Searching for Karen

Text and Photos by Alanah Torralba

On the fourth year since her daughter was missing, Concepcion Empeno broke down while doing the dishes on a balmy September morning. It was a normal enough day when suddenly the television played Christmas songs. Her heart sank as tears flooded her eyes. Yet another year that Karen is not with us, she told her husband.

In June 26, 2006, Karen Empeno, a student from the University of the Philippines, conducting her thesis study on the plight of farmers along with fellow student Sherlyn Cadapan in Hagonoy, Bulacan, was abducted by unknown gunmen in their rented house.  After nearly a decade of fruitless search, Concepcion continues to exhaust all her means to find her missing daughter. She has knocked on the doors of military camps; went to graves where personal articles of her daughter were supposedly buried; sought the support of the international community and pleaded the courts to order the military to surface her daughter.

Eight years on, Concepcion admits the search has taken its toll on her. Despite the lengthy court hearings and seemingly unanswered pleas from the government, she refuses to stop searching for her daughter, hoping one day Karen will return home.

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