Tears for Diona Andrea

By Rowena Carranza Paraan

Posted at May 19 2014 11:58 PM | Updated as of May 20 2014 07:58 AM

It had been a long time since I talked about the events surrounding the birth of my second child. And usually, it would be with my husband Andy, who passed away seven years ago.

The death of the newborn daughter of Andrea Rosal, a political detainee and daughter of the late CPP spokesman Rogelo Rosal, however, brought back memories.

My husband and I, together with four others, were arrested without warrants in November 1991 in an apartment in Sta. Mesa. The arresting unit “found” (read: planted) a firearm in the apartment where we were. (I don’t even remember anymore what kind of firearm but it must have been some low-caliber type because my husband was extremely insulted.) For activists, to be arrested is always a possibility and you more or less prepare yourself for that. The problem was that I was nine months pregnant and, understandably, ill-prepared to give birth behind bars.

We were first held not at the regular detention center but in an abandoned building inside Camp Olivas that was damaged by the Pinatubo eruption. At one point during the questioning, members of the arresting unit talked about a huge pit where they said some people have slipped and fell.We were surfaced a few days later and presented in a press conference, then placed in the regular jail, together with other political detainees.

My ob-gyne already told me before the arrest that I would give birth any time. On November 27, we told camp officials that I was already in labor. Instead of taking me to the hospital, they transferred me, escorted by a truck full of soldiers and an APC, to Camp Crame in Quezon City. My husband was left behind in Camp Olivas.

Just before midnight, the pain became too intense. There was no choice for them but to take me to the hospital inside the camp. I gave birth without anesthesia or any kind of pain reliever, not even when the midwife had to stitch a childbirth tear.

On December 24, I was taken back to Camp Olivas.The jail there was cold even for adults, extremely so for newborn infants. Every night, just before midnight, my baby would start to cry, slowly at first, and then louder and louder. The kind of cry that you knew he was in pain. The crying would go on until just before 4am. And there was nothing Andy and I could do to help him so we just held him close. He cried every day until our very last night in the camp. It was exhausting, physically and emotionally. Sometimes, all three of us cried together.

I was released three months later. My husband had to wait for a year, after the court dismissed the case. My son spent his first Christmas inside jail. He first came home almost three months after he was born.

I read the death of Diona Andrea this morning and I remembered and cried again. In this country, it does not matter what age you are. Injustice and repression spare no one, not even the newborn.