It was the 5th of November last year when the horror of Implan Kalasag took away the freedom of 3 young activists in Tondo, Manila – namely Ram Carlo Bautista, Alma Moran, and Reina Mae Nasino – based on a dubious search warrant and planted evidences (guns and explosives, as usual).

While most believe and assert that they are innocent and the evidences were planted in order for them to be displayed as criminals or even terrorists to the public, there is a considerable number of people (mostly elements of Philippine National Police themselves and their bootlickers) who spread lies and fake news about them.

Last July 1, the public sympathized with Nasino, (‘Ina’ to close friends and colleagues) when she gave birth to her daughter River Emmanuelle first before her motion for pre-natal check-up was decided by the court. Her legal counsel filed a plea to let her stay in Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital or be provided a proper nursery while in prison to rear her child until the baby reaches 6 months old as the COVID-19 pandemic is a major threat to the child’s life. However, the plea has fallen into deaf ears as less than 48 hours, Ina and Baby River were taken to Manila City Jail even though Fabella hospital asserted that observation is needed because the baby was underweight and had skin discoloration.

On August 13, Baby River and Ina were separated – depriving her of mother’s care and love while the joy and comfort of holding one’s child in her arms for the latter.

On Sept 22, Baby River was taken to the hospital due to high fever and diarrhea. Her family, especially her mother, were worried as she could possibly be infected by COVID-19 although she was tested negative. Two days after, she was transferred to the Philippine General Hospital as her health deteriorated due to complications (it must be remembered that Ina carried Baby River in her womb almost her entire pregnancy, first and foremost). On October 9, she was in critical condition and the doctor said she only had few hours left to live. Ina’s legal counsel filed a motion for furlough, but the court was not able to approve it on time. Ina was not allowed to be with her dying child who spent more than 2 weeks in the hospital.

When the baby passed away around 8:50pm, the same day, to grieve was still a struggle for Ina. In Baby River’s wake, injustice was served once more as the police and BJMP personnel denied her and her family their privacy to mourn. The situation sparked rage among the public especially in social media.

When Baby River was laid to rest on October 16, friends and colleagues of Ina, and other mourners were restricted by the BJMP and police. They took control of the supposed funeral procession which enraged the public even more. Twitter was flooded with hashtags condemning the police and the justice system while there were as many calls, demanding Ina’s release. A minority composed of state agents and propagandists, on the other hand, continuously defamed Ina and her baby.

Accusations of negligence as a mother were thrown to Ina, while some individuals, probably with a comfortable life, stated that the outrage is exaggerated. But all these statements flung against Ina and Baby River failed to turn the government’s bad public image situation around. The right-wing propaganda then invoked that she is a member of the New People’s Army (the good ol’ strategy to malign activists).

Just as more and more known individuals – from showbiz celebrities like Anne Curtis and Enchong Dee to economist ‘Mareng Winnie’ Monsod – published and posted their sympathy for the mother and her child as well as their indignation to the heartless treatment they received, some stooges went the extra mile with deceitful content through videos and memes.

Truth that can be beheld is hard to fabricate and that day on Baby River’s burial, the nation had to bear witness and suffer too many heartbreaks.

But who really is Ina? Who is she in contrast with the pictures of her grieving and weeping while wearing PPE and in handcuffs? Who is she behind that picture, raising one fist as her other hand clutches her baby’s picture? Of course, she is just like any one of us. She was raised as a child, she went to school, had her own interests, and made friends.

Growing up with family and friends

Masayahin siyang bata. Masunurin at matulungin sa mga gawaing bahay. Malambing siya sa amin lalo sa lola niya. Halos nasa Simbahan siya palagi noong 10 years old siya dahil nasa choir siya at maraming kaibigan doo,.” Veronica Bagro, Ina’s aunt who raised her as a child narrated.

Ina’s friendly aura allowed her to gain friends and more of them as she grew up and went from one social circle to another – just a typical Filipino youngster who is in constant search of company and belongingness.

Noong teenager siya, ganoon pa rin, lalong dumami ang friends niya kasi high school at sumusunod sa mga uso,” her aunt added.

It would seem that Ina’s involvement in the Church choir and her friendly character would pre-empt what she would be a few years later.

A young musician for the people

“Nakatuwang ko siya bilang organizer sa pagbubuo ng Musicians for Peace (MP) sa EARIST… Kengkoy siya at masayahin. Ang pagkakakilala sa kanya ng mga estudyante doon ay makulit, masayahin, kengkoy, at masaya kasama,” said one former colleague of hers in MP.

Ina loves to play the guitar and write songs according to her friends and colleagues that’s why it is not surprising that she – along with other musicians and students – took part in establishing the chapter of Musicians for Peace (MP), an organization of musicians advocating for social change and social justice, in EARIST.

“…Noong panahong na-rekluta si Ina, nagsimula siya sa paggi-gitara, sa pagtugtog ng mga kanta, musikero siya eh. Tapos noong ibinukas sa kanya ang mga Filipino revolutionary songs (songs sung during protests), tulad ng Awit ng Pag-asa at iba pa, du’n nakuha yung interes at kagustuhan niya sa pulitika. Kumbaga, doon kitang-kita ang kapasyahan niya na kumilos,” said one former colleague of hers in MP.

Isa sa mga paborito niya ay yung Bigwas ng Tagumpay, Ang Bata, saka Mula sa Kanayunan. Marunong din siya gumawa ng sariling kanta. Paborito niyang banda ay yung Gazera, natural dahil galing din sa EARIST lalo’t Musicians ror Peace din sila. Isa rin ang Talahib sa lagi niyang pinapakinggan. Minsan maririnigan mo rin siya ng mga punk na banda,”another former colleague added.

After a day of political education and mass work, of course, Ina would spend her time in the office playing guitar and singing along with her colleagues.

Sa kanyang angking talento, tuwing mga cultural night o mga bakanteng oras, nagmimistulang concert ang aming opisina dahil mahilig siyang kumanta at mag-gitara,” former editor-in-chief of EARIST Technozette (their campus paper) Kevin recalled.

The inseparability of politics, social issues, and music then sparked Ina’s interest and resolve which remolded her into an activist and musician for the people.

A greater commitment for a great cause

As Ina immersed herself to people’s struggles and different campaigns beyond issues in the campus, it did not take much time for her to realize that she had to take one more step. Eventually, she decided to work as a full-time activist.

2014 kami nagkakilala ni Ina. Di ko matandaan kung paano kami naging magka-close pero siguro nagsimula yun sa mga pagtatanghal at sa mga RTR (Room-To-Room discussions) namin. Sobrang masinop sa gawain ni Ina. Siya ang katulong ko mag-organize sa CAS (College of Arts and Sciences). Nakasama ko siya bumuo ng chapter ng Anakbayan so kolehiyo ko. Umiikot kami halos sa buong college, sobrang supportive niya,” her former schoolmate and fellow activist Joyce recollected.

Aside from her principles and rapid political development, unwavering courage is one of her prime character as a youth activist.

“’Small but terribleang tawag namin sa kanya noong panahon nasa school pa kami. Lagi siyang handang sumagot sa mga guards na humaharang at nanggigipit kapag may rally sa eskwelahan”, Kevin narrated.

Ina would then go on to become a community organizer and rights worker among the poor, living among people who she helps in their problems and teaches them their rights in the slums in Tondo and other areas in Metro Manila.

At first glance, one might think that Ina is simply a grim-and-determined young one; another youth who, alienated and estranged to the system, rebelled against it while looking for acceptance and belongingness; a mere incarnation of a student striker in 1968 Paris or a hardcore militant member of Kabataang Makabayan during the 70’s First Quarter Storm. But all of her friends and colleagues say one common thing and refutes this stereotypical image – she is easy-going and always smiling, the joker in the gang, and the barkada’s kengkoy.

The one who protests and the one who jests

Sobrang kwelang friend si Ina. Daming energy! Hindi talaga siya nauubusan ng jokes. Sasamahan ka sa lahat ng trip mo. Mula sa pag-ikot sa España, pagsuklay ng buhok, ganu’n siya ka-sweet, kahit sa pagligo sa ulan. Hahaha! Ganu’ng level yung kulit niya,” Abby, one of her org mates and best friends recalled.

Ina is indeed known for her jolly antics, ceaseless determination, and supportive personality as there are countless stories from her friends that are worth sharing.

Behind sa masayahing katangian niya, siya yung tipong kaibigan na hindi ka iiwan at talagang maasahan sa kahit anong aspeto. Kumbaga, one call away friend siya. Magiging buddy mo sa lahat. Madaling pakisamahan at kahit sinong tao, magcli-click yung ugali niya kasi kaya niyang mag-adjust. Sobrang sipag din niya. Siya nga ang nagturo sa’kin maglaba ng manual.” Abby shared.

Ina is only one out of the hundreds incarcerated due to their political beliefs and persuasion, people from all walks of life whose images are obscured and maligned by the intolerant and the ones who deem them as enemies.

We should all remember that even prisoners have human rights and they are all innocent until proven guilty. In addition, putting all these legal matters aside, they are human, just like everyone.

In this age of over-information, where the truth is being shrouded by lies and deceit, it is of utmost importance to know beyond what the eye can see, as misinformation enables injustice and impunity.

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