June Keithley: ‘Sosyal’ turns radical




In the twilight of the Marcos regime, a voice was heard across the land.

It was a shrill voice of a girl over the radio, telling the people a catalogue of anomalies occurring during the February 1986 snap election called by President Ferdinand Marcos to validate his 19-year rule.

“It was perhaps because of my voice—that shrill voice that people thought was that of a little girl’s—that people took notice,” media personality June Keithley says in an interview with Gabriel Mercado for the book “Heroes,” recalling her two-week stint as radio broadcaster during the Edsa revolt.

“They might have been wondering, ‘Who is that little girl who is actually telling the truth?’”

She was actually afraid her voice would irritate people listening to the radio.

“But she has a very beautiful soprano,” says colleague Maan Hontiveros. “Remember, she sang in ‘The Sound of Music.’” (Keithley played Maria Von Trapp in the St. Paul College-Manila’s production of the musical directed by Fr. James Reuter when she was 19.)

What really made the difference was that while the male broadcasters then were talking of electoral anomalies in general, this woman was relating in full detail a catalogue of ballot-box-snatching, voter intimidation and disenfranchisement.

And in the national tumult that followed, the girl’s voice rallied radio listeners to help in toppling the dictatorship.

Legion of Honor

For that crucial role in the Edsa People Power Revolution, Keithley has been awarded the Legion of Honor (the highest government award for a civilian) by President Aquino.

Former President Fidel Ramos, a major participant in the Edsa revolt, used to refer to her as “General Keithley.”

On Monday, at 7 a.m., she will be conferred the Spirit of Edsa Award by

Aquino in a ceremony at the People Power Monument on Edsa and White Plains Avenue, to celebrate the 27th anniversary of the Edsa revolt.

“It is very well deserved,” Hontiveros says. “In fact, it’s long overdue. Her children wish she’d be strong enough to attend the ceremony.”

Keithley was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. Her husband, broadcast journalist Angelo Castro Jr., with whom she has a son and two daughters, was later also diagnosed with lung cancer.

“There was even a time when the two were staying in the hospital at the same time, just across the hall,” Hontiveros relates.

With Castro’s death last year, observers say Keithley’s physical condition has further deteriorated. But her faith does not waver. In a TV interview, she said her faith was only strengthened, as she found God’s purpose in everything.

“The last time I saw her was three or four weeks ago at St. Luke’s [Medical Center],” Hontiveros says. “On Valentine’s Day, her children took her for lunch to Mario’s in Quezon City.”

Reading Nick Joaquin

While growing up, Keithley found her being half-American somewhat a disadvantage, so she immersed herself in reading Nick Joaquin’s stories and essays on Filipino culture.

She came to people’s consciousness when she hosted the TV kiddie shows “Lollipop Party” and “The Children’s Hour,” and the society talk show “June and Johnny.”

When she appeared in Lino Brocka’s twilight mosaic “Lunes, Martes … ,” disbelieving viewers were surprised to find that she could act, delivering arguably the most poignant piece of acting in that all-star ensemble.

“Her root was in theater, but she made her name in TV,” Hontiveros says. “We used to run across each other at Repertory Philippines.”

The two first met in 1968, when Keithley was going to the United States for further studies and Hontiveros had to replace her as host of TV 5’s “Lollipop Party.”

When the 1983 Ninoy Aquino assassination galvanized the nation and fueled the fight against Marcos, Keithley was still apolitical, noncommittal.


In the Mercado interview, she says people must have seen her then as just someone who was sosyal. Being perceived as “too flighty, or even wersh-wersh,” she thinks she might not have been taken seriously to get involved in fighting martial law.

“I thought of myself as an artist at that time,” she reveals. “As an artist, I shunned all political affiliations. There had to be no boundaries or restrictions to my art.”

Epiphany came in late 1985. Invited to lead the prayer at Rizal Park’s Quirino Grandstand for the consecration of the nation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, her 10-year-old son Diego asked her to go with him. No longer a churchgoer at that time, she was foot-dragging, until she conceded.

At home that night, she couldn’t keep from crying, and on night after night thence. She realized it was the reawakening of her faith—which eventually led her on several religious pilgrimages, causing not a few to scoff that she had become a fanatic.

Radio Veritas

When the snap presidential election came, she contacted Fr. James Reuter and asked how she could be useful. He assigned her to broadcast over Radio Veritas.

Keithley’s name has since been associated with that radio station. Many do not know she stayed there for only about two weeks and was even declared persona non grata there.

The management was nervous with her aggressive broadcasting style, and she reportedly had had shouting matches with the bishop manning the station.

Radyo Bandido

She later approached dzRH but was refused at the last minute. At the peak of Edsa I, the little girl’s voice was heard again over dzRJ (masquerading as Radyo Bandido).

Before starting that historic 14-hour broadcast, Keithley put “Mambo Magsaysay” on air, then ruminated over her fate in case Marcos’ military men barge in and arrest her and her two assistants, the prepubescent kids Gabe and Paolo Mercado.

She recalls: “As I sat before the console, I remember thinking, ‘When the men come, will they torture me? Will they do to me what they did to Nelia [Sancho] or Maita [Gomez]? Will they put me on a block of ice and laugh at all my cellulite? Will they rip my fingernails off and discover that I have layers of false fingernails? Will that make them even more angry?’”

She said a little prayer, and with that the revolution began.

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  • batangpaslit

    good piece

  • tlb6432

    Gen. Keithley indeed.. she deserves all the awards, the nation owes her a debt of gratitude.. she bet her life and won.. and found God in the process as well.. may God continue to comfort her and her family in their pain & suffering in this physical world..

  • dickperez

    My family and myself were already residing abroad when the “full force” of the “people power” came to play. We were of course glued to the TV every moment of the way – but what we were missing then are the “nitty-gritty” episodes like this which will certainly galvanized and reinforced our knowledge of that historic event in the Philippines.

  • iriga1_city1_boy1

    This woman(June Keithley)) is a hero. Isa siyang nagmamahal sa Bayan.Putting herself in danger so the Republic can go back to Democracy.What a character.
    From what i know( from Waltzing with a Dictator):While on the other hand(totally opposite),Imelda was partying,traveling ,and spending.Behind the Cultural Center,was Imelda’s Philippine Plaza.Consisting of 730 rooms,it was the most  expensive hotel out of 14 first class hotels that were  rushed into completion so the Marcoses could be hosts for the annual meeting of the World Bank  and International Monetary Fund.And these were  financed by Government loans.All the hotels were of Hong Kong,London and New York standards but were of ostentatious waste in the Philippines.The government spent at least $500 million on the hotels while only$13.3 million was spent for public housing(while the poor people lived in ramshackled outhouses and hovels).Because of kickbacks and windfall profits from the rushed construction,the cost per room was at least $1000,000,making it at the time the most expensive hotel ever built in the world.So, then no wonder(it’s one of the reasons) why the country had no money right after Aquino’s assassination.Walang Reserve,Walang Pondo.Therefore, Ongpin had to panhandle.
    Iyan ang nakakahiya!!

    • bagombong

       you should learn how to handle a visitors, supposed if you are a leader in one group and its your turn to host a meeting, what you’re going to do..as a leader you need to go for all options, you how important this peoples and also for your group to gain their trust whatever you need for your group…so don’t blame the CCP, this place is a good tourist spot at that time only to be destroy by those next leaders, they know that this proj. are peoples tax payers but they don’t know how to take care..they only care for there self.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/52MEXY4R54XXHD6EDVMQIJIAVI JoeyLito

        Talo na kayo.  Batas na ito.  Hindi lang Pilipinas ang nakakaalam niyan, maging ang mga husgado sa ibang bansa.  Kaya nga nagkaroon ng ganyan.  Pilit ka pa ring naninira.  Tapos na kayo.  May tipanan na kayo sa impiyernLumno.  Doon na lang kayo, BuloknaBong.

  • nakawan

    June Keithley’s voice was a Godsend during EDSA I. Her actions have made her iconic, and the warm guiding voice that the people adhered to in revolution. I wish her all the best.

  • Mattino2011

    What I remember is the decit that people to this day about enrile and ramos,, believe .. They already knew Marcos downfall was eminent so they plan it all to escape the wrath of the people, for the abuses during those days. The grand plan is to take advantage of that situation  be heores of EDSA instead.

  • Rolly257

    Taong bayan ang nagligtas kay Enrile, Ramos, at Honasan…pero sila pa rin mismo ang nagpapahirap hanggang sa kasalukuyan sa taong bayan. Sa bagsik ni Marcos, kundi man sila lumpo, luray-luray na na sila sa ngayon.

    • magiting78

      hehehehe nilulumot n sana mga buto nila…history n sana sila…hahahaha mga ganid s kapangyarihan kaya cla tumiwalag ki Macoy

  • 12JEM

    Thank you, June Keithley, Gen Keithley!

  • Karabukov

    God bless June Keithley.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/4EKSPU6WJ2RCLRXCYUU5YEGHFY Nani

    CIA girl. 

  • http://twitter.com/Olibo2 Olibo

    Sabi nga ni late Paeng Yabut (radyo announcer, at itinuring ding balimbing) “Pagkasamasama man ni Marcos, hindi niya ipinabomba ang mga tao sa Edsa.” So let’s move on, we learned so much from history. Mabuhay ang bagong henerasyong Pilipino!

    • bagombong

       ito ba ang bagong henerasyon na sinasabi mo, nagsulpotan ang mga corrupt na politiko, mga carnapper, kidnapper , bank robbery? if i’m not mistaken…ito nga ang bagong henerasyon na sinasabi mo.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/52MEXY4R54XXHD6EDVMQIJIAVI JoeyLito

        Isama mo ang sarili mo dahil malaki ang ginagawa mong paninira sa mga bagay ng gustong buuin ng lahing may pagpapahalaga sa bayan at kabayan.

      • bagombong

         pagpapahalaga, ang alin..sa mga corrupt na pumalit kay Marcos…na ipinaupo ng mga taong nag-rally noon.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/TI55XLCNTWAACFSQMEP3AOSHPA Mita

    June Keithley, that shrill but reassuring voice in the first few dark and uncertain hours of the People Power Revolution.  She was the Twitter master of her time, sending bits of information through the airwaves to keep nervous citizens updated.  As a young woman then, I remember it well.  She’s a hero.  May she be blessed with better health and a longer life.

    • bagombong

      June Keithley did is the biggest mistake that ever happened in Pinas…siguro nagsisisi ka rin, I know you expect a better PI of what you did at that time but it turns ugly, it was took over by a bunch of corrupt polticians na up to now they families is in charged.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/TI55XLCNTWAACFSQMEP3AOSHPA Mita

        I lived through those times so I don’t see them through ignorant or short-sighted eyes like yours. Nagisisi? On the contrary I’m happy because despite the corrupt GMA & Erap regimes that followed, the fruits of EDSA are still being felt today under PNoy’s administration despite negative people like you who don’t really know what they’re talking about.  Sayang.  Sana nag-comment ka nung Martial law para nakulong ka.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/52MEXY4R54XXHD6EDVMQIJIAVI JoeyLito

        Sa bawat kasaysayan talagang mayroong dimonyo…ba;t di ka magpirmi na lang sa impiyerno?

      • bagombong

         dapat yun mga naniniwala na gumanda ang Pinas sa panahon ni Cory hanggang kay Pnoy. ..pikit lang ang mata nyo kung di nyo nakikita kung gaano ka-grabe ng corruption at krimen sa lansangan…

  • lperido

    Question is , are we better off now than during the martial law days. Look around you, kahirapan, maruming paligid, maraming krimen, maraming corrupt officials. San ka pa ?

    • HoyGago

      Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly. Hindi pa tapos ang laban, yes, pero dude, we are definitely better off now than we were 27 years ago.

      • magiting78

        I guess we are far worst now than before…

    • bagombong

      dito na tayo…ginusto natin ito..di ba…dito sila masaya…napapaikotan ng krimen, holdapan, carnapping, bank robber, holdapan sa kalsada, akyat bahay gang, mga pulitikong corrupt..at saan ka pa…bailable lahat yan..kaya nga ito ang pinili natin…di ba? more fun in the Philippines ika nga..

      • magiting78

        Hehehehe time ni Macoy wala nyan hahaha its fun in Philippines mga tao kasi mga uto.uto. nag rally s Edsa ang 2-3 million na malenenyo akala nila buong bayan na, nakalimutan nila n 55 Million ang population by that time…nag rally ang 1 million tinanggal c Erap sabi buong bayan n hahaha that time 80+ million ang tao…wattttaaaa pack sheettt..

      • manks

        Alam mo b kung bakit wala sa news ang mga pinag sasabi mo??? Dahil ang gusto ni makoy non ay puro palabas lang na walang nakawan, patayan & etc… 

    • mcgaver

      If EDSA I did not happen. Who would you think is our dictator now?

      • magiting78

        If Ninoy was not assinated I guess the president now, its either Rocco or Meriam, but most likely its Meriam. may be there will be no Singapore, may be Philippines is the tiger economy of asia

    • huseng_batute

       Ask yourself this:  what would be our situation now if EDSA didn’t happen?

      • magiting78

        Far better, no communism, no MILF, No MNLF and no Abu Sayaff.. walang Jose Velarde, walang Mike Arroyo, at walang Jose Pedal…

      • puza65

        panahon ni marcos ng mag alsa ang mga npa..dahil kahit ang mga pc nila noon matitindi………

    • linobog

      Anong klaseng tao ka ba Iperido?  Gusto mo talaga si Marcos, Danding, Imelda, Benedicro, Lucio Tan,  Ongpin….. na angkinin ang lahat na negosyo na nagustohan nila, patayin ang lahat na kumakalaban sa kanila….

      • vin reyes

        masyado namang over yang laman ng utak mo..tindi mo talaga bogli..

    • magiting78

      Agreee…Kung buhay sana c Ninoy at hnd pinapatay ni enrile at danding malamang maunlad tau ngaun…Marcos said: No one could ever replace me but Ninoy” ayun nag jelly c tabako, JPE at cojuanco…

      • puza65

        Imelda at Ver…..

  • rjgc

    A woman worthy of emulation. Decent, strong.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MI7D3ZJ2EXOGDB2DLJQ5SSVBKI Bartolome

    we will never forget

  • andrew lim

    We remember what you did for us, Miss Keithley! thank you so much!

  • bagombong

    Okey lang mag-recalling during EDSA revolution if there sacrifice turn up good. So stop this occasion we always celebrate…its non sense, what we did is we created a bunch of corrupt politicians and they always use Marcos as there excuses kasi tatanga tanga tayo sa pagkakaalam nila…basta mabanggit lang ang pangalan Marcos alam nila lusot na sila sa pagnanakaw nila… for god sake..30 years na lumala ang lagay natin hindi lang yan…pati mga kamag-anak at mga ana, kapatid nila nasa gobyerno na sila…yun sinasabi nilang 30 billions dollar na ninakaw ni Marcos ay ganyan lang kalaki ang utang ng Pinas sa world bank, na mahirap paniwalaan ang mga sinasabi nila…ngayon nasa more than 300 billion.kaya tigilan na yan celebration na yan…alaala noon EDSA..ngekngek nyo..

    • gmaisthebestpresident

      Tingin mo kaya kung hindi nangyari ang EDSA revolution eh makakapagcomment ka dito! malamang hindi dahil takot kang maaresto ng militar!!!! 

      • magiting78

        Oo naman, baka kung hnd nangyari ang edsa at hnd pinapatay ni enrile at cojuanco c ninoy baka hnd tau nag hihirap ngaun.

      • jurbinsky77

        Ang fake na bayaning si ferdie marcos ang nagpahirap sa bayan.

    • mcgaver

      Better yet kung wla EDSA, makapag internet ka pa kaya.

      • magiting78

        Oo naman.

    • linobog

      Ayaw ni bagombong na i-celebrate ang EDSA dahil isa siya sa mga cronies ni Marcos.  Ayaw niya na maala-ala pa ang happy days niya sa panahon ni Marcos.  

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ISI5ZPUIISNT25JPGAMSAWGBPA dream_waker

      kunwari ka pa eh nasa amerika ka wala ka alam dito sa pinas.. pa ubos na ba ninakaw nyo nung panahon ni Marcos?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/52MEXY4R54XXHD6EDVMQIJIAVI JoeyLito

      bakit may bakas ng marcos ang pangalan mo?  kaya siguro ganyan ang katwiran mo, di kaya?

  • vin reyes

    bakit walang balita ang inquirer sa ginanap na anibersaryo ng people power sa edsa kaninang umaga? 

    • mulanay

      Ikaw na lang kaya magbalita, vin reyes. Bakit kailangan pang ang Inquirer eh marami silang inaatupag. Game na. Dito mo na ipost.

  • andresa igbac

    You may be in physical pain now Ms June Keithley. But don’t worry, I’m sure the Lord has the best plans for you, for all that you did for the love of your country, the Philippines. 

  • boybakal

    Social at radical pala si June Keithly….di ko alam yon ah. Ang alam ko may cancer siya.

    • jurbinsky77

      Bakalin kaya kita.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/52MEXY4R54XXHD6EDVMQIJIAVI JoeyLito

        Palagay ko maraming matutuwa sa yo.  Bakbakan mo nang husto taga-impiyerno naman yata yan.

  • Adam_d_langgam

    more of these   …. those who did not experience martial law should learn about that dark chapter of our history.  some of the scoundrels are still around and prancing like peacocks – as if they did not contribute to the destruction of the philippines.  enrile and gringo just to name a couple.  these two jerks caused the country billions in losses and making cory’s administration a lameduck gov’t.  not to say that cory was a good president. 

    but let the young people know of the characters that played big roles to topple the lamented marcos regime.  so many of these unsung heroes. 

    • puza65

      wala na sila laglag na si enrile at honasan at malamang mawala sa pagka senate president si lolo juan…unti unti nagigising na ang mga tao….

  • xuaeenr

    We are eternally grateful for your sacrifices Ms. Keithley! God bless and may the Lord guide you and your family thru this challenge.

  • jurbinsky77

    Defense Secretary Fidel Castro gave a salute to Ms. June Keithley for the job well-done during that fateful EDSA I. I wish I can do the same gesture to Ms Keithley. For whatever it’s worth, I for one has elevated her in my heart. I feel her sorrows and I wish her more joy and peace at heart.

    • andresa igbac

       “Defense Secretary Fidel Castro gave…” So, sa Cuba ba eto? or sa Cubao, EDSA nangyari? heheheh. Joke lang, mr/ms castro, este mr/ms jurbinsky.

  • boybakal

    June Keithley: ‘Sosyal’ turns Radical…or in local lingo Jefroks….

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/52MEXY4R54XXHD6EDVMQIJIAVI JoeyLito

      Nasaan ka ba noong panahong yon?  Parang bale wala sa yo ang paglilingkod ng mga kabayan sa panahon ng pangangailangan.  Tinutuya mo pa nga. 

      • manks

        Si Bakalboy??? Andon sa malacanang at panay Modhi sa witpu ni Makoy… Hehehehe

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/52MEXY4R54XXHD6EDVMQIJIAVI JoeyLito

    Siya ang hero namin sa kasagsagan ng EDSA heroism.  Nasa Jeddah International Market kami nang tanungin sa interbyu ng isang taga-SAUDI GAZETTE kung ano ang gusto naming gawin ngayon dahil sa nangyayari sa Pilipinas.  Sumagot ang isa, gusto naming umuwi para tulungan ang mga nasa Camp Crame, bigyan niyo kami ng armas.  Nagpalakpakan ang lahat, sabay na may nagmumura against martial law at may sumisigaw ng Mabuhay ang Pilipinas.

  • dequis

    si bong lapira kaya, nasan na. at sa kabila si dada lorenzana nasan na rin kaya.

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