As a teenager returning to the Philippines with his family, Emmanuel Yap was unprepared for the contrast between the comfortable life that he had experienced in America and the underdevelopment and poverty that he found in his native country.
Manny Yap’s childhood had been spent in New York City, where his father served for 12 years on the United Nations Human Rights Commission. (Pedro Yap would be appointed to the Supreme Court after the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986, and named chief justice by President Corazon Aquino in 1988, although he served for only two and a half months before retiring upon reaching the age of 70.)
A well-mannered, likable boy with a mature intelligence, Yap worked hard to overcome the handicap of being a newcomer and not being fluent in Filipino. At the Ateneo high school, he excelled in academics (graduating salutatorian) as well as in extracurricular activities.
As a student in economics at the Ateneo de Manila University, Yap’s record showed the same pattern of high marks – graduating magna cum laude – accompanied by meaningful involvement in activities outside the classroom. This time he was drawn into organizing for social reform. In 1969, he joined a school project doing community work in the slums of Sapang Palay, bringing food and used clothing, and starting discussion groups among the residents. He wanted to understand their life situation by actually trying to live with them. It was a logical development stemming from his parents’ social concern and political awareness, as well as a missionary spirit imbibed from mentors in the Jesuit school.
With the establishment of the student-activist organization Lakasdiwa, Yap became active in its education department. He familiarized himself with political theory, organized study groups, at the same time conducting relief operations in assisting victims of the strong typhoon that hit Central Luzon in 1970. In the process – deeper study of politics and ideology, side by side with interaction with poor communities and activists of a more radical stripe – Yap realized the limitations of his reform orientation. A rift developed within Lakasdiwa, which was to see the emergence of a more radical group with Yap as its secretary-general.
When the country fell under martial law, Yap continued his schooling by pursuing a master’s program at the University of the Philippines School of Economics. While leading a seemingly normal life, however, Yap had joined an underground anti-dictatorship network. He would see his family from time to time, but mostly kept away from their residence in order to evade military surveillance.
On February 14, 1976, Valentine’s Day, the Yap family marked the occasion by having lunch together in a restaurant as they had been doing in the past. After lunch, Manny was dropped off at a street corner; the understanding was that 10 minutes later he would be there to receive the bunch of flowers that he had asked to be bought for him to give away to friends.
When the family car returned with the roses 10 minutes later, Manny was not there. But his family didn’t worry too much about it, until they received an anonymous telephone call a few days later, informing them that he had been picked up by the military and that he had been brought to Camp Crame.
His family did everything to look for him but Manny Yap has never been found.
PARENTS Pedro L. Yap and Flora del Rosario
Elementary: New York City public school, New York, USA
Secondary: Ateneo de Manila University
College: Ateneo de Manila
Postgraduate: University of the Philippines Diliman