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Eat, sleep, resist: Migrante Canada leader Christopher Sorio starts Philippine martial-law memoir

Christopher Sorio
Christopher Sorio is adding a twist to his memoir about being tortured in the Philippines.

By Carlito Pablo

The imposition of martial law in the Philippines more than half a century ago represents a contentious chapter in the history of the Asian nation.

For those who suffered under the heel of military rule, this episode meant arbitrary arrests, torture, forced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, and other human rights violations.

Then president Ferdinand Marcos Sr. had justified his declaration of martial law on September 21, 1972 as a measure to deter leftist, rightist, and secessionist plots.

Marcos Sr. governed as a strongman until February 25, 1986, when he was deposed by a civilian-backed military uprising.

However, in a striking reversal of fortunes for the family of the late president, his son and namesake Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was elected president of the Philippines in a landslide vote in 2022.

Christopher “Perry” Sorio was 21 years old when he was arrested by soldiers in Manila in 1982.

The young political dissenter was taken to a military camp, where he was tortured.

Now based in Toronto, Sorio is the interim secretary general of Migrante Canada, a grassroots organization advocating for temporary foreign workers and immigrants. [Migrante is Filipino word for ‘migrant’.]

Because he doesn’t want history to forget, Sorio has started to write his personal memories of martial law, with a twist.

Sorio will recall his experiences through food and travel, and how these were intertwined in the fight against the government of Marcos Sr.

His book’s main working title reads Eat, Sleep & Resist, with a kicker going Tama na, Sobra na!, which translates to “enough already”.

“I want to try to tell stories of resistance through food during a specific period of our lives,” Sorio states in a written interview.

Sorio book cover

Sorio describes first breakfast in jail

As a way of compiling notes for his memoir, Sorio has been posting morsels on social media.

One is a photo of corned beef hash, with Sorio writing that this dish was given to him for breakfast the day after his arrest in 1982.

“It was the morning after my torture. I was transferred to a cell and that I is how I found out the ongoing operation to arrest many. We were able to ask a favour from the person who delivers food to our cell. By asking him this favour we found out where we are actually located. This is very important because for few weeks after the fascists troops arrests and torture you, there is no guarantee that you will be alive.”

In another post, Sorio explains why “sleep” is included in the working title of his future book.

“I plan to discuss the sleepless nights of relatives who looked for their loved ones, the sleep deprivation that detainees encountered and how activists do not sleep tight in the nighttime since it is in the wee hours of the night when military raids their houses. Sleep deprivation was employed routinely and was seen as a key tool in enhanced interrogations. Many of these techniques overlap with other interrogation procedures. Cells were also reportedly kept deliberately cold to prevent detainees falling asleep.”

In the interview, Sorio also recalls that his movements in the Philippines were limited following his release from military custody.

“I was not even allowed to leave the country until I had to get high-level military clearance,” Sorio notes.

Charges dropped after rebellion

Sorio was detained at a military camp for about two years until 1984.

After Marcos Sr. was ousted from power in 1986, the rebellion charges against Sorio were dropped.

Three years later in 1989, Sorio came to Canada as a landed immigrant. He lived in Ontario and Alberta before moving to B.C. Recently, he returned to Ontario to care for a relative.

“I plan to touch on travel with restrictions, and also my visits to prisons to help other detainees,” Sorio recalls in the interview.

Sorio’s work on his memoir continues.

Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter @carlitopablo. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

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Carlito Pablo

Carlito Pablo

Carlito Pablo has worked as a journalist in Manila and Vancouver.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.