SDK Heroes and Martyrs

ALEX GABRIEL TORRES

 

Born:                      October 8, 1953, Kamuning, Quezon City

Disappeared:          1975, Kabayan, Benguet

Grade School:         Kamuning Elementary School, St. Louis Boys High Elem. Dept.,  

                                Baguio City (Salutatorian – Grade six)

High School:           UP High School, University of the Philippines, Diliman

                                Chess Club, Math Club, SDK member

College         :          UP Diliman (Government scholar)

Birth Sequence:       3rd, 2 Brothers, 1 Sister

Parents:                    Gregorio S. Torres Jr. (deceased) and Eugenia Flores Gabriel

 

Because he was his family’s youngest for a long time, Alex Torres was called “Baby” in the family. As a young boy, he was exposed to a variety of environments because his father, a geodetic engineer-surveyor, often brought his children with him to the field, taking them to places such Diliman, Singalong, and V. Luna, and even farther to Cotabato and Baguio cities.

His father taught him to play chess at which game Alex became a wizard. His prowess at math also became the family’s pride as he made easy work of the computing work his father needed in his surveying work.

At the UP High School, Alex was an active member of the math and chess clubs. Later he and a group of high school friends became activists. Alex joined the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK) while his school friends joined the Samahang Aletheia.

 

Alex had passed competitive tests and became a grantee of the UP-Government scholarship in college. Despite the heavy academic load, Alex was active with the SDK UP chapter and the Nationalist Corps of the UP Student Council.

 

In the turbulent months of 1970 to 1971 which saw the First Quarter Storm and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus by then president Ferdinand Marcos, Alex and his brother Renato (“Boy”) Torres were student organizers of Nationalist Corps, SDK, Serve the People Brigade and Kabataang Makabayan.

Boy and Alex led UP students in integration studies with farmers in Morong, Bataan and Sta. Cruz, Zambales. Every weekend and during school breaks, the brothers lived in farmers’ communities in Samal and Botolan, organizing young farmers into a SDK chapter. Boy, the older brother Boy recalled that Alex displayed leadership qualities through his methodical, scientific and sympathetic way of dealing with the local residents.

 

Boy and Alex also organized an SDK chapter in Kamuning, Quezon City, together with Mariano "Rock" Lopez (PSHS 1969). The brothers further associated with the SDK’s Old Balara chapter, so that a house they rented in Old Balara at the time was raided by Metrocom-5th MIG soldiers when martial rule was declared in 1972.

 

Alex met his future wife Nona del Rosario, another activist in UP, during these SDK days. During the early days of martial law, when universities were temporarily shut down, Alex and Nona continued to organize youths in communities in various parts of Quezon City and Marikina, helping build up the underground resistance to martial rule.

 

In June 1973, Alex and Nona were arrested by intelligence operatives in a combined operation of the 5th MIG-CSU-NISA that also netted Alex’s brother Boy. They were detained at the CSU headquarters in Crame. The brothers were allegedly tortured.

 

Boy and Alex were transferred to Fort Bonifacio’s Ipil Rehabilitation Center, where Nona was also detained in the center’s women's quarters. The brothers joined protests and hunger strikes of a group of political prisoners at the center. As punishment, they were transferred to another prison in Fort Bonifacio called the Youth Rehabilitation Center (YRC). Alex is remembered by fellow prisoners for sharing food and other necessities he and his brother received from visitors with those who enjoyed no such visits.

 

The brothers and Nona were detained around nine months. After they were released, they stayed in contact with their comrades still in detention, even secretly supporting some of their escape plans.

 

As part of martial law monitoring procedures, the three former political prisoners were required to report to camp authorities regularly. At that time, Alex and Nona were living with the Torres family in an apartment near Katipunan in Quezon City. Although they complied at the beginning, the three activists felt stifled by the restrictions imposed by martial law authorities. Alex and Nona decided to pursue their activist commitment in the countryside. Boy, on the other hand, joined his mother in the United States in 1978.

 

Alex and Nona engaged in organizing work in the Hungduan and Banaue area in Ifugao, Alex was political officer of an armed unit. Nona was a propagandist, handling a local newsletter and broadcasting revolutionary news through the armed unit’s portable radio transmitter. Alex used the name Rex Edralin.

They faced danger all the time because they worked in guerrilla expansion areas where conditions were unpredictable. Alex rarely got to visit his family in Manila, but when he did, they found him fit and hardened, his soles turned tough as the soles of a shoe through walking barefooted among Ifugao’s rice terraces.

The couple wrote letters to their families, saying they were happy with their decision to leave the city and to live in the countryside, and reiterating their preparedness for “the ultimate sacrifice” involved in their decision.

 

Around 1975, Alex’s brother Boy was informed that Alex was captured in Kabayan, Benguet, along with a local resident. Attempts by the family to find Alex failed, but they found enough information to convince them that Alex was first taken to Camp Dangwa in Baguio City and then to Manila. Another report claimed that Alex was killed by military operatives and his body buried in Camp Dangwa, along with others similarly killed.

 

A few months after Alex disappeared, Nona herself died in a firefight. Nona’s family and Boy Torres traveled to Ifugao and retrieved her body.

 

The family has never seen Alex again, but they continue to celebrate his heroism and courage. Alex’s own mother subsequently became an active member of the anti-dictatorship movement abroad.

In a letter Alex and Nona had once sent to Boy from Banawe, they cited a popular quote from Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, who said:  

 

"Wherever there is struggle there is sacrifice, and death is a common occurrence. But we have the interests of the people and the sufferings of the great majority at heart, and when we die for the people it is a worthy death.”

References:

Bantayog profile sheet filled-up by brother of nominee, Renato “Boy” Torres.

Letter sent to Atty. Sol Santos, SDK member by Renato “Boy” Torres.