MARASIGAN, Violeta (Bullet)

Bullet, thanks for the rage, the laughter


From Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 29, 2000
By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

A few years ago, while visiting Violeta Marasigan (a.k.a. Bullet) in her home in Daly City, California, and after listening to her endless tales about activists (of varying shades, stripes and gender preferences) and unusual individuals from the Philippines who dropped by, I told her rather seriously that a novel should be written and woven around her home. How about ``The House on Templeton Street’’? I said to her. Gosh, I gushed then, if only this house could talk about the lives and visions of people who are passing through, if only it could re-tell the things that had been spoken about within its four walls. Indeed, Bullet’s place was a piece of the Philippines, its people, its politics, its pain, its triumph.

But it was not so much the brownstone-type house and the roof above that held so many things together. The ``House on Templeton Street’’ was Bullet.

That novel has not been written. And now, Bullet, 61, has passed on to her eternal reward--with bullet speed, I must say.

Bullet, as she was known in the militant ecumenical church movement during the martial law years, died suddenly two weeks ago on April 16 in San Francisco. She was hit by her own car.

This was how it happened and I base this (and the other details in this piece) on a news report written by journalist Benjie Pimentel for the San Francisco Chronicle and an account by now US-based Luz de Leon (better known in the 1980s underground as the formidable Ading).

Bullet had just emerged from her parked car on College Ave. at 8 a.m. when it rolled and knocked her down. Her head hit the pavement and she died right there. Bullet was about to pick up visiting Catholic ICM Sister Aurora Zambrano, of the Manila-based Urban Poor Institute for Community Building (UPICOB) when this happened. 

Bullet is survived by husband Pete, daughters Marlette, Marnelle, Violeta II, son Mark, sons-in-law and grandchildren. Her eldest daughter Mariel, also an activist, died of a heart ailment in the early 1990s. 

Bullet used to work with the National Council of Churches of the Philippines’ family ministry and was a known activist who was in every scene of protest. In 1981 Bullet’s home in Quezon City (not far from mine) was raided by the military and she was detained for almost a year at the military stockade with charges for subversion. Detention only intensified Bullet’s revulsion for the dictatorship. It is said, with much amusement, that the reason Bullet was released was that the barrage of words and laughter (that was subversive) she relentlessly unleashed became too much for her jailers.

Bullet was already an activist during her college years at San Francisco State U. She headed the United Filipino Association which fought for social security benefits for farm workers and services of new immigrants and in defense of the tenants of the International Hotel who needed a home.

She and husband Pete came back to the Philippines in 1971. Bullet waded into martial law.

Bullet was one of the organizers of SELDA, an association of released political detainees and was one of the founders of the feminist coalition Gabriella, Asian Women in Theology (AWIT) and Kaiba, a women’s political party, the Buklod Center that served as haven for women in the flesh trade around the US bases.

Bullet and her family moved back to California in 1988, two years after the dictator had fled. There Bullet continued her work with the marginalized. She worked as district-wide social worker of the Veterans’ Equity Center. She helped case-manage hundreds of hapless veterans. She also worked as counselor and social worker for the West Bay Filipino Multi-Services and Asian American Recovery Services, helping Asian and Filipino at-risk youths and new immigrants. She also helped campaign for the reopening of the Filipino Education Center, a city-funded school for newly arrived Filipino immigrant children.

Wrote de Leon of Bullet: ``She was an indefatigable historian and researcher for Filipino women’s history (‘her-story’, she said). She organized a memorial history display of women heroes (‘she-roes’) in her basement den, results of her discovery of unknown valiant acts of heroism of women in Philippine history. She did it so that their stories would be role models for young Filipino-American girls and women growing up in today’s busy society and disconnected communities.’’

In 1995, wrote Pimentel, KQED Public Broadcasting Co. presented Bullet with an Unsung Heroes Award for her years of community work. She was into so many service-oriented activities. Bullet, I was told, was going to run for a political position in Daly City where there is a large Filipino community. 

Last January Bullet came to the Philippines for a visit and her friends relished once again the Bullet exuberance, the joy, the laughter. She went to Puerto Galera where, her friends say, she wanted to retire someday. It was not ``America forever’’ for Bullet.

I was told that the mayor of San Francisco delivered a eulogy for Bullet during a memorial service there. There, indeed, was one special Filipino who made a difference in her adopted country.

Bullet will arrive on Saturday (in a violet casket, I was briefed, and I am not surprised). She will be brought to the University of the Philippines’ Chapel of the Risen Lord where she will be feted by friends, feminists and fellow activists on April 30. May 1 will be for the family. Bullet will be cremated on May 2. Her ashes will be scattered somewhere where sea meets sand in this place she calls her homeland. Of course, part of her will be in California and that house on Templeton Street.

Bullet, thanks for the rage, thanks for the laughter.