On August 21, 1971, Gillian Jane Perez was in transit to China for a three-week study trip to learn about socialism when a bomb exploded at a political rally being held by an opposition party in Manila.
The incident, which left nine people dead, set in motion a sequence of events that changed not only the trajectory of her life but the history of the Philippines.
Then-Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos used what became known as the Plaza Miranda bombing as a pretext to crack down on activists and critics and order raids on opposition groups.
It was a taste of what was to come under martial law – imposed a year later.
As a leader of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM), or Patriotic Youth, an activist Filipino group with a “socialist perspective”, Perez was among those in Marcos’s sights.
Marcos blamed the bombing on the communists and accused Perez and her group of masterminding the attack. The government also labelled KM a front organisation of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and a threat to national security.
Along with 55 other people, Perez was charged with violating the country’s Anti-Subversion Law. An arrest warrant awaited the 21-year-old if she were to return to the Philippines.