Quantcast
Latest Stories

Maita Gomez–from highborn beauty queen to ‘Queen of the Toiling Masses’

By

Modeling a Pitoy Moreno asymmetric fully sequined dress

Maita Gomez—she of the landed gentry and genteel upbringing, convent school-bred (Assumption and St. Scholastica’s College, Manila), top Pitoy Moreno model, beauty queen (Miss Philippines 1967 who represented the country in   Miss World the same year in the UK). Beautiful, classy, so high-society.

But she was of an era when revolution consumed people of her generation, even women of her status. While she modeled and competed in beauty pageants, was so much admired for her beauty and grace, and was sought after by men of wealth and stature here and abroad, the First Quarter Storm exploded in the streets of Manila.

Think of the late ’60s and early ’70s as the years of chaos and strife. Students were engaged in violent street battles against armies of police and soldiers—from the wide avenues of Paris, to the grounds of Kent State University, and over here, the storming of the Diliman Commune.

In the US, as college students burned their draft cards and protested against the Vietnam war, the Weathermen fought a guerilla war, robbing and bombing banks, killing cops.

With Rodne Galicha on a motorcycle ride on Sibuyan Island

On the other side of the racial divide, the Black Panther rode forth and Eldrige Cleaver was its Messenger.

Female revolutionaries

That era, too,  on the heels of the hippie ’60s—where “Make Love, Not War” was the mantra of youth under 30—saw the rise of female revolutionaries: the German Ulrike Meinhof, the most infamous of female terrorists, co-founder of the anti-Capitalist Red Army Faction, who committed suicide in prison.

From the Middle East, there was Black September’s poster girl, the lovely Leila Khaled of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Now sitting as member of the Palestine National Council and living with her physician husband and sons in Jordan, she was involved in several spectacular Black September airline hijackings. Leila was captured in an iconic photo, as famous as that of Che Guevara, wearing a kaffiyeh and brandishing an AK-47 rifle.

Here at home, Connie Ledesma, a rich hacienda heiress, left the nunnery to fight alongside the priest, also of haciendero stock, who later became her husband, Fr. Luis Jalandoni. Both rose to the top ranks of the National Democratic Front.

Newlyweds Maita Gomez, in her Pitoy Moreno wedding dress, and husband Carlos (Cookie) Perez Rubio

Nelia Sancho, the beauty queen with the deep, limpid eyes, also went deep underground to fight with the NPA. And today’s environmentalist Gina Lopez was “lost” to her family for years, her father, Geny Lopez, ABS-CBN’s “Kapitan,” looking for her, seeking ways and means to return her to the warm embrace of family. Gina, barefooted, donned saffron robes and joined the Ananda Marga, working with the poorest of the poor in the remote reaches of darkest Africa.

The other Maita

Against this backdrop, the other Maita emerged: the activist, the revolutionary, the NPA amazon, the political prisoner.

But then, not very many people knew the core of the real Maita. The cool, remote beauty was a passionate human being, an intense individual who felt deep love for her country.

Maita did what most girls of her class did. She “married well” and had a beautiful daughter, actress-for-a-time Melissa Perez Rubio, who was once Richard Gomez’s flame.  Maita stepped away from the spotlight, the fashion ramp, the party nightlife and all the “frou frou” stuff of high society. She went back to school. She gunned for a master’s degree at UP, then the bedrock of student activism.

Recalls director Behn Cervantes: “I wrote an article that must have attracted her to the Movement to serve the people.” The Movement was the Kilusan, “which was part Joma (Sison) but more broad-based.”

Urban lore

MAITA smiling during a talk before the San Fernando municipal employees on Sibuyan Island

When Maita fled to the hills, bringing along little Melissa, the whispers of her life underground became urban lore. The husband she left behind, Carlos (Cookie) Perez Rubio, was said to have posted missing ads in newspapers, in search of Melissa. Then Maita was eventually caught and thrown into a military jail.

But a young army officer, in a reverse Stockholm Syndrome, fell in love with her, sprung her out of military prison, and fled with her back to the mountains.

That army officer fought with the NPA and was subsequently killed by government soldiers.  Maita allegedly took up with an NPA commander and then met folk activist Heber Bartolome. “Tibak din yan,” says Behn of Heber.

“She was in the hills with Heber and they had sons,” says Behn. “We used to call her ‘The Other Gomez’ as opposed to actress Rita Gomez, who had many men in her life. So did Maita.”

“After she left Heber, Maita surfaced,  to resume a normal life,” adds Behn.

Maita used to visit Behn frequently in his house, bringing along one of her sons, a naughty boy “who would pick up things around the house and drop them.” Behn would tell the boy, “Papaluin kita.”  And he would have that hurt, sad look. But Behn would stand his ground. “He behaved after that.”

IN 1968, Pitoy Moreno with his models, among them Maita Gomez (seated, far right), Maurice Arcache (standing, middle), Jojie Felix-Velarde (standing, far left). Beside Pitoy is Chona Kasten.

Behn, as he talks about Maita, feels bereft at her untimely death. “I feel miserable. I have lost a good, dear friend.”

No airs

Rodne Galicha is Site-of-Struggle officer at the Alyansa Tigil Mina, an alliance fighting for transparency in the mining industry. He talks about Maita on his cell phone while sailing an outrigger boat from Jomalig island to Infanta, Quezon, a long five-hour trip by sea.

“I call her the Queen of the Toiling Masses,” he says. “No airs, no show-biz flair.” He recalls that unforgettable time “when we both crossed the Sibuyan Sea to Tablas island in Romblon.” They were in an open speedboat with six-meter waves crashing around them and flying fishes hurtling themselves at the boat. It was dark. It was 4 a.m. and Rodney was scared.

But Maita was unfazed. “Oh, the boat ride is just an ordinary thing,” she said. “You know, if you have to do something for the people, you just have to do it.”

They went to Sibuyan and Tablas islands to learn more about mining, “the value chain of the industry. Like, for example, how mining licenses are awarded.”

Having been an economist and coordinator of Bantay Kita, a group of reform-minded economists, Maita pushed for openness in the industry—“for government and mining companies to reveal their practices, their policies, the negotiations, as well as finances of the extractive industry, in general.”

Maita, adds Rodney, taught Economics at UP. “This was her world. She also worked with Action for Economic Reform (AER).”

Last advocacy

The reform-minded economist that was Maita became, gradually, a fighter for the environment.

“This was the last advocacy in her life,” says Rodney. But with mining, Maita “clarified the whole economic life of the Philippine mining industry” and traveled the country extensively to see for herself the effects of the industry on local communities.

“She continued her militancy even when she had to use a cane,” says Rodney. There was a time in Davao when she was quite sick. “She borrowed my coat and walked with a cane.”  Her last text to Rodney was to greet him on his birthday last June 2.

Maita retired from Bantay Kita and from the AER. She had a red house constructed on a half-hectare island on a lake atop a mountain in Caliraya. It was her rest house and Rodney occasionally visited, helping her put up windows and glass panels.

And what luxury did she crave? “Maita loved good coffee. Everywhere she went, she brought her little espresso machine.”

And she loved a good, long smoke, cigaret in hand, talking about life, listening to Rodney’s problems.

“Maita, I thank you for making me a part of your life,” says Rodney.

Strong, focused

Suky Lim-Lammoglia, who is with Gina Lopez in Green Convergence, an association of different environmental groups (anti-mining, water treatment, anti-pollution, Clean Water Act, eco-waste management, Save Palawan Movement, among others, including Maita’s Bantay Kita) remembers Maita as very strong and focused.

“Absolutely no fear. You know, when you are into anti-mining, you can get killed. Look at journalist Gerry Ortega of Palawan…

“That Maita—she had depth and substance… But tell me—to love your country, you have to go underground?”

Maita did. She wanted to change the world—change things as it were, as they are—from the ground up. She left her privileged world and lived the life of a warrior for the little people who have no voice.  And so, salute, Maita! A life well-lived and work well done!


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: fashion model , Maita Gomez , Nelia Sancho , revolutionary , underground movement

  • kalikasanipagtanggol

    REST IN PEACE MS. MAITA GOMEZ! WHAT YOU DID WAS EXTRAORDINARY!



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  3. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  4. No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  5. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  6. The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  7. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  8. Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  9. What has happened to Barrio Fiesta and Singing Cooks & Waiters?
  10. Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. How to enjoy Buntod
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  5. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  6. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  7. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  8. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  9. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  10. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer

News

  • Smooth Edsa ride up in 2 years, but…
  • Obama: US will defend Japan vs China
  • Santiago accuses Lacson of fronting for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  • Name names, Lacson told
  • Ukraine FM: We are ready to fight Russia
  • Sports

  • Sharapova advances to Stuttgart quarterfinals
  • Galedo caps ride of redemption
  • Beermen, Express dispute second semis slot today
  • Lady Agilas upset Lady Bulldogs in four sets
  • NLEX roars to 7th D-League win
  • Lifestyle

  • Marinduque: Visiting the ‘palm of the ocean’
  • First at Vatican in 60 years
  • How Jing Monis Salon gave Krissy the pixie
  • Want to be a supermodel? Work on your inner beauty, says Joey Espino
  • Denims that keep you cool–literally
  • Entertainment

  • Kristoffer Martin: from thug to gay teen
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Cris Villonco on play adapted from different medium
  • OMB exec’s assurance: We work 24/7
  • Business

  • Nielsen sees car buying boom in the Philippines
  • How author of best-seller exposed ‘one percent’ economic elite
  • Bangko Sentral readies new bank lending rules
  • Gaming stocks gain, PSEi eases on profit-taking
  • Cebu Pacific flew 3.74M passengers as of March
  • Technology

  • Vatican announces hashtag for April 27 canonizations
  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Opinion

  • Editorial Cartoon, April 25, 2014
  • No deal, Janet
  • Like making Al Capone a witness vs his gang
  • MERS-CoV and mothers
  • A graduation story
  • Global Nation

  • Senator hopes PH will also get same vow
  • HK victims to get P115M; traders raised money
  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 American doctors
  • Career diplomat is new PH consul general in Los Angeles
  • US4GG: Aquino should ask Obama for TPS approval, drone technology
    Marketplace