The first Grey to set foot in the Philippines was an officer of the British Royal Navy who opted to stay in the country after Spain and England settled their hostilities in the Philippines. The British defeated the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay in 1762.
Fernando Grey was the captain in Emilio Aguinaldo’s revolutionary army who reported the start of hostilities at the Pinaglabanan Bridge that led to the Philippine‑American War.
After the end of the Spanish era, the Greys established themselves in the elite districts of Manila. Eugene David Conejero Grey, the fifth of seven children, grew up amid gentility. His father was a marketing manager for Caltex Philippines, and Eugene spent his high school years in Bauan, Batangas, where he lived in a compound exclusive to families of Caltex’s executives. He was sociable, talented, and popular. He excelled in sports. He spent his weekends swimming with the neighborhood children or playing tennis or golf, in which he won several tournaments. He taught himself to play the guitar, playing his favorites, the Beatles, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan.
In the mid 1960’s, Eugene’s father Edgardo, then a leader of the Caltex Filipino Managers’ and Supervisors’ Association (CAFIMSA), joined the first-ever strike against Caltex on the issue of racial discrimination. Eugene tagged along with his father during the strike.
Enrolling at the Lyceum of the Philippines in 1967, Eugene became drawn to the growing campus movements calling for reforms in the educational system. He participated in discussion groups, fora and symposia that decried anti‑student policies. Soon, he was a leader of campus protests.
He became one of the leaders of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM).
Eugene, or Gene to friends, was a wide reader and an exceptionally articulate speaker and debater. Friends recall how intensely he punctuated his arguments, often citing sources that astonished his listeners.
During the First Quarter Storm of the 1970s, Eugene earned the respect of his comrades for his tirelessness, dedication, and resolve. He helped organize rallies and demonstrations, wrote press releases for the KM, and held television interviews. He joined laborers at the picket lines. He visited poor communities and talked with out‑of-school youths. He spoke at mass actions. He awed and amazed his comrades, who called him “unstoppable.”
When the writ of habeas corpus was suspended by Ferdinand Marcos in 1971, Eugene’s name was in the list of students wanted by the government. He decided to go underground and leave for the rural areas.
He was killed in January 1973 in a dawn raid by the Philippine Constabulary on the house where he and his friends were staying, in Bo. Ibas, in Mt. Banahaw, along the border of Quezon and Camarines. Eugene was asleep when he was killed. A firefight ensued, which resulted in the killing of everyone in the house.
He was 23 years old. Eugene’s remains were never recovered. The family was devastated, deciding to leave the Philippines for good. But Eugene’s friends have continued to remember this exceptional young man’s intellectual drive, commitment and selflessness. His friends say that he could very easily have chosen the easy life, being bright and coming from a wealthy family. Instead he chose the more difficult path.