CALDERON, Jose R., Jr.

From Bantayog ng mga Bayani (

Jose Calderon led a short but mission-filled life.

The young Jose, called Joey, was his school’s “most outstanding student” from first grade to fourth year high school. He showed interest in the arts, particularly, drama and dance. He was an active member of the Methodist Youth Fellowship in school.

In his high school valedictory address, he emphasized the role of the youth in helping create “a new society where … economic justice and economic freedom prevail.” "We may not live to see the fulfillment of this dream but certainly, we can lay down the foundation of its beginning. Let us therefore dedicate our golden hours, enthusiasm and energy to tile challenge of the times -‑ economic development, freedom and security,” he ended his speech.

When he entered the University of the Philippines, he quickly became absorbed in the growing activism in the campus. He became a member of the Nationalist Corps of the UP Student Council and the UP Diliman chapter of the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK). He also joined the Alpha Sigma Fraternity. During summer breaks, he joined other activists in living in the rural areas, in a campaign called “learning from the people.”

He was an active participant in the big demonstrations in Manila in 1970, in what would later be known as the First Quarter Storm of 1970. He was in the thick of the violent dispersal of student rallies in Mendiola (later to be called Battle of Mendiola) on January 30 and 31.

Reared in the Methodist Church, Jose interpreted his growing involvement in radical reform not only as a social demand but as an expression of his faith. When in July 1971 he finally decided to leave the university, he had written his parents thus:

“ … Kung tatandaan lamang ninyo na narito sa kilusan ang aking kaligayahan at wala sa pag‑aaral, marahil ay matutuwa pa kayo sapagkat ang anak ninyo ay nakatagpo ng magandang kahulugan para sa kanyang buhay ‑‑ isang buhay na sa aking palagay ay higit na kristiyano at maka‑Diyos kaysa sa palaging pagpunta sa kapilya nang hindi naman isinasabuhay ang turo ng bibliya.”

He told his parents not to blame themselves for his controversial decision. “Blame the system,” he said, “which created millions of poor people, exploited by foreigners and a few greedy Filipinos.”As long as that kind of system prevailed and a fairer system not found, he wrote, “more parents will lose their children, more children will lose their parents, and more husbands or wives will lose their spouses.” He said he was ready to give his life in the struggle to establish this radical change in society.

In July of 1971, he went to Isabela to join the New People’s Army, then a fledgling newly-organized guerrilla group, and took the name of Ka Elmo. As Ka Elma, he worked with the NPA until he was killed in a military encounter in May 1974 in San Mariano, Isabela.

The book Mga Liham ni Ka Elmo, which records his letters to his family while he was with the NPA is a witness to Jose’s deep patriotism and bravery, his staunchness in the face of the sacrifices, and his unfailing nationalism.

April 06, 1952
Place of Birth: 
Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija
May 04, 1974
Place of Death: 
Colibertad, San Mariano, Isabela