Ma. Serena Diokno's Speech at 2012 Annual Honoring

Speech of Dr Maria Serena I. Diokno, Chair, National Historical Commission of the Philippines at the annual Bantayog ng mga Bayani honoring of heroes and martyrs.

‘Lean the Musical’ Timely Restaging Rides Public Clamor for Change


(Written by Kristine Angeli Sabillo for the Inquirer)

Sixteen years since it was first staged, “Lean,” a musical about the life and death of iconic student activist Lean Alejandro, remains relevant and thought-provoking.

“Lean” traces the young activist’s life, from his stint as University of the Philippines council chairman at the height of the Marcos dictatorship to his stymied attempt to bring progressive politics to Congress, just months before he was assassinated at the age of 27.

Amid heavy rains, people filled the University of the Philippines’ Aldaba Hall last Saturday to watch UP Repertory breathe life into the musical penned by Gary Granada and first performed by the likes of Chikoy Pura, Cookie Chua, Bayang Barrios and Noel Cabangon.

For the next two hours, “Lean” entertained the audience – many too young to have first-hand experience of Martial Law – into understanding the lessons of Lean’s short-lived life.

September to remember

The original “Lean the Musical” was staged in September 1997 after prominent artists from the local folk and alternative rock music scene banded together in a fitting tribute for the young martyr’s tenth death anniversary.

September was a significant month in Lean’s life. On September 21, 1972, then President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law, changing the course of Philippine history and the lives of many Filipinos. It was during these dark and trying times that Lean was molded into an influential student leader and later rose to national prominence for his courageous struggle against the dictatorship.

However, on September 19, 1987, more than a year after the restoration of democracy, Lean was shot dead in his car by still unknown assassins.

It is in this context that the UP Repertory, through the direction of their alumna Kathryn Manga, staged the new “Lean” from September 9 to 21 in commemoration of “the life of Lean Alejandro and the struggle of the Filipino people against martial rule.”

Musical director Karl Ramirez said the play, which combined socially-relevant lyrics and popular music genres, “is an attempt to bring the life of Lean Alejandro closer to the youth through music…while inspiring them to act for change.”

Among those who watched last Saturday’s run was first year UP law student Lee Edson Garcia who said not only did the songs help students like him connect with the story, it also created context.
Coinciding with snowballing protests against the pork barrel system, the play put the audience in a pensive mood, reflecting on the country’s state of affairs and the need to act for change.

“There are a lot of issues coming out about corruption…and closer to students are the issues of basic services [including] budget allocation to education. I think [the play encourages] the students to be more involved in these issues. I think this is the reverberating theme of the play ‘Lean,’” Garcia said.
Rupert Mangilit, secretary general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said the restaging “came at a right time.”

“Everyone’s angry about the pork barrel scam, the apparent misuse of public funds. The anger of the people needs direction. During Lean’s time, he was one of those who helped direct the people’s anger…towards something substantial for the society,” he said.

Mangilit said the play should be seen by many, especially now that public outrage is peaking.

Meanwhile, television actress and UP Repertory alumna Ces Quesada lauded the cast for “a very spirited performance” at a time when there’s a lot that needs to be done in the country.

“Sometimes we are bothered because the youth of today seem apathetic…It’s a good feeling that we have students like them (in the UP Repertory) who would mount something like this to get the message across,” she said.


Breaking the fourth wall

Though mostly faithful to the original play, Ramirez said the new “Lean” had several small but substantial deviations such as changes in the musical arrangement and the use of videos as the play’s backdrop.

He said the music was re-arranged to accommodate not only rock and blues but also techno and other popular music genres.

“The production (team) thought the adaptation should also be based on the ability of UP Rep. UP Repertory is popular for their fun and comic acts,” Ramirez said, explaining why the play had more light moments compared to the original.

It was therefore not surprising when members of the UP Repertory, known for their “tula-dula” and comical but socially-relevant skits, kept delivering humorous lines and witty side-comments with perfect timing.

Among the most applauded was Ekis Gimenez who played “Jojo,” the typical villain’s sidekick.
At the start of the play, Jojo broke the ice with the expectant audience, when he told Mr. Tim (the antagonist played by Jose Adrian Dalangin) that he has indeed seen the activists and they were even dancing.

“Ganito nga choreography nila oh (This is how there choreography looked like)…” he said, with matching demonstration.

Throughout the play, Gimenez’s character interacted with the audience, drawing attention to and breaking the boundaries of the “fourth wall.” This was also done by the other actors a couple of times, implying that their fictional characters knew that they were in a play and that there was an audience watching.

Limited by budget constraints, the use of the relatively small Aldaba Hall also contributed to the charming intimacy of the play.

Activists, Metrocom (police) officers and Aquino supporters would pass by the aisles, discussing or shaking hands with the audience as part of the story.

At one point, an officer wittingly exclaimed, “Ang sikip lang dito sa daan (The road is too narrow)!” blaming the jam-packed auditorium for his late arrival and failure to catch Lean (played by Odraube “Third” Alub, alternating with Vencer Crisostomo) and other protesters.

In another scene, Mr. Tim would tell Jojo to arrest anyone just to show their superiors that they were doing their job. Jojo would then walk over to the front and arrest someone from the audience, picking them out based on the color of their clothes.

“During the 3 pm show, he arrested the ‘man in the red shirt, the singer from The Jerks’,” Ramirez said, referring to Chikoy Pura who was the original Lean in the 1997 play.

But amid the humor and the “kilig-worthy” love story of Lean and Lidy (played by Isabel Maria Luz Quesada and Chyrene Moncada on alternate days), UP Repertory’s “Lean” stayed true to its objective of imparting, to younger generations, both the horrors and heroic acts of the era.

As the play’s synopsis said, Lean’s life “defined an era of student activism.” But it also inspires the youth of today, especially since many societal problems during that time have still not been resolved.

The second act of the play showed Lean grappling with personal and political contradictions, as well as his attempt to enter mainstream politics by running against the moneyed Tessa Oreta-Aquino.

The scene, while set more than two decades ago, seemed fairly familiar to the young audience as Lean’s opponents, in an upbeat tune, sang of vote-buying and registering corpses as voters.

“Dito, dito lang sa Pilipinas (Only, only in the Philippines)!” the chorus sang as Lean argued for the need to change the culture of elections.

“Lean” is indeed a remarkable piece of literature – tied to history but at the same time very much alive and evolving.

The new “Lean” is engaging as it combines the old and the new, marrying the profound details of the past to contemporary art and sentiments.

The scene which shows Lean driving as he sings the half-somber half-hopeful “Parating na Ako (I am Coming)” creates an intense, brooding mood just before the climactic ending.

Ramirez said the video backdrop showed the actual streets Lean passed by after his announcement at the National Press Club of a “welgang bayan (general strike)” and before he was killed in the afternoon of September 19, 1987.

“The scene of Lean’s death, the footage showing the camera fall (implying Lean falling after he was shot) is actually from the Mendiola massacre,” Ramirez said.

He said their research team was able to gather actual footages of protests during Lean’s time and used them as moving backdrops for the play. He said that particular “camera shake” was from the actual Mendiola massacre, when a camera was toppled over as the first shots rang out.

The beauty of the new “Lean” does not only come from its gripping libretto (based on the young activist’s quotable quotes) or last-song-syndrome-worthy music, it comes from the truthful and creative re-telling of history and the play’s overall ability to weave the past and the present together to bring forth a story that engages and provokes the audience.

“Lean” shows that art, like freedom, is a process and a struggle.

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To Seek and Live the Truth and Share a Vision

(Mrs. Edith Burgos shared about the life of her husband, Bantayog Martyr and press freedom advocate Joe Burgos during the First Quarter Celebration of Life last February 28, 2014.) 

"To seek and live the truth and share a vision." This in a capsule was the life of Jose G. Burgos, Jr.

I was a teacher and he was a reporter, those times before, during and right after martial law, the salaries of a teacher and newspaper reporter put together would be enough to live a decent albeit frugal life. With four children then, it was difficult but not heavy to make both ends meet. This was because, Joe would somehow be able to provide for occasions to create memories: out of town camping trips, food excursions, picnics in the most unlikely places in the metropolis, the slopes of Antipolo to watch the city skyline’s colors change while savoring a balot.

The good life could be lived with the bare minimum requirements. This was why it was not difficult for him to give up a lucrative position of public affairs manager of one of the biggest government corporations when he put up the We forum.

Joe lived the ‘impossible dream’ in his short stint on earth (65 years). He was only 38 when we started publishing. At the height of Martial Law in 1977, Joe saw the need for an alternative opposition paper so that there would be a venue for the other side of the stories to be published (at that time all the newspapers were controlled by the dictatorship).

Thus was born the ‘mosquito press", so named because we were so small, we didn’t even own a printing press when we started. With one table, one chair and one borrowed typewriter, We Forum was born.

Typical to a mosquito the newspapers were small but buzzed and irritated the powers that be. Persistent and constant the newspapers eventually grew into (we still hold the record of the biggest number of copies printed in one day --- 300,000) a 5-editions per day newspaper. At this time we already had 4 publications – We Forum, Malaya, Masa and Midday Masa.  English and Tagalog, broadsheet and tabloid. Joe was practical, he lived in the office. But he was always able to spend quality time (with his family).

This was Joe, nothing deterred him, not even the raid on our newspapers, the confiscation of our printing press, office, his being incarcerated in solitary confinement.

Where did he get his drive and courage? Little is known about Joe’s spiritual life. He appeared to be gruff and loud and carefree if one knew him cursorily. But I who lived with him in the same house, the same room and shared all his moments, I assure you his relationship with God was so solid that he spent hours per day just in silence with God. Early morning, late at night, at 6 a.m., 12 noon, 6 p.m., he would take time out to seek his friend and converse with his friend wherever he was.

Joe got his courage from knowing that he was doing God’s will for him. He knew that he could go anytime: be killed or ambushed only if this was God’s will. He dared the ‘kings’ and ‘pharisees’ – stood before them to point out the unjust structures that oppressed the small, the poor, the marginalized. To my mind, that made Joe a prophet.

When I asked him once if he felt that the newspaper had any effect on the decisions of those who read it, his answer was “It is my duty to report the truth. What they do or decide is their lookout.”

As he was with his children, believing in the potential of each one, so also was he in managing the staff of the newspapers. He somehow brought out the best in each one. For a measly ‘barya’ as they called it, the staff refused to leave Malaya even after we were closed down. They willingly worked, for free if necessary, just so the newspapers would come out. Through all these he remained humble.

When he was very sick I would ask him – if he saw meaning in all the pain. I was half expecting to hear him say that he offered for those who forgot what happened during the dictatorship.  Instead he smiled and said, “If we pray we do not need to look for meanings. His last words were “Praise to you God.”

He lived the truth, whether it was as a father, a husband, a newspaperman or just a simple farmer. This vision of sharing the truth he left with his children and those who worked with us. His memory lives on through them.  He offered his life, even to the grave, a martyr for the country and for God.

Martyrs From Melchor Hall

(Written by Ramon Ramirez, BSEE'66 for the UP Alumni Engineers 2012 Yearbook and UP Alumni Association 2013 Yearbook)

Forty years ago in 1972, then President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law throughout the country.  This impacted on the lives of many, including students and alumni of the UP College of Engineering who responded to the situation in various ways.  Thousands were imprisoned in detention camps. The list included students and alumni of the College, such as former Engineering Dean, Reynaldo Vea who was a student then and a spokesman of the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK) and Prof. Dominador Ilio who was arrested at his home in the UP campus and detained in Camp Crame because the military was looking for Dominador, Jr.  Failing to find the son, the military took the father instead; Prof. Ilio was released a month later upon the capture of his son.

Roque Magtangol Sayas

At the Wall of Remembrance of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, a memorial center built to honor individuals who fought against the martial law dictatorship, there are presently 207 names of martyrs, 77 of them from UP, of which 11 came from the College of Engineering. Names are being added every year. The Bantayog ng mga Bayani martyrs from Melchor Hall is a remarkable group of Engineering alumni and students. One of them is Magtanggol Roque of Davao. From the Ateneo de Davao High School, he enrolled at UP and earned his Chemical Engineering degree in 1965. He was an active member of the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity. He worked with Marsman, Bristol Myers, Johnson and Johnson and Mobil Oil. He was linked to the ship MV Karagatan which allegedly brought arms for the NPA in 1971.  He was charged with subversion, and he joined the underground.  He was killed by soldiers in 1981 at age 40. The Magtanggol Roque Command of the NPA in Mindanao is named after him.

Ortigas Gaston Zavalla

Another engineering alumnus is Gaston “Gasty” Ortigas who took up Mechanical Engineering.  The Bantayog ng mga Bayani has this to say of him: “Gasty also became associated with the Light-A-Fire Movement, an urban guerrilla group where some of Gasty’s former UP and Harvard classmates were also involved. When all but two members of the movement were captured in December 1979 after barely eleven months of operation, Gasty decided to leave for the US. He reached the US in May 1980, continuing his work with the MFP and, especially after the assassination of the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983, with the National Democratic Front (NDF).” He died at age 59 in 1990 after a lingering illness.

The Wall of Remembrance also honors Floro Balce of Camarines Norte who was an honor student from elementary to college, graduating valedictorian in grade school and salutatorian in high school. He obtained a government scholarship to study Electrical Engineering at UP Diliman from 1973 to 1978. He joined the UP Student Catholic Action in 1973 and the Kabataang Makabayan. He was also a founding member of UP Ibalon, an organization of Bicolano students in UP.  Floro or “Poloy”, as he was fondly called by classmates, quit his studies in 1978 to do organizing work among the farmers in his home province. While in the countryside he also dreamt of building schools, for which he wrote to a friend: ”If I could teach little children the values of kindness and nationalism, that would be pure happiness." His countryside work was very brief: he was killed in a firefight with government troops that same year and on the day he was marking his 23rd birth anniversary.


Antonio “Tonyhil” Hilario of Quezon City, enrolled in Electrical Engineering in 1965. He joined the UP Nationalist Corps, helped found the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan, and became its first Secretary General. Together with these groups, he actively engaged in organizing SDK chapters in Metro Manila. Tonyhil was captured in a military raid in a remote village in Kalibo, Aklan in 1974.  Although already wounded, he was tortured by soldiers and was forced to dig up a grave for himself and two other comrades who were killed instantly during the firefight. He was only 25.  The epitaph on his grave reads: “Behind the words, ‘contradiction’, ‘dialectics’, ‘struggle’… lies the desire to see man become human again.”

Molintas, Wright Jr. pic

Wright Molintas, Jr., a scion of two prominent Ibaloi clans of the Cordillera, enrolled in 1979 in a Geodetic Engineering course after graduating from the University of Baguio Science High School. He joined the Gamma Sigma Pi fraternity. He dropped out of the college in 1981 to join the NPA in Kalinga province, assuming the nom de guerre, “Ka Chadli”. He died in an encounter in 1987 in La Union. The Cordillera Peoples Democratic Front enshrined Ka Chadli as “a Hero of the Cordillera Peoples” and named the New Peoples Army’s Regional Operational Command after him – the Chadli Molintas Command.

Laguerder, edwin C. pic

Edwin Laguerder (1961-1987), or “Nono” to his family, was a Civil Engineering student at UP Diliman where he became a member of Pi Sigma fraternity batch 79. He was an organizer and an adviser of a farmers' organization in Davao when he was brutally killed. On the inclusion of his name in the Wall of Remembrance, his family made this response, which we quote in part: “Though it has been 25 years, the pain of Nono’s tragic and brutal death has never left us.   The arrogance of brute military force was revolting in the way he was forcibly driven out of the jeep he was riding, and shuttled to where he was killed.   His hands were poked with heavy pistols, para mawala ang mahigpit nyang pagkapit sa sasakyan, pinagsisipa, at sinisigawang animo’y kriminal.  According to bystander accounts, pinagsigawan pa nga raw ng mga pulis na nanghuli sa kanya na: “adik to, adik to, huwag kayong lumapit. …..We reckon Edwin was murdered on the night after he was captured.  His lifeless body was thrown to the sea – blindfolded and hogtied with weights behind him, siguro para mabaon na siya sa dagat. But his murderers only cut short Edwin’s mortal life – not his spirit and legacy. Today, we honor this spirit and legacy he shares with Madge, Nick, and Roz, and thousands of other known and unknown martyrs in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship. Hindi nila hiningi ito I am sure.  But precisely martyrdom is about this – selfless sacrifice in pursuit of what is just, so that all may live with dignity and pride.….In closing, I’d ask you to join me in a moment of silence to whisper a prayer of thanksgiving and gratitude for lives well-spent.”

Vergel Landrito of Quezon City was a Civil Engineering student (up to 3rd year) and a member of the Beta Sigma fraternity.. He joined the  SDK UP Area 2 chapter.  In 1971 he joined the NPA operating in the Tarlac-Zambales boundary. He did organizing work in the Aeta communities, sometimes even inside the Crow Valley which was then under American jurisdiction. In 1972, his group clashed with government troops, and he sustained fatal gunshot wounds. He was only 22.

Bayani Lontok of Mauban, Quezon first enrolled in UP Diliman College of Engineering in 1966 but transferred  to UPLB for his Agricultural Engineering course from 1967 to 1970. A member of the SDK, he worked full time with the farmers in Mt. Banahaw. In November, 1972, at age 22, he and three activists were killed in an Army raid. Their bodies were buried in unknown graves and have never been recovered.

Mariano “Rak” Lopez of Bataan was a graduate of the Philippine Science High School batch 1969 and was an NSDB (now DOST) scholar from 1968 to 1972 while studying for his BS Electrical Engineering degree. Rak was active in the UP Nationalist Corps, SDK and later the cultural group Gintong Silahis. In 1972 he dropped out of school to become a full time organizer in urban poor communities.  Upon the declaration of martial law,   Rak was arrested and detained until February 1974. He worked for a time at the Daily Express where he organized a union. He later left to join the NPA in Isabela. He was gunned down by military troopers in 1976.

Lunas, Ruben M.

Ruben Lunas was an electrical engineering scholar and member of the Epsilon Chi fraternity and the activist group SDK. He was a veteran of  the Diliman Commune of 1971. When martial law was declared, Ruben joined his comrades in the underground in his hometown in Bicol where he did organizing work among the farmers. He was killed in a military raid in Oas, Albay in 1975. He was 25.   Several months before his death, Ruben had written to his brothers and sisters upon learning that a younger brother was picked up and tortured by the military because they could not find him: “Don’t forget that you have a brother who is fighting, not only for your sake, but for the sake of all the suffering masses. You may have been suffering too for the consequences of my actions. Don’t let the monsters of today frighten you.”

Arnulfo “Noli” Resus of Lipa City enrolled in Geodetic Engineering in 1969 as a full scholar. After a year, he transferred to the Philippine Christian University, and later studied at the Philippine College of Commerce.  Noli became a member of KM and the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, becoming an active member of the Christian for National Liberation. When martial law was declared, Noli joined the anti-martial law underground to continue his organizing work. He was arrested in Quiapo in 1974, severely tortured, held incommunicado in a bartolina cell and imprisoned for 8 months. Upon his release, he joined his comrades in Isabela to work as community organizer for the underground. He was killed by soldiers in 1977 at age 25. The Student Christian Movement of the Philippines conferred posthumous honors on Noli on December 27, 1985.

The names of these patriotic and brave alumni and students from Melchor Hall are now immortalized in the granite Wall of Remembrance of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani. We are very proud of them for rising up to the call of the time.

3 Labor Leaders, Nun Bantayog Honorees

FREEDOM ADVOCATES Rolando Olalia (left), Felixberto Olalia Sr. (top, left) and Crispin Beltran are among this year’s Bantayog ng mga Bayani honorees. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

First posted at the Philippine Daily Inquirer and written by Ma. Ceres Doyo.

Three fearless labor leaders, four massacre victims, one Augustinian nun and four other activists were among those honored at Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Monument of Heroes) in Quezon City this week. Their names brought to 235 the names etched on the black granite Wall of Remembrance, centerpiece of the Bantayog complex that honors those who fought, died or were martyred during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

This year’s honorees were labor leaders Felixberto Olalia Sr., Rolando Olalia and Crispin Beltran; human rights worker Sr. Violeta Marcos; “Daet martyrs” Elmer Lagarteja, Jose E. Alcantara (killed at 40), Benjamen Suyat (killed at 47) and Rogelio Guevarra (killed at 45); Jorge Checa, Ceasar Gavanzo Jr., Venerando Villacillo and Julieto Mahinay.

They were all “freedom advocates” who opposed the dictatorship. They lived and died in different ways but had in common a heroic streak that made them worthy to be included in the list of martyrs and heroes etched on the Wall of Remembrance.

The wall stands a few meters away from a towering 13.7-meter (45-foot) bronze sculpture titled “Inang Bayan” (Motherland) created by Eduardo Castrillo. The monument depicts a vertical female figure (symbolizing the Motherland), her left hand raised to the sky in triumph as her right hand lifts up a fallen martyr.

The monument, the commemorative wall and the other structures in the Bantayog complex honor the martyrs and heroes who fought to restore freedom, peace, justice, truth and democracy in the country.
The Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation adds more names to the roster of heroes and martyrs as new individuals are nominated and their specific contributions established.

Grand old man

Called the “grand old man of Philippine labor,” Felixberto Olalia Sr. (1903-1983) was the first chair of the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) founded in 1980.

But long before KMU, Olalia was already involved in trade unionism. An icon of the Philippine labor movement, he was a founder of the National Federation of Labor Unions.

Born in Pampanga province to poor farmers, “Ka Bert” studied only up to fourth grade. He worked as a houseboy and in a shoe factory, where his initiation to the trade union movement began.

Olalia followed in the footsteps of Crisanto Evangelista, whose bold leadership of labor unions earned the praise even of then Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon.

During World War II, Olalia joined the resistance movement against the Japanese occupation. After the war, he and other labor leaders rebuilt the unions and resumed the agitation for reforms.


In the 1950s, several labor leaders, including Olalia and poet Amado Hernandez, were arrested and jailed on charges of rebellion and for having communist links.

After his release, Olalia, then in his 50s, went back to organizing and advocating for genuine independence from foreign interference.

Shortly after martial law was declared in 1972, Marcos ordered Olalia’s arrest. After his release from prison, Olalia continued championing the cause of the workers.
In the 1980s, he was again thrown in jail. He was then 79 and of frail health. Protests led to his release from prison. He was put under house arrest and died not long after.

Like father, like son

Olalia’s son, KMU lawyer Rolando Olalia (1934-1986), and his driver Leonor Alay-ay suffered a brutal death in 1986, just eight months after the Marcos dictatorship was toppled and a few months into Corazon Aquino’s presidency.

Their mutilated bodies were found by a roadside in Antipolo, Rizal province, a day after their disappearance. They were shot at close range, their mouths stuffed with newspapers.

In its report to then President Aquino, the National Bureau of Investigation said the murders were a prelude to the staging of the “God Save the Queen” coup plot by a renegade military group, Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa, to rid the Aquino Cabinet of left-leaning members.


After Olalia Sr.’s death, Crispin Beltran (1933-2008) succeeded to the leadership of KMU. Coming from humble beginnings, Beltran never got to finish college. He worked as a janitor, messenger and taxi driver.

In 1955, when he was 22, he helped establish a federation of taxi drivers’ unions, called the Amalgamated Taxi Drivers Association. He was elected president and held the post for eight years.
In 1982, Beltran was one of the labor leaders ordered arrested by Marcos. In 1984, Beltran escaped and went underground.

After democracy was restored in 1986, he continued his work in the labor sector. He later occupied one of the party-list seats in the House of Representatives, representing the Bayan Muna and Anakpawis party-list groups.

In 2006, during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Beltran was arrested for rebellion and detained for one and a half years until the Supreme Court ruled that the charges against him were baseless.

Beltran died in a freak accident in 2008.

‘Dialogue with poor’

Starting her religious life as a school-based Augustinian sister with an impressive academic background, Sr. Violeta Marcos (1937-2001) saw the plight of sugar workers while on assignment in Negros Occidental province, often described as a restless social volcano.

In 1975, she gave up schoolwork and immersed herself in social action.

Undaunted by the repressive Marcos regime, Sister Violeta joined the Task Force Detainees (TFD) of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines and worked for the defense and release of political detainees.

She joined human rights workers in searching for the missing and helping the victims of military abuses. She helped document cases of arbitrary detention and execution of workers and Church lay leaders.
In 1990, she and some of her fellow religious formed a new congregation, the Augustinian Missionaries of the Philippines, becoming its first head.

Sister Violeta died of an illness in 2001, ending what she called her “dialogue of life with the poor.”

Daet martyrs

Jose Alcantara (40), Benjamen Suyat (47), Rogelio Guevarra (45) and Elmer Lagarteja (21) were killed on June 14, 1981, in an anti-Marcos rally in Daet, Camarines Norte province. They were among thousands who marched from different towns to Daet’s Freedom Park, shouting “Down with the Marcos dictatorship!” “Raise the prices of copra!” and “Dismantle Cocofed.”

At the Camambugan crossing, they were stopped by soldiers of the Philippine Constabulary led by a Capt. Joseph Malilay. The marchers refused to disperse and, with arms linked, made as if to march ahead. Pushing and shoving ensued between the two sides. Malilay ordered his men to fire. Malilay was among those seen firing at close range. The PC provincial commander, Col. Nicasio Custodio, was reportedly present during the shooting, which lasted less than a minute.

When the smoke cleared, four unarmed marchers lay dead with more than 40 bullet wounds. Soldiers pursued the fleeing protesters and those caught were lined up by the roadside and threatened with being shot.

Human rights lawyer Jose W. Diokno rushed to the scene the day after the massacre and was detained for a few hours at a military camp.

According to a TFD report, all the wounded and killed were standing at the front of the march; the four who died took direct shots from where the soldiers stood; and no weapons were found on the marchers.

Singing group

When Marcos declared martial law in 1972, Jorge Checa (1951-1984) went into hiding on learning he was on the military’s wanted list. He and other members of a youth group called Kamanyang went underground and organized the youth in northern Metro Manila.

Checa founded a singing group called Salt of the Earth. The group sang songs to raise people’s awareness about the burning issues of the day.

Checa and his girlfriend Corazon married in 1973 and the couple’s home became the headquarters of community organizers in the area. At the time, organizing was considered a subversive activity.

A few months later, the couple were arrested and detained for three months at Fort Bonifacio.

Letters stopped coming

After their release, the couple headed for Mindanao and joined the anti-Marcos resistance. They lived with farmers and indigenous communities.

Checa and his wife were not always together but they wrote letters to each other. When Checa’s letters stopped coming, his wife feared the worst.

The search for Checa proved to be a perilous journey. Two lawyers assisting in the search, Zorro Aguilar and Jacobo Amatong, were assassinated.

Checa’s remains and those of another person were eventually found. Checa’s body bore multiple stab wounds, which disproved the military’s suggestion of suicide.

First casualty in Sorsogon

Activist Ceasar Gavanzo Jr. (1947-1972) is considered Sorsogon province’s first casualty of martial law.

A student activist from Manuel L. Quezon University, Gavanzo returned to his home province after martial law was declared and continued his resistance work against dictatorial rule. His home was under constant surveillance and, despite offers of sanctuary by known influential persons, he continued with his work, unprotected.

One day, his family received information that Gavanzo was dead and that his body had been dumped at Bulusan Municipal Hall. Gavanzo’s body bore bullet wounds, his legs and ribs had been broken, and several of his teeth extracted.

Still missing

A tall man with a gift for public speaking, Venerando Villacillo (1950-1985) studied criminology and martial arts. He dreamed of becoming a detective.

When martial law was declared in 1972, he and other activists went to Isabela province to organize the rural folk. When Isabela became heavily militarized, Villacillo worked among evacuees who had fled their homes.

When things became too hot, Villacillo moved to Mindanao to continue his antidictatorship work. He became a wanted man.

Villacillo and his family were on a trip to Manila in 1985 when he was abducted. His family tried to resist but when his daughter was threatened with a gun he allowed himself to be taken away.
The search for Villacillo yielded nothing. He is missing to this day.

Church worker

Julieto Mahinay (1935-1984) was a catechist of the Diocese of Surigao del Norte province. He was well liked and respected. People went to him for leadership and guidance.

Mahinay worked with the Episcopal Commission on Tribal Filipinos, a social action arm of the Catholic bishops that served indigenous communities. He worked among the Mamanwa, a semi-nomadic group, holding literacy classes for the Mamanwa while staying in a farm run by the diocese. He taught them farming techniques to help them improve their livelihood.

Mahinay also helped the communities displaced by military operations and land-grabbing activities. He made them aware of their rights.

On March 14, 1984, Mahinay was on his way to Claver National High School to hold a spiritual retreat for graduating students. At a checkpoint of the 36th Infantry Battalion, soldiers stopped the jeepney that Mahinay was riding.

The soldiers found in his possession a Bible and a map of tribal settlements in Mindanao. They let the jeepney and the passengers go but detained Mahinay.

He never made it to his appointment with the students. He never made it back to his home in Amontay, a village outside Surigao City.

The Free Legal Assistance Group filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus for Mahinay but to no avail. His family and coworkers followed leads that yielded nothing.

Mahinay was never found. His family believed that the soldiers who seized him were responsible for his death.

Bantayog on FQS 45th Anniversary

The Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation joins the rest of the country in remembering the tumultuous events of the first quarter of 1970, now remembered as the First Quarter Storm, or FQS, of 1970.

It was a time of great political unrest in the Philippines. Tens of thousands of activists joined protest actions that often ended with members of the armed and police forces holding violent dispersal operations and shooting at unarmed demonstrators who then fought to hold their ranks using home-made bombs and pillboxes. Protesters were raising their voices against growing Philippine involvement in the American war in Vietnam, increasing poverty, and spreading militarization in the Philippines.

The First Quarter Storm attracted many young people, and many Filipino activists, intellectuals as well as from the laboring peoples, trace a life-long commitment to nationalist and democratic issues from this period. Several demonstrators were killed in these shootings. One was factory worker and union leader Liza Balando as among the heroes and martyrs at the time of the Marcos dictatorship.

Other Bantayog heroes from the First Quarter Storm are Carlos Del Rosario, teacher from the Philippine College of Commerce (now Polytechnic University of the Philippines), and the late Voltaire Garcia III, student activist leader from the University of the Philippines.

Del Rosario, a leader of the activist group Kabataang Makabayan (KM), disappeared in 1971 and has never been seen again. He is believed to have been abducted by Marcos authorities while putting up posters inside the school campus in Lepanto, Manila. On the other hand, Garcia, who became a lawyer and a member of the progressive bloc at the 1971 Constitutional Convention, died of leukemia in 1973, while under house detention by the Marcos government.

This acrylic on canvas, executed in 2006 as a collective work by a group of activist artists, depicts scenes and sentiments from that historical period. The artists come from various progressive organizations and include Boy Dominguez, Art Castillo, Orly Castillo, Babes Alejo, Erwin Pascual, Pedro Alejo, Flon Faurillo and Betsy Alejo.

The painting was commissioned in 2006 by the First Quarter Storm Movement, which represents activists from that period. The 10-foot high canvas was donated the following year to the Foundation, which has had it installed on its lobby wall as permanent display.

(Photo from

First Quarter 2015 Celebration of Life

On February 25, friends and families of our heroes and martyrs whose birthdates fall within the first quarter (January to March) of the year will share stories of their lives.

Let the sacrifices, heroism, love of fellowmen and country by these outstanding people inspire us in meeting the challenges that continue to be present in our nation.

'It Was a Hard Day Today'

A reflection from Cindy Domingo:
34 years ago, I was at Harborview Hospital in the trauma unit as Silme lay dying. He would be dead by the morning. We lost Gene and Silme 34 years ago but it doesn't seem that long ago. Today was a hard day. I went to see the SIFF movie - The Black Panthers - Vanguard of the Party and saw many friends from that were part of the Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes. The movie reminded me of what our government does to kill our movements - killing our leaders, spreading disinformation to divide us and pit us against each other, paying informants, spying and harassing us. It was a hard day today. I miss Silme and Gene still.

Paalam NVR, Godspeed!

Mrs. Nievelena V. Rosete, our former executive director, board secretary and long-time trustee, passed away today June 10, 2015. We extend to her family and friends our warmest sympathy and condolences.

Paalam, NVR, and godspeed!

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