Nimfa del Rosario, or “Nona,” was the third of 8 children. Her parents were both government employees, with her mother a teacher in a public elementary school and her father serving with the Department of Public Works and Highways. Both parents wanted to give all their children a good education.
Nona’s family was large, and so she grew up in an atmosphere of fun and noise, squabbling and socializing. She was always cheerful and gregarious, never timid about expressing her opinion, or shy about striking a conversation, even with older people or with strangers. People usually noted her affability. Her brothers and sisters regarded her as some kind of peacemaker. On one occasion, Nona helped an alienated older brother make peace with the rest of the family. Nona was barely nine years old when her mother died, and in that occasion, relatives remember how she showed maturity and fortitude in dealing with the family loss.
Even as a child, Nona showed signs of leadership when she would organize programs and events at the Colegio de Santa Isabel where she completed her grade school. She also showed academic excellence when she passed competitive examinations for admission to the elite Philippine Science High School in Quezon City, and when she won several highly-respected scholarship admission tests for college.
It was at the Philippine Science High School where activist ideas captivated Nona’s intellectual curiosity. She became involved with the Serve the People Brigade (SPB), and later she led the Philippine Science High School Chapter of the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK). In college, she joined the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) and led in discussion groups, participated in rallies and other political mass actions, organized youth groups, recruited members, and advocated for socio-political reforms. She quit the university after her second year and started to work full as a political writer for the various organizations she served.
Nona and fellow UP activist Alex G. Torres started a relationship during those turbulent months of 1970 to 1971 which saw the First Quarter Storm and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus by then president Ferdinand Marcos. When universities were temporarily shut down during the early days of martial law, Nona, with Alex, went into the communities in various parts of Quezon City and Marikina, helping organize clandestine opposition to martial law among the community youth.
In June 1973, Nona, Alex and Alex’s brother Boy were arrested by intelligence operatives in a combined operation of the 5th MIG-CSU-NISA. At the time of their arrest, they were conducting a teach-in with a group of laborers. The brothers were detained at the CSU headquarters in Crame, where they were tortured under interrogation, then later transferred to Fort Bonifacio’s Ipil Rehabilitation Center, where Nona was also detained in the center’s women’s quarters.
Nona was released after a ten-month detention, as were the Torres brothers. The three friends kept in contact with the comrades they left behind in detention, and even secretly supported their escape plans.
As former political prisoners, Nona and Alex, together with Boy, had to report weekly to camp authorities. At that time, Alex and Nona were living with the Torres family in an apartment near Katipunan in Quezon City. After a few weeks the activists felt stifled by their post-detention conditions, and decided to pursue their activist commitment in the countryside.
Alex and Nona moved to the Hapao-Hungduan area in Ifugao, Alex as political officer of an armed unit, and Nona as propagandist.
Although city-born, Nona adapted quite easily to the harsh physical conditions in the mountains, showing none of the usual urban sensibilities. She seemed to revel, in fact, in the new conditions. The local people loved her and her mostly male comrades respected her because she asked for no special treatment as a woman and as a city-bred activist.
She became a writer-contributor to the local newsletter Dangadang. One of the reports she made involved the senseless shooting by soldiers of an 11-year-old boy harmlessly resting in a hut after a days’ work. Nona’s report later became the basis of an incident report on the same case at the TFD Monitor of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines. She also learned to do first aid, herbal and acupuncture treatments, and basic medical work for her comrades and local residents who appreciated the rare medical attention they were getting.
The armed propaganda unit faced danger all the time because they worked in expansion areas where conditions were unpredictable. Around 1975, Alex was taking a trip outside of his work area when he was captured in Kabayan in Benguet. Witnesses claim to have later seen him in military camps in Benguet province and in Quezon City.
When Alex went missing, Nona left her unit for sometime to help in the search, but Alex was never seen again. As the search stretched on indefinitely, Nona returned to Ifugao to pursue her own work. A few months later, Nona herself died in a violent incident.
A village road was being widened near the famous Banaue terraces, mainly to encourage tourism. The project threatened the residents, however, because it would bury ricefields and no compensations were offered. As the tension rose in the area, the New People’s Army sent two propaganda units to investigate the conflict. Nona’s unit was sent to do interviews near the roadside, a particularly risky endeavor. The interviews were made every evening, after residents came home from work, and often long into the night.
Nona had the dawn watch the day she died. It was still dark when she completed her watch, and Nona was preparing to return to sleep when an alarm sounded that soldiers were coming. Nona and a female comrade prepared to flee but shooting erupted at once. Nona got separated from her companion. When her comrades regrouped they could not locate Nona. Upon further investigation, they learned that she had been killed in the attack and that her body had been brought to the Banaue town center by the soldiers.
The death of Ka Mia (Nona’s alias) was mourned by the local people as well as by her comrades. Nona’s body was retrieved by family members and buried in Manila after a long funeral procession attended by scores of friends and relatives.
Nona and Alex left no offspring.