Profiles of Courage

Melendre Araos

Researching on Melendre Araos may bring up more results on her husband Jerusalino “Jerry” Araos instead. The husband was a renowned artist and sculptor whose transformative works convey visceral social commentaries. This was wrought from his days as a guerilla fighter for the New People’s Army (NPA), his membership to the progressive students’ rights group Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK), and his subsequent imprisonment along with thousands of militant students and opposition members.[1]

According to Babeth Lolarga, a close family friend, Dr. Melendre “Melen” Araos had been with her husband “at the start of a revolution” during their time in the Sierra Madre and “stayed with him till he breathed his last.”[2] However, while it may be difficult to separate Jerry Araos in the narrative, Melen Araos is also very much accomplished in her own right, fighting her own struggles according to her own ideals.

Araos studied at the University of the Philippines, pursuing a degree in the field of medicine. Like many UP students at the time, she was awakened and exposed to the societal plagues from which many problems in healthcare are rooted. Towards the end of the 1960’s and the beginning of the 1970’s, Araos joined and led the Progresibong Kilusang Medikal (PKM), a progressive and militant organization in UP that united medical doctors and students in their common goal of elevating the discourse level of healthcare to that of a socio-political struggle.[3] It was led by Dr. Juan Escandor, along with Jaime Galvez-Tan, Orlino Talens, Cesar Hidalgo, Diana Galindo, and of course, Araos. PKM held discussions with other medical students to elucidate the cause they were championing and also conducted Klinikang Bayan in urban poor and rural communities.[4]

During the escalation of protest movements headed by student leader-activists in the University, especially during the First Quarter Storm, the PKM became its medical contingent, lending their support, mobilizing the people, and providing first aid treatment when needed.[5] The students demanded for their rights and called out the government on increased militarization, worsening inequality, poverty and hunger, as well as rampant corruption and human rights violations. There were members whose disillusionment reached the point that led them to believe that armed struggle was not just an option, but perhaps the only option to actuate changes, and they went on to join the NPA.[6]

Araos became militant as well. Upon the declaration of Martial Law, Escandor went to the mountains to train with the rebels and provide assistance with his knowledge in medicine, rising to the rank of a respected political cadre. Araos, on the other hand, was jailed alongside Talens, but not before they, along with Escandor, managed to become key figures in the politicization of the University of the Philippines’ College of Medicine (UPCM) and mobilizing students to actions.[7]

From there, unfortunately, details on Araos and her activities are scant. An issue of the University of the Philippines Gazette, however, indicated that she was appointed as Instructor in Family Medicine for the UPCM from June to December of 1977.[8] As her close family friend Lolarga said, Araos accompanied her husband in Sierra Madre from the start of the revolution, so it is quite plausible that after joining the PKM, she eventually joined the ranks of members who adhered to the NPA and offered their medical assistance to rebels and Filipinos who were victims of government abuses.[9] Likewise, while it is implied by Lolarga that Araos met her then-future husband Jerusalino in Sierra Madre, details cannot be provided due to lack of sources.[10]

With the overthrow of Marcos, the Araoses began to live a normal life as a married couple. While the husband turned to art and sculpture and became renowned in the field, the wife continued her advocacy of healthcare, assuming a post as the chief Obstetrician-Gynecologist of the UP Health Services (UHS).[11] Jerry quietly passed away in 2012, but both his and Melen’s legacy remains. For her role, as a leader of the PKM, in helping mobilize and engaging the students who actively participated in the resistance movement, Melen Araos is duly recognized along with her husband as one of the motu proprio victims of Martial Law as per Republic Act No. 10368.

 

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References:

 

Lapeña, Carmela G. and Howie Severino. “Artist, NPA pioneer Jerry Araos, 68.” GMA News Online. December 24, 2012. Accessed June 10, 2021. https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/287574/artist-npa-pioneer-jerry-araos-68/story/.

Lolarga, Babeth. “I love you, Jerry Araos.” Brookside Baby Blogspot. December 24, 2012. Accessed June 10, 2021. http://brooksidebaby.blogspot.com/2012/12/i-love-you-jerry-araos.html.

Lumbera, Bienvenido, Judy Taguiwalo, Roland Tolentino, Ramon Guillermo and Arnold Alamo, eds. Serve the People: Ang Kasaysayan ng Radikal na Kilusan sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas. Quezon City: IBON Foundation, Inc., 2008. PDF copy. Accessed June 10, 2021. https://pages.upd.edu.ph/sites/default/files/dannyarao/files/contend-act-ibon_serve_the_people_2008.pdf.

Olivares, John Paul. “The University of the Philippines, Quezon City: Pres. Jose. P. Laurel Avenue.” WordPress. December 9, 2016. Accessed June 10, 2016. https://lakansining.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/the-university-of-the-philippines-quezon-city-pres-jose-p-laurel-avenue/.

_____________. “University of the Philippines, Quezon City: Hidden Treasures South of the Academic Oval: Quirino Avenue, T.H. Pardo de Tavera, F, Maramag, E. Delos Santos, Lakandula, and P. Velasquez Streets.” WordPress. December 28, 2016. Accessed June 10, 2016. https://lakansining.wordpress.com/2016/12/28/university-of-the-philippines-quezon-city-hidden-treasures-south-of-the-academic-oval-quirino-avenue-t-h-pardo-de-tavera-f-maramag-e-delos-santos-lakandula-and-p-velasquez-streets/.

“Presidential Decisions.” The University of the Philippine Gazette, Vol. VIII, no. 1 (1977): 86-90. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Information Office.

[1] Carmela G. Lapeña and Howie Severino, “Artist, NPA pioneer Jerry Araos, 68,” GMA News Online, December 24, 2012, accessed June 10, 2021, https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/287574/artist-npa-pioneer-jerry-araos-68/story/.

[2] Babeth Lolarga, “I love you, Jerry Araos,” Brookside Baby Blogspot, December 24, 2012, accessed June 10, 2021, http://brooksidebaby.blogspot.com/2012/12/i-love-you-jerry-araos.html. Lolarga was also an associate editor of Raya Media Services, Inc., and copy editor of People’s Journal. She has written for various national publications such as Who magazine and Times Journal. See Women Writers in Media Now, Filipina 1 (Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1984), 148.

[3] Bienvenido Lumbera, et al., eds., Serve the People: Ang Kasaysayan ng Radikal na Kilusan sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (Quezon City: IBON Foundation, Inc., 2008), 137-38, PDF copy, accessed June 10, 2021, https://pages.upd.edu.ph/sites/default/files/dannyarao/files/contend-act-ibon_serve_the_people_2008.pdf.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid. This was a testimony from Dr. Romeo Quijano, one of the earlier members of the PKM and now a retired professor from the University of the Philippines Manila’s College of Medicine.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 144.

[8] “Presidential Decisions,” The University of the Philippine Gazette, Vol. VIII, no. 1 (1977): 87, Quezon City: University of the Philippines Information Office.

[9] With Araos possibly joining the armed movement, sources detailing her activities and movements are unavailable. Since, in 1977, she was recorded to be appointed at the UPCM, it is more likely that she joined the NPA after this period rather than her returning from her time with the NPA to assume the post.

[10] According to Lolarga, Jerry and Melen’s former home was at the UP Diliman campus, so it is also possible that they met and became together during their time as UP student-activists, but without substantial corroboration, this cannot be definitely claimed.

[11] John Paul Olivares, “The University of the Philippines, Quezon City: Pres. Jose. P. Laurel Avenue,” WordPress, December 9, 2016, accessed June 10, 2016, https://lakansining.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/the-university-of-the-philippines-quezon-city-pres-jose-p-laurel-avenue/; John Paul Olivares,. “University of the Philippines, Quezon City: Hidden Treasures South of the Academic Oval: Quirino Avenue, T.H. Pardo de Tavera, F, Maramag, E. Delos Santos, Lakandula, and P. Velasquez Streets,” WordPress, December 28, 2016, accessed June 10, 2016, https://lakansining.wordpress.com/2016/12/28/university-of-the-philippines-quezon-city-hidden-treasures-south-of-the-academic-oval-quirino-avenue-t-h-pardo-de-tavera-f-maramag-e-delos-santos-lakandula-and-p-velasquez-streets/. They lived in relative peace and happiness. Jerry Araos even believed that “the only thing [he] did that lasted good was [his] art and [his] marriage to Melen.”

Melendre “Melen” Araos, with her husband Jerusalino “Jerry” Araos sometime in November 2012. Photo taken by Babeth Lolarga. Image cropped and retrieved from Brookside Baby Blogspot at http://brooksidebaby.blogspot.com/2012/12/i-love-you-jerry-araos.html.
Melendre “Melen” Araos, with her husband Jerusalino “Jerry” Araos sometime in November 2012. Photo taken by Babeth Lolarga. Image cropped and retrieved from Brookside Baby Blogspot at http://brooksidebaby.blogspot.com/2012/12/i-love-you-jerry-araos.html.

Araos, Melendre

Birthday: N/A

Parents: N/A

Spouse: Jerusalino “Jerry” Araos

Children: 6 (Waya, Jemil, Liwa, Roja, Mira, and Julian)

 

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