As soon as I woke up and read the terrible news last January 30 that a friend had been shot to death, I lost my appetite and stopped posting on Facebook.

Who would order the murder of a BS Fisheries graduate from UP Visayas who did not end up as a rotten traditional politician and instead became a most brilliant activist, peasant advocate, and peace consultant?

What was his crime as to merit to be executed, and to be gunned down while sleeping? In fact, by suffering a gruesome death, he was the victim. The “nanlaban” schtick won’t stick. He was unarmed. He was just like any sleepy bus passenger.

Randy Felix Malayao, 49, lived a great and glorious life because he offered it to us and the Filipino people. Tributes have quickly poured in from relatives, friends, classmates, batchmates, fellow fraternity brothers and sisters, activists, and people who knew him and who he also knew.

Now that he is dead, nobody has come forward to call him a criminal or a terrorist in any cowardly attempt to justify the cowardly murder — except perhaps for a paid troll or two. We have seen and heard only beautiful stories about this tall, dark-skinned, highly educated and yet unassuming, thoughtful, engaging, and fun-loving man who was a son, brother, cousin, tito, kasama, colleague, and even kakosa.

Randy opened the doors to activism to many, including me. Yes, he recruited me.

Other activists had tried to invite me, but it was Randy who succeeded. Heck, I even decided to go full-time. Why? I was simply impressed. If this cause managed to attract fellow students who could arguably be described as among the best and brightest, surely this cause could give me good company. Randy and my then-newfound cause gave me more.

Randy could have left activism for good after his stint in CEGP. High-paying jobs awaited him in government and business, considering his education and his connections. But he chose to continue his activism, and drew himself closer to the people of his home province of Isabela.

Years later, under the Arroyo regime, we would be shocked to find out that Randy was abducted. The ensuing uproar forced the military to stop the torture and to surface him. Randy would then be charged with murder, a trumped-up and non-bailable charge that would lead to his detention for four years — or until the court dismissed the charge in his favor.

In his third year in prison, as Randy fought in court the concocted charges levelled against him by the military, he wrote about his activist work as a political detainee. It showed his boundless and unlimited energy, compassion, and readiness to serve even in a difficult situation:

“Years of detention seem eternal yet I have decided to be just philosophical about this. I thought should strive to ‘bloom where I am planted.’

“How do I cope? How could I adapt to harsh jail conditions? These are the usual questions of concerned family members, friends, and fraternity brothers. Would I welcome protective custody under DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, a fellow Beta Sigman? I understood fellow brods’ concerns but I politely turned down the proposal on a matter of principle — the DND-AFP and the CIDG are my complainants in almost all of these cases, so it is not a palatable idea. Secondly, BJMP has been treating me quite fairly and well. It is not a perfect detention center but I have learned to adapt to it.

“At BJMP-Tuguegarao City, there was no idle moment as I was immediately named as inmates’ adviser. I could have opted not to bother myself as I am facing too many personal predicaments, legal battle and all. But I have always been a man for others, I simply could not afford to refuse and be a mere fence sitter. I reciprocated their welcoming and almost reverential attitude and willingly obliged. In the entire duration of detention, I shared my time, energies, intellect, and whatever resources that I have. Indeed, the devil has been deprived of any possible workshop…

“Upon assumption, I held bilateral and multilateral meetings with various cell mayors; and jointly, we studied and assessed our problems as inmates; brainstormed ways and means..

“I steered six basketball tournaments in two consecutive years and hosted friendship games with guest teams. I led inmates in cultivating vegetable gardens, [attracting] the attention of neighbors and government agencies. The DA praised it and gave us seeds, farm implements, and technology assistance…

“We introduced and derived joy in kite-flying competitions and our own version of BJMP Got Talent… As religious coordinator, I worked closely with the various Christian churches – the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao, the Protestants and the Born-Again Christians. They served as effective counselors and spiritual guides…

“I asked the Public Attorney’s Office to be more conscientious as public defenders and requested them to frequent inmate clients as often as possible to have quality legal counseling before and after hearings.

“I was able to collect materials to put up a library where inmates could browse or borrow pocket books, newspapers, pamphlets, and magazines… Amaryong, the monthly publication of the Tuguegarao City District Jail which I helped edit, was the envy of the justice department’s line agencies and the courts…

“I led inmates’ calls to improve food provisions. And we appreciated the wardens that addressed our food concerns. We thank them for every novel menu that would be introduced.

“I have always been moderate and diplomatic in my dealings with jail administrators and reaped positive results for it. I am very candid and vocal, without being confrontational…. I would not condone unprofessionalism, callousness, and insensitivity when I see or feel any. My salute is reserved to those wardens who soar over their counterparts for their bravura, integrity, innovations, inventions, and novel ideas on jail management. With such officers, I am at my element. They let out the best in me/us.

“After three years, I have not been rendered lethargic and useless. I still continue serving inmates as their governor, big brother, gardener, nurse, doctor, teacher, counselor, paralegal officer, secretary, artist, sacristan, janitor, plumber – all in one.

“Even under detention, I bloomed.”

What a Filipino, right? No wonder the National Democratic Front of the Philippines asked him to be a peace consultant, and no wonder he accepted it. No wonder that Sylvestre Bello III lawyered for him. No wonder tributes continue to pour out from around our country blighted by brutality and tyranny.

I have read tributes saying that Randy gave up his life to people and country. I disagree. Yes, he did offer his very best to people and country throughout most of his shortened life, until that fateful January 30 morning. But he didn’t ask or offer to be shot to death in his sleep. He was murdered.

In his untimely death, let’s bloom for Randy. Yes, we grieve and we rage over his murder. But let’s bloom for peace, justice, nationalism, and democracy — and show those who attempted to kill his spirit and his cause that they spectacularly failed and that Randy didn’t live and die in vain.

Published in Manila Bulletin | February 2, 2019