She died in her sleep on July 12, 2012. She left with no warning. Her friends, colleagues, journalists and sisters in the women’s movement wrote and edited the book Maita, Remembering Ka Dolor, which was published November 2013.
Maita Gomez is a makabayan, a patriot. She was also known as a beauty queen although she hated to talk about her beauty pageant days. She was animated in telling about her guerilla life. For Maita what defined her is service to the country and the people. –Judy Taguiwalo and Elisa Tita P. Lubi, editors, Maita, Remembering Ka Dolor
The book contains precious photos of Maita Gomez, a former Miss Philippines (Miss World representative) who chose to go underground to change things in the Philippines. She left her bourgeois life to become a woman warrior of the New People’s Army.
What brings back wonderful memories in this book is the essay of writer Gilda Cordero Fernando, who wrote about Maita as an insider. She actually Tells the stories of the women’s organizations set up to destroy the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos. Maita, whom Gilda Fernando calls the suprema was a founder of WOMB (Women for the Ouster of Marcos and Boycott) and the head of the Metro Manila chapter of GABRIELA, the women’s federation led by Nelia Sancho, a former Miss Asia Pacific.
One of their main projects was the “State of the Nation Fashion Show.” Top-rated fashion designers Auggie Cordero, Ernest Santiago, Bumbee Ramos and others (some of whom were secret activists) donated the costumes. Each WOMB model represented an issue against the dictatorship. Maita had the “ibagsak cape.” She brought down the house, modeling an honest to goodness white silk gown whose long, long red cape when unrolled showed the slogan “Diktadurang US-MARCOS Ibagsak!” (Down with the US-Marcos dictatorship!)
Maita: Remembering Ka Dolor not only gives us a perspective of Maita Gomez herself, but it is also a look into the women’s movement in the Philippines at the time of Marcos and how women activists dealt with issues facing them.
It has marvelous poems from friends and sisters in the movement like Sonny San Juan, Pia Montalban and Joi Barrios.
In his eulogy, Bonifacio Ilagan said that it was hard to hide Maita in the underground because of her supermodel looks. When the unit marched in the countryside, one would notice her because she was very tall, way above the shoulders of the short guerillas.
Maita and Ilagan talked about writing a film on the movement martyr Maria Lorena Barros. But they never got to do it.
Ilagan who was asked to make a musical on Maita Gomez writes, “I need to do a hell of a research, make a list of people to ask about you… Maita, dear friend, dearest comrade … I would have wanted you to wake up. There are many more beautiful exciting tasks to do for the people, for the revolution … In your memory, they must be done.”
Maita’s son, Anak ng Bayan youth activist Michael Beltran, writes that he understood everything his mother had said when he became involved in the national democratic movement. “We trusted each other more and were open, willing to help each other in our respective endeavors.”
This book is not just about Maita but also about how Filipino women struggled to empower themselves to radically transform their lives and fight for freedom.
We learn of the activist’s courage from the articles and essays of Behn Cervantes, Thelma Sioson San Juan, Norma Japitana and Marra Pl. Lanot.
As activist Mother Mary John Mananzan says, “Her life is a model for young women of today to have a vision for society, to concretely live one’s life principles and to have the courage in the difficult struggle for the radical transformation of society.”
Maita: Remembering Ka Dolor is published by GABRIELA and Tanggol Bayi. It is printed by Raintree Trading & Publishing, Inc. The book costs 280 pesos available at Popular Bookstore, Mt. Cloud bookstore in Baguio City and Tanggol Bayi office in the Philippines.
Fe P. Koons is a freelance writer in Carson, California. She writes for Philippine Mabuhay News, Philippine Tribune, Asian Journal and Weekend BALITA. She is a founding member of WOMEN (Women Writers in Media Now) based in Manila, Philippines.