Francisco Laurella learned about responsibility for others early in life. Their father having died during the Japanese occupation, he looked after his family, including three younger sisters, even before reaching his teenage years.
Determined to pursue his studies, he went to Manila and earned a teacher’s certificate and (in 1966) a teacher’s degree from the Arellano University. He taught social studies subjects in Paniqui, Tarlac then in Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya. He met and married Belen Mabbayad in Bagabag, and the couple then moved to Diffun in Quirino province, where they settled down and brought up their three children.
At school, Laurella was a fatherly disciplinarian. He coached the boys’ basketball and girls’ softball teams.
In 1971, he left his teaching job to work on the family farm in Diffun. He also ran for municipal councilor. Despite the lack of backing from the major political parties, Laurella won and served his term. But then martial law was imposed in 1972. Because of it, Laurella made a decision not to seek reelection or engage in any more political activities.
After many years as a private citizen, Laurella knew it was time to stand up and be counted when a 1986 snap presidential election was called. He joined the United Nationalist Democratic Organization (Unido), and openly campaigned for Corazon Aquino. This exposed him and his family to great risk, as Quirino province was then ruled by the warlord Orlando Dulay, a Marcos ally.
As the antidictatorship movement grew stronger nationwide, Laurella found the courage to become even bolder, delivering speeches to urge his provincemates to support a change in the political regime. Speaking over the local radio in Cauayan, Isabela, two days before the election, he lambasted the Marcos regime, saying: “We are buried in debt. We have been sold away by President Marcos. The next generations will not be able to pay off all these loans. The government has to be changed.”
On the night of February 6, 1986, Laurella was with Fernando Pastor Sr. and the latter’s son, Fernando Jr. when they were intercepted at a security checkpoint. The three were brought to the governor’s residence where they were detained in a van for three days. Then they were killed, and their bodies thrown into a creek in Barangay Balete in Diadi, Nueva Vizcaya. Balete residents found them four days later.
Quirino governor Orlando Dulay was arrested for the kidnapping and murder, and in 1993 the Supreme Court affirmed the life sentence imposed on him by the Quezon City regional trial court.
Frank Laurella and the two other Unido leaders were posthumously awarded by their party and by the provincial government of Quirino in 1990 for their “supreme sacrifice and courage for the cause of truth, justice and democracy.”