This is an entry of the 50 Before 50 Martial Law Commemoration Series.  To see the full list of entries, press this link: 50 before 50 Project Page




Lara was a full-time activist and a student at a local college in Iloilo. She worked with a nationalist youth group in the years leading up to the declaration of martial law, wherein she coordinated with students in Capiz. Following the declaration, Lara was investigated for her anti-fascist activities.

She was illegally detained multiple times during the martial law period. There was no arrest warrant or charge filed against her during those captures. Lara was just in her late teens when she was first captured in early 1973 in Capiz.[1] Along with two fellow activists, they were apprehended and detained at a local Philippine Constabulary Command Headquarters. After two days, she managed to escape.

Four months later, In July, she was apprehended once more, this time in Antique.[2] Here, she experienced torture by members of the Philippine Constabulary. Lara was later on detained at a in Iloilo, and in December, was later relocated to another camp in Cebu.[3]

Three months later, in March of 1974, Lara was transferred to a rehabilitation center in Fort Bonifacio. Lara was released in October of 1974, but in November of the same year, she was apprehended in Iloilo, and taken into custody at a camp in Iloilo. She was moved to a rehabilitation center in Cebu and then to Antique. Lara was then returned to Camp Delgado in Iloilo.[4] During her detainment however, she met Elias, and in March of 1977, they were married at a Church in Iloilo. Lara, along with Elias, escaped in August of the same year.

The escape was short lived, by October, she was once again caught, and detained by Scout Rangers from a Regional Unified Command in Iloilo.[5] After a year, she was charged with Illegal Possession of Firearms. Although Lara was able to attain an official recommendation fo release through bail, murder charges were brought up against her. Once again, Lara escaped in September of 1980.

Her daughter Winona shares her mother Lara’s recollection of her experiences during her detainment.[6] She was interrogated and subjected to various torture methods. Due to the dismal environment of her prison, she experienced infections, which led to numerous reproductive health problems. Lara shared that aside from physical beatings, she was also made to endure various forms of torture. Some of these include: the water cure torture, was made to sit on a block of ice, and the Russian roulette. Lara also experienced sexual abuse, as she shared that she was ordered to strip naked in front of army personnel on countless occasions.[7]

Lara’s health had been deteriorating even before she was sentenced to prison. Military doctors diagnosed her illnesses as psychosomatic after conducting an in-depth examination of her health.[8] After consulting with private healthcare professionals offered by her parents, she was diagnosed with trichomonas cervico-vaginitis, which was exacerbated by the unsanitary conditions in the holding cell. She also established a cyst in her breast, which required surgery.

One may think that as soon as one has been free, a former detainee can live with lesser worry over their own lives. But this was not the case for Lara. Decades later in 2007, she was kidnapped and still remains missing to this day.[9] In December of 2007, a petition for the writ of Amparo was granted in favor of Luisa and her friend in a Regional Trial Court in Iloilo City.[10]

In 2014, her daughter, Winona, filed a claim on behalf of her missing mother, for reparation and recognition before the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB). Winona stated her mothers whereabouts, provided proof of human rights violations such as sworn statements, NSO-issued, government issued identification card. The Board rules in favor of the claim for Arbitrary Detention, Torture and Sexual Offense During Detention.[11] Lara is also considered a human rights violations victim under Section 17 of R.A. 10368, as a plaintiff in Hawaii Class Suit, the “Human Rights Litigation Against the Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos” (MDL No. 840, CA No. 88-0390).[12]

Although Lara’s daughter, Winona was able to receive recognition for her mother, justice has not truly been served. She remains missing, and until today, Lara’s family continues to remain hopeful as they search for her. Lara’s story, along with many others like it, is significant because it allows us to realize the atrocities of the Marcos administration, and that with its impact on the victims, not enough has been done for them. May stories such as this also serve as a wake-up call for all Filipinos regarding the darkness in that section of history; that with these stories, we have a focal point, to be able to keep in mind that we must never let any form of these events ever take place again.

[1] “Resolution,” (Case No. 2014-6D-01855, Quezon City: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, 2.

[2] Victim’s Affidavit, (Case No. 2014-6D-01855, Iloilo: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, 3.

[3] “Resolution,” 2.

[4] Victim’s Affidavit, 3.

[5] Ibid., 2.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Lenny Limjoco, “Lara” in Larawan: Portraits of Filipinos, Likha and Kearny Street Workshop Press, 1989, 58. The title of the source has been altered to protect the identity of the victim.

[9] Victim’s Affidavit, 4.

[10] “Petition for the Writ of Amparo” (Case No. 2014-6D-01855, Iloilo: 2007), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[11] “Resolution,” 3.

[12] Ibid., 3.