MANILA, Philippines?Hers was a campus life spent mostly at late night parties and drinking sprees, waking up the next day with a nasty hangover. Still, she got good grades.
Kemberly Jul Luna?s binges seemed normal for someone studying at a state university, living alone but often surrounded by friends drawn by her natural charm and intelligence, who fondly called her ?Kimay.?
The 21-year-old Kemberly, however, traded her little comforts for the cold and the unknown world in the mountains of Bukidnon. There, her small joys and miseries were easily swallowed up by the people?s wretchedness; it became easy for her to redeem herself from old habits that were slowly causing her decay.
She was doing well with the peasants of Bukidnon, her friends thought, until that fateful day when a bullet pierced her right breast and went through her nape in Sitio Bulacao, Barangay Concepcion, City of Valencia. It was 10 days before Christmas.
Gun battle lasted for days
Army Maj. Michelle Anayron, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division, said Kemberly was killed in an encounter with soldiers belonging to the 8th Infantry Battalion.
?The soldiers were on foot patrol when they chanced upon the NPA encampment,? Anayron said. The gun battle, which started at 10 a.m., lasted for days, he added.
Kemberly died a member of the communist New People?s Army (NPA). She was Adriane, Joshua, or Ma?am Nurse to the people she had worked with in the highlands.
Her body, already rotting, was found dumped, along with seven other guerrillas, deep in the forest of Concepcion, days after the Dec. 15 encounter.
Kemberly was an AB English student at Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) before she joined the communist movement in early 2009.
A mix of charm, bravery
Mark Jason Tan Cesar, spokesperson of the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights (Stand-MSU-IIT), remembers Kemberly as a merry mixture of charm and bravery.
?She was really beautiful and surprisingly brave and determined. She was not scared to speak her mind out. She was a risk-taker,? Cesar said of Kemberly, a former ad hoc chair of the university?s student opposition party.
Kemberly was popular on campus not only because of her physical attributes and intelligence, but also because of her flair for music and dance. She was once a member of the university?s cultural dance group Kalimulan.
She was doing well in her studies. She was a high school valedictorian back in her hometown of Tubod, Surigao del Norte.
?But her ultimate dream was to serve the people?the poor ? the masses,? Cesar said.
In her Friendster account ?shoutout? last updated on Dec. 12, 2008, Kemberly quoted Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong: ?It is man?s social being that determines his thinking?once the correct ideas and characteristics of the advanced class are grasped by the masses, these ideas turn into a material force which changes society and the world.?
Her heart for the poor and the oppressed could have been influenced by her involvement with the Catholic Center Campus Ministry as a leader of its educational committee.
?There, amidst the daily Masses, boarding house meetings and other activities, she concluded that faith without action is dead. She always sought ways to show that her Christian faith will not be confined to empty words and prayers, but will be brought out to the real world and be coupled with relevant action based on concrete conditions,? said a statement by Stand-MSU-IIT.
?She believed that faith should not be a lifeless dogma. She believed that just like Jesus, one must bring faith to serving the people?without thought of oneself. And just like Jesus, to die in service of the poor and oppressed,? the group added.
But even when she was active with the ministry, she still lived a happy-go-lucky life. Not that she was not serious in her involvement, but because she was not really that ?politically awakened.?
Kemberly?s ministry work helped her see the realities surrounding the poor and the oppressed, but her political maturity started when she became involved with the League of Filipino Students (LFS). She joined the militant group in February 2008.
?Kimay?s remolding inside the LFS was different. It was so fast that it surprised many of those who knew her. The drinking and the parties were replaced by her attendance at meetings and discussions on the political situation in the country,? said Gary Ben Villocino, LFS MSU-IIT chair.
?Inside the organization, she was able to realize many things and most of her time she already devoted to going to communities and living with the people. And we were all surprised that the things that she used to do she suddenly was not doing ? no more nights out and drinks for her,? he said.
Her exposure to the plight of the poor and victims of human rights violations took a more serious turn when she joined the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission in October.
Her decision came shortly after fresh fighting broke out between government soldiers and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels following the failed signing of a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD).
Opposition to US presence
?She was part of the local secretariat and headed the area preparation committee in Poona Piagapo, one of the target municipalities for the mission. Daring as always, Kimay did not hesitate entering the war-torn village of Tagoranao to uncover the effects of indiscriminate aerial bombing and militarization in the area,? Villocino said.
Kemberly also convinced one of the victims to testify on what had happened in the conflict areas in Lanao, Villocino said.
She became active in opposing the government?s war policy and the intervention and presence of American troops in farmers? and Moro communities in Mindanao.
?Kemberly was a very good example to her comrades and to the people around her. She showed youthful fervor and gave her heart to everything she did inside the organization,? Villocino said.
Helping peasants big time
During the second semester of 2008, Kemberly informed her friends that she was resigning from Stand-MSU-IIT for a full-time work organizing peasants with Kasama-Bukidnon.
?There was no stopping her,? Cesar said.
And in January last year, after a short Christmas visit to her family, she went straight to Bukidnon.
?In August 2009, we received a letter from her saying that she left Kasama-Bukidnon, but did not say where she went to and that she was happy where she was at that time, and that she had learned to love the peasant masses more with each day she lived with them,? Villocino said.
Kemberly, he said, shared her experiences with the communities ?from helping the peasants harvest corn to teaching them to read and write and do a little arithmetic, since literacy in the area is extremely low.?
?She was also known to the people in the community as a health worker, often called as Ma?am Nurse,? Villocino said.
For the LFS, Kemberly died an honorable death.
?She died because she fought for what she believes in until the very last minute of her life. She chose the path of armed struggle, firmly believing that there is no greater form of struggle to advance the interests of the toiling masses,? the group said.
A Facebook note on her death is filled with comments that both honored her and her war?both from people who knew her and also for those who believed in what she fought for.
?It?s painful to know that yet another freedom fighter has fallen while fighting for the people. But no matter how painful this is, I will not shed a tear because there is time for that. And it is history that will end the chain of bullets ? and as we grieve, we continue the struggle toward victory,? one said.
Another said: ?She has not died. She will continue to live among us who relentlessly continue the revolution.?
And still another said that the blood of Kemberly ?will nurture the burning passion in us to serve the poor and the oppressed.?