“She represented everything Martial Law was not,” Maria Socorro Diokno, FLAG Secretary General , described her when she delivered her eulogy for Sister Mariani Dimaranan, the nun whom everybody love because of her conviction to help the poor, sick, needy and the political prisoners.
Endearingly called Sister Mariani , she was a former political prisoner who died on 17 December 2005. She was 81 years old.
Born to well-off parents Mariano and Maria Dimaranan on 1 February 1924 , Sister Mariani was baptized Marcela. She was always at the top of her class and finished her college degree at the De La Salle University in 1970. She wanted to be a History professor and she became one teaching Chinese history in the university.
Two years after her graduation, she decided to become a nun under the auspices of Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (SFIC)- but without a poignant drama.
She had to run away from home when her parents opposed her becoming a nun. Her father filed a case in court against Sister Mariani in a last-ditch effort to prevent her from entering the nunnery. Her insistent and indefatigable spirit, however, won her the case leaving her father heavy hearted but not for long.
Sister Mariani showed the virtues her parents taught her: righteousness, sincerity and benevolence – and they had been proud of her. She likewise lived the SFIC’s mission of healing the underprivileged sector of the Philippine society, a mission she embraced during the Martial Law years when thousands have been imprisoned.
True to her calling, Sister Mariani had been a regular visitor to various military camps and prison cells bringing the political detainees toothbrush, shampoo, soap – and hope. Her name is synonymous to Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), founded in 1973, where she served as its chairperson from 1975 up to 1996.
She worked hard for the release of political detainees despite catching the ire of the Marcos government. TFDP records show that from 2,000 political detainees, the number was reduced dramatically to 200 in a span of time when Sister Mariani helped them process their release papers hopping from military camp to another and seeking the help of lawyers to represent them.
While chairperson of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), she had been making a firm stand against then President Ferdinand Marcos. One Saturday morning when she was about to do her usual laundry in the convent’s laundry area, she was shocked finding military men hiding there! Apparently, the military had cased the convent for surveillance for weeks. Seeing that nuns had turned off the lights to sleep, they jumped off the high fence and made their entry in the convent inconspicuously.
Sister Mariani was whisked away and brought to Camp Crame where she was interrogated. She eventually was brought to Ipil Detention Center in Fort Bonifacio where she was detained for three months. The nun was singled out for being vocal against the suppression of liberties. Despite being in prison, she remained steadfast in her fight for human rights. The nun was quoted as saying:
“I can see the transgression in human rights being repeated in the poverty of our people. Everyone should remain committed.”
The religious communities in the Philippines and abroad had pressured the Marcos government to free Sister Mariani. She was given a temporary release order on the condition that she report to Camp Crame monthly.
Her unceasing effort to seek justice had continued even when Marcos was ousted and his whole family fled to Hawaii. During the time of President Joseph Estrada’s administration, Sister Mariani was one among the 80,000 people who joined the anti-Chacha rally in August 1999. It was this year that she suffered a serious stroke.
One of the notable achievements of Sister Mariani was when President Corazon Aquino appointed her to become a member of the Commission on Human Rights. She was also nominated twice for Nobel Peace Prize along with other luminaries like the late and former Philippine Commission on Good Government Chair Haydee Yorac, among others.
Sister Mariani was also given the Gawad Karangalan-Tagapagtanggol ng Karapatang Pantao Award (Honor Award for a Human Rights Defender) in September 2005, three months before she died.
She left behind the committed people at TFDP and the religious people of SFIC and AMRSP who continue to tread on the path that Sister Mariani had blazed. (Gloria Esguerra Melencio)
Sr. Josephine Ambatali, Provincial Superior, SFIC. She Kept Her Faith Alive. PHRU, Volume 20, Number 1, 30 September 2009.
Sr. Ma. Luz Mijares, OSA. Co-chairperson, AMRSP. Indefatigable Sr. Mariani (A Tribute to Sr. Mariani Dimaranan). PHRU, Volume 20, Number 1, 30 September 2009.