Romeo Crismo was the eldest son of a government employee (his father was the postmaster in the small town of Cabarroguis, Quirino). The family being devout Methodists, he and his six brothers and sisters regularly attended Sunday school and Bible studies.
Active in the 4-H Club, Crismo often represented his town in provincial and national meetings. In 1972 he was elected president of the high school student body, and was even conferred the school’s Politician of the Year Award. He really wanted to take up law after high school, but enrolled in accounting instead, upon his father’s advice.
Crismo was very active in the United Methodist Youth Fellowship, rising to leadership positions from the local chapter presidency to the district presidency and the Northern Philippines Annual Conference presidency. He was involved in redrafting the UMYF constitution, and in 1976 was elected as the organization’s first national executive secretary.
Crismo’s church participation was wide-ranging, from the youth leadership training program of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines, to rural youth projects undertaken for the Christian Conference of Asia, to education work for the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines.
After becoming a certified public accountant in 1977, he worked as a cooperatives examiner in Cagayan for the Department of Local Government and Community Development. Later he was to join the Commission on Audit, becoming one of the youngest government auditors in Region II at the time.
Although he appeared to be leading a “normal” life and working at a “normal” job, the martial law dictatorship stirred a yearning in the young man for something else, a radical alternative. “In our hearts, we believed in the alternative that aimed to restore justice and freedom in the country,” said a close friend.[i] In 1973, Crismo had already aroused the suspicion of church elders when he campaigned against the sham plebiscite being organized by Marcos to legitimize martial law. He did go on to help establish an underground network in his church that engaged in active resistance to the dictatorship.
In 1980, Crismo and his new bride moved to Tuguegarao, where he began teaching at the Cagayan Teacher’s College and St. Louis College. He had not been a teacher for long when he disappeared. On August 11, unknown men tried to take him away in a van as he was leaving school for the day. He was saved only by the presence of his students. The following day, he failed to make it to his afternoon class.
Since then, despite years of patient effort, his wife Phebe has not been able to find any trace of her husband.
BORN : December 8, 1955 in Saguday, Quirino
DISAPPEARED : August 12, 1980 in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan
PARENTS : Pepito Crismo and Nellie Guilao
SPOUSE : Phebe Gamata
EDUCATION : Elementary: Saguday Central School, Quirino
Secondary: Nueva Vizcaya Comprehensive High School
College: St. Mary’s College, Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya
[i] Jefferson P. Tugawin, “The Northern Passion of Romeo Crismo,” a tribute delivered at the Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, August 12. 2000.