People Power Revolution

The People Power Revolution was a series of popular demonstrations in the Philippines against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos which culminated on February 22–25, 1986.

AGATEP, Zacarias G.

agatep, zacharias

"If it is a crime to love the poor and support them in their struggle against injustice, then I am ready to face the firing squad," Fr. Zacarias Agatep wrote in 1980 just after his release from four months of imprisonment by the martial law government. Two years later he did give up his life in the pursuit of this belief.

Fellow seminarians remember Agatep as a serious-minded person, whom they called Apo Kari. ("Apo" is the Ilokano term of respect for elders, leaders, or persons in positions of authority.)

Agatep spent his summers as a seminarian helping poor families in their farms. After his ordination in 1964, he took up parish duties for a short while in San Esteban town. Then he served as fulltime chaplain of the Northern Luzon chapter of the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF). Working with farmers in the towns of Sta. Cruz, Sta. Lucia, Salcedo and Galimuyod, he helped organize cooperatives, raised awareness about land reform, and campaigned for the reduction of land rent.

But when, in 1973, the FFF leadership supported the Marcos regime's campaign for the ratification of a martial law constitution, the priest campaigned among FFF members to boycott the referendum called for this purpose. He left the organization and returned to parish work in Caoayan, taking up the cause of poor tobacco farmers, and speaking up against foreign and local elite control of the tobacco industry.

Later he joined the Christians for National Liberation and began to secretly support the fight against the dictatorial regime.

He was serving as parish priest in Caoayan when arrested on 4 September 1980 and charged with subversion and illegal possession of firearms. He was first taken to Camp Diego in Ilocos Sur, moved to Camp Dangwa in Benguet, and finally to Camp Bagong Diwa (Bicutan Rehabilitation Center) in Metro Manila. All through those four months he continued to minister to his fellow prisoners.

He was released on December 24, 1980, as part of the regime's preparations for the visit of Pope John Paul II. In a letter afterwards to President Marcos, his provincemate, Agatep protested his imprisonment as a frameup. "If this is the kind of justice we get from the so-called guardians of the New Society, then there is no wonder why there are some people who go to the hills to fight the government."

Some time after, a reward for Agatep's rearrest was posted by the authorities. At the age of 46, on October 11, 1982, the priest was killed together with Alfredo Cesar, a former deacon who had been assisting him. The military claimed that the two died in an armed encounter with constabulary soldiers, but many doubted this. Agatep’s body showed that he had been shot four times from behind.

Many religious groups denounced the deaths of Agatep and Cesar. A memorial mass was held for them at the chapel of the Daughters of St. Paul in Manila, sponsored by a newly-formed Committee for the Protection of Church People's Rights. Twenty-seven priests, Filipinos as well as foreigners, concelebrated, and about 500 persons, including Protestants, attended the ecumenical rites.


aguilar, zorro

The common folk of Zamboanga del Norte loved human rights lawyer Zorro Aguilar because they could always count on him to take up the cases of poor people, especially those who suffered from oppression or were victims of persons in power.

They knew him as a simple man, “a far cry from the elegantly dressed, English-speaking lawyers of Makati.” His friends said: “He did not even have a typewriter, or a vehicle, and he lived in a dilapidated house.”

Yet it was Aguilar who consistently attended rallies, who was never too busy to go to the far-flung barrios when he was needed, and who gave free legal assistance to those who needed it. Of all the lawyers in Zamboanga del Norte at the time, he was known to have handled most of the cases of human rights violations, serving without discriminating the poor from the rich.

Although he was frequently invited to speak at protest actions even outside Dipolog (in Cagayan de Oro, Ozamiz, Pagadian, for example), he had no political ambition. He believed that elections would only legitimize the Marcos regime, and would not solve the nation’s problems.

Before martial law, Aguilar was already editing a local paper in Dipolog City, called Nandau (“Today’s News,” in the Subanon language), which often published articles criticizing the Marcos administration. For a time, he was also employed as a government social worker, mainly serving remote barrio communities.

Upon becoming a lawyer, Aguilar concentrated on human rights cases. He worked fulltime with the Free Legal Assistance Group, defending political prisoners and helping people assert their rights under martial law.

Aguilar joined the protest movement that erupted after the 1983 assassination of former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.

He became chair of the Zamboanga del Norte chapter of the Coalition for Restoration of Democracy (CORD). He led a protest march (Lakbayan) that went around Zamboanga del Norte in May 1984. Three days before being killed, he was the main speaker at a Dipolog rally, where once more he denounced the militarization of his province.

At the time of his death, Aguilar was set to join a fact-finding mission that would look into the killing in July 1984 of a human rights researcher in Tampilisan town. The mission was also set to document the existence of seven “strategic hamlets” in Godod town.

Aguilar began getting anonymous threats to his life, which he shrugged off. "I'm prepared” to die, he told a friend. Until then, he said, “we can continue our service to the poor and exploited people."

On the night of Sept. 23, 1984, Aguilar was walking home with fellow human rights lawyer Jacobo Amatong when two men came up to them and shot them both at close range. Aguilar was hit twice in the chest and once in the nape, and died instantly. Amatong died in hospital eight hours later, but not before identifying their attackers as belonging to the military. Two soldiers were subsequently named as suspects by the National Bureau of Investigation. This was confirmed by the driver of the getaway vehicle, but he himself was killed by unidentified men one year later. Despite many appeals from family and friends, no hearings were conducted on the case.

About 10,000 people attended the funeral held for the two lawyers, an attendance unprecedented in Dipolog history.

ALINGAL, Godofredo B.

alingal, godofredo 2

Born in the "Jesuit country" that was northern Mindanao, it was perhaps inevitable for this son of the soil and the sea to become a Jesuit priest.

Godofredo Alingal, called Fr. Ling by his flock, was ordained to the priesthood in 1953 in Woodstock, Maryland (USA). He was first assigned to the province of Bukidnon, then to Ateneo de Naga, Cagayan de Oro City, and in 1968, back to Bukidnon.

The Catholic Church was seeing dramatic changes as an aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. The Gospel was henceforth to be preached beyond the walls of the church, in the fields, market places, the hills, and lived as a witness to give people back their dignity and their rights. Alingal embraced these new teachings.

Bukidnon was a land of great social divisions. Politics was rough, and bullets counted more than ballots. Peasants were oppressed by landlords, usurers and middlemen, and power was in the hands of a few. Conflicts simmered between the indigenous tribes, the settlers from the Visayas, and the ranchers and loggers who extracted the area's rich natural resources.

Alingal helped farmers start a credit union and a grains marketing cooperative. He helped organize the local chapter of the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) in Kibawe, Bukidnon.

With the repression and militarization that characterized the martial law regime, Alingal redoubled his efforts in behalf of poor people. He started a community organization program, aimed at organizing farmers, vendors and mothers to protest abuses and defend their rights.

The gentle and soft-spoken priest nevertheless spoke out against electoral fraud, threats and harassments by the military, denouncing these from the pulpit and through the prelature newsletter Bandilyo. In 1977, the martial law government closed down the prelature's radio station DXBB, but Alingal started a Blackboard News Service instead. It was popularly known as “Kibawe Budyong.” He built a giant blackboard in front of his church, broadcasting news that was otherwise being suppressed and denouncing official abuses. The blackboard was repeatedly vandalized, but he merely put up another one to replace it.

Alingal started getting anonymous threats. "Stop using the pulpit for politics.... your days are numbered," went one. But, "what else is there to do—the priesthood is not a safe vocation," he said.

He had just gotten orders for reassignment to another parish when he was assassinated in 1981.

In the early evening of April 13, 1981, five men (three of them wearing masks) arrived at the convent in Kibawe, and demanded to see the parish priest. Alingal, who was in his room reading, opened the door; he was met by a bullet fired from a .45 caliber automatic handgun. The assailants then all fled on motorbikes. A physician living nearby heard the shot and rushed to Alingal's side. The murdered priest died in his arms.

At his funeral mass, two bishops and about 70 priests concelebrated. Thousands joined the funeral march, coming from the town proper and the surrounding barrios and towns.

Many brought with them placards painted with the angry query: "Hain ang justicia? (Where is justice?)" Alingal's killers were never charged.

ALTO, Leo C.

Alto, Leo C.

“Pinaglingkuran niya ang sambayanan, ang buhay niya’y isang bituing tatanglaw sa aming landas” are the words written on Leo Alto’s tombstone: He served the people, his life shines light on our way.

Leo Alto was a 4th year pre-med student at the University of the Philippines when he joined the Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines (SCAUP) in 1970. He started attending discussion groups, teach-ins and rallies. He also joined workers'pickets demanding higher wages and better living conditions.

Later he joined the Panday Sining, a political theater group that was active in cultural campaigns denouncing the increasingly authoritarian Marcos administration. Then he joined the Rizal chapter of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) and started organizing a KM chapter among children of enlisted men and officers of the Philippine Army based in Fort Bonifacio. (Leo's parents owned a concession inside the army camp where the family also lived, his father being a retired soldier.)

He later became KM coordinator for Rizal, organizing the propaganda, education and mobilization campaigns of the various chapters in Rizal province.

At the height of a campaign to oppose oil price increases in 1971, Alto joined a barricade set up by students in the UP Diliman campus, later to develop into the historic Diliman Commune. Once he was arrested in Makati while putting up campaign posters.

As he got deeper into activism, Alto dropped out of college and immersed himself in the communities. He joined a team that undertook a survey of people's problems in the areas of Binangonan, Morong and Jalajala in Rizal. In 1971, under the banner of the Progresibong Samahan ng Rizal, he was part of a team that organized a trek from the Sierra Madre foothills in Jalajala, as part of a “people’s long march against poverty” that culminated in Plaza Miranda, Manila.

During the great floods of 1972, Alto turned his organizing efforts into helping the displaced families in Pasig, Rizal. Relief centers were opened, and the activists even managed to spark political discussions among the refugees.

When martial law was declared in September 1972, soldiers raided the home of the Alto family looking for him. Leo, eldest among eight siblings (he was Heracleo Jr.), managed to escape and decided to join the underground resistance to martial law.

He underwent training as an acupuncturist and paramedic under physician-activist Juan Escandor. In 1973, together with other student activists, he joined a Serve the People Brigade in the countryside. They would organize local farmers, mostly Bisaya and Ilokano settlers – as well as the Subanon tribal communities fighting for their ancestral lands. They called him”Doc.”

At the age of 23, Leo Alto was killed by a unit of the Philippine Constabulary on 1 August 1975 in Polanco, Zamboanga del Norte. Another man, a Subanon, died with him. Alto’s body was buried in Dipolog, Zamboanga del Norte until his family had it exhumed eleven years later. He was laid to rest in Pateros, Metro Manila in 1986.


Jess Santiago wrote Halina in the late 1970s as a narrative against the abuses faced by ordinary people in the hands of the repressive Philippine government during the darkest years of Martial Law.
Si Lina ay isang magandang dalaga
Panggabi sa isang pabrika ng tela
Sumapi sa union, sumama sa welga
Biglang nagkagulo, nawala si Lina
Nang muling makita’y hubad at patay na
Halina, halina
Damitan ang bangkay at sa ating puso’y
Hayaang humimlay si Lina.

Isang magsasaka si Pedro Pilapil
Walang kaulayaw kundi ang bukirin
Nguni’t isang araw, amy biglang dumating
Ang saka ni Pedro’y kanilang inangkin
Tumutol si Pedro, at siya ay binaril
Halina, halina
At sa ating puso’y hayaang maghasik
Ng punla si Pedro Pilapil.

Si Aling Maria’y doon nakatira
Sa tabi ng isang bundok ng basura
Nguni’t isang araw binuldozert sila
Sapagkat darating ang mga turista
Nawalan ng tahanan ang isang pamilya
Halina, halina
At sa ating puso’y ipagtayo ng tahanan
Sina alingMaria.
Halina, halina.

Martsa Ng Bayan

Martsa ng Bayan is an iconic song of struggle against the martial law regime. Composed by Jess Santiago in the 1980s.

(From an article at Bulatlat) All through the rally, the Jess Santiago composition “Martsa ng Bayan” (People’s March) kept playing: “Tayo na at magsama-sama/Sa pagdurog sa imperyalista/Tayo na at magkaisa/Lansagin ang pasistang diktadura/Nasa atin ang tunay na lakas/Tiyak na nasa atin ang bukas...” The song was composed in the 1980s and became an anti-dictatorship classic.

Santiago, still the reed-thin bespectacled man that he was two decades ago but now with his still-long hair graying, would himself stir the crowd – numbering about 10,000 – with a passionate rendition of his song “Halina,” composed 30 years ago and telling tales of a unionist and a peasant slain by state agents, and an urban poor family driven from their “home” near a garbage dump. “Y’ong sinasabi nitong kanta, nangyayari pa rin ngayon” (What the song tells us about is still happening), Santiago told the audience in a calm but emphatic voice.

CNN Philippines: Inside Bantayog Ng Mga Bayani

The Bantayog ng mga Bayani was built to honor those who fought for justice and freedom. A wall inside the memorial center also lists down 250 names of heroes and martyrs. This report aired on CNN Philippines' Headline News on August 31, 2015.

Watch it here.

Lapiang Malaya

This undated photo (probably 1966) of the Lapiang Malaya is from the archives of the Bantayog Museum.

The Lapiang Malaya (Freedom Movement), composed mostly of Southern Luzon farmers, marched from Taft Avenue to Malacañang Palace to urge agrarian reform from President Marcos. On May 21, 1967: The Lapiang Malaya Rallyists were massacred. 33 men died during the confrontation with the police, while the rest were charged with sedition and then imprisoned.

Inang Bayan

This mural which is available for viewing at the Bantayog Center is a donation of the family of Augusto "Bobbit" Sanchez to the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation.

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