Philippine economy

Tejada family finds cause in Kristel’s death

Buena Bernal

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The Tejada family marched with militant sympathizers and called for greater state subsidy for education
JUSTICE FOR KRISTEL. Christopher and Blesilda Tejada lead the march at Lawton, Manila. Photo by Rafael Ligsay

MANILA, Philippines – They found a cause in the death of their daughter and sister Kristel Tejada — calling for greater government subsidy for education. 

On Friday, March 22, a day before the burial of the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila student, the Tejada family marched with sympathizers from UP Manila to Lawton in Manila calling for greater state subsidy for education and the resignation of key UP Manila officials.

They wore Kristel’s favorite color — red — that blended with the color of the militant sympathizers. 

Most of the marchers were student activists who were earlier criticized for displays of outrage and attention-grabbing organized action. Relatives, friends, fellow UP students, and supporters also joined to pay their last respects.

Sa mga panahong ito, bagsak kami. Pero ‘pag nakikita mo na ang daming nagmamahal sa anak mo, ang daming nagmamahal kay Kristel, nakakagaan sya talaga ng pakiramdam,” said Blesilda ‘Bles’ Tejada, mother of the 16-year old Tejada. (In these times, we are downtrodden. But when you see the love poured out for your child, for Kristel, it eases the pain)

RED MARCH. Activists march in red, Kristel Tejada's favorite color. Photo by Rafael Ligsay

Young people, mostly members of the Kabataan Partylist and the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), accompanied the family back to the funeral house in Sta. Cruz, Manila for the last night of Kristel’s wake.

Para akong nagkaroon ng dagdag na mga anak (It’s like I gained new kids),” Bles said. 

Kristel’s letter

At the wake, a letter Kristel supposedly wrote appealing for financial assistance from a Manila city councilor was prominently displayed.

In the letter, Kristel said in Filipino that education was the “only treasure” of the poor.

KRISTEL'S LETTER. An appeal for financial assistance before the UP Manila student took her own life, reportedly over failure to pay tuition on time. Photo by Rafael Ligsay

After failing to pay her tuition, Tejada filed for leave of absence (LOA) at UP Manila a day before she took her own life.

At the time of Kristel’s death, UP Manila was enforcing a “no late payment” policy. The policy required students to pay their full tuition fee on a specified date otherwise their names are removed from classlists and are advised to apply for LOA.

UP President Alfredo Pascual has already lifted the widely criticized policy, a day after UP Manila Chancellor Manuel Agulto announced to the media that he did not feel guilty over Tejada’s death.

In lifting the “no late payment” policy, the UP administration admitted that the UP Code which was the basis for said policy is archaic and inflexible.

A cultural night and overnight vigil, initially set at Mendiola, will be held at the University of the Philippines Diliman on Friday, March 22 by the “Justice for Kristel!” alliance. –

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