CEZAR, Alfredo Celi Jr.

Alfredo Cezar belonged to a large family so even as a young boy, he had to work hard and be responsible. He helped tend his mother’s store. He was serious in his studies, graduating with honors. He is also remembered as a humble and even-tempered person.

He was a devout Catholic, serving for years as parish altar boy and dreaming of becoming a priest. He finished his secondary education at a seminary.

He graduated cum laude at the University of Santo Tomas, then went into theology and canon law. He was ordained deacon.

During his final years at UST, he became attracted to the events of the First Quarter Storm. He became a member of the Kilusang Kristiyano ng Kabataang Pilipino (KKKP, among whose leaders was then Fr. Edicio dela Torre), attended its study sessions and joined integration trips to Sapang Palay, Tondo, Tatalon and other urban poor areas.

He took a job as teacher at the Sta. Catalina College in Caloocan City, where he served as adviser to the student paper.

With the declaration of martial law, Alfredo Cezar returned to his hometown of Bolinao in Pangasinan. There he tried to organize resistance to the regime among his provincemates. He worked quietly with the local church people. He also provided sanctuary to activists who were evading the frequent waves of arrests by the military.

As repression escalated, Alfredo left Bolinao in 1974 and joined a research team based in Baguio City undertaking social investigation work on socioeconomic and political conditions in the Cordilleras. The research team’s output, “Northwestern Luzon Regional Social Investigation 1980,” which was undertaken under very difficult martial-law conditions, became a landmark project and served as handbook to activists in the region even after many years. It contained charts, tables, statistics, information on agriculture, on the mining industry, on the state of the public health system, etc., even a documentation of Cordilleran history from the arrival of Spanish colonialists in the 16th century up to the post-World War II period. It showed concrete data on the basic problems confronting the Cordillera people.

After the research project was completed, Alfredo found a place in Ilocos Sur as volunteer parish organizer for Fr. Zacarias Agatep (Bantayog honoree), who was known as an advocate for the welfare of the local tobacco farmers. Alfredo also found a teaching job at the rural high school.

Working with Fr. Agatep, he continued to build awareness among local folk regarding the situation in the country. Because Fr. Agatep was a farmers’ advocate, Alfredo became exposed to problems faced by tobacco farmers in the Ilocos region, including onerous tax burdens imposed on them by local officials. He found more evidence of military abuses in the province.

Alfredo eventually joined the armed resistance in Ilocos Sur, becoming known as Ka Darwin. He and Fr. Agatep were killed together during a dawn raid by soldiers. It is said they fought to give their comrades a chance to escape.

Alfredo was among those honored in 1986 during the Gabi ng Parangal para sa mga Biktima ng Karahasan organized by the Northern Luzon Human Rights Organization (NLHRO) in Baguio City. “In Memoriam,” a poem dedicated in the memory of Fr. Zacarias Agatep and Alfredo Cezar was written by Jason Montana, published in the collection of poems titled Clearing.