Filipinos, no matter the distance, come home every Christmas Day to celebrate the Yuletide season with their loved ones.
SKIPPING CHRISTMAS. Luisa Espina reminisces her time with daughter Louvaine Erika, whom she says has become a full-time activist under progressive youth group Anakbayan. She said they are not excited to celebrate Christmas this year because Louvaine has not yet come home. (PNA photo)
But a particular household in Quezon City does not seem to anticipate what’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year.
Luisa Espina’s daughter, 19-year-old Louvaine Erika, has not come home for a year now.
And the whole family who waits for return decided not to put any decorations in their home; they said there is nothing to celebrate about.
“As you notice, we do not have a Christmas tree or any decoration. We do not want to remember this occasion because this is the second Christmas that she is not here with us,” Louvaine Erika’s mother, Luisa said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency.
But unlike a typical Filipino family separated by overseas work, Louvaine is not far.
She could probably be in the same city, but the youngest member of the family has refused to come home and communicate with them.
Things were going smoothly for the family until Louvaine met people who offered a “friendly conversation”. She was then a student leader at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).
Little did they know that a simple gesture would be the start of the gradual change of their precious Louvaine.
“In 2016, my daughter reprimanded some noisy people at the other classroom because they are having a hard time hearing each other in their own class. It turned out that those were the members of Anakbayan. Maybe that’s how they have seen that she has potential, that’s where it started,” Luisa said in Filipino.
From there, Luisa said her daughter began going out and they were unsure whether her errands were part of school activities.
“Louvaine told me they were having a group study for three days. I asked her sisters who are also from PUP if there are academic activities to work on but they said ‘No’,” she said.
“Those days really changed her. After it, I noticed that her Facebook posts were already different. Before, she would only share and post about Korean drama or K-Pop, but after that, she started getting mad with the government. And her happy relationship with us changed, she won’t talk to us anymore. But at that time, we did not know she was already deep with her involvement with Anakbayan,” Luisa added.
Anakbayan, a progressive youth organization, has won Louvaine’s mind and heart over. Yet her mother and her family have not given up on her.
They did everything they could to reach out to her.
When Louvaine disappeared again without means to contact her, Luisa and her other daughter searched for her in Pandi, Bulacan.
“I asked the mother of the person whom Louvaine was seen with, and she said they are in Bulacan with Kadamay, another group of activists. We searched far and wide yet we did not see her,” she said.
“Maybe I already said all the kinds of advice a parent could give her child. I even allowed her to be with Anakbayan but only if she would tell me her whereabouts and that she continue schooling. But she said she already chose a path, and that she won’t go to school anymore because she is now facilitating new recruits in the organization,” she added.
‘Hands Off our Children’
In her quest, Luisa found herself in the company of other mothers who have been longing for their children to come home and reunite with their families.
Luisa is a member of the “Hands Off Our Children” group, which is composed of parents in the Philippines who accuse progressive youth organizations like Anakbayan and Kabaatan Party-list of exploiting the young minds of children and take advantage of their vulnerability by deceiving them to join protests against the government.
The parents, who have pressed charges to the recruiters coddling their children, said the groups use activism as a gateway to fool their children into the path of communism.
Luisa and other member-parents hold an awareness drive to colleges and universities in the metro so other students will be spared from the leftists’ propaganda.
They have also sought the help of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa who leads the Senate probe on the alleged recruited children who ran away from their homes.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) are also helping in the effort to claim the children who have stopped their studies and left home to become full-time activists.
This move is in support of the order of President Rodrigo Duterte, who created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), which seeks to address the 50-year-old communist insurgency in the country.
With backing from the administration, families like Luisa’s, who still yearn for their children’s embrace, still hopes that they will be together again.
“I hope that you realize that whatever they put inside your heads, it’s not for the country. Learn to value your family first and go to school. What kind of help will you be able to give if you are not going to school and you have isolated yourselves from the community? Help, but it should be in a correct way, and not through armed struggle,” she said. (Christine Cudis, PNA)