No Little Woman: Lorena “Laurie” Barros

“This is Laurie, the woman, wife, mother and leader. She will live on and on, and there will be more like her, there must be, because only through them will the country be able to stand erect and truly free.

This is Laurie the baby, whose lullaby song was Bayan ko. Laurie, the little girl, who always had compassion in her heart for the beggars and stray waifs in the streets, Laurie the adolescent raised to awareness of her country’s sorry plight, Laurie the sweet girl, so soft-spoken until she raised her voice to shout “Makibaka!”[1]

A local feminist icon, Laurie has become one of the most revered activist leaders to go against the Marcos dictatorship. Born Maria Lorena Morelos Barros in Baguio City, on March 18, 1948, she was nicknamed Laurie, after her mother, Alicia Morelos’ favorite character in the classic novel, Little Women.[2]

Being an unconstrained woman was not a foreign concept in Laurie’s family. Her mother, Alicia, was a member of the Hukbalahap and a granddaughter of a Katipunero.[3] She writes that as an infant, Laurie would lay for hours in her crib with a clenched left fist above her heart. Laurie’s relatives agreed that this seemingly carefree gesture was a foreshadowing of her growing up to become a fighter.[4]

Before Laurie took to the streets, she spent much of her youth as a naturally curious child, asking her family perplexing questions about nature and time; about things both physical and abstract. Her family willingly indulged the young child, knowing it would be to her benefit. At an early age, Laurie had the privilege to be taken out on trips, fueling her inquisitiveness as a natural observer. She showed compassion for the beggars she met outdoors, and wondered why they had to beg.[5]

Laurie with her mother Alicia. Date unknown. Photo and caption retrieved from the MA. LORENA M. BARROS (1948-1976) Facebook page at

Going into a formal path of education, Laurie was first enrolled in a private kinder class and exhibited aptitude all the way through grade school, being a consistent honor student.[6] She continued to excel as a high school student and scholar at the Far Eastern University, and was often either president or vice president of multiple organizations.[7] Laurie graduated high school as an honor student and was awarded a gold medal for creative writing, an accolade that had its roots in her days writing poems at the age of ten.[8]

Laurie went full circle with her education. Her natural curiosity with the outdoors continued to radiate as she graduated with cum laude honors from the Anthropology program of the University of the Philippines in 1970.[9] She then enrolled in masteral courses at UP, worked as a teacher, and got her poems and essays featured in various publications. Laurie’s leadership qualities continued to manifest themselves as she presided over the UP Writers Club as President.[10]

Student life for Laurie was an immersion in activism. She came to the understanding that the colonial mentality had been so deeply ingrained in the Filipinos by their colonizers, and that capitalism in the Philippines was yet another form of obeisance to a dominant foreign power. Seeing this, she declared that the Filipino people were not truly free.[11] Immersing herself in eye-opening political literature and exposure trips to provincial areas, Laurie concluded that a government’s power must come from the people, not to be possessed by only a select few leaders. She thought that a future like this could uplift the masses and shape the rest of the nation.[12]

Another realization Laurie had was the hindrance Filipino women were experiencing due to disorganization.[13]  In her writings, Laurie states her stance:

“We are suffering from a feudal sense of values in which women are considered adjuncts of the home — for the children, for the kitchen and for the bed…We are not trying to put down these traditional roles, we just want more active involvement from the Filipino women.”[14]

After participating in group studies with various democratic movements, Laurie established MAKIBAKA (Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan) in July 1969, and led the group as its first Chairperson. MAKIBAKA sought to fight for women’s liberation within the context of the struggle against foreign power and class inequality.[15] MAKIBAKA branched out into chapters throughout the country, in factories, in villages, and even in private schools for girls.[16] MAKIBAKA led numerous demonstrations that sought to rally the public’s attention towards the worsening of poverty and the inequalities faced by women. Right before the declaration of Martial Law, MAKIBAKA held pickets during beauty contests and protested their inherent objectification of women, as if they were being peddled as trade goods. They collaborated with and reached out to marginalized women from Tondo, offered aid to female calamity victims, and lived among women farmers in the rural areas of the country.[17]

MAKIBAKA picket at the Binibining Pilipinas pageant in Araneta Coliseum. 1970. Photo and caption retrieved from the Gantala Press’ article at

All this was taking place while she was still a student in UP. Laurie even turned down a membership offer in the international honor society, Phi Kappa Phi, reasoning that it was ignominious to commercialize one’s intellect and academic career.[18] In 1970, outside the auditorium and in her own fashion, Laurie skipped her graduation ceremonies and protested the colonially tainted and elitist Philippine education system.[19]

Upon President Ferdinand Marcos’ suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971, Laurie was listed among 63 student leaders who were charged with subversion.[20] Being on a bounty, Laurie began living a semi-fugitive life and escaped into rural areas. Her mastery as a writer proved to be effective in her communications with her family, despite being restricted to short correspondences. Her mother, Alicia, recalls Laurie writing to her about a man named Felix Rivera who was a former Political Science student in UP, and was a commander of the revolutionary army.[21] Laurie married Felix in an underground ceremony in 1970, but their marriage ended abruptly with the death of Felix during an encounter in Isabela in 1971.[22] With her head held up high, Laurie continued the cause that she devoted herself to, and channeled her pain into poetry.[23]

She passed on the leadership role of MAKIBAKA to a more present candidate. From then on, Laurie continued immersing with the masses in the countryside. Out in the open, she was able to empathize with their plight, being imparted with lessons that no university or institution could ever offer. Being at the grass root level, Laurie was able to build a strong foundation within a newfound community with the masses.[24]

Continuing her immersion in Isabela later that year, in her letters to her mother, Laurie mentions meeting Ramon Sanchez, her former professor who then became the NPA commander in Isabela.[25] Laurie and Ramon married, and she continued to engage herself deep in peasant organizing work.[26]

When Martial Law was declared on September 21, 1972, Laurie was invigorated to further promote the cause she stood for. As personas such as herself were highly targeted, Laurie had to move around with much caution. She knew that in her own effort, she had to fight against the dictatorship. Laurie was pregnant during this period, and on November 24, 1972, her son Ramon Emiliano Sanchez was born.[27] Carrying a baby while constantly on the run proved to be difficult. When her hideout was raided one night, Laurie, with the baby in her arms, had to scurry over a seven foot fence and jump down. They later on managed to take shelter among kindhearted neighbors who took pity on them. Despite her success in evading captivity, it broke Laurie’s heart to know that she had to let her baby go. Laurie entrusted her son to her aunt, Lilian Morelos.[28]

In August 1973, Laurie joined her husband in Bicol and worked as a political instructor.[29] It was in November 1973, that Laurie was captured by the military in the hills of Sorsogon. She was pregnant with her second child. During her detention at Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang, Laguna, she tragically suffered a miscarriage.[30] Laurie was later transferred to the Ipil Rehabilitation Center in Fort Bonifacio.[31]

Laurie also learned that her husband Ramon surrendered to the military.[32] Although devastated, she remained loyal to the cause and found the strength to turn around the tricky situation brought about by what she felt was a betrayal.

On November 1, 1975, Laurie, along with five other prisoners, were able to escape from the Ipil Rehabilitation Center by digging their way out of the building.[33] Laurie reunited with the revolutionary army and continued her activities in Quezon province.[34] After the loss of one companion after another, Laurie concluded that the cause should be her one and true companion.[35]

On March 24, 1976, after years of being eluded, the military cornered Laurie. There are different accounts as to the manner of her death.[36] Her profile at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani says that she was badly wounded and captured in an armed encounter in Cagsiay, Mauban Quezon. Authorities promised her medical treatment in exchange for Information. Being the brave and loyal fighter that she was, Laurie allegedly responded that she would rather die for the cause, and was thereby shot in the nape of her neck. [37]

Her sister Ramona shares a different account, sharing that Laurie was spotted by soldiers in a hut and was fired upon. Ramona adds that Laurie succumbed to her wounds on the way to the military camp.[38] A memoir by Percival Campoamor Cruz mentions another detail, alleging that Laurie ordered her comrades to escape, leaving her alone to face the military raid.[39] In a write-up by Rosa C. Mercado, a former member of MAKIBAKA, it is mentioned that a male comrade pleaded with Laurie to escape to another location, as another comrade may have been captured by soldiers, bringing out the risk of revealing their location. It is alleged that Laurie refused to cower, leaving her alone to face the military during that encounter.[40]

Laurie’s mother Alicia shares her own account, as told to her by the commanding officer of the squad which encountered Laurie. According to the officer, they ordered Laurie to surrender, but instead she opened fire. A gunfight ensued, and Laurie was mortally shot in the head. The soldiers caught up with her as she tried to escape and was found bleeding in the bushes. In her dying moment, she said, “You were lucky to be alive, my gun jammed.” It is alleged that Laurie’s last words were, “Let me die for my beliefs.”[41]

Although the true manner of which Laurie died is lost among these accounts, it is without a doubt that Laurie stayed true to the cause up until her final moments. A line from a poem written by Laurie in 1968 perhaps best highlights her unfinished cause and lasting legacy:

“But I too am under ashes

And cannot breathe, yet may not die.”[42]


Nanay Alicia Morelos lighting a candle beside Lorie's mementos during the memorial mass meeting held in honor of her tenth death anniversary at the Gumersindo Garcia Hall. March 24, 1986. Photo and caption retrieved from the Remembering Lorena Barros Blog’s featured article at
Lorena Barros at a protest. Date unknown. Photo and caption retrieved from Pau Hernando’s Facebook post at


[1] Alicia Morelos, “My Daughter Laurie,” In Memory of Lorena Barros, March 4, 2012, accessed March 15, 2022,


[3] “BARROS, Maria Lorena “Lorie” M.,” Bantayog ng mga Bayani, October 14, 2015, accessed March 15, 2022,

[4] Morelos, “My Daughter Laurie.”

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] “BARROS, Ma. Lorena M.,” The Nameless, accessed March 15, 2022,

[9] “BARROS, Maria Lorena “Lorie” M.,” Bantayog ng mga Bayani.


[11] Morelos, “My Daughter Laurie;” Francis Gealogo, “Si Lorena Barros at ang Pandaigdigang Araw ng mga Kababaihan,” Bulatlat, March 14, 2020, accessed March 15, 2022,

[12] Morelos, “My Daughter Laurie.”


[14] Percival Campoamor Cruz, “In Memory of Maria Lorena Barros,” Tagalog Short Stories, January 5, 2011, accessed on March 15, 2022,

[15] Mylene D. Hega, Veronica C. Alporha and Meggan S. Evangelista, “Feminism and the Women’s Movement in the Philippines: Struggles, Advances, and Challenges,” Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, August 2017, accessed March 15, 2022,, 3.

[16] “BARROS, Maria Lorena “Lorie” M.,” Bantayog ng mga Bayani.

[17] Gealogo, “Si Lorena Barros at ang Pandaigdigang Araw ng mga Kababaihan.”

[18] Morelos, “My Daughter Laurie.”


[20] “BARROS, Ma. Lorena M.,” The Nameless.

[21] Morelos, “My Daughter Laurie.”

[22] Ibid.

[23] Lorena Barros, “Sampaguita,”  retrieved from Remembering Lorena Barros, December 10, 2011, accessed on March 15, 2022,
This morning Little Comrade / gave me a flower’s bud / I look at it now / remembering you, Felix, / dear friend and comrade / and all the brave sons and daughters / of our suffering land / whose death / makes our blades sharper / gives our bullets /surer aim.

[24] Morelos, “My Daughter Laurie.”

[25] Ramon M. Bernardo, “Lorena Barros: Walang Kamatayang Alamat ng Isang Makasaysayang Dekada”. Diliman Review. 34 (1): 16–24, 1986; Morelos, “My Daughter Laurie.”

[26] Bernardo, “Lorena Barros.”

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-14-09351, Quezon City: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.


[32] Morelos, “My Daughter Laurie.”

[33] Ibid.

[34] Bernardo, “Lorena Barros.”

[35] Morelos, “My Daughter Laurie.”

[36] “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-14-09351, Quezon City: 2014).

[37] “BARROS, Maria Lorena “Lorie” M.,” Bantayog ng mga Bayani.

[38] “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-14-09351, Quezon City: 2014).

[39] Percival Campoamor Cruz, “In Memory of Maria Lorena Barros,” Tagalog Short Stories, January 5, 2011, accessed on March 15, 2022, This source is also cited within the resolution of the HRVCB on  Lorene Barros’ case.

[40] Rosa C. Mercado, “Maria Lorena Barros,” Martial Law Files, August 11, 2012,

[41] “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-14-09351, Quezon City: 2014).

[42] Lorena Barros, “Poem to Han -Shan,”  retrieved from Remembering Lorena Barros, March 3, 2011, accessed on March 15, 2022,