I first met Tania in the summer of 2009, while we were preparing for the 15th anniversary of the UP-based cultural group Alay Sining. We had founded Alay Sining in1994 and thought it would be great to bring together old and new members to perform and share stories. Tania was then coordinating the University-wide Alay Sining chapter. She was among the most enthusiastic about the idea of the anniversary.
She was a young, giggling Fine Arts student who at an early age, had to step up to the plate and lead an activist group of visual artists, singers and writers in UP.
Nineteen-year Twenty-year-old Constancia Isidora “Tania” Domingo seemed like any other student her age. I remember her to be quite cheerful and seemed care-free. But she also appeared to have a deep sense of responsibility for others. She knew what she wanted to do in life.
Her taste in music ranged from Fra Lippo Lippi, Bjork, Cynthia Alexander and the Carpenters. We talked about the works of the great Japanese film maker and animator Hayao Miyazaki and how she wanted to borrow DVD’s from my brother. She was also a former gymnast and was reportedly known for doing egg-rolls in the College of Fine Arts and Architecture.
Tania wasn’t only a visual artist. She also sang for Alay Sining, being part of the core of the music collective. We did chorale practice during weekends and she was truly excited when she “found” her voice. Bungisngis sya sa practice, as the trainers soon discovered. I would often find her singing at the lobby of Vinzons Hall with the rest of the group. She performed at various fora, cultural events and yes, rallies. Even if there was just two of them singing in an event- her voice and Dania’s blended well by the way – she would show no hang ups and would go all out.
Like most student artists, she kept a sketchbook where she drew, in great detail, images of the peoples’ struggle. She didn’t have a lot of money and so she didn’t want to waste the pages of her prized possession. One time she made me write lyrics of the songs we were doing on a cramped space on her sketchpad, just so she could save on paper.
One time I complimented her on a dress she wore which she said was made by her mom. Her mom, a single parent, worked as seamstress. Tania had five other siblings. One worked in abroad, while the rest were either studying or trying to find work.
I think I last saw Tania in July, at the height of the preparations for the State of the Nation Protests. I remember her singing at a forum that I spoke at at the College of Home Economics. She seemed excited about something. It could tell it wasn’t just the Alay Sining anniversary.
She had longed to work outside the University, to be with the farmers. In June, she wrote a poem about her wanting to follow a comrade who had gone on to work in the countryside. She wrote:
isa-isa dinampot ko ang mga nalalaglag.
hinayaang malukot sa pagtikom ng aking palad,
iniwagayway sa hangin at hinayaang mapad-pad saiyo
-dala ang mensaheng ‘kasama, susunod ako..’
I got a text from her one night where she expressed thanks. The message seemed to come from out of the blue. It was only later that week that I learned Tania had left the university to organize in the countryside (I did not even know where). She did not even wait to finish the Alay Sining anniversary which was in September. There seemed to be no stopping her.
And so for this young cultural activist, art was no longer confined to the idyllic and sheltered environment of UP. Her palette was revolution and her canvass was the countryside. The mural she was making was of the epic struggle for national and social liberation. I was pretty sure she would still be doing sketches, writing poems and singing her heart out, and would more than ever be inspired (though i’m not sure if she would still be doing egg-rolls).
Last January 14, my friend Tania died while serving the people in the countryside of Dona Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan. She was among the seven killed during a military operation against alleged members of the New Peoples Army. Another UP student from the College of Fine Arts, Ian Dorado, was also among those who were killed.
I was saddened upon learning the news that Tania had died. She was the first martyr from Alay Sining. I hope to be able to talk to her family soon and tell them that they had a wonderful daughter and sister who had offered her life for the people.
Artists and youth can learn a lot from the short yet meaningful life of Tania Domingo. Hers is a death as heavy as the proverbial Sierra Madre. Unlike polticians, no monument made of stone will be erected in her honor. But she will be remembered in the songs, poems and works of the people’s struggle. Her memorial will be built in the hearts of the oppressed masses who are forever grateful for her sacrifice.