Even as a young boy in high school, Gerardo Faustino was already interested in current affairs, and his opinions expressed progressive and nationalist ideas. He was the elder of two sons of a lawyer and a teacher. He did not choose to follow his father’s profession, with a glamorous and lucrative future ahead of him, but took up a degree course in agriculture instead.
Martial law was already in force when he entered the University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB) in 1973. The UP Student Catholic Action was one of those organizations that were allowed on campus (others had been banned), and Faustino joined it. He particularly appreciated UPSCA’s extension programs for students who wanted to help the poor.
At UP Los Baños a raging issue at the time was the role played by American government and business interests in determining academic and research programs. Students and faculty members denounced what they saw as the university’s subservience to foreign dictation, and Faustino was part of the protest actions they organized.
Recognition of his leadership skills came as Faustino was elected a representative to the UPLB student conference, an interim body created due to the abolition of the student council upon the proclamation of martial law in 1972. He was chosen to head a committee that worked hard toward the restoration of this council.
On the last weekend of July 1977, Faustino went home to Quezon City as he usually did, then left for what he said was “an important meeting.” It was the last time his family would see him alive.
When he failed to come for two successive weekends, his parents got worried and started asking around. They discovered that other parents were also looking for their activist children from UP Los Baños, all of whom had disappeared with their son. Ten persons had disappeared within days of each other, possibly in a single operation: Gerry Faustino, Jessica Sales, Modesto Sison, Ramon Jasul, Cristina Catalla, Rizalina Ilagan and four others.
Months after that, the families of Ilagan, Catalla and Sales were told by the military that the three missing young women were killed in an encounter in Mauban, Quezon. But the authorities denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of the six. Their bodies were never found, except for that of Sison which was later found buried in a common grave in Lucena City.