The world has moved on. The rest has forgotten. Some have forgiven. Except for a few.
Whatever it is that has happened in the last 12 years or so, the fact remains that then 22-year-old Ateneo de Davao student-on-leave Benjaline “Beng” Hernandez was brutally murdered along with three other companions. Face smashed, shot at close range and pleading for mercy, my sister saw the last ray of sunlight on April 5, 2002 in the hinterlands of Arakan, North Cotabato, with tears drying up her face as she lay there, gasping for air.
Her understanding of society’s injustices, her involvement in mass education, her passion to serve the people, were all beyond her years. At 22, she didn’t deal with what movies to watch, which bag to purchase, or which food was best instagrammed (and yes, the app wasn’t around then).
At 22, she was in the mountains, her youthful laughter competed against the sound of crickets at night. She gave when she can, her time, her energy, her love, her service. At 22, she apologized for not putting food on the table, that she can’t help send me to school. But that she has a lot of friends, comrades (she said “kauban”)… who love and protect her. You could see her beaming with happiness, with only a thousand pesos to spend for the month. She was happy to announce that she finally learned how to fry a fish, eat vegetables, and sleep on the ground.
Beng grew up a selfish brat, and died a selfless martyr.
Her poems have immortalized her. And while the world has moved on without her, her life’s story will span generations. While this government has chosen to ignore the United Nations Human Rights Council’s findings that the Philippines Government is responsible for her death, Beng’s life and death continue to inspire the youth by the droves. For the fire was not extinguished when they shot her. Her death, and that of the many others who fought to topple a corrupt government, and an even more corrupt system, have but ignited thousands more.
For no mother can forget the child she carried in her womb. No father can can simply give up on the killing of a daughter he held close in his arms in the mornings.
No sibling can completely move forward and not remember the sister who paved the way for him / her. No family member can delete the memories of a niece, cousin, grandchild who has touched their lives dearly.
When the battle is hardest, when the night gets coldest, and the skies become darkest. We look up to our brightest stars. My brightest star. Our brightest red star.
Staunch Human Rights Defender. Fearless Student Activist. Devoted Partner. Fierce Writer. Loving Daughter and Niece. Wacky Friend. Soul Sister. Young Martyr.
LET JUSTICE BE SERVED!
EXECUTE THE FINDINGS OF THE UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION!!!!
Here are videos from Beng’s younger brother and aunt.
Here’s a video that was created by mother and daughter tandem for Beng’s Death Anniversary in 2012: