Nelia Sancho: Beauty with a Heart

Ang Bayan, September 06, 2022

GABRIELA and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance–BAYAN), together with the fighting people, paid tribute to Nelia Sancho-Liao, a beauty queen who became a symbol and pillar of the women’s liberation movement and a militant advocate of national democracy.

Comrade Nelia was one of the founders of Gabriela together with another beauty queen Maita Gomez. She served as its general secretary before she became the chairperson of BAYAN.

Comrade Nelia passed away last September 2, 2022 at the age of 71.

Comrade Nelia has been an activist since the early part of the 1970s. She became active in the different actions against the dictatorship. She was among those imprisoned by the dictator. Inside prison, she participated in the hunger strike that demanded the release of political prisoners. In 1987, after the overthrow of Marcos Sr., she ran for senator under Partido ng Bayan.

According to GABRIELA, Comrade Nelia, as general secretary, led the development of GABRIELA’s work which eventually encompassed human rights, health and reproductive rights of women, violence against women and children, and other socio-economic programs. Under her leadership, GABRIELA continued to expand in the cities and countryside.

Comrade Nelia was also among those who established Parents’ Alternative Incorporated that built daycare centers for the children of political prisoners and activists. She also became active in the struggle for justice for comfort women, or women raped and made sexual slaves by Japanese soldiers during World War II.

Comrade Nelia became BAYAN’s chairperson from 1990 to 1994 – a period when the Alliance’ firm unity and commitment to the principle and struggle for national democracy were put to intense test.

During this period, Comrade Nelia manifested her being “principled, sharp, firm and comradely when countering and frustrating the attempts to malign and divide BAYAN and its allied sectoral organizations.”

During the tribute of the Alliance held during her wake in September 5, Comrade Nelia was called the “main light and pillar” in the attainment of tighter unity and cooperation within BAYAN.

“The memory, lessons and example of Ka Nelia will remain alive in all of us who continue the struggle for the liberation of the oppressed and exploited classes and for a just, prosperous and peaceful society,” declared BAYAN during its tribute to the late activist.

“Forever will she reign as queen in our hearts”, GABRIELA stated.