69-year-old Vertudez “Daisy” Macapanpan is not only a grandmother. She is a teacher, poet, writer, journalist, long-time activist and advocate of the environment.
Called “Mader” or “Mother Nature” by her peers and young environmental advocates, Macapanpan currently leads the campaign to protect the rich mountains of Southern Tagalog from environmentally destructive projects, including the 1400MW Ahunan Pumped-Storage Hydropower Plant Project. The project, which will be constructed in the Pakil, Laguna portion of the Sierra Madre Mountain range, threatens the fragile ecosystems there.
Back in the 1980s, Macapanpan taught at the University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio, and while there, she joined the burgeoning national campaign to oppose the construction of the Chico River Dam Projects. The dam would have submerged the sacred burial grounds and rice fields of the Kalinga people.
Although the extent of her involvement in the anti-Chico River Dam movement has yet to be documented, her participation had contributed to the halting of the project by former President Marcos, and consequently, to protecting the treasured river and mountains of the Igorot.
Macapanpan went on to co-found and work with many organizations that amplified the voices of poor and marginalized Filipinos and highlight and strengthen their struggles for their rights and to protect their environment:
● Timpuyong (worker’s union in UP Los Baños)
● Samahan ng Makatang Pilipino UPLB
● Southern Tagalog Alternative Media
● Protect Sierra Madre for the People
● No to Kaliwa, Kanan, Laiban Dam (KKLD) Network (actively campaigning against the dam)
● No to Dam Movement (campaign against Ahunan PowerProject in Laguna)
In her work for KKLD, she was able to unite the Dumagat-Remontados with leaders and laity of the church sector and other people and organizations with similar advocacies.
In June 2022, a few days after she delivered her speech on the destructive impacts of the Ahunan project on the local ecosystems and the area’s cultural value, Macapanpan was arrested. In a video uploaded on the Facebook page of her nephew, she is seen being violently apprehended by 40 policemen from the Special Action Forces group, dressed in full battle gear. That dozens of state agents were sent to arrest the frail and unarmed grandmother only revealed this arrest as a clear reprisal against her for standing up against powerful business interests.
About a month after, Macapanpan was released on bail, but only after support for her swelled enough to launch the Free Daisy Macapanpan Network.