Margarita Favis Gomez – or Maita – was a beautiful woman, a fashion model and a winner of beauty contests. But in the more important sense of the word, she was beautiful because she gave of herself selflessly.
She was born on May 23, 1947 in Pangasinan, the eldest of seven children of a well-to-do family. She was sent to Manila to study at the Assumption High School and later at the St. Scholastica’s College. In college, she took up a premed course at the University of the Philippines.
A regular presence at Manila’s society events, Maita was spotted by high-society couturier Pitoy Moreno at a party and recruited to be his model. She attended a modelling school in Australia, then was selected one of Manila’s “Five Prettiest,” and simultaneously named Miss Philippines, which won her a trip to the Miss World contest in London.
In 1968, she married Carlos Perez-Rubio. The couple lived in the US for two years and returned to the Philippines in 1970. Maita gave birth to her firstborn and only daughter Melissa.
History of political involvement
She then returned to UP and got caught in the student ferment of the period — the First Quarter Storm in 1970 and the Diliman Commune of 1971. Maita joined several student groups, and became active in political discussions, delving on the writings of socialist philosophers Marx and Lenin.
When Marcos imposed martial law in 1972, Maita volunteered to perform underground tasks. Separated from first husband Perez-Rubio, she moved to Baguio City, where she was arrested in 1974, detained first at the Baguio City Jail and then at Camp Olivas in Pampanga. She managed to escape from prison, and decided it was time to join the New People’s Army. She chose for her nom de guerre Ka Dolor.
Her first assignment was at a guerrilla zone in the Quezon-Bicol border area. She was part of a propaganda team sent to undertake expansion missions to Camarines Sur. Ka Dolor and her comrades would build organizations in the community and conduct political education among the people. In 1978, she and her new husband Joey Decena were transferred to Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon where she became known as Ka Lily. Joey was killed in an encounter in 1979.
At the heart of the women’s movement
Maita returned to Manila in 1980 and focused her energies in helping build the women’s movement. In 1984 she co-founded GABRIELA, which united women from all classes in society and linked them to the movement against the Marcos dictatorship. She also helped form WOMB, or Women for the Ouster of Marcos and Boycott in 1985. WOMB, an organization of known women personalities opposed to the dictatorship, campaigned for the release of political prisoners.
After the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986, Maita helped organize the KAIBA (Kababaihan para sa Inang Bayan) for the 1987 elections. KAIBA was the first political party of women in the Philippines. KAIBA is a statement that women can and should lead and represent the voices of women and other members of society in the political sphere as part of the government.
While a leader in the women’s movement, Maita continued to serve in other capacities. She was an official of the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), calling for the release of political prisoners, and co-chair of Makabayan (Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan), a coalition of progressive party-list organizations. She encouraged her children to be active and she kept her home open to the younger activists.
All the while, Maita took university courses and was herself teaching in different universities and accepting speaking engagements at conferences and various events.
Maita left without a warning, after a fatal heart attack, on July 12, 2012.
BORN May 23, 1947 in Bautista, Pangasinan
DIED July 12, 2012 in Metro Manila
Parents Jose Gonzalez Gomez and Cecilia Favis
Siblings 6 (five girls, 2 boys) Birth order of hero: Eldest
Spouses Carlos Perez-Rubio (separated in the early 70’s)
Joey Decena (killed in 1979)
Heber Bartolome (separated in 1983)
Oscar Beltran (separated in 1987)
Children Five (Melissa Perez Rubio-Ugarte, Luis Decena, Antares Bartolome, Cris Bartolome and Michael Beltran)
High School Assumption High School, Manila
St. Scholastica’s College Manila
June Dally Watkins, modeling school scholar, Australia
College University of the Philippines, Diliman
Pre-Medicine, then shifted to AB Philosophy
Between 1965 and 1971
AB major in Sociology, Non-Traditional Studies Program
Polytechnic University of the Philippines, 1995
Graduate MA in Development Economics,
University of the Philippines, Diliman, 2000
Completed Intensive Course on Engendering Macroeconomics
University of Utah, USA, 2005
Teaching Deputy Director, Women Studies Program, St. Scholastica’s College
Asst. Professorial Lecturer in macro and microeconomics, trade, history of Asian economics and economic thought
Economics Department, De La Salle University, 1998-2002
Asst. Professor in Economics, Development Studies Program
UP Manila, 2003-2006
Contributor (English and Filipino) to Isyu, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila Times, Manila Chronicle, 1993-1997
Writer, “Ma. Lorena Barros, Gentle Warrior” included in Six Young Filipino Martyrs, Anvil Publishing, 1997
Writer, Depths of Silence, a book on comfort women published by ASCENT, 2000
Humanist League of the Philippines (1971)
WOMB (Women for the Ouster of Marcos and Boycott), Secretary General, 1984
Gabriela Metro Manila Founding Chairperson, 1984
KAIBA (Kababaihan para sa Inang Bayan), 1987
National Campaign Manager, Haydee Yorac’s senatorial bid, 1998-1999
Abanse! Pinay, founding member and Vice Chairperson (one term), 1998-1999
Philippine Center for Policy Studies (PCPS), Executive Director, 1998-1999
Asian Centre for Women’s Human Rights (ASCENT), consultant
Women Work Well (W3), President, 2002-2005
Multi-Stakeholder Team, Action for Economic Reforms (AER), leader
BABALA (Babae Laban sa Katiwalian) co-convenor during the campaign to oust Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Inaugural Summer Institute on International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, Bangkok, Thailand, attendee, 2008-2009
Reality of Aid/Asia Pacific at Ibon International, Policy Officer, 2008-2009
Makabayan (Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan) Coalition, co-chairperson, 2009-2012
11.11.11-Pilipinas (Belgian NGO)
SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto), National Board member
Araullo, Carol P. “Maita Gomez: Beauty Transfigured.” Business World, Jul. 20-21, 2012.
Fiel, Corito. “Maita Gomez – from highborn beauty queen to ‘Queen of the Toiling Masses’.” The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jul. 15, 2012.
Japitana, Norma. “Maita Gomez: Coming to terms.” The Philippine Star, Jul. 2, 2011.
Lanot, Marra PL. “A life full of color & drama.” The Philippine Star, Jul. 15, 2012.
______. “Maita Gomez, beauty queen and freedom fighter, dies.” Interaksyon, Jul. 12, 2012.
GABRIELA. Maita: Remembering Ka Dolor, Edited by Elisa Tita P. Lubi and Judy M. Taguiwalo. Quezon City: GABRIELA, 2013.