Rosalinda Galang’s first political exposure was as editor of the UST’s student organ, the Varsitarian, and as member of the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines. She joined a circle of progressive writers reporting on social and political issues and developing critical thinking. She covered the rallies held by students and workers in Metro Manila during the First Quarter Storm of 1970, which was her baptism in the reality of police brutality.
She was with the country’s leading newspaper The Manila Times when Marcos imposed martial law in 1972. Rather than join the Marcos media and tolerate censorship and repressive policies, Roz, as she was called, chose to join the anti-dictatorship resistance movement.
Carolina Malay would write about her:
Despite the objections and fears of her family – her father after all was a military officer, fully aware of the brutality that the military and police forces were capable of – Roz chose to place her gifts, skills and conscience in the service of the common people specially taken advantage of and abused by the Marcos dictatorship.
Conventional journalism meant reporting favorably on the activities and pronouncements of the authorities and the political, economic, social, cultural and military elite. Exposes of wrongdoing usually came to light only because rival factions could use the press to promote and defend their own narrow interests. Individuals and organizations advocating progressive ideas were ignored, much more so if they used “provocative” language. Ordinary people, meanwhile, were not expected to hold important views and their actions were dismissed as insignificant.
The antidictatorship press did the opposite.
Through its crudely printed news sheets it dug up plenty of dirt about the Marcos regime, and using highly inflammatory language too. There were enough credible sources from among the same elite, though anti-Marcos, who provided inside information about the corruption of the dictator’s family and their cronies.
More importantly for Roz and the others, the underground revolutionary press went deep among the workers, the urban poor, landless farmers, hinterland tribes. These new journalists reported on their struggle for just wages, agrarian reform. They wrote about guerrilla ambushes, people’s organizing committees, the heroic deeds of those who died young.
I can testify how happy Roz was doing this kind of work. Even if the opportunity presented itself, I think she would not have exchanged the fulfillment she was enjoying then for the perks and privileges of an establishment journalist. No airconditioned offices, no expense accounts, no rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. No salary, and often, not even a pseudonym for a byline. It was enough that for the first time in their lives, ordinary people found themselves being written about admiringly, in language they could understand.
Fellow activist Isagani Serrano remembers Roz (at that time, carrying the name Tani) as working till the late hours in some friend’s apartment, preparing the publication often all on her own. “She wrote well and needed no editing. And she’s fast. She would come out with the stuff shortly after a decision was made on content and angle… She did that press statement on (Horacio) Morales’ defection from the Marcos government in 1977.” (Isagani Serrano is now President of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction movement)
Doing this very dangerous job, she often escaped arrest and detection only by a hair’s breadth and with the support of friends and a community that was sympathetic to the underground.
After martial law was dismantled in 1986, Roz chose to write and edit for human rights organizations such as the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, and briefly for the Freedom from Debt Coalition.
She was once given a citation by a London-based human rights institution for her articles about human rights, and by the PhilRights for her long service. She worked with PhilRights until her death from lung cancer in 1998.
Joel Rocamora summed up Roz’ contribution to the struggle against the dictatorship thus: “She sacrificed a great career and used her brilliance instead in writing unbylined stories for the Marcos underground.”