Maria Lorena Barros founded the Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (Free Movement of New Women) or MAKIBAKA, a militant women’s organization shortly before the Martial Law. When Martial Law was declared, she went underground, was later captured and was a top political prisoner. She escaped to the countryside as a guerrilla fighter and was killed during a military ambush at 28 years old.
Lorena Barros studied until Grade II at the Instituto de Mujeres (Academy for Women) and finished grade school at St. Joseph’s College. She was described as an inquisitive, conscientious and affectionate child. She was among the top students in her school. At a young age, Laurie, as she was affectionately called, was an early reader. The love for literature and learning was cultivated by her mother early on. Since Lorena was an only child, her mother would buy her books so that she would not be lonely.
Lorena enrolled in the Far Eastern University (FEU) Girls High School, this time as a scholar. She was active in many extra-curricular activities: director of the school play, member of the Gymnastics Team, President of the Junior Red Cross and the Student Catholic Action-FEU Chapter. She was managing editor of the school newspaper, the Advocate and had her column “Margin Notes”. Among her pseudonyms were Malo, Lio Marea and Malachi. She was awarded the Gold Medal for Creative Writing and graduated from high school as Honorable Mention.
On July 21, 1965, Lorena enrolled at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, initially taking Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry. Her mother insisted in that Lorena take up this course since she felt that taking a degree in the arts would be too easy for her, so she had to “conquer her waterloo”, which was Math. Alicia wanted to have a doctor or a chemist in the family. However, Lorena wanted to become a writer.
Bored, Lorena rebutted her mother by telling her that she has become insomniac because she had slept through all of her Math and Science subjects. Lorena wanted to take up Anthropology since she believed that “You can’t really take up the present without going to the past.” Furthermore, in an interview with Lorna Kalaw-Tirol, she said, “My concept of commitment then was in terms of research. I wanted to use my training in Anthropology to do some real research on Philippine society”. Lorena had serious disagreements with her mother and would rebel by running away from home. Eventually, her mother relented and Lorena shifted to BA Anthropology after three semesters during the Academic Year 1967-1968. She got high grades and made it to the honor roll, became a College Scholar during that semester and a University Scholar after one year.
In addition, Lorena would join different organizations, such as the UP Anthropology Society and the UP Writer’s Club, becoming its secretary in November 1969. Very sociable in nature, her mother used to call her a “social butterfly”. She would go out with friends to watch movies and listen to music, sometimes staying outside concerts because they could not afford to buy tickets. Lorena would have disagreements with her mother because she imposed a curfew, and thus Lorena called herself Cinderella, always home by midnight.
Lorena’s mother was also overprotective and even inspected the Basement, a canteen located at the basement of the Arts and Science building in the University of the Philippines, where Lorena and the other students would hang out.
In spite of these disagreements, Lorena helped her family who was in “genteel poverty” by working for Diliman Review, the academic journal of the University of the Philippines Diliman. Even if she received a salary of 200 pesos a month, Lorena would save her money by spending only 25 cents a day—5 cents by eating banana-q (with 3 pieces of bananas on a stick) for lunch, walking part-way from home to school, and catching a bus that would take her to UP for 10 cents. However, she retained her poise and gracefulness of manner, and thus, Lorena had many suitors.
At around this time, the tense political events in the Philippines would eventually lead to Martial Law, which also saw the rise of the student movement and the national democratic movement. Alicia Morelos was afraid that her daughter’s growing politicization and involvement in the student movement in the University of the Philippines (which was a hotbed for activism) would turn her into a communist. True enough, Lorena joined the SDK or the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan (Association of Democratic Youth), an activist, anti-imperialist and national democratic youth organization.
During the First Quarter Storm in 1970, which was characterized by anti-Marcos protests led by student demonstrations that were violently dispersed by the police, Lorena would be in the forefront of the struggle. At this time, she wrote mostly in Filipino, in order to be understood by the masses.
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