ASUNCION, Filomena G.


As a freshman student in Manila when martial law was imposed, Filomena Asuncion concentrated on her studies and shunned any political involvement. Like many other youths hoping to finish their education, find jobs and help their families, she refused to be diverted from her goal.

When they tried to include her in their activities, she would tell her schoolmates at Harris Memorial College, where she obtained a BA in Christian education in 1976: "Let others do it. Our work is the work of religion, work of the soul."

After graduation, she returned to Isabela as a deaconess of the United Methodist Church. She took the post of Christian education and music director, and taught Sunday school, conducted Bible studies and led the church choir. A natural leader and cheerful organizer, she became the president of the district-wide United Methodist Youth Fellowship in the district and made many friends.

In 1979 she was drawn into an ecumenical movement of Catholics and Protestants called Timpuyog dagiti lglesia or TIMPI. One of the group's aims was to address the plight of exploited farmers. TIMPI wanted to help tenant farmers by organizing cooperatives as a defense against farm cartels. Land and politics in Isabela were monopolized by a few families, who controlled access to capital, farm machinery and buying stations.

That was the time when Asuncion, a small farmer's daughter, realized that her calling was to address the needs of the many who were not necessarily members of her church. Her direct interaction with them convinced her so, more than any study groups or theoretical discussions. In her Sunday sermons, she began speaking out against the oppression suffered by local peasants. This did not please the landlord members of her congregation. She was soon branded a "subversive."

But the young deaconess was determined to continue acting on her beliefs; in fact she blamed herself for not having been an activist earlier in life, for she could have done more. In 1981 she was among those arrested at a farmers' protest rally in Ilagan and jailed from April to October. That was when she came to the conclusion that the military would never see the legitimacy of protest actions, and that her church might not defend her if she pursued her commitment to the farmers' struggles.

Asuncion thus left her post in the church and joined the revolutionary underground then operating in the area; she now worked fulltime in organizing the local farmers in defense of their rights. She now saw them as being part of her extended, spiritual family. "The time has come,” she wrote a friend, “when real involvement is needed for me to prove that I am indeed on the side of change."

Known in the area as Ka Liway, she was killed in 1983 after an armed encounter between armed guerrillas and government forces in Ilagan. Witnesses said she was captured alive, maltreated and abused before being killed.

Although she had despaired about the lack of support from her church, hundreds of church members and friends gathered at the Central Methodist Church in Manila in July, one month after her death, to give recognition to the work of Filomena Asuncion, the deaconess who believed in giving her life for others.



Elsa Balando was one of the earliest casualties of the people’s struggle for their rights under the Marcos regime.

Little is documented of her personal circumstances before she left her hometown in Catubig, Samar in 1968 to try her luck in Manila. Her friends only knew that, like them, she needed to help her family survive.

First she worked as a housemaid for one year, then as a tindera (sales assistant). Later she found a job at a garment manufacturer in Caloocan City, Rossini's Knitwear Factory; for her work as a seamer, she was paid three pesos a day. The other women there also came from poor rural families in Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Sur, Bohol, Pangasinan, Ilocos, Samar, Bicol, Nueva Ecija.

Eventually, Balando, called Liza by her friends, became a union organizer at Rossini's. She was gifted with an inquiring mind, seeking answers to vital questions that bothered her. She was already living the deep injustice of the situation where factory owners squeezed their profits from the labor of the people they employed, forcing them to work in miserable conditions and for very low wages. She joined study groups where she was able to connect the problems of working people like her with the broader problems facing the whole of Philippine society.

When Rossini's workers went on strike for the first time in March 1971 to demand better working conditions, Balando hardly left the picket line. She was among those who laid their bodies on the ground trying to prevent a company vehicle from leaving the factory compound. The city mayor’s goons harassed the strikers, but they refused to retreat.

On May 1, 1971, Balando was among 4,000 demonstrators, mostly students and factory workers, who gathered in front of the Congress building in Manila, at a rally marking that year’s International Labor Day. Combat troops from the 55th Company of the Philippine Constabulary and the Metropolitan Command (Metrocom) were deployed to “guard” the mass action; machineguns were positioned on top of the building, and a military helicopter hovered in the air.

The rally was underway when explosions were heard and shots were fired. Balando tried to seek safety, but bullets hit her three times in the chest before she could do so. She was among the three persons who were killed in what would be known as the May Day Massacre of 1971. Richard Escarta and Ferdinand Oaing also died, while fifteen others were wounded.

Balando's co-workers and friends chipped in to buy her a coffin, pay for her funeral expenses, and send her body home by boat to her family in Samar. Hundreds came to Manila’s North Harbor to see her off, turning the leave-taking into a protest action against the repressive Marcos government. In Samar, thousands came to her burial, including poor farmers from neighboring barrios and towns.

A wave of indignation in and out of the country met the violent dispersal of the May Day rally. Labor unions, members of the political opposition, and student groups all expressed their dismay and anger at the incident. Australian demonstrators stoned the Philippine consulate in Canberra.

Two months after Liza Calando’s death, the union at Rossini's won its demands from management.

BARROS, Maria Lorena "Lorie" M.


Maria Lorena Barros remains today one of the most well-known heroes of the antidictatorship struggle: a charismatic leader, gifted writer, icon of modern Philippine feminism, the “gentle warrior” who defiantly confronted death at the hands of government soldiers, deep in the forests of the Sierra Madre.

From early childhood, Barros showed keen intelligence, a searching mind and precocious social awareness, nurtured by her mother Alicia Morelos. The latter, granddaughter of a Katipunero and herself a member of the Hukbalahap guerrilla resistance, would become her daughter’s closest friend and confidant.

Earning honors from grade school through college, Barros graduated from the University of the Philippines in 1970 with a degree in anthropology. She started teaching after graduation, while taking up masteral courses at the UP. She was already making a name for herself as a writer, publishing poetry and essays in various publications and eventually being elected president of the UP Writers Club.

By the end of the 1960s, Lorie Barros was being drawn into political activism. She joined exposure trips to the rural areas and immersed herself in the emerging political literature. She organized the all-women Makibaka (Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan) and became its first chairperson. Makibaka chapters quickly spread across the country, in factories, in villages, and even in exclusive girls' schools.

Yet she was someone who refused to be confined to the stereotypical image of a student activist, or a feminist activist. She did not repress her natural charm and kindheartedness, and she was proud of her long shapely legs.

When President Ferdinand Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus in 1971, Barros was one of 63 student leaders charged with subversion. She went underground, married and had a son, all the while keeping up a stream of correspondence with family and friends. She was arrested in Bicol in November 1973, and jailed at Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna, then transferred to Fort Bonifacio's Ipil Rehabilitation Center from where she escaped one year later with three other political prisoners.

She rejoined the underground, helping to fight what by then had become a full- blown dictatorship. She continued to write poems, songs and essays from the underground. In 1974, the regime announced a P35, 000 reward for her capture.

On March 24, 1976, Barros was seriously wounded in an armed encounter with constabulary soldiers in Cagsiay II, Mauban, Quezon. A companion was killed instantly. Medical treatment was promised by her captors if she would cooperate with them, but she said she would rather die for her beliefs. She was shot in the nape. She was 28 years old.

Lorie Barros was given a heroine's wake and burial by family and friends.. In a tribute to her courage and principled life, her comrades marched with her coffin singing revolutionary songs, risking arrest themselves. A well-attended necrological service was held at the UP campus.

Gerilya's Lorena Barros Mural

Gerilya is an artist collective formed in 2008 involved in various art related activities and experimental ventures such as comics, street art, graffiti animation, fine art exhibitions, and illustration commissions. Their work is inspired by Philippine culture and history, exploring socio-political issues and national identity. They seek to make their art as relevant as possible and draw influence from Philippine popular and mass culture.

This mural of Lorena Barros is located at the Lorena Barros Hall in University of the Philippines Diliman. Photo courtesy of Gerilya. Browse the posting at the Gerilya Tumblr.

BEGG, William Vincent A.


Born in the Bicol region to an American father and a Filipino mother, William Begg renounced his American citizenship when he turned 21. “He believed that this was his country and the Filipinos were his people,” his mother explained.

William, or Bill, was a good student, graduating as salutatorian of his class in high school, and getting excellent grades in college. He wanted to be a priest, and entered the seminary where college courses were taken at the Ateneo; in his third year there, he began engaging in social action work among poor communities in Barangka, Marikina, near the school campus. His political views grew increasingly militant until school authorities eventually asked him to leave the university and the seminary.

Begg was first arrested in 1971 for putting up posters in Marikina. And shortly after the declaration of martial law in 1972, he was again arrested, then detained in Fort Bonifacio.

After his release in April 1973, Begg went back to school to fulfill a promise to his father that he would finish college. He enrolled at the University of the Philippines, taking up history. He tried to live a normal student's life, joining a fraternity and helping organizing a history majors' society.

He did not stay long in the university, however. In September 1974, Begg left for the countryside to join the underground.

"I cannot in conscience continue my academic studies, nor do I have any ambition to live a nice, peaceful and secure life. For this in effect would mean a compromise of inaction in the face of intensifying economic crises and repression as well as monopolization of political power by a fascist dictatorship," he explained in a letter to his parents.

Through letters, Begg kept in touch with his family. As he described adjusting to his new life as a rebel guerrilla, he also wrote eloquently about the need for basic changes, for humanitarian service; for “I think all of us deserve a more humane and democratic social order.” He was learning acupuncture, and his group was starting a medical clinic for a poor community. He asked his parents to send him a medical encyclopedia –which they did.

In March 1975, Begg was with a team of guerrillas that had gone to meet a doctor in Villarey, Echague, Isabela, when they were attacked by a battalion of AFP troops. In the exchange of fire that followed, four of his comrades were killed, while Begg himself was hit in the leg. Assessing his situation, he urged the others to leave him behind so he could cover their escape. He was apparently captured alive; when his body was eventually recovered, it bore the marks of severe torture.

In a tribute to his heroic sacrifice, his family engraved the following words on his tombstone: "He laid down his life for his friends."



Pepito Bernardo, Catholic priest, was not a person to follow the easy road.

Though he knew, even as a child, that he wanted to become a priest, after entering the seminary he criticized its formation program for not being relevant enough to the people's needs. As a result, he and 10 other classmates were asked to transfer to another seminary. He did finish his theology studies, though, and was ordained priest in 1974.

His first assignment was to serve the Dumagat communities in Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija and in Dingalan, deep in the mountains of the Sierra Madre in Luzon. As parish priest, he tried to integrate his own worldview and that of the Dumagat, who live very close to nature. Apparently he was able to touch their hearts, for it was said that some of them were willing to walk days, even weeks, to hear Bernardo – Father Pites to them – give one of his simple sermons.

Bernardo also organized adult literacy programs, urging the Dumagat to think critically and to speak out against injustice. The problems of body and soul had to be tackled together, he said. By then he had become a member of the Christians for National Liberation.

In 1977 he joined the Episcopal Commission on Tribal Filipinos and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines where he served as coordinator for the Sierra Madre area.

Twice, Bernardo was detained by the military. The first time was in 1980, in Isabela, when he was questioned for being in possession of a slide projector which the local police authorities said was banned in the area. He was taken to Bicutan Rehabilitation Center and from there released a few months later, on Dec. 24, 1980, in time for the visit to the Philippines of Pope John Paul II.

It didn’t take long for the police to rearrest Bernardo, this time in Baler, Quezon, in August 1981. The torture he underwent while being interrogated was unusually harsh for a priest – "water cure," suffocation with a plastic bag, electric shocks, being made to lie on a block of ice, being burned with live cigarette butts, and solitary confinement.

His arrest was denounced by many, and petitions for his release and those of other political prisoners poured in from various groups abroad. Eventually, the military released Bernardo into the custody of Pampanga Bishop Oscar Cruz. He went on to serve as chaplain of the Pampanga parochial hospital and as seminary instructor. He also continued to minister to the needs of poor people. He left for a heart bypass in the United States, but returned to resume his pastoral work after the operation.

Bernardo died in 1985 at the age of 35. He was on board a vehicle with three companions when their vehicle was rammed by a six-wheeler truck. His companions survived their injuries but Bernardo died on the spot. No investigation was made about the incident.

BUCAG, Renato L.


In 1971, Renato L. Bucag, a member of Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.’s Liberal Party, was elected to the municipal board of Gingoog, Misamis Oriental; he was the only oppositionist to win. Martial law was imposed in 1972, but he was able to continue serving until 1978. Though local governments under the dictatorship were controlled by the Marcos-party Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, he was known for being independent-minded, and particularly concerned to ensure that public funds would be well spent.

When he was no longer a municipal official, Bucag lent leadership and support to the antidictatorship opposition, until the 1984 elections for the regular Batasang Pambansa, when he assumed the helm of the Pilipino Democratic Party-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) in Gingoog City. By that time resistance to the Marcos regime was becoming bolder and more open, and forcing the latter to make political concessions such as elections.

Bucag was an effective campaigner since people knew him to be upright and honest. Family and friends feared for his life, especially since lawless paramilitary groups had been terrorizing the area with the support of the military and civilian authorities. Locals say that the years 1982 to February 1986 were Gingoog City’s “bloody era,” when numerous heinous killings were carried out by paramilitary groups, notorious religious fanatics.

Still, Bucag went around without bodyguards, even to remote areas of the city. He believed in fighting for what he believed to be right for himself and for the country:

"Living an aimless life is useless,” he once wrote. “A man, if he wants to be called a rational being, has to commit himself to a common goal. Because whether you like it or not, there will come a time when you have to choose between a meaningful death and a meaningless life."

He had been running a 41-hectare farm in Lunotan, on the outskirts of the city, where he planted coffee and citrus using scientifically based methods. He started the Gingoog Farmers' Association in the late 1970s, holding Sunday community prayers with his farm workers and fellow farmers.

Bucag and his wife Melchora both loved the simple life on their farm, though he had the means and the education to provide a more comfortable life for themselves and their four young children. Renato (called Dodong) graduated with honors in elementary and high school and excelled as a debater in college. He took up two years of law, stopped, then reenrolled while working as a court interpreter; but he did not complete his law degree.

Two weeks before the 1984 elections, husband and wife, with their youngest son Renato Victor Jr., 11, were brutally killed by members of the Integrated Civilian Home Defense Force (ICHDF) and the Tadtad, a group of religious fanatics being used and protected by the local military for counterinsurgency operations.

Witnesses said the killers forced themselves inside the Bucags’ farmhouse on the night of May 1, 1984. The following day, neighbors found the three bodies hacked almost beyond recognition. Four of the killers who were positively identified were arrested but later released by the military. Witnesses had to go into hiding.

Over 20,000 people joined the funeral march held for the Bucag family. Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Patrick Cronin publicly denounced the massacre and demanded speedy justice from the government. Members of the political opposition, including then Assemblyman Aquilino Pimentel Jr., and Bucag’s sister Helen Canoy, called for the disbandment of paramilitary groups operating in the province.

In July 1986, two years after the killing and several months after the dictatorship was dismantled, four of the Bucag killers were convicted. The KBL mayor at the time of the massacre was subsequently implicated and included as co-accused. But in 1988, the main suspect escaped and the case has been pending in court. Four of the suspects were never arrested.

CABARUBIAS, Tranquilino D.


It was a hard life that Tranquilino Cabarubias had: a struggle to make the land productive, to defend his community. Yet he had plenty of faith to keep him going: faith that freedom would be achieved, that one day “God’s kingdom shall reign forever.”

Cabarubias, better known as Trank, was born in Bohol and he migrated to Mindanao hoping to find new opportunities in the “land of promise.” He farmed a plot of land in the northeast, and raised a family of 12. Despite his years of toil, however, he never managed to have the land titled in his name.

What’s more, as time went by, and especially when the martial law dictatorship was imposed in the 1970s, settler communities like his in Sangay, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte, came under threat from big, Manila-based corporations wanting to take over the lands themselves, with the support and encouragement of the Marcos regime.

Cabarubias, who had become a respected community leader, was also a lay worker in his parish which was administered by the Sacred Heart Missionaries. It was he who organized the settlers' resistance against the entry into their villages of a powerful lumber firm. The company sent armed goons who demolished the people’s houses with chainsaws, and stole farm implements and carpentry tools. Cabarubias and the other leaders were arrested and detained for 14 days without charges. But they succeeded in keeping their village safe and intact.

Another time, in the 1980s, a giant paper manufacturing company was all set to turn their farms into a tree plantation. Cabarubias and his neighbors again mobilized to protest against the encroachment. The corporation backed off.

Cabarubias served in the barangay council for many years until his death in 1983. He took principled positions on national issues. In 1981 he led his community in boycotting the presidential election, believing that it had been rigged to make the Marcos regime appear legitimate. He publicly criticized the abuses of political and military officials and spoke out against the greed of capitalists who amassed profits at the expense of poor people.

Repeatedly warned to stop being so “hardheaded” or else suffer the consequences, Cabarubias knew his life was in danger. He asked his older children to look after the family and the farm should anything happen to him.

In October 1982, New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas ambushed a vehicle in barangay Sangay, killing three policemen and two civilians. Although Cabarubias was one of those injured in the attack, the military interrogated him and tried to make it appear that he was somehow involved.

Then on the night of October 9, 1983, armed men barged into his house, pretending to be from the NPA and asking for medicine. When Cabarubias refused, he was shot in front of his terrified children and wife, who had just given birth.

Soldiers in full battle gear came to the funeral, apparently in an effort to scare away the big crowd of mourners. "They cannot leave Trank alone even in death," observed one resident.

But Trank had not been afraid to die. In a farewell poem, he visualized the day of victory “when the shadows of sorrow shall pass away, for there shall be justice in the land, / All will be free and happy…” When that day comes, he wrote, “Come visit our graves / And behold the flowers dancing in the wind….”



Claro Cabrera, Lito as everyone knew him, lived all his life in the crowded community of Sapang Bato in Angeles City, on the edges of the huge American military base at Clark Air Base.

The people found intermittent employment as construction workers, tricycle drivers, bartenders and waitresses in the numerous small bars that catered to American soldiers. Many women washed clothes, the younger ones sold their bodies. Little children peddled garlands of flowers, or else they begged for coins.

With so few holding down decent, long-term jobs, no wonder there were so many broken families, and drug use further used up what little money people earned. Young people dropped out of school because they could not afford it, or because of teenage pregnancy, or simply because there seemed to be no point in continuing their studies.

Lito Cabrera grew up amid all these hardships. He and his seven brothers and sisters lived with their mother, who was separated from their father. He quit studying after two years of high school and worked on construction projects that usually lasted a few months. Other relatives also helped the family.

One day in the early 1980s Cabrera and some of his friends were drawn into the activities of the Concerned Citizens of Pampanga, said to be “the oldest cause-oriented organization in Central Luzon.” They began attending rallies, explaining to their neighbors and friends what the issues were all about. They were part of the nationwide Lakbayan-Sakbayan marches.

A change was noticed in Lito Cabrera: people found that he was good at working with the youth, getting them away from drugs, teaching them handicrafts, how to make and sell hand-printed shirts. He sang and played the guitar with them.

In 1984, the Marcos regime scheduled elections to be held for the Batasang Pambansa. Because the results were sure to be rigged, cause-oriented organizations campaigned nationwide for a boycott. As the campaign gained widespread support, the military and local officials mobilized to ensure the victory of the regime’s candidates. At a public meeting boycotters were openly threatened by the barangay captain (“I don’t know what will happen to you…just start praying.”)

In the early morning of May 28, 1984, Cabrera was picked up by constabulary soldiers near his home in Sapang Bato, together with Pepito Deheran and Rolando Castro. The three were taken to a constabulary camp in Angeles City where they were beaten and forced to say they were members of the New People’s Army.

After days of searching by their families, the bodies of Cabrera and Castro were found dumped on the bank of the Apalit river, one kilometer apart from each other. Both bore many stab wounds. Deheran managed to crawl away and had himself brought to a hospital. Before succumbing to his wounds, he signed a statement revealing the identities of two of their attackers, members of the Integrated Civilian Home Defense Force and soldiers in uniform with no name tags.

The parents of the three victims sued the persons named by Deheran, but nothing more happened after the initial hearings of the case. One of the two accused was found dead a year later, reportedly killed by the NPA, and the other one has not been seen or heard from since then.

CAILING, Crisostomo


Under the Marcos dictatorship, Mindanao was a harsh place to live in, especially if you were poor and defenseless.

The island’s rich resources – its forests, minerals and fertile soil – were being plundered, with the blessings of the regime. Settlers tilling their small farms, as well as the original inhabitants of Mindanao, the lumad, were being harassed and evicted so big corporations could take over the land.

In the area where Crisostomo Cailing lived and practiced law, the people in the rural areas were suffering under the government policy called population and resources control. In practice, it was a food blockade, meant as a counter-insurgency measure. Residents were allowed to store enough rice for only three days, as the military was suspicious that the supplies would make their way to the rebel guerrillas in the mountains. The people found the policy very oppressive, as they had to spend more money and time in buying limited quantities. They also had to endure the indignity of having their purchases inspected.

Cailing was not one to make fiery speeches, but he consistently defended the victims of such abuses. He went to court to protest against illegal arrests, and he looked after the rights and welfare of the numerous political detainees. He shunned opportunities to become rich, never owned a car, and chose to live a simple life. His clients were invariably poor, and at times it was he who gave them money for their needs.

In the 1980 local elections, he ran for mayor of Balingasag under the Mindanao Alliance party, but lost to a candidate fielded by the Marcos party, Kilusang Bagong Lipunan.

He joined the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) in 1982, extending his services to seven municipalities in Misamis Oriental subjected to harsh military policies. As an elected member of the board of directors of the area’s electric service cooperation, he looked out for consumers’ rights too.

He participated in local actions launched during the May 1984 campaign to boycott dictatorship-sponsored elections. On election day itself, hundreds of protesters gathered on the beach and cheered as Tommy Cailing crowned a "Miss Boycott."

As the military terror tactics worsened in Balingasag to include the burning of houses, stealing of crops and household goods, assassinations and abductions, Cailing tried to get the help of more city lawyers and human rights advocates from Cagayan de Oro city to investigate the situation.

One evening in early July 1985, Cailing was at home, seated in front of an open window, when a gunman took aim and killed him before walking away to get aboard a motorcycle waiting one block away. His daughter, 15, witnessed the murder.

About 5,000 came to bury Tommy Cailing. The storm of anger caused by his death caused the military to temporarily suspend the food blockade policy in the rural areas nearby. But no one has been prosecuted for the crime.

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