CARIÑO, Jennifer K.
Jennifer Cariño hailed from an illustrious Ibaloi clan on her father’s side and another respected Cebu clan on her mother’s side. Her grandfather was Baguio City’s first Igorot mayor.
Jennifer, or Jingjing, as a teenager was fun-loving. She sang and played the guitar. She went partying and idolized the Beatles.
But she also liked to read books and magazines, and attended daily mass in the Catholic church. In high school, she had written an article in her high school organ to protest a remark of then foreign affairs secretary Carlos P. Romulo that dismissed Igorots as not being Filipinos.
She first enrolled in Maryknoll College in Quezon City, but returned home to pursue her physics and math course at the Baguio campus of the University of the Philippines. She sang in folkhouses around the city.
As conditions in Philippine society deteriorated in the late 1960s, Jingjing became involved in student protests against these conditions. She joined the Baguio chapter of the Kabataang Makabayan in 1969, becoming one its first female leading members in that city. She joined discussion groups and led in student actions. She supported market vendors fighting against demolition, and supported laborers striking for better working conditions.
She used her talent for music to good use, training activists in singing protest music, and preparing and staging cultural presentations during rallies. These activities increasingly occupied her. Jingjing dropped out of school and became a fulltime cultural activist.
In 1972, Jingjing married another activist from the Lyceum University in Manila, Gilbert Pimentel, who had been doing organizing work among the gardeners of Benguet. Gilbert was also from the Cordilleras and the couple shared a deep interest in ethnic issues, particularly the minority question. Together they organized a conference of Cordillera youths in 1971, which would be the seed of the future Kilusang Kabataan ng Kordilyera.
When martial law was declared in September 1972, soldiers raided the Cariño house in search of the Cariño siblings who were all engaged in various areas of activist involvement. Jingjing, then seven months pregnant, eluded arrest and left Baguio disguised as a nun. While waiting to give birth, she undertook research tasks, even as she had to move frequently to avoid detection.
Jingjing decided to leave Manila when her husband Gilbert was arrested in March 1974. She made the painful decision to leave her baby with her family. She left for Ifugao and started living among the most impoverished peoples in that territory, the Kalanguya.
A city girl, she had to make huge adjustments. She studied the local language, learned to eat ferns and pine grub. But she refused to become helpless. She learned to use acupuncture, treating her comrades and village people. She even found time to teach reading and writing to some illiterate folks. She wrote propaganda articles and teaching modules.
But she also did what she enjoyed most and did best -‑ she wrote revolutionary songs and taught them to the local people. For this, Ka Maria, which was her alias, became a most beloved comrade in the Kalanguya area.
Writing letters to home, Jingjing tols anecdotes about life in a guerrilla zone, making light of the difficulties, always seeing the bright side to problems, ever convinced that her sacrifices mattered. In these letters, she always asked that her child Malaya be told about what her parents were fighting for.
Jingjing died a tragic death in 1976, killed when a new NPA recruit had been tinkering with a firearm that suddenly went off. She was 26 years old. Jingjing is still remembered with respect and admiration by Baguio's activists today. Her daughter is now a medical doctor, married with two children. Gilbert Pimentel has remarried and has a new family.