MANILA, Philippines -- How do you celebrate Father's Day when your tatay has been missing for 16 months and you have no idea if he is still alive? Lorena ?Aya? Santos, 25, a human rights worker whose father was abducted in Cagayan de Oro City on February 19, 2007, wrote down her feelings in a letter addressed to her missing father.
?I feel and I believe that he is still alive,? Santos told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, sharing her sentiments about her missing father, Leo Velasco, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in the stalled peace process with the government.
Her only ?contact? with Velasco, she said, were through her dreams. Though infrequent, the dreams keep her hopeful that he would eventually be found.
?Most of my dreams about him were happy ones -- the times we were together. There were some where he seemed to be bidding us goodbye. There's this scary one where he looked as if he had just been tortured and could barely stand because of his injuries,? Santos recounted.
Being with other children whose parents disappeared also helped her go on with her life, she said.
?I'm amazed by the effect of being with others who are also longing for their parents. We seem to sense when someone is depressed and then we all rush to cheer him or her up,? she related.
On Sunday, Santos and her brother, Francis Anthony, along with close relatives, will hold a Father's Day lunch -- reminiscent of the ?food trips? they enjoyed as a family when Velasco was still around -- at Camp Crame, where their mother, Elizabeth Principle, also an NDFP consultant, is detained.
Admitting she's a ?daddy's girl,? Santos said her father instilled in her independence, self-confidence, and a sense of responsibility.
She also remembered the last time she spent time with her father -- she had a personal problem and they had a heart-to-heart talk.
?He did not say 'do this' or 'do that.' He said he trusted me and that I'll eventually succeed whatever decision I make. He said I'm mature enough,? she said.
A staff of the human rights group Karapatan (Rights), Santos devotes part of her time looking for her father and working for her mother's release. Assisted by Karapatan lawyers, she and her brother have asked the Supreme Court to issue a writ of habeas corpus and a writ of amparo for their parents.
Hearings for their petitions are being conducted periodically at the Court of Appeals.
Santos blames the military for Velasco's disappearance. She said there were several people who witnessed the abduction but they were too afraid to testify.
?I also went from one military camp to the next looking for him,? she said.
Santos said she was happy that her parents raised her and her brother aware of the realities of Philippine society, which made them understand and form their own views.
She said her father was a great influence and this was evident in her work at Karapatan, where she and other members have been voicing out concerns on the rights of political detainees and the fate of desaparecidos.
?We remember our father by honoring the principles he has been fighting for,? Santos said.
She said the families of the disappeared have been finding fulfillment not only by keeping the memory of their loved ones alive but also by working to make sure that what happened to them would not happen to others.