Her father was a carpenter and could barely afford to send his children to school. Nevertheless he tried to help his daughter, an honor student, to study some more after graduating from high school. When this became obviously difficult, Resteta (“Res”) gave up college and found work to help her family.
She worked for a time as a saleslady at a department store, and even did office work at the main headquarters of the Philippine Constabulary in Camp Crame. Then she found a job as social action worker with the Protestant Pastoral Institute, which took her to the depressed areas of Cavite and the slums of Tondo.
At the time of the imposition of martial law, Res Fernandez had already been introduced to activism by her brother Jose; she was then a sophomore at Ramon Magsaysay High School, in the working-class neighborhood of Sampaloc, Manila. Like many of her fellow activists, Fernandez felt she needed to continue her commitment to the poor. She went to Isabela as a clandestine youth organizer.
Arrested in 1980 for rebellion, insurrection and subversion, she spent the next two years in the PC Provincial Command jail in Ilagan, Isabela. After her release, she stayed with her family for a few months, and then resumed her social and political action work in the underground; apparently she was assigned in the Cordillera region in northern Luzon.
Res Fernandez was killed on August 24, 1985 in a raid by constabulary soldiers in Beyeng, Bakun, Benguet, together with the Catholic priest Nilo Valerio and a third companion, Soledad Salvador. Witnesses said the three were beheaded and their heads displayed in several barrios, before being buried in a single grave. But their families never found a single one of the three bodies, nor their heads.