ACEBEDO, Norberto Hermoso Jr.

Acebedo, Norberto Jr.

Norberto or Boyet to his family and friends was the youngest of four siblings. He was born on a Friday which happened to be the 13th of the month. His mother recounted that the doctor told her not to consider it as bad luck as she herself was born on a Friday the thirteenth.

Boyet was very active as a child, “sobrang likot,” according to older members of his family. He fell from a tree as a young boy and broke his hand which eventually became deformed. He moved fast, but when asked to do an errand or a chore, he can deliver quickly too. He was kind-hearted, generous, always smiling, and had a knack for striking up conversations with strangers who almost always became his friends. Fondly called “Ace” (short for Acebedo) by classmates, he was a whiz at Math and his house would often be filled with them as they come after school to ask for his help with their Math lessons.

Boyet entered high school in 1972. His two older brothers Roy Lorenzo (a Bantayog honoree) and Nolito were already both in college and were student activists involved in the anti-dictatorship movement. Being the youngest, Boyet was enlisted to help mimeograph propaganda materials as well as asked to run errands such as delivering letters to other members of the group. Through this kind of work, he became aware of the national situation at the time. At that early age, his political consciousness raised and sharpened by his contact with his brothers’ activists-friends, Boyet showed keen intelligence and confidence when discussing the national situation with his teachers and fellow students.

By the time he enroled at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila in 1976, open resistance to martial law was on the upsurge. At PLM, Boyet helped establish a chapter of the newly-formed League of Filipino Students (LFS) in 1977. They held study groups and various symposia that tackled student welfare issues as well as national issues such as government corruption.

In 1978, the nation stirred when elections for seats for the interim Batasang Pambansa was announced by Pres. Marcos. Boyet actively supported the opposition Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LABAN) led by detained Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. In Manila’s Sta. Ana district, Boyet organized the community youth into campaign teams to support the opposition. An immense anti-Marcos noise barrage capped the campaigns on the eve of the elections, and spontaneous street marches were seen in the various localities of Metro Manila that night.

The military raided the Acebedo residence sometime in 1979, but neighbors helped Boyet escape.

Now more determined than ever, Boyet worked even harder at organizing in schools around Manila’s Intramuros and Taft areas. In 1979 and extending into 1980, a student movement erupted in Metro Manila and in other city centers in the country directed against such immediate concerns as rising tuition fees, but also against the abuses of the Marcos dictatorship as well as against the dictatorship itself. The movement grew so broad, it drew student participants from Adamson, PLM, Feati, Lyceum, Mapua, Letran colleges, and even from some high schools nearby. Boyet and his group of organizers were instrumental in helping prepare and launch this movement, considered a breakthrough in protests against martial law.

Boyet helped craft the plan to use Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1981 as an opportunity to bring the repressive conditions in the country to world attention. It was his group that raised the protest banner  that had even the Pope stopping for a moment, taking notice of it, as he said Mass before a mammoth crowd at the Quezon Memorial Circle.

Not long after that, Boyet moved to Davao City, still pursuing his political organizing and consciousness-raising work. He led political discussions among the city’s youth, labor groups and professionals, planning protest actions with them. Although obviously a stranger to the area, he won over people easily because he talked plainly, had a kind of humor that eased tensions among serious-minded activists, and took to provincial life with little fuss. It was in Mindanao he met and later married fellow-activist Grace (then using the alias Helen and driving Boyet to choose for himself the counter alias Troy).

Boyet was arrested in 1983, tortured by arresting troopers from the Philippine Constabulary, then was detained for some period. He was killed during a military encounter in Compostela Valley in 1985. The day after he died, his wife delivered a son whom Boyet had earlier decided would be named Rojo Bagani (Red Warrior).