ang gobyerno”, Meloy recalled.

Junjun eventually became out of school youth the following year. He was supposed to be in his third year. Since the last time he and his father had an intense argument over his activism, he never set foot once again in their Tanauan house. He became active in out-of-school youth militant groups and made a living through rallies.

A cash-strapped Junjun decided to work in Pampanga as a production operator in one of the electronics manufacturing companies in Clark.

While working, he was still active in urban militant groups, joining rallies whenever he had time.

In 2006, he got married to his fellow worker– a month after he became a regular employee.

Things started to become chaotic when in September 2007, the company’s management called his attention after a report said that he was planning to establish a labor union inside the company – a thing that was strictly prohibited by the company’s policy.

Junjun confronted the human resource manager and the arguments ensued. Unknown to the management, Junjun and his backers – members of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) had been organizing meetings outside the company for more than a year already.

Junjun’s group immediately filed labor cases against the company.

After almost two years, the cases became dormant. It was announced later that Junjun’s group was lost in a legal battle. Junjun resigned from his job and went on to join another militant group and became an active organizer.

It was revealed later that Carmelo Jr. dropped all cases and left the company in return for a big amount of money offered by the latter. More than 50 of his fellow employees who followed him and believed in him lost their jobs without compensation, while Junjun went to the bank smiling.

When Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assumed office as the next president of the Philippines, Junjun became more and more active in organizing rallies for different parties and political entities, until one day when his wife was diagnosed with kidney failure. They have two daughters aged 7 and 4 when his wife succumbed to death after two years of suffering.

Meanwhile, Jasmin Luna returned to the Philippines to have their Tanauan City lot developed. The 1.2-hectare land facing Taal Lake was developed into a private resort and retreat house where only close friends and family members are allowed to enter.

We had an hour conversation with Carmelo Sr., who was sitting on a native rattan chair on the terrace of the rest house built for him by his oldest daughter.

When Jasmin entered college at Batangas State University, Meloy loaned another Jeepney to support her studies.

Jasmin graduated cum laude and became an Industrial Engineer six years after Junjun left the family. The following year, Jasmin got a decent job in a Canadian Firm, and eventually went to Canada and worked there for five years.

The youngest daughter Lorie became a successful Certified Public Accountant working in a multinational accounting firm.

For thirteen years, the family had no knowledge about Carmelo Jr. They never knew if he is still alive, if he is working, if he got married, or anything. They never had any information about him until one day when Lorie saw a social media post of someone asking for help for his friend because his wife was dying.

The name “Junjun Luna” struck Lorie’s mind and she immediately told her sister and father about her discovery.

The family learned that it was Junjun’s friend who was asking for help for his wife. They decided to give a little contribution to conceal their identities. They hadn’t any idea that the ailing woman was a mother of two. They only knew her as their brother’s partner.

Due to the lack of full details about their brother, when Amelia Luna, his wife died, the family did not give any special attention. Junjun doesn’t have a Facebook account so they were not informed about the full details of the situation.

Jnjun’s life became miserable. He became jobless after months of taking care of his wife. His daughters, aged seven and five need extra care and education.

Junjun’s wife passed away in 2015. He was left with two young daughters and at least 100,000 pesos in debt. He has no property, no family, and doesn’t even have a house.

Because of his alarming and miserable condition, a friend decided to ask for help from DSWD, which he agreed upon.

When a DSWD person asked him if he or his wife have any close family members, Junjun could not answer directly. He only shook his head in tears. His wife had a family but they are in Bicol and had no means to help him.

He could not answer the social worker directly because, for thirteen years, he had no idea what happened to his family since he left them. He had no other means to support his two daughters with his current condition. DSWD will not allow him to take care of his children because he is homeless and penniless.

Because the social worker was very persistent, Junjun was forced to give details about his family’s original address.

While sitting alone inside the DSWD office, Junjun could not imagine what happened to his father and two younger sisters. He suddenly remember his father’s words when he was in his first year in college, and how his father relied and counted on him – a father’s dream he failed.

Meloy, with his younger daughter Lorie relocated to a house inside a subdivision just two years ago. Both Jasmin and Lorie are still single and since the former had been living in Canada, Lorie survived with his father. Their old house in barangay was left abandoned (though Meloy has future plans). During weekends, the youngest daughter and father stayed at their new private rest house.

It was September 2015 when two social workers and Junjun reached their old house. Upon seeing an abandoned house, Junjun couldn’t say a word but tears falling down from his eyes.

With the help of some locals and a person who identified Junjun, the group was able to reach the private resort where Meloy, Jasmin, and Lorie were spending happy hours.

The three were shocked in disbelief after seeing Carmelo Luna Jr. in miserable condition, with his two young motherless pitiful daughters.

The rest becomes history…

After thirteen years, the Luna family became one big happy family once again. /Samantha Marquez and Judith Dimaano researched and contributed this article/

Note: The real names of the people involved were deliberately changed to protect the family.

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