Unsolved Maguindanao Massacre inspires novel by Sacramento nurse

RN and book author Victoria Conlu

In November of 2009 in the province of Maguindanao, 58 people, including more than 30 journalists covering a political campaign, were slaughtered by armed men.

It’s been five years and justice has yet to be meted out to the perpetrators of this horrific incident condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists as the “single deadliest event for journalists in history.”

Inspired by this largely forgotten crime, a new novel, “Portraits of a Massacre,” dramatizes the deadly events viewed through the eyes of the main characters who are four young adults struggling with political turmoil in their community. They seek to answer the burning question on their minds: “How did I get here?”

Written by Victoria Conlu, a novelist and registered nurse, “Portraits of a Massacre” seeks to bring awareness and attention back to a tragedy that has fallen from the spotlight. It also makes a powerful statement on the “slow-crawling” justice system in the Philippines.

“It is presented with the hope that although it is a work of fiction, it will reignite dialogue and call the Filipino American community to action to become involved in their own communities,” she said.

Conlu was born in 1989 in Daly City, a predominantly Filipino suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area. The oldest of four children, she grew up with an awareness of her Filipino heritage. It would not be until her high school years when her family relocated to the East Bay. There, she realized not every FilAm youth was privileged to have the same experience and access to their culture.

Conlu became editor of her high school newspaper and student columnist with the Contra Costa Times. As she was buried into books and writing, she was also developing a new passion for healthcare, particularly in the areas of mental health and public health.

She is now an RN and public health nurse living in Sacramento with her husband of six years and her grandmother. She published her first novel, “Sampaguita Roots,” in 2012 about a Filipina who comes to Manila to look for her father. Instead she finds a box of letters which tells her family’s past and its legacy of struggle, defeat, love, and hope.

“I continue to explore new writing projects with a particular focus on presenting Filipino culture in new ways to Filipino American youth,” said Conlu.

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