A Street Named After Liliosa

From lopezhannah: Her hometown in Bulan, Sorsogon, southernmost part of Manila in the Bicol region, one of the streets near their heritage house was re-named by the Municipal council after her – LILIOSA HILAO STREET during the town’s centennial observance and celebration. She was also cited with a plaque by the Rotary Club of Makati on her writing about the country (in Filipino, BAYAN MUNA BAGO ANG SARILI) the “country first before oneself.”

The Municipal Council of Bulan, Sorsogon passed an ordinance renaming Burgos Street in Zone VI to Liliosa R. Hilao Street. The Family thanks the LGUs of Bulan for its noble gesture to memorialize our Sister Liliosa. - Alice Hilao Gualberto

LILIOSA R. HILAO, her life and martyrdom – a potential Philippine leader
by Alice R. Hilao-Gualberto

(Originally posted at

At a time when the Philippines was taking off to a bright economic independence, ex-president Ferdinand Marcos, called a DICTATOR, whose paranoia for power would not want to leave Malacanang Palace, and in order to justify his stay – declared martial law, September 21, 1972; placed the whole country under a tyrannic, abusive, military rule. His plan was to rule for life. The country saw hundreds of statesmen, thousands of university scholars in the academe, businessmen, the media, the labor group, men and women in various religious fields and even ordinary citizens who spoke ill of his dictatorial rule were imprisoned without charge; thousands were tortured to death, executed and a lot whose bodies can no longer be found even to this day, the so-called desaparecidos. This was the darkest era, the Philippines ever had, to think that he, a homegrown Filipino leader would rule the country with so much tyranny, greed and cruelty beyond compare. Fear and silence ruled over the land, even in the very corners of each Filipino home, talks of martial law atrocities were spoken of in coded dialects and in whispers. Everywhere walls seem to have ears.

LILIOSA, in her early twenties, was not lucky enough, she was one of the thousands of victims who died mysteriously barely less than 24 hours in the hands of brutal, military men inside Camp Crame , Quezon City . But she was the first victim to die inside a camp in the heart of the city of Manila. On that questionable night, the military composed of the raiding team under Col. Bienvenido Felix; Lt. Arthur or Arturo Castillo, head of the raiding team; Lt. Reynaldo Garcia, a WAC Ester Aragosa and a PC Informer, George Ong said she died April 6, 1973; the family did not believe them and did not accept the date of her death given.

They informed everyone that Liliosa committed suicide while in their custody inside a men’s toilet. Lilli was a very conservative, hygiene-conscious person, of all places, she would never dare enter a men’s toilet. What outraged more the family was that they wrote the school authorities and the relatives in the province that Lilli died of drug addiction. Anybody with a sound mind can never believe that such a demure, highly intellectual, honorable young lady looking forward to receive cum laude honors at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (University of Manila), 2 weeks before graduation, who was brutally killed, would commit suicide? She was an intellectual campus figure respected and acknowledged by everyone who looked forward with high ambitions to achieve a better life not only for herself and the family but for each and every poor Filipino as well. This was manifested by her interest and concern to those families who lived in empty, idle container vans. This was written down in her diary. She committed herself in helping this group of urban poor living near the university campus in Intramuros, Manila donating whatever material needs she can afford to give. To reciprocate her kindness and concern, all of them in full force including children dared to go to her funeral in Loyola Memorial Park where her remains were buried, fearing not the military men whose presence in her burial did not deter them from seeing her to her grave. She was nipped in the bud, but her death sparkled like a candle in the night inspiring all the people working for the restoration of democracy in the country to be more courageous, persevering and vigilant be they in the hills or in urban areas. She became the inspiration that brought other names to the fore and her bravery showed that she was not cowed even in the presence of her military captors in Camp Crame and before their face, blatantly told them: “DEMOCRACY IS DEAD IN THE PHILIPPINES.” She died wearing a black blouse demonstrating such thought. She died on handcuffs, with so many hand prints all over her body. The family believed, she was killed after she was gang raped, April 5, 1973.

To write her story again, gives me a feeling of heaviness within, that it took me so many days to start. The pains gave rise to my anger and my anger no longer know what fears lie ahead. There were circumstances then that my life too was in danger I noticed it but I was able to avoid them, with strong prayers I asked God’s graces and Divine guidance, to whom I clanged most in every danger that I sensed. I would like to address this story to all freedom-loving citizens of the world, the youth to inspire them in whatever struggles they are in, be they simple or complicated and to all human rights advocates that this world, a God-given gift to men may be loved, become peaceful, beautiful and a better place to live in and to observe and preserve the dignity of man for which LILIOSA gave her precious life for all generations to come. Please help us achieve this.

Describing the barbaric, gory details of her death, the way she was killed, by at least five (5) military, robust men, it really puzzles us how can they ever inflict the worst crime to a demure, asthmatic, defenseless woman? Maybe they saw Liliosa practiced levitation. She was a yoga practitioner and an avid member of Ananda Marga practicing Hare Krishna. According to one of our sisters, Marie, Lilli, as she was fondly called, started the art of levitating after several Yoga training sessions, although very new to its practice, I haven’t really seen her myself how she did it. In the wake she had several Yogi associates who came to sympathize with us.

She was butchered, the body was unevenly cut in half up to her vagina, like that of an animal carcass; the brain was taken out placed in a pail, the intestines were also removed, placed likewise in a pail and all organs poured with muriatic acid and forwarded on that manner to Loyola memorial chapels, in Manila, where she was laid for the vigil. Not contented with what they have done, they guarded the wake not until our eldest sister, Rizalina a former teacher, arrived from the province who shooed them and told them to leave and give privacy to the mourning family members. Her body bore signs of struggle; her lips were burned from cigarette butts, that appeared to be made a virtual ash tray, the mark of a point of a gun appeared on one of her legs and her throat bore a hole, the family was told that they performed tracheostomy to save her life, more of a lie and an alibi. They not only desecrated her body, they made her appear the most absurd, notorious criminal human being on earth. Could have they done this on instruction from the dictator Marcos himself? It was a double-murder case that we want to file in court, but at this point in time after more than 35 years that had elapsed; I don’t know its possibility. But letting everyone know of such crime would at least give mental torture to those men in uniform, the voice of conscience is one’s own enemy.

LILIOSA writes very well, her literary prowess, had she been alive today can go for a Nobel Peace Prize award. She was a consistent, unassuming scholar for five (5) years and supposed to be a pioneer graduate of Communication Arts at the Pamantasan ng Maynila. She organized the women’s club of the university and headed other school; organizations including the school organ called HASIK. She headed also ALITHEA, an all-female member activists during her time. Student activism then was an all time-high, almost all students and even the whole country was in a state of unrest, like a social volcano about to erupt at any given time and this was where Marcos saw an opportune time to impose martial law for a lifetime dictatorial rule. He ruled the country with a barrel of a gun.

Lilli had a knack of writing detailed moments of her life, I was very much impressed to read in a chronologically arranged writings in her diary which reads:

“I went to bed but before that, I have read Mother’s letter to us dated April 24, 1969 , telling us of some good and bad news about our town. I shed tears by which I can’t really help without my knowledge of it, not because of the sentimental tone of the letter, in fact the missive was straightforwardly, but because of the many problems that beset the country as a whole and its citizens by which I am or I was not able to render help. I really wanted to help my country and see my fellowmen all in good condition. But I am helpless and this was what made me outrageous that I shed tears unconsciously. Help can be attained in so many ways to be able to serve one’s country but the help I want to render is more of tangible evidence to the masses so that they would know their faults and be able to accept changes I have slept thinking of the problems and some possible solutions.”

A very heroic thought indeed.

Again I found on the same diary these famous, favorite lines written by our own national hero, whom she wrote, quoted lines after the famous Jose Rizal’s novel NOLI ME TANGERE just after it came of the press, it reads: “I DIE WITHOUT SEEING THE DAWN BRIGHTEN OVER MY NATIVE LAND! You, who have it to see, welcome it – and FORGET NOT THOSE WHO HAVE FALLEN DURING THE NIGHT.”

LILIOSA, was a doting daughter of Maximo Hilario Hilao and Celsa Rapi Hilao, the 7th in the family of nine. She studied elementary education up to sixth grade always with honors. She was transferred to Manila during her high school studies and landed with highest honors inspite of her frail health – that of being an asthmatic, which even up to her college days prevented her from participating in highly rigorous inside and off school campus activities. She was a well-loved student by her professors, the likes of Behn Cervantes, Armando Malay (now deceased), Cecille Guidote-Alvarez and Armando Doronilla, to name but a few. She was a very obedient daughter, had she not went back to their apartment that terrifying night, knowing the dangers that await her there just to see and talk to her mother with words of assurance that she need not worry because no matter what, she was going back to her. She became hostage during the raid. Right after getting inside the house, she already received fist blows and head banging on the wall by the raiding officer, Arturo Castillo. Just because of a moral obligation to an ailing mother, love and obedience, changed the course of her history; she literally died without seeing the dawn brighten over our native land!

Liliosa, right, with sister Rizalina (from Political Prisoners in the Philippines, AMRSP, 1973)
Since the time she learned the ABC’s of writing and reading, one can’t see her without books, paper, and pens in her hands where she would write down anything that she saw, observed and heard. She loved books very much and would settle to read even when she was sick. An old document we had showed a letter of intention addressed to an international university inquiring about a Colombo Plan Scholarship.

She had a big heart for the poor, a very religious woman, with strong beliefs and principles and a very good foresight of the future; she sacrificed herself to protect other people’s lives at stake when she was tactically interrogated and in 1986, she was considered a martyr; soon after her name was among the first ten (10) to be enshrined and encrypted in the WALLS OF REMEMBRANCE at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Monument of Martyrs and Heroes) along East Avenue, in Quezon City, a venue of fallen heroes during the martial law regime. While in her hometown in Bulan, Sorsogon, southernmost part of Manila in the Bicol region, one of the streets near their heritage house was re-named by the Municipal council after her – LILIOSA HILAO STREET during the town’s centennial observance and celebration. She was also cited with a plaque by the Rotary Club of Makati on her writing about the country (in Filipino, BAYAN MUNA BAGO ANG SARILI) the “country first before oneself.”

She was also awarded a POSTHUMOUS SPECIAL CITATION on a plaque by her Alma Mater, the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (UNIVERSITY OF THE CITY OF MANILA) which reads:

In recognition of her contributions in defending the rights, preserving the freedom and upholding the dignity of the Filipino people during the time when we are in search for truth and justice,” February 23, 2001 at the Manila Hotel, Manila, Philippines.