“To be of service to one’s brother is to live meaningfully,” she said. Purificacion Pedro, a social worker, did live a meaningful life of service, but it was cut short, as she lay wounded in a hospital, by a brutal engagement with one of the Marcos dictatorship’s most notorious torturers.
She was a social work graduate of the University of the Philippines, and had distinguished herself by obtaining 10th place in the 1969 national board examination for social workers. Her first job was at the National Rehabilitation Training Center, a government facility providing services for the physical handicapped.
In 1970, Pedro, called Puri by her friends, began to work at the Immaculate Conception Parish in Cubao, Quezon City. She helped run a parish day nursery, a sewing group for urban poor women and handled the educational program of two cooperatives. She worked with the urban poor and the out-of-school youth by holding summer camps and leadership seminars. During the ﬂoods in 1972, she volunteered her services, bringing medicine and relief goods to many affected areas around Quezon City. She also worked at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Mandaluyong, Rizal, with emphasis on Christian community-building and leaders’ formation.
She left her parish job in 1975 and worked as a volunteer for the organizations supporting the anti-Chico Dam movement in Northern Luzon. She knew that it would be more dangerous than the work she had been doing in Quezon City. In a letter to her parents, she said: “I am aware of the difficulties and risks, but I have learned a lot by now…. I am glad that I am finding fulfilment in the career that I have chosen; surely not because of the monetary benefits professionals are after, but rather because this allows me to be among the people, both poor and the middle class…who aspire and are working for true human development.”
In 1976, she was due to join the staff of the Catholic church’s Luzon Secretariat for Social Action (LUSSA).
Before starting on her new job, however, Pedro went on a trip to Bataan where she visited friends in a New People’s Army (NPA) guerrilla camp. It was a bad time to go visiting, because a military operation was in progress at the area. She was caught in an armed encounter, with a bullet wound in her shoulder.
Pedro’s family found her at the Bataan Provincial Hospital, recovering from her wound and under military guard. Relatives took turns watching her, as she feared for her life. On the sixth day of her confinement, however, a team of interrogators came from Manila and forced their way into the hospital room. They were led by Col. Rolando Abadilla, a constabulary officer who had already been implicated in numerous accounts of torture and abuse of political detainees. Abadilla and his men ordered Puri’s sister to leave the room then locked themselves in with their captive for about an hour. After they had left, their victim was found dead inside the bathroom, strangled by a piece of wire; in her hand was a medal of the Virgin Mary.
PARENTS Genaro Pedro and Maria Abarro
Elementary: Shamrock Elementary School, Laoag City
Secondary: Holy Spirit Academy, Laoag City
College: University of the Philippines Diliman