TORRES, Alex

torres-aAlex Torres was the third of four children but because he was his family’s youngest for a long time, family members called him “Baby.” As a young boy, he was exposed to a variety of environments because his father, a geodetic engineer-surveyor, often brought his children with him to the field, taking them to places such Diliman, Singalong, and V. Luna, and even farther to Cotabato and Baguio cities.
His mother Eugenia worked with the Bureau of Lands.

His father taught him to play chess at which game Alex became a wizard. His prowess at math also became the family’s pride as he made easy work of the computing work his father needed in his surveying work.

At the UP High School, Alex was an active member of the math and chess clubs. Later he and a group of high school friends were pulled into activism. Alex joined the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK) while school friends Alex Fider, David Villapando and Romeo Candazo joined the Samahang Aletheia.

Alex had passed competitive tests and became a grantee of the UP-Government scholarship in college. Despite the heavy academic load, Alex continued to be active with the SDK’s UP chapter and a UP-based group, the Nationalist Corps.

In the turbulent months of 1970 to 1971 which saw the First Quarter Storm and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus by then president Ferdinand Marcos, Alex and his brother Renato (“Boy”) Torres were organizing students into the Nationalist Corps, SDK, as well as the Serve the People Brigade and the Kabataang Makabayan.

Boy and Alex brought UP students with them for integration trips with farmers in Morong, Bataan, and in Sta. Cruz, Zambales. Every weekend and during school breaks, the brothers themselves lived in farmers’ communities in Samal and Botolan, recruiting and organizing young farmers for the SDK. Here, older brother Boy remembers, Alex displayed leadership qualities through his methodical, scientific and sympathetic way of dealing with the local residents.

The brothers Boy and Alex organized an SDK chapter in Kamuning, Quezon City, together with SDK member Mariano “Rock” Lopez (PSHS 1969). The brothers further associated with the SDK’s Old Balara chapter, so that a house they rented in Old Balara at the time was raided by Metrocom-5th MIG soldiers when martial rule was declared in 1972.

Alex met his future wife Nona del Rosario, another activist in UP, during these SDK days.

During the early days of martial law, when universities were temporarily shut down, Alex and Nona continued to organize among youths in communities in various parts of Quezon City and Marikina, but clandestinely, thus, helping build up the underground resistance to martial rule.

Not long after, in June 1973, Alex and Nona were arrested by intelligence operatives in a combined operation of the 5th MIG-CSU-NISA that also netted Alex’s brother Boy. They were later taken to be detained at the CSU headquarters in Crame, then headed by Major Miguel Aure and Lieutenant Rodolfo Aguinaldo. The brothers were tortured under interrogation by Aure’s soldiers and members of a NISA team under a certain Atty. Castelo and a NISA torturer the detainees called Fu Manchu.

Boy and Alex were later transferred to Fort Bonifacio’s Ipil Rehabilitation Center, where Nona was also detained in the center’s women’s quarters. Despite their arrest and the freshness of their torture, the brothers were soon among a group of political prisoners leading protests and hunger strikes at the center. In punishment they were moved to another prison in Fort Bonifacio called the Youth Rehabilitation Center (YRC). Alex is remembered by fellow prisoners for sharing food and other necessities he and his brother received from visitors with those who enjoyed no such visits.

The brothers and Nona were detained for several months. After they were released, they stayed in contact with their comrades still in detention, even secretly supporting some of their escape plans.

As part of martial law monitoring procedures, the three former political prisoners were required to report to camp authorities regularly. At that time, Alex and Nona were living with the Torres family in an apartment near Katipunan in Quezon City. Although they complied at the beginning, the three activists felt stifled by the restrictions imposed by martial law authorities. Alex and Nona soon decided to pursue their activist commitment in the countryside. Boy, on the other hand, planned to join his mother in the United States, which he did in 1978.

Alex and Nona took up their organizing work in the Hapao-Hungduan in Ifugao, Alex as political officer of an armed unit, and Nona as propagandist, handling a local newsletter and broadcasting revolutionary news through the armed unit’s portable radio transmitter. Alex used the name Rex Edralin.

They faced danger all the time because they worked in guerrilla expansion areas where conditions were unpredictable. Alex rarely got to visit his family in Manila, but when he did, they found him fit and hardened, his soles turned tough as the soles of a shoe through walking barefooted among Ifugao’s rice terraces.

The couple wrote letters to their families, saying they were happy with their decision to leave the city and to live in the countryside, and reiterating their preparedness for “the ultimate sacrifice” involved in their decision.

Around 1975, Alex’s brother Boy received a tip saying that Alex was captured in Kabayan in Benguet, along with a local resident. Attempts by the family to find Alex failed, but they found enough information to convince them that Alex was first taken to Camp Bado Dangwa in Benguet province and then to the NISA headquarters in V. Luna, Quezon City. A detainee then at Camp Dangwa claimed seeing Alex taken away by NISA personnel. Another report claims that was killed in Camp Dangwa, his body is buried there with others who met the same fate.

A few months after Alex disappeared, Nona’s group was attacked by government soldiers. Nona died in the resulting firefight, the only casualty. Nona’s family and Boy Torres traveled to Ifugao province and retrieved her body. During her wake, the same NISA agents Castelo and Fu Manchu approached Boy Torres and told him they knew “where” Alex was. In Boy’s belief, this confirms NISA’s role in his brother’s disappearance.

The family has never seen Alex again, but they continue to celebrate his heroism and courage. Alex’s own mother subsequently became an active member of the anti-dictatorship movement abroad.

In a letter Alex and Nona had once sent to Boy from Banawe, they cited a popular quote from Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, who said:

“Wherever there is struggle there is sacrifice, and death is a common occurrence. But we have the interests of the people and the sufferings of the great majority at heart, and when we die for the people it is a worthy death.”

Born : October 8, 1953
Missing : 1975
Grade School : Kamuning Elementary School
St Louis Boys Elementary Department, Baguio City (Salutatorian)
High School : UP High School, University of the Philippines, Diliman
College : UP Diliman
Father : Gregorio S. Torres Jr. (Pandan, Catanduanes)
Mother : Eugenia Flores Gabriel (Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija)