He wanted a life spent in the service of others so that his death would be meaningful, the young Dante Perez told his brother Romeo. He had just experienced the fulfillment of helping the victims of the Ruby Tower disaster, when a multistory building in a busy part of Manila collapsed due to an earthquake, burying numerous people.
Helping others was something Perez liked to do. Before spending days and nights at the site of the ruined Ruby Tower, he had also raised funds to support relief operations when Taal Volcano erupted. It was a personality trait strongly influenced by his mother, who always found time to help the unfortunate despite her own busy schedule (she managed her own chemical company). Mrs. Perez helped care for child patients in a government hospital, initiated rehabilitation projects for jail inmates, and brought material assistance to victims of natural disasters. She used to bring her son along to help feed sick children, distribute relief goods and go caroling during the Christmas season to raise funds for charity.
Perez was in his first year of college when the First Quarter Storm swept the country. He was then a member of the National Union of Students of the Philippines , advocating peaceful reforms, clean and honest elections, and so on. The two brothers, Dante and Romeo, started living with jeepney drivers, writing manifestos, and preparing food and giving medical aid to striking drivers. Working closely with his friend, Reynante Andal from Mindoro, founder and president of the Samahan ng mga Kabataan Para sa Ikauunlad ng mga Tsuper, Dante worked until the wee hours of the morning preparing study modules for students and drivers.
When martial law was declared in 1972, Perez abandoned his reformist ideas and turned to the guerrilla underground in order to fight the dictatorship. Together with old friends from Kasapi and the Kilusang Kristiyano ng Kabataang Pilipino, he joined Andal in moving to Mindoro Oriental where they started organizing for the anti-dictatorship struggle.
Just a few weeks later, on November 3, 1972, Perez was killed by the military. He was with a group inside a hut one evening when they heard a voice outside telling them to surrender. Andal thought it was a joke and shouted back to stop the fooling. Gunshots followed. Andal was hit in the abdomen and Perez in both legs; his wife, Teresita Lioanag, (a student from Maryknoll College), rushed outside and called on the attackers to stop firing. The soldiers then entered the hut and pumped more bullets into Perez, who was still alive. Later the National Bureau of Investigation would find Dante negative for powder burns and his body riddled with 32 gunshot wounds.
All the survivors were taken to jail. Perez’s parents came and took his remains back to Manila. Lioanag was kept in jail for more than a year but the others were released after several weeks in detention.
PARENTS Amador M. Perez and Remedios Dizon
SPOUSE Teresita Lioanag
EDUCATION Elementary: Ateneo de Manila, Quezon City
Secondary: Ateneo de Manila University; De La Salle High School, Lipa City
College: De La Salle College, Manila; University of the East