Resistance to the dictatorship was a shared undertaking of the Filipino people, and it included middle-class professionals as well as students and workers, peasants as well as government employes, armed revolutionary fighters as well as advocates of nonviolence.
Estelita Juco was a teacher for 36 years at St. Paul’s College, an exclusive girls’ school where she herself had studied from the elementary grades to her graduation with a bachelor’s degree in education summa cum laude. She taught courses in English, journalism, sociology, public relations, and history, among others. She was the longtime moderator, or adviser, of the school newspaper, the Paulinian.
Before that she had been a well-known student leader in the 1950s, having been very active in the College Editors Guild, the Student Catholic Action, the Conference Delegates Association and the Student Council Association.
As a teenager, Juco was seriously wounded in the final days of World War II, during the Battle of Manila. Her family had taken refuge in the Philippine General Hospital, not far from where they lived, as the bombing intensified and the fighting raged between American and Japanese troops. Juco’s younger brother died as they lay wounded together; she found herself disabled, blind in one eye, right arm and left knee both gone. Years after the end of the war, she was sent to Japan for three months for a leadership training course. While there she won many friends, including members of the imperial family, for speaking as a victim of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, but having no bitterness towards Japan.
Juco’s political activism was manifested in the 1950s when she campaigned for Ramon Magsaysay as president, who won in 1953, then successively for Manuel Manahan (1957) and Raul Manglapus (1964), who both lost.
Under martial law, she joined several of the groups that formed the budding opposition, among them Joaquin P. Roces’s Taza de Oro group. With journalist Jose Burgos Jr. she helped revive the College Editors Guild (which had been abolished) as the Metropolitan Association of College Editors. But while Juco was “totally against the dictatorship,” according to a friend, “she was also very much against violence. She would not hear of resorting to it even to topple what to her was a repressive regime. She was in fact an advocate of non-violence.”
In 1980 she was invited by Burgos to write a column for We Forum (“Once More with Feeling”) and later for Malaya (“Woman in the City of Man.”) She criticized martial law, decried human rights violations and lambasted Imelda Marcos’ increasingly frivolous activities, exulting afterward that “nothing can quite surpass the excitement and tremulous satisfaction of those weekly pieces of ‘brinkmanship’ that challenged the Conjugal Dictatorship when Freedom lay dying and human life was cheap.” One night her house mysteriously burned down, and she suspected that the fire had something to do with a particularly critical column she wrote about Imelda Marcos.
When Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. was assassinated in 1983, Juco’s activism became more militant. She wrote increasingly bold articles, joined street marches against the dictatorship, and helped organize St. Paul alumnae to join the protest actions. She campaigned for Corazon Aquino’s election to the presidency.
After martial law had ended, Juco retired from teaching and was appointed as sectoral representative of women and the disabled in the first post-dictatorship Congress. She held the post for two years until her death on July 12, 1989.