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MANILA, Philippines - Maita Gomez, who shocked Philippine society when she joined the communist underground to fight the government of Ferdinand Marcos after being crowned Miss Philippines-World in 1967, died of a heart attack on Thursday, friends in the mass movement said.
Posts on Facebook by fellow activists, among them Bayan Muna party-list Representative Teddy Casino and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes, paid tribute to Gomez and bade her farewell.
Gomez disdained being called a "beauty queen", and spent the rest of her life advocating for social change. She was a founder of the women’s organization Gabriela and, at the time of her death, was co-chair of the Makabayan Coalition, which groups together party-list groups from the mainstream leftist bloc.
Her Makabayan co-chairman, Satur Ocampo, said: “We in Makabayan are proud and honored that she gladly accepted her nomination to co-chair the coalition in 2009, and she consistently and most capably performer her duties until her unexpected demise.”
Ocampo said Gomez “never failed to speak out on the issues being discussed and her points were always well taken – reflective of her intellectual acumen and wisdom, built up from a multifaceted life and deep involvement in our people’s struggle.”
A picture post on Makabayan’s Facebook page said: “Lubos pong nagluluksa ang buong Makabayan sa pagpanaw ng ating taga-pangulo, kaibigan at kasamang Maita Gomez. Maraming salamat sa mga masasayang alaala, sa mga panahong nakapiling ka sa hirap ng pagkilos para sa masa. Tuloy ang ating laban! Padayon, Maita (The whole Makabayan deeply mounrs the passing of our chair, friend and comrade Maita Gomez. Thank you very much for the happy memories, for the moments spent with you in the struggle for the masses. The struggle continues! Forward, Maita).”
“Ibayong lungkot. Paalam, salamat at pagpupugay ... Higit sa anumang karangalan ukol sa ‘kagandahan’ ay ang karangalan na maglingkod nang tapat sa bayan (Deepst sorrow. Farwell, thank you and praise … More than any honor for ‘beauty’ is the honor of faithfully serving the country),” Reyes said on his Facebook page.
A member of Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares’ staff said Gomez’ remains were taken to the Manila Memorial Park morgue in Paranaque City.