Courage from loss: Rights defenders mourn passing of stalwart Marie Hilao-Enriquez

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Courage from loss: Rights defenders mourn passing of stalwart Marie Hilao-Enriquez
Amaryllis “Marie” Hilao Enriquez - Karapatan’s Chairperson Emeritus, SELDA’s former Chairperson and former convenor of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA) - passed away at 12 midnight (PHT) of April 24, 2022.
Karapatan released

MANILA, Philippines — Martial law activist and chair emeritus of rights alliance Karapatan Amaryllis "Marie" Hilao-Enriquez passed away on April 24. At 68, she left behind a history of human rights work that spans decades and that those she left behind will carry with them as they continue her struggle.

The loss of Hilao-Enriquez was hugely felt by advocacy and human rights groups, especially as the 2022 national elections draw and with Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., son of the dictator's son, a heartbeat away from reclaiming Malacañang if surveys are to be believed.

On Wednesday, groups led by Karapatan held a tribute for Hilao-Enriquez at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, the memorial for Martial Law victims, in Quezon City.

"Tita Marie" and her family experienced the brutality of the Marcos regime first-hand. Her sister, Liliosa Hilao, was just 23 when she was taken and detained.

In an old video of Marie shown at her tribute, she shared that Liliosa, whom she remembered was asthmatic, is one of the thousands killed during the Marcos regime.

The Hilaos found Liliosa three days after she was taken, her face disfigured and body branded with bruises and injuries. Tita Marie said her younger sister was made to drink muriatic acid and her mouth was used as an ashtray.

But amid devastating grief, she acknowledged their family was in a better situation than others were because they had a body to bury—although their situation was not better than the that of the elder Marcos, who was with his family when he died—while other families faced long waits for the disappeared to return.

"They don’t even know where they will put their candles. Are they even really dead?”  she said in Filipino, referring to families of other desaparecidos.

In a small voice, she said: "Nagagalit ako." (I am angry).


In 1974, Marie and Nikas Astorga-Garcia where both detained with babies in their bellies. It was Garcia’s second and Marie’s first.

In a video played at the event, Garcia recalled that they stayed in cells that smelled of gunpowder and that only had a small horizontal window for light and ventilation. They were given five minutes for sunlight and fresh air, if they were lucky.

Like political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino decades later, Garcia said they swore that they would resist every attempt to separate them from their children.

Their babies were born while they were in detention.

Later, they were moved to Camp Bagong Diwa with 140 other detainees, where they staged a bigger hunger strike to call for better prison conditions and for the release of the two nursing mothers.

"We won, better conditions were granted. We won, because of the strong solidarity from detainees and support from the outside, Garcia said.

Cynthia Abdon, detained with them then, said the success of their 13-day hunger strike was not without cost as a few prisoners were brought to detention areas with tighter security.

"While she was leaving Bicutan, she told me that her release was so meaningful to her, because it was a result of sacrifices of all detainees. She promised she would continue her commitment to work for others — which she did," Abdon added.

Work will continue

Karapatan said Tita Marie, after her release from prison, went on to become part of the Kapisanan para sa Pagpapalaya at Amnestiya ng mga Detenidong Pulitikal sa Pilipinas, or Kapatid, to campaign for the release of her husband.

After the EDSA Revolution ousted dictator in 1986, she joined the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (SELDA) and even helped in the filing of the historic class suit against Marcos in Hawaii.

Her campaign for victims of Martial Law continued with the push for reparations for victims and the formation of Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law.

In 1995, she helped founded Karapatan and continued to work for the release of political prisoners and for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. 

SELDA’s Danilo dela Fuente vowed Marie will be their inspiration in the continuing fight for human rights. "You can rest assured we will continue everything. You can rest assured we will continue our fight until we claim the true democracy and freedom," he added in Filipino.

Edith Burgos, whose son Jonas remains missing to this day, recalled that Marie silently listened to her when she told her of her story. She was clearly a source of strength, and Burgos said she only remembered on the eve of the memorial that Marie whispered to her: "Magbabayad din ang mga demonyong yan (Those demons will pay)."

"Magpahinga ka na. Sobrang sobra na ang ambag mo sa bayan. (Take a rest. You have given so much to the country)," Burgos added in Filipino.

"Paalam na, Marie, sa ngayon. Magkikita rin tayo sa lugar na walang desaparecido (Goodbye for now, Marie. We will see each other again in the place where there are no desaparecidos)," Burgos added.

vuukle comment




  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with