MANILA, Philippines?At least in their dreams, they get to be reunited with their loved ones who have been missing for years.
Ipe Soco, a 22-year-old University of the Philippines student, said his mother often appeared to him in his dreams since she disappeared without a trace three years ago.
?She would come to the house and yet I don?t know what to tell her,? said Soco, a creative writing student. Sometimes, she would just be going about her usual household chores.
He said his mother Gloria would appear to him in his dreams at least once a month.
Ipe was among the estimated 150 relatives and supporters who Sunday marched to the Chino Roces Bridge (formerly Mendiola) to commemorate the International Day of the Disappeared.
Also among the marchers was Winston Balao, 45. His elder brother, James, a cofounder of the Cordillera People?s Alliance, has been missing since Sept. 17 last year.
Another marcher was Flora Cedro, 61, whose husband Armando was abducted by armed men from their home 21 years ago.
Winston said his brother had also appeared frequently in his dreams.
In Winston?s latest dream of him last month, James was at the office of the school paper in University of the Philippines Baguio, where the elder brother had studied.
James looked well and told him in their brief conversation that he was ?OK,? Winston said.
?Even in my wife?s recent dream, nothing bad has happened to James,? he said.
?Walang paramdam (No hint at all of what has happened to him). Old folks in Cordillera say that if anything wrong had happened, you would be made to feel it,? he said.
Winston said he took his dreams of his brother to be a ?really good sign.?
Ipe Soco and Winston Balao said their dreams had given them hope that their loved ones were still alive.
James was abducted allegedly by the police and military.
Not all of Sunday?s marchers had had pleasant dreams as Soco and Balao.
Soco said some families were distraught by dreams of their missing relatives ?being tortured, being beaten.?
That was the theme of a brief speech Soco gave on top of a beat-up vehicle that served as a makeshift stage at Sunday?s rally.
?We wish to dream about them, to be with them even just in our dreams. But what, if in our dreams, they are tortured? You see your loved ones in anguish?? Soco said in Filipino, crying into the microphone as he held a poster bearing his mother?s image.
Still, the relatives?wives, parents, siblings, and children?haven?t lost hope.
Sunday, in front of St. Anthony and Our Lady of Loreto churches in Legarda, Manila, they gathered to call on the Arroyo administration to ?surface? those who had been allegedly abducted by state security forces.
Jonas, UP students
The groups that marched on Mendiola were led by Edita Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos, and Erlinda Cadapan and Concepcion Empeño, mothers of UP activists Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, who have been missing since 2006.
Jonas Burgos, son of the late press freedom icon Joe Burgos, was abducted in a Quezon City mall on April 28, 2007.
Empeño, a sociology student doing research on the conditions of Bulacan farmers, and Cadapan, a human kinetics student and community organizer for a farmers group, were seized by armed men in the early morning of June 26, 2006, from their rented house in Hagonoy, Bulacan.
As in past annual remembrances of the disappeared, tears were part of the rally.
Balao and Soco were misty-eyed when they talked about their missing loved ones.
Tears and resolve
Cedro, 61, burst into tears at the thought that her husband might already be dead. She said she always tried to attend the Aug. 31 rallies every year despite her failing health.
The tears mingled with the relatives? resolve to find out the truth about what happened to their loved ones and to be actively involved in the search for them.
Until their relatives vanished, Soco and Balao had not belonged to any organized groups.
Now, Soco is working for the group Desaparecidos (the Disappeared) that is involved in the search. He is saving up the allowance he gets from the group for his matriculation at UP.
The missing Gloria Soco was not even a member of any leftwing organization, her son said.
She was abducted along with her uncle, Prudencio Calubid, a consultant of the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), on Jan. 26, 2006.
She had wanted to visit her ailing father, Cipriano, who was the NDFP consultant?s brother, and had hitched a ride with Calubid, who was on his way to his house in Camarines Norte. That was when the abduction occurred.
Cipriano died without knowing his daughter had been missing, Soco said.
Balao said his family was thankful to local and international groups pressuring the government to do something about his brother?s disappearance.
He said a German organization, called Monday Movement, had been sending e-mail to the Office of the President and other government agencies to remind them that James Balao was still missing.
Other militant groups that took part in the rally were Bayan Muna, Anak Pawis, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Gabriela, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, Health Alliance for Democracy, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, and Alliance of Concerned Teachers.
Before marching on Mendiola, they assembled at Plaza Bustillos, where the ralliers said three Bayan Muna members?Joseph Gonzales, Mario Detroz, and Rolando Comiso?were abducted by armed men on Aug. 18, 2004, in broad daylight.
Ringing golden hand bells, the militants sought justice for the 207 victims of what they called ?enforced disappearance? since 2001, when Gloria President Macapagal-Arroyo took office.
Desaparecidos secretary general Lorena Santos said: ?These hundreds of bells ring out a warning to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Her immunity will soon be over and we, families of victims of enforced disappearance, will get the justice we deserve. She will pay the price for her crimes against the people.?
Santos? father, Leo Velasco, has remained missing since he was abducted in Cagayan de Oro City on Feb. 19, 2007. With a report from Jeannette I. Andrade