Wright Molintas Jr. was a scion of two of Benguet province’s most illustrious political families – the Mencios of Atok town and the Molintases of Bokod town – with governors and congressmen belonging to both sides of his family. Had he survived, Wright would have been Benguet’s equivalent of one Benigno Aquino Jr.
His parents were government employees — his mother a grade school teacher, and his father a municipal and later provincial treasurer. Wright and his six brothers were all city-born and bred but stayed close to their Ibaloi roots. (Ibalois are the Benguet “tribe” that regarded Baguio City as part of its ancestral territory in pre-colonial times.)
Wright might have been one of seven boys, but he stood out because, unlike his brothers, he was aggressive and boisterous. (His family called him Junior, but more often, Tombol, Ibaloi term for a young cock.) His brother Jose said the brothers had great ambitions, Wright dreaming to become president of the Philippines!
In school, Wright was competitive, often winning honors. He was in high school when he joined the Order of Demolay. Like his brothers, he showed an interest in the military, entering the Cadet Officers’ Qualification Course (COQC). On his senior year in high school, he held the post of corps commander for the CAT.
Wright passed the competitive tests for the University of the Philippines and won a full scholarship for geodetic engineering. He spent two years in the Diliman campus, filling his spare hours with various activities, competing in sports fests, joining a fraternity (Gamma Sigma Pi), learning and competing in bridge, entertaining his friends with card tricks, or charming them with his guitar-plucking of old-fashioned tunes such as Unchained Melody, sometimes even gaining a few coins winning bets playing competitive billiards.
During this time, the UP campus was also all afire with student protests directed against the abuses of the Marcos dictatorship as well as education policies meant to perpetuate the dictatorship.
Wright took notice of these issues, and started attending fora and joining protest rallies. He also joined the UP Bodong, an association of students who traced their roots from the Cordillera region in the north.
By his second year at UP, Wright was speaking in rallies and fora, giving simple speeches that appealed to his young and usually spellbound crowd. He became associated with another young activist leader from UP, the late Lean Alejandro (a Bantayog honoree). Before long, he was being asked to serve as one of Lean’s escorts, and whenever needed, in rallies for example, one of his close-in security. Wright was very much suited for it, being tall and with a powerful frame, a military bent and training, and a support network via his fraternity brothers.
Still, Wright kept a keen interest on his home, the Cordilleras. At this time, the Cordillera region was wracked with proposed “development projects,” such as dams and logging projects, which the Marcos dictatorship wanted implemented but were being resisted by the local population as, at best, unnecessary and wasteful, and at worst, severely harmful to the population and to the environment. The dictatorial regime was responding to the resistance by terrifying the population with operations by heavily-armed troops and jailing resistance leaders.
In 1980, the late Macliing Dulag (another Bantayog honoree), a much-respected Kalinga leader and the most well-known leader of the resistance to a proposed dam project, was gunned down by soldiers in a midnight raid of his home. Wright railed at this latest proof of a brutal regime. On the first anniversary of Macliing’s murder, Wright was one of many young activists who trooped to Macliing’s village to hold a memorial in honor of the brave slain leader. It was at this point Wright decided to join the armed struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.
He returned to Kalinga after a few weeks, joining the armed resistance. He now bore the name Ka Chadli and undertook work as a political officer. But he showed excellence in the military field as well, and quickly became involved in a military action, a task he kept for the next five years. He was first sent to Sagada-Besao area in Mountain Province, then to Kalinga province, next to Ifugao province, and, finally, to his own home province of Benguet. He was flat-footed, and sometimes laid down by malaria and skin allergies, but he took these difficulties in stride.
In 1984, he left the guerrilla areas briefly to get married to fellow activist Marvie Perez of Pangasinan.
Then on July 4, of 1987, he left his wife for what should have been a short meeting in Kapangan, Benguet. He never reached the place. On the way, he and two companions, all unarmed, were seized by members of the police and the Citizens’ Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU). Witnesses later revealed that Wright tried to argue with the soldiers, quite confident he had logic and right on his side. Still, he was shot in the back.
Bleeding from his wounds, Wright was hog-tied to a bamboo pole and ferried by his companions under guard to the town center of Baguling in La Union. Wright still alive and talking when they started, but dead by the time they reached their destination. The devastating news reached his family a few days later, after which relatives claimed his body. A week-long wake was held for him in Baguio City, with political personalities of all colors attending. Wright was 24.
His two companions were charged and convicted with rebellion, and served their terms in the national penitentiary. Two months later, Wright’s friend, national resistance leader Lean Alejandro, would himself be shot to death.