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I Commit Myself to the Revolution by Sr. Asuncion Martinez, ICM



I Commit Myself to the Revolution by Sr. Asuncion Martinez, ICM

VALENZUELA, Teofilo B.

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Even when he was alive, Teofilo Valenzuela, whom everyone called Teope, was already an authentic hero in the eyes of his townmates in Samal, Bataan.

Thus, after he was killed by government troops in a dramatic gunbattle, thousands came to his funeral even though it was the height of martial law. It is said that entire villages were emptied of people that day as everyone had gone to pay their last respects to Teope.

The eldest son of a poor peasant couple, Valenzuela had little formal schooling beyond the elementary grades, but he was conversant in a broad range of topics. At the age of 15, after his father died, he took over the duties of caring for his mother and four siblings. He planted and fished, and worked as a laborer in construction sites. Eventually he found a regular job at the pulp and paper mill that was the town’s biggest employer.

Student activists started coming to Samal in the late 1960s, and they found ready support in the community. Teope and his two brothers joined the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan. Their house became the group’s headquarters. Among his first projects as an activist was to organize the local young people to help out in planting and harvesting rice from the farmers’ fields.

After the declaration of martial law, Teofilo Valenzuela tried to continue with his activities but soon left home to join the armed guerrilla movement already active in the Bataan-Zambales area. This was of course a time-honored recourse of those with legitimate grievances against the authorities: they “took to the hills” where at least they had a chance of putting up a good fight.

Valenzuela was a mature man respected by all – easygoing and generous, someone who told funny stories and sang kundiman love songs. The townspeople understood and accepted his decision to go underground.

Soon he became Ka Miguel who, in behalf of the local farmers, bargained with the landowners for better terms and conditions. Confronting the environmental pollution being caused by the pulp and paper mill, he persuaded his townmates to protest by writing letters and launching mass actions. As a result, the management installed an antipollution mechanism at the factory site. Valenzuela also helped the workers to pressure for higher wages and better working conditions.

The authorities sent troops to hunt down the people’s champion. In a surprise attack one early morning, Valenzuela was hit in the knee in the first volley of fire. Knowing that his team’s firearms were no match for the high-powered rifles of their adversaries, he firmly ordered them to escape while he stayed behind. For hours, he was able to hold them off with just his old carbine and careful use of his remaining ammunition; he was even able to grab and use an automatic rifle that had rolled near him during the gunfight. By mid-afternoon, however, Valenzuela had been overpowered, his body peppered with bullets. He was 35 years old when he died.

BORN                                    :               March 1, 1940 in Samal, Bataan

DIED                                      :               January 25, 1975 in Samal, Bataan

PARENTS                             :               Roman Valenzuela and Isabel Barcenas

JALLORES, Romulo A.

Jallores Pic (1)

There is a photograph taken during the “Battle of Mendiola” on January 30, 1970, showing a truck full of young people, ramming the gates of Malacan͂ang Palace. They were symbolically storming the seat of power, in a show of new-found confidence and strength by the country’s youth restlessly seeking change.

Romulo Jallores’ picture atop that truck, wearing a beret just like Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the legendary revolutionary of Latin America, made him famous after that. Activists called him Che. Like the picture itself, splashed across the pages of a national magazine, Jallores became a symbol of the emerging struggle for national emancipation.

He had been born poor, one of six children that their mother raised by herself. Jallores loved to read and discuss all sorts of topics with his friends. As a child he enjoyed playing war games with the others, always taking the side of the weaker opponent, she said. After second-year high school, however, he dropped out and set off for Manila to work for a living.

He supported himself by doing garage work, construction work, machine shop work. Towards the end of the 1960s, rising student and youth activism drew him in and provided answers to his questions. He began attending teach-ins and demonstrations, joining marches and other protest actions.

Shortly after the Battle of Mendiola, with his brother Benjie he returned to his native Bicol region to organize among the landless peasants and the workers in the fields of abaca.  To the activists still in Manila, the Jallores brothers became a symbol of a higher form of struggle in the countryside, one that demanded utmost dedication and sacrifice. Romulo Jallores became famous as “Tangkad,” reputed to be among the top guerrilla leaders there along with his brother.

In 1971, government troops surrounded a house in Naga City where Jallores had been meeting with some comrades. He refused to surrender, and went down in the exchange of fire, in which a constabulary lieutenant also died.  News of his death electrified the surging protest movement in Manila, providing a glimpse of the risks and glories of the path that Tangkad had taken.

When martial law was declared by President Marcos the following year, many among “the best and the brightest” of that generation were inspired to follow Romulo Jallores in going to the grassroots and working among the people to bring about radical change, no matter what the cost.[1]

 

BORN                                    :               November 8, 1948 in Ocampo, Camarines Sur

DIED                                      :               December 30, 1971 in Naga City

PARENTS                             :               Edilberto Jallores and Marcela Acetre

EDUCATION                       :               Elementary: Moriones Elementary School, Ocampo, Camarines Sur

Secondary: Sta. Clara Academy, Tigaon, Camarines Sur

 

[1]On July 5, 1972, Benjie Jallores was killed in a raid by constabulary troops in a remote area of Ocampo, Camarines Sur. See Ricardo Lee, “Ang Mahabang Maikling Buhay ni Kumander Tangkad,”  Asia-Philippines Leader, Pebrero 18, 1972, pp. 34-36.

YUYITUNG, Rizal C. K.

Yuyitung, Rizal CK pic

“A prelude to the proclamation of martial law,” was how Rizal Yuyitung described the ordeal that he and his elder brother Quintin suffered when President Marcos caused them to be arbitrarily deprived of their freedoms, imprisoned for crimes they did not commit, and forced to live in exile for many years.

It is now well-known that Marcos had been scheming for years how to carry out the plan that would ensure his continuing stranglehold on power.   In 1970, well before actually imposing one-man rule, he “decided to test the waters with actions against [us], believing that we are the weakest link in the Philippine press,” said Rizal Yuyitung afterwards.[1]

Rizal was the editor-in-chief of the Chinese Commercial News and Quintin was its publisher. Before World War II, it was their father, Yu Yi Tung, who had been the newspaper’s publisher; he was executed by the Japanese in Fort Santiago for refusing to allow it to be used for their propaganda.

Named after the national hero, Rizal was born, raised and educated in the Philippines.  An agriculture graduate, he and Quintin revived CNN after the death of their father. Under their leadership, it went on to resume its place as a respected voice of the Chinese-Filipino community.

In keeping with the highest standards of professional journalism, CNN prized its independence as embodied by Yu Yi Tung.  But it was tagged “pro-communist” because it had been printing reports translated from western news agencies about developments in what was then tagged as “Red China.”

The Marcos government therefore kidnapped and flew them to Taiwan (which they didn’t recognize as their country, considering themselves Filipino). There they were hastily tried and sentenced to prison: Rizal for three years and Quintin for two.

In persecuting the two brothers, Marcos was toeing an ideological line that was also anti-Chinese – thinking that nobody would care to speak up in their defense. (CNN and the brothers were also strongly advocating for a less difficult process of acquiring Filipino citizenship for ethnic Chinese like them.)  But after the Yuyitungs were deported, 170 Filipino journalists, students and academics signed a manifesto in protest.  Prominent lawyers and journalists rushed to their side.

By the time Rizal Yuyitung was released from prison in Taiwan, Marcos was already tyrannizing the entire Philippines with his dictatorial rule. Rizal’s wife Veronica had also suffered a period of detention. The couple then decided to live with their children in Canada.

After Marcos’ downfall in 1986, Rizal and Quintin Yuyitung returned to the Philippines and resumed the publication of  Chinese Commercial News. Even after their deaths, it continues to exist today.

BORN                                    :               September 16, 1922 in Manila

DIED                                      :               April 19, 2007 in Toronto, Canada

PARENTS                             :               Yu Yi Tung and Kak Sui Kok

SPOUSE/CHILDREN         :               Veronica Lim / 7

 

[1] See Yvonne T. Chua, “Heroes of Press Freedom: the Father and Sons Yuyitung,” May 6, 2007, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.

RIGOS, Cirilo A.

Rigos Cirilo

The imposition of martial law in the Philippines in September 1972 instantly created a climate of fear that kept most people from saying or doing anything that might offend the government. It became impossible for friends to meet in public places, because they feared that spies would be listening to their conversations.  Especially, it somehow became dangerous to be associated with persons who were known to be independent-minded, or at least not pro-Marcos.

A Protestant church in the heart of Manila was able to open a window that allowed a bit of fresh air into the stifling atmosphere. In 1973, just a few months after the martial law declaration, the Wednesday Forum began meeting at the Cosmopolitan Church on Taft  Avenue. The ecumenical group brought together not only Protestants but also other religious leaders, as well as professionals, academics and opposition politicians; some members of the Marcos government also attended.

Every week they gathered at the social hall of the church to discuss public concerns: “The purpose was to know the true facts, as distinguished from the reported ‘facts’ in the controlled media, and thereafter to proclaim the truth and work for freedom and justice and human dignity, at a crucial time when so many had been deprived of their basic human rights.”[1] Not surprisingly, a number of those who attended were later arrested and detained by the military.

It was Cirilo Rigos, the courageous pastor of Cosmopolitan Church, who convened and hosted Wednesday Forum. From the pulpit, he continued to deliver passionate, stinging sermons criticizing the injustices perpetrated by the regime. Due to pressure from some conservative members, however, he felt he had to resign from his position in 1977. This resulted in Rigos, and Wednesday Forum, transferring to Ellinwood Church instead where he served for the next 11 years.

Pastor Rigos was also instrumental in organizing the Paglingap ministry of his church, which attended to the needs of political detainees and their families. He worked for the release of many such detainees.

After the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship, Rigos was appointed by President Corazon Aquino to the Constitutional Commission which drafted the 1987 Constitution.

Cirilo Rigos served as pastor of Cosmopolitan Church for a second time in 1993, until his death from cancer in 1996.

BORN                                    :               March 29, 1932 in Candelaria, Quezon

DIED                                      :               June 21, 1996 in Makati City

PARENTS                             :               Juan Rigos and Paula Aquino

SPOUSE/CHILDREN         :               Lydia de Guia / 2

EDUCATION                       :               Elementary:  Candelaria Elementary School, Candelaria Quezon

Secondary:  Tayabas Academy, Quezon

College: Union Theological Seminary, Manila

Postgraduate: Union Theological Seminary, New York;  San Francisco

Theological Seminary, California;  University of Chicago (USA)

 

[1] In Jovito R. Salonga, “Who we are and what Cosmopolitan Church stands for,” message delivered during the 61st anniversary celebration of Cosmopolitan Church on March 20, 1994.

YORAC, Haydee B.

Yorac Haydee Bofil

Very few public officials were like Haydee Yorac who could be held in such high regard by her countrymen for her integrity and intelligence in government service.

Yorac was among the first batch of persons who were rounded up upon the declaration of martial law. Released from Camp Crame after several months, she thereafter distinguished herself as an exacting professor at the University of the Philippines college of law. She also volunteered her services to the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), staying in the background most of the time.[1] In 1981 she earned a master of laws degree at Yale University in the United States.

It was after the dictatorship’s ouster in 1986 that Yorac emerged as a key figure in the Filipino people’s clamor for a thoroughgoing change in the values held by the nation’s leadership – the corruption, nepotism and greed that were hallmarks of Marcos’ long rule.

At the Commission on Elections, which she served as chairman from 1989 to 1999, her firm grasp of the law and, more importantly, her principles, restored the people’s faith in the democratic process of choosing their leaders. She also tried to build institutional strength through collective decision-making, role modeling, and firm but compassionate leadership.  It was a difficult job for which she was uniquely suited, as she refused to be allied or influenced by the traditional political groupings or clans that were trying to make a comeback.

Her next stint in a high-profile government position was as chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government from 2001 to 2005.  This was a most formidable challenge, which meant fighting the Marcos family with all the resources they still commanded, as well as undertaking a massive housecleaning operation within the bureaucracy itself. She did her best within the limitations, and in 2003 won a Supreme Court decision that recovered $700 million for the government in Marcos ill-gotten wealth that had been frozen for years.  She also won a decision that declared the coconut levy funds (collected from farmers during the dictatorship) to be public money and not privately-owned as claimed by Marcos crony Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.

Yorac received a Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service in 2004, and other marks of public recognition as well. (Ironically, however, she lost when she ran for the Senate in 1998.)

As a private person, Yorac treasured the company of her family and friends, and she enjoyed good food, books and films. She continued to work after a stroke in 2003, but died from cancer in 2005.

 

[1]  She defended the artists Lino Brocka and Behn Cervantes from charges of inciting to sedition in 1984. For a more detailed narrative  of Yorac’s life, see Lorna K. Tirol’s biography in the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation’s website.

VYTIACO, Antonia Teresa V.

Vituico Ma. Antonia Teresa Villa

Nanette Vytiaco was a vivacious young woman from Bikol, studying in Manila and thoroughly energized by the hectic pace of student activism. And plunging heart and soul into that life was not enough for her – she wanted to share it with her friends and family.

In those days before everyone had a cellphone and connected through social media, people sent letters to each other in what is now called “snail mail.” Writing back home to her cousin Bing, Vytiaco described a typical day: “If I was not very busy today I should have gone to the picket at Retelco in Pasig.” Earlier, she had attended a rally in support of a jailed youth leader.  She was planning to join a group visit on a “Learn from the People” trip to Central Luzon. Knowing that her father would disapprove, she confided: “If he does not permit me, I will make takas.”

Torn between her father’s worries and her own enthusiasm to serve, Vytiaco mused: “Surely I love him so much,” she told Bing, “I know I will disappoint him. I, too, am aware that he has high expectations and dreams for me. But what can I do? Should I give in to Papa’s call or the Lord’s? The matter with us is that we are too selfish and this is what makes our country stagnant… Honestly, how do you judge me at present? Do you think I should return to the same old me, or continue pursuing my new-found life?”

President Marcos was then well on his way to declaring martial law, so that Vytiaco and many others found it easy to abandon their studies and devote themselves full-time to the political resistance. She met and married Nicanor Vergara, a fellow activist, and together they began organizing chapters of Kabataang Makabayan in the Bikol region, starting in her hometown of Bulan, Sorsogon. They also networked with government employees, coconut farmers, cargadores loading and unloading goods at the seaport, fishermen.  Humble folk who worked on their family’s land gave her shelter in their homes.

Although the situation had become especially dangerous, Vytiaco remained in close touch with her loved ones.  She was so happy to see her mother one day in November 1972, bringing her favorite food.  She was expecting a baby for the third time, having already suffered two miscarriages.

“Your Papa wants you to surrender, and says not to worry because the chief of police is our relative,” Mrs. Vytiaco said.  Nanette refused, saying: “Tell him that I have chosen this life.”

That same evening, a message was received from the town mayor, informing Mr. Vytiaco that a pregnant rebel had been killed, who could be his daughter.  “So I went up to the munisipyo and saw her body trussed up and hacked by a bolo… practically hacked to pieces. I did not say anything. I carried my daughter home.”

BORN                                    :               April 13, 1953 in Bulan, Sorsogon

DIED                                      :               November 10, 1972 in Bulan, Sorsogon

PARENTS                             :               Antonio Vytiaco and Marita Villa

SPOUSE                                                :               Nicanor Vergara

EDUCATION                       :               Elementary: Bulan Elementary School, Sorsogon;  Centro Escolar

University, Manila

Secondary: University of the Philippines Preparatory School, Manila

College: University of the Philippines Diliman

 

 

VILLANUEVA, Marcelino M.

“When I grow up, Inay, I will build you a beautiful house, with ten maids to help you. We’ll fill it with nice furniture too!”

His mother remembers her boy’s childhood promise, a dream that didn’t seem too strange at the time. Marcelino was bright and hardworking. After school, he helped her sell fruits in the crowded foreshoreland area of northern Manila where they lived. Instead of playing with the other youngsters, he attended to chores around the house.

Mrs. Villanueva’s second son was then on his way to getting a topnotch education, having passed the highly competitive examinations to enter the Philippine Science High School. He and his brother x x x were the first two graduates of their public elementary school in Tondo to be admitted to PSHS, where they enjoyed full scholarships from the government.

But it was the beginning of the turbulent 1970s, when many were warning that Philippine society was like a volcano about to erupt. Marcelino Villanueva joined an activist organization, the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan. Here he found answers to his troubling questions about glaring inequalities and what the future held for young people like him. He left PSHS and transferred to a high school in Tondo. He began organizing in the urban poor communities that were so familiar to him.

Abandoning his studies and his childhood dream of becoming a rich man, Villanueva instead began advocating the need to reject apathy, to be more aware, and most of all to undertake purposeful collective action in order to bring about real social change. He volunteered to join ZOTO (Zone One Tondo Organization), a church-assisted federation of community organizations. To combat the drug problem, he thought of involving the youth in sports and other activities like cleaning the drainage canals running through their neighborhoods.

In 1977 Villanueva was arrested and detained for four months in Bicutan Rehabilitation Center.  Upon his release, he asked to be sent to Central Luzon where he spent two years working among the small peasants.  Then he returned to his old base in Manila, where the groundwork had been laid years before, and was now the center of mass protests against the dictatorship.

The martial law authorities marked Villanueva as a wanted man, and in 1985 he was killed by constabulary troopers in a rented house in Project 7, Quezon City.

BORN                                    :               March 3, 1955 in Manila

DIED                                      :               May 21, 1985 in Quezon City

PARENTS                             :               Mariano Villanueva and Lagrimas Mercado

SPOUSE/CHILDREN         :               x x x / 2

EDUCATION                :           Elementary: Isabelo de los Reyes Elementary School, Manila

Secondary: Philippine Science High School, Quezon City;

Torres High School, Manila

SILVA, Lazaro P.

 Silva Lazaro

He was fun-loving and lighthearted – kalog.  Having gained admission to a high school with strict academic standards, he refused to be known as a nerd, claiming that all he wanted was to “pass, and have a good time”[1] with his barkada, the guys he hung out with.

Lazzie Silva went on to enter college in 1970, and it was there, as an Ateneo freshman, that he began joining rallies: at first by himself, and then as a member of the radical Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan.  The protest actions escalated.  In February 1971, someone he knew from high school (Pastor Mesina) was shot dead at a barricade at the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman.  Then, a few months later, he witnessed how government troops fired at a rally, killing four workers.

These experiences made a lasting impact on Silva, He now got serious, doing organizing work among the youth and the poor communities in Marikina and Quezon City.  Eventually he left school to devote himself full-time to the movement.  His commitment only grew stronger when President Marcos declared martial law.

In late 1973, he was arrested outside a printing press where he and another activist had been mimeographing a political manifesto. Silva was jailed for six months in Fort Bonifacio before being released (his father was a constabulary officer, and this probably helped).  While in detention, the many communal activities kept him busy; he even learned how to sew pants for himself and others.

But although he went right back to his organizational tasks afterwards, Silva had made up his mind to leave the city and join the armed guerrillas in the countryside. In the remote communities of Zambales, where he was assigned, life was very hard especially for a city-bred youth. But he was determined to share the people’s life: they taught him how to plow, plant and harvest; once, he helped to deliver a baby.  When his girlfriend suggested that he take a few days’ break back home in the city, he refused because “he might be tempted to stay.” She knew that he had “set a standard for himself and he was set on meeting that goal.” He asked her to come and visit him instead.[2]

But before that could happen, Silva met his death in an isolated hut somewhere in the hills. On August 13, 1975, a military unit was able to surround his group undetected. As they opened fire, Lazzie Silva decided he would stay on and hold off the attackers, so that his comrades could escape the cordon.

He was so young, just 23, said his girlfriend many years later. “The happy-go-lucky guy that I met turned out to be a real hero. He died fighting for his beliefs and in service to the people he loved.”[3]

BORN                                    :               March 4, 1952 in San Jose, Nueva Ecija

DIED                                      :               August 13, 1976 in Zambales

EDUCATION                       :               Elementary: Pio del Pilar Elementary School, [Quezon City]

Secondary: Philippine Science High School, Quezon City

College: Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City

[1] Personal communication, D. Bibat, March 16, 2001.

[2] Email, L. Castilla, March 2, 2001.

[3] Ibid.

PALABAY, Armando D.

Palabay Armando Ducusin

Armando Palabay, the eighth of nine brothers and sisters, was reared in the typical Ilocano fashion of frugality and simple living. His parents stressed the value of education, love for country, and the obligation to help others and serve the community. Armando, or Mandrake to friends, was a gregarious person. He loved to mix with crowds and had the gift of a quick and charming tongue. Yet he was also sensitive to other person’s needs and he wanted to help the less fortunate.

Living in the Ilocos and coming from an Ilocano family, Mandrake grew in a community that was loyal and devoted to then president Ferdinand Marcos and his family. Every family had one of a child named Ferdinand or Imelda in honor of the president or his wife.

But the Palabay family heard of rumors of abuses and injustices being committed by the Marcos government against students and ordinary citizens. Mandrake and elder brother Romulo, then also in high school, kept up with current events and discussed the day's issues with friends. Some evenings, they spent not wooing girls or playing with the boys, but getting into impassioned debates with their growing circle of activist friends. The Palabay house was the site of those nightly talks. The boys’ parents worried for the boys’ safety but they did not want to curtail their growing passion for justice and reform.

Romulo joined the local chapter of the militant Kabataang Makabayan, and the brothers were soon joining small rallies denouncing government abuses, or sometimes at the plaza, with a curious crowd, staging plays that offered sharp commentaries about the social situation.

The brothers moved to Manila in the 1970s for their college education. At the University of the Philippines, Mandrake joined the Student Cultural Association of UP (SCAUP), and later the Kabataang Makabayan and its cultural arm, the Panday Sining. He kept his interest in drama, helping organize and present street plays, singing protest songs during rallies, and holding poetry readings to interpret their burning search for justice in society.

After the 1971 First Quarter Storm and the bombing of the Liberal Party rally in Plaza Miranda, the brothers decided to return to the Ilocos to convince their fellow Ilocanos, still blinded by their adoration of Marcos, about what was going on. They enrolled in a local college and were soon organizing forums, protest rallies and discussion groups among youths and students in the province. They organized countryside trips to bring town‑based students to experience life in the village. In one of these visits, villagers complained that soldiers and members of the local militia had come and ordered local people to bring them food but never paid for them. The Palabay brothers organized a protest against the soldiers’ abusive practice.

Once more the Palabay household became a nightly scene of young people, discussing various views and possible alternatives. Some of the young people at these meetings came from as far away as Baguio or Manila. Some came from the villages.

President Marcos’ declaration of martial law in 1972 forever changed the Palabay household. Mandrake and Romulo were arrested, tortured and detained for half a year at Camp Olivas in Pampanga. After his release, Mandrake returned to UP, and found there a restlessness that saw even members of the faculty protesting against the repressive policies of the government.

Mandrake stayed for only one semester in UP. In December 1973, he left to engage in countryside organizing in Abra province, in particular, with the Tinggians of southern Abra. He learned the Tinggian language and took a short training in acupuncture and the use of herbal medicines to help him integrate into the community. He would handle nervous patients with humor, joking with them or telling them funny stories. He also helped in farm work, thus teaching himself about the labors of those who toiled the soil to produce food. He became part of an armed propaganda unit.

In a letter he wrote in October 1974, he told a younger brother:

"You have to render true and concrete service. I joined and learned the whole process of planting rice. Thus I realized how hard a peasant's life is. They use very crude and backward implements. They must use their hands in order to sustain life... "

Mandrake had been in Tinggian territory for nearly a year when his team of four moved to open new areas, a risky venture because it entailed moving into new unexplored territory. Mandrake's unit was intercepted by constabulary soldiers and members of the local home defense force. A firefight ensued, and Mandrake's team all died fighting. They were all buried in an unmarked grave near the banks of the Abra River. None of the bodies have been recovered.

Mandrake was 21 years old.

* Born 18 February 1953 in San Fernando, La Union

* Died 27 November 1974 in Sallapadan, Abra

* Parents : Francisco F. Palabay and Felicidad F. Ducusin

* Education :   San Fernando Community School, La Union, graduated with honors

La Union High School, in top 10 of graduating class

University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, 3rd year in BS Economics

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