activist groups in PH

Kal Peralta was the radical change she wished to see in the world

Jairo Bolledo

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Kal Peralta was the radical change she wished to see in the world
For her friends, Kal Peralta embodies the prominent line, 'a woman's place is in the revolution'

MANILA, Philippines – If you peek at Kaliska Dominica “Kal” Peralta’s face, a wide smile partnered with two deep dimples are the first things you will notice. People close to her knew that hiding behind this endearing face were qualities that made Kal a model activist of her generation: hardworking, easy-going, and resourceful.

Regrettably, the world had to say goodbye to Kal’s delightful presence. Her life was cut short at 33 when military forces killed her in Bukidnon.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Eastern Mindanao Command claimed Peralta was killed in an encounter between rebel forces and the Philippine Army on April 11. However, several groups said Peralta was unarmed when she was slain.

In a statement, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chief information officer Marco Valbuena said Peralta, also known as “Ka Rekka,” was unarmed when she was taken by law enforcers on April 10. Valbuena said Peralta was brought to another part of Bukidnon, where she was allegedly shot and killed.

The CCP official added that local witnesses said there was no gun battle, contrary to the “encounter” claims of the military.

“The killing of Ka Rekka after she was accosted is clearly unlawful and constitutes a gross violation of international humanitarian law. We support calls for an independent investigation into the killing of Ka Rekka. A postmortem examination of her remains will hopefully reveal more information,” Valbuena added.

Gabriela Women’s Party also said Peralta’s death certificate contradicted the military’s claim of “encounter” because the so-called operation happened on April 11, while Peralta’s death was on April 10, as indicated in the certificate. Gabriela added there were marks of torture and abuse on Peralta’s body.

To pay tribute, Peralta’s family, friends, colleagues, and other activists gathered at Cine Adarna in University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman on Saturday, April 20. They held a program to honor the slain activist and call for justice in light of her untimely death.

Soft-hearted, loving friend

Peralta entered UP Diliman to study film under the College of Mass Communication (CMC). She headed the League of Filipino Students in UP Diliman and STAND-UP CMC, according to the Philippine Collegian. She also loved playing softball as a varsity athlete in her university days.

For her friends, Peralta was a selfless person who was ready to lend her hand at all times. Rochelle Porras is two years older than Peralta, but according to her, it was the late activist who helped her survive college.

As a broadcast communication student, Porras said she struggled with lack of equipment for her school requirements. But Peralta, without hesitation, lent her camera and laptop from time to time to Porras. A simple gesture for some, but for Porras, it was one of her greatest memories with her late friend.

So in a way, hindi rin talaga ako papasa ng college, makakatapos, kung hindi ako gano’n ding tinunulungan ni Kal (So in a way, I would not pass college, finish it, if Kal did not help me in that way).”

Sarah Torres first met Peralta when she was applying for a school organization, where Peralta was a senior member at the time. Time passed by and the two became closer. As Torres got to know her dear friend, she said she met a person who was very loving and expressed love in different forms. If you knew Peralta, Sarah said you will meet a person who was both strong-willed and soft-hearted.

Peralta was also generous in sharing her mind and principles to others.

“[LGBTQIA+] and religion ‘yong dalawang bagay na siya ‘yong una kong nakausap nang masinsinan about it. Kaya noon pa man, formative years ko sa college, malaki na ‘yong impact niya sa akin (LGBTQIA+ and religion where the first two things we talked deeply about. So even then, during my formative years in college, she had a big impact on my life),” Torres told Rappler.

Kal, the radical

Porras said the funny story behind her friend’s interest in LFS was because she had a crush on one of the speakers in an event organized by the group. But despite her simple reason for wanting to join the anti-imperialist organization, Peralta later established herself in the organization as one of its prized members, and then later as a leader.

In fact, there was time when the membership of their LFS chapter dwindled down to a handful, giving birth to their inside joke “League of Five Students.” But Peralta and her colleagues persevered and revived the organization.

Peralta’s father, a teacher, is progressive. In fact, he took part in the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution that toppled down Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship. Her father’s deep social awareness could be among the factors why Peralta was progressive herself. This was evident in Peralta’s awareness of societal gaps even at a young age, Porras said.

The organizations she joined, LFS included, also played vital roles in shaping Peralta as a progressive student leader. But Porras said her friend was her own person too, who was committed to understand and address the problems of society.

As a student, Peralta always wanted to study about concrete conditions of society: why there are marginalized and vulnerable sectors, and what makes them marginalized and vulnerable. Porras said her friend was always eager to know the importance of fighting against imperialist ideals.

For her friends, Peralta was the embodiment of the prominent line, “a woman’s place is in the revolution.”

Every time she led mobilizations, Porras said her friend made sure she brought all her principles and calls for real change with her. This leadership and passion to bring change transcended the corners of UP Diliman; Peralta immersed herself within the community.

She actively advocated for the rights of Lumads, who are being pushed away from their ancestral lands. The CPP also remembered Peralta as someone who “[dedicated] her life to serving the oppressed and exploited masses.”

Pagmamahal…sa bayan. ‘Yon pala talaga ‘yong ibig sabihin ng radikal. So kung may maikili [akong] mensahe sa kabataan, maging radikal tayo magmahal, ‘wag tayong matakot na magsilbi sa pinakaaping sektor ng lipunan. Ito siguro ‘yong ibig sabihin ng pagiging iskolar ng bayan,” Porras said.

(Love for country. This is what being radical means. So if I have a short message for the youth, let’s love radically, and be not afraid to serve the most oppressed sector of the society. This is I think what people’s scholar means.) –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.