bantayog.foundation

bantayog.foundation

Senator Jovy Salonga #bayani

"Independence, like freedom, is never granted. It is always asserted and affirmed."

Read more about Bantayog hero Senator Jovy Salonga.

#bantayogngmgabayani
#tunaynabayani

Desap (Mula Sa Finding Peace)

An ode for the victims of enforced disappearances and a commitment to continue the search for justice. Listen to Pordalab's Desap from Musika Publiko's Songs for Peace Project as we remember those who were forcibly taken and silenced during the dark period of our nation's history.

We remember the #desaparecidos!

#karapatangpantao
#musikangpilipino
#opm

K (mula Sa Finding Peace)

"Saan na ba tayo patungo
Nalimutan na ba ang nakaraan
Limot na ang mga digmaan
At mga magigiting na nakipagsapalaran
Para sa kalayaan"

Listen to Ja Quintana's song K from the Finding Peace album of Musika Publiko's Songs for Peace Project.

#NeverAgainNeverForget

Bantayog Ng Mga Bayani: a Monument to Heroes

“We shall proclaim our firm resolve to keep faith with our martyrs and heroes and our deepest conviction that this land of the morning, the repository of our hopes and dreams, is worth living for and dying for.” – Jovito Salonga

Tail-end of a Cold Front: PAGASA Weathermen and the 1986 People Power

Editorial note from Bantayog:

Did you know that troops loyal to the Marcos dictatorship actually exchanged fire with rebel forces on February 25, 1986, the final day of the People Power Revolt? On that day, snipers of loyalist forces based atop a TV tower along Panay Avenue in Quezon City exchanged fire with rebel troops based at a nearby building. Seeming unmindful of the ricocheting bullets, a curious crowd watched as if what they were seeing was only for the movies. But they scampered away when a helicopter swept down and strafed the loyalist position. A loyalist soldier was killed in this short battle.

At the same time, a rally crowd has also gathered nearby, at the intersection of Quezon, Timog and West avenues, echoing the giant people-power crowd then gathered in EDSA near Ortigas. The presence of a civilian crowd probably saved many soldiers' lives that day.

(Rey K. Lirios / Contributor)

We all know that EDSA Day February 25, 2019 commemorates the 1986 Peoples Power Revolution that  changed the course of RP history.  Declared a national non-working holiday it seems all the stories about the event have long ago already been told.  Except for the one involving the PAGASA.

Prior to the EDSA anniversary this year, east of the RP, a typhoon developed outside the PAR and already had the international name Ty Wutip, in Macao the word means butterfly.  If there was Ty Wutip in the Pacific N hemisphere  simultaneously there was a Cyclone Oma in the S hemisphere  affecting eastern Australia.  Viewed on animated wind maps for comparison, the two TCs side by side shows the Coriolis effect  perfectly,  Ty Wutip above the equator spinning counterclockwise and Cyclone Oma  south of the equator in reverse, rotating clockwise as they should.

Except for support personnel who need not report for work, the PAGASA’s duty weather forecasters and designated field station personnel  nationwide were rendering 24/7 vital weather services to safeguard the public.  Tasked to provide weather forecasts for outdoor public gatherings in commemoration of the EDSA-I People Power Revolution, and the usual travel exodus.  Many  took advantage of the long weekend to vacation out of town.

Today the role of the PAGASA in the EDSA revolution is almost forgotten among those alive at the time and virtually unknown among younger generations of employees, much less the general public.  To begin with the loyalist government soldiers clashed with the rebel Reform the Army Movement  (RAM) and between them were the PAGASA  employees who in an accident of history, were forced to do their duty to their country as they saw best.

The only bloody incident in the touted bloodless revolution happened on Feb. 25, 1986 with loyalist snipers holding the TV broadcast tower of Channel 9 in Panay Avenue  toward the3 end of the coup de etat . Meanwhile the RAM rebels were returning fire from the adjoining Asia Trust Bank Building, which also happened to be the address of the PAGASA Main Office at the time.  The top floors  occupied by the forecasters of the National Weather Office (NWO) and National Flood Forecasting Office  (NFFO), who were caught in the crossfire.

From this first hand account are personal recollections of what  was witnessed of this mini-war  after tagging along for the excitement of it all . Briefly and vividly,  a weather employee had gone sight seeing with binoculars wearing an olive green army jacket when he nearly got his head shot off, the NWO  director was so furious he strictly ordered all employees to stay away from the windows so as not to invite sniper fire.  He told them to keep working as if everything was normal,  he was also concerned that new forecasting computers on the top floor could be damaged in the shooting.

Crowds of people gathered as if watching the circus.  Obviously one of the coup plotters was there,  a RAM officer who looked like Col. Gringo Honasan,  but because attention to his face was distracted by his holstered browning Hi-power machine pistol,  confirmation of his identity can’t be certain.  To the entrance of the ATB building an injured RAM rebel had come down with a bleeding neck wound,  shouldering two LAWs  (light anti-tank weapon) or bazooka.  There was a loud commotion and he did not like what he was hearing, someone said that  the government tanks were coming!

The reformist rebels dispersed, except for long haired and bearded riflemen.  Perhaps they were Scout Rangers who are allowed non-army regulation hair length. Otherwise who were they? They looked like guerrillas from the mountains.  The long haired soldiers were ordered to take positions on the adjacent  Legacy building.   A rebel Huey helicopter flew by and strafed the loyalist on the tower with machinegun fire.  The crowds ducked for cover or ran away.

At the same time, just  two blocks away at the intersection of QC Ave. and West & Timog Avenues, the people had rallied in an imitation of the EDSA Ortigas miracle,  the human barricade turned back the government tanks by sheer will power of civil disobedience.  The defenders of the PAGASA building were spared further bloodshed, and the valiant government weathermen who did not desert  their post lived to forecast another day receiving a citation from the then director general RLK of the PAGASA, who mentions his  deep thanks  in his memoirs “Shapers of New Asia.” Years later he would attribute his surviving the purge of top government officials associated to the old regime by having outstanding and loyal lieutenants to rely on for support as in the case of the EDSA skirmish.

It was a mind conflicting time for the nation.  A Solomonic instance of choosing sides,  do we stand by this President of the Republic  for two decades, who by decree  co-created the PAGASA.   Or the rebel reformist Defense Minister, also our boss  when the Agency was under the Department of Defense.  In the end we chose to serve the people, and that is what EDSA People Power means to us in PAGASA.  Be it known that it was not the first revolution or war in history that our people in the institution have come through displaying uncommon valor.



(To contact the author you can email him at reyklirios@gmail.com. For article contributions, please connect with the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation. Cover photo from Rappler.)

The Bacong Bridge Massace of 1981

To the Marcos regime is attributed some 900 massacres,perpetrated by military and paramilitary forces, primarily to instill fear on communities or groups raising a voice of protest against certain issues or policies, or against the regime’s growing abuses.

In 1981, six massacres were recordedby the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, three taking place against people taking collective protest actions: in Guinayangan, Quezon (2 killed on February 1), in Daet, Camarines Norte (4 killed on June 14) and in Culasi, Antique (5 killed on December 19).

The municipality of Culasi lies 92 kilometers north of the provincial capital, San Jose de Buenavista. From a thin coastal strip that faces Sulu Sea, the land rises to form the foothills of the majestic Mount Madyaas. One-fourth of Culasi’s barangays live on these foothills. Kinaray-a is the language spoken. Most residents fish and farm, mostly growing palay, corn, abaca, coffee, cacao and coconuts. As in most rural areas in the country, the people are poor, eking out various livelihoods for survival.

Life in Culasi seemed slow in 1981. It still had no electricity and only a few stores. But new disturbing things were happening. A curfew prevented people from leaving their homes after dark. The people were uneasy with the increased presence of Constabulary men in the villages. No abuse had been recorded but they had heard how soldiers in other areas stole chickens, burned houses or drove people out of their homes.

Activists, mostly students who had left the universities to work against the dictatorship, were living in these villages, trying to organize residents to resist the dictatorship. Small teams from the New People’s Army (NPA)were also doing political work and taking in local recruits.

Protest rally. The upland barangays planned a march to town to raise several concerns with the mayor, Romulo Alpas. They wanted to ask the mayor to stop collecting taxes on goods they brought down from upland to sell in town. Every mat spread on the market grounds offering goods for sale was issued a ticket to pay. It was nearing Christmas. With life as hard as it was, any bit of earning would go a long way. Another of the residents’ demands was to ask the mayor to stop more soldiers from coming. The people wanted a worry-free holiday season.

On December 19, a Saturday, around 500 residents, men, women and even children, started the march. They came from six barangays. Some young people had made rough placards and they were taken to the front of the marchers’ columns. It was a noisy but jovial bunch of villagers that started out from Barangay Condes. A few kilometres down the road, three constabulary men stopped them and asked for their leader. “We are all leaders!” they cried, and marched on. In barangay Balabago, more soldiers came up, again asking to know and see their leader. They got the same happy, confident response. The marchers had absolutely no inkling death was waiting at the next stop.

They had reached the Bacong bridge when soldiers stopped them a third time. The soldiers had built a bamboo barricade at the center of the bridge. They told the marchers to stop or be killed. Again the soldiers asked for the leaders.

But the townhall was barely two kilometers away. The marchers meant to reach that goal. See the mayor. Some men in the front moved closer to the barricade to try to get the poles out of the way.

Shots rang out. The marchers dispersed in disarray. Some jumped off the bridge. Some hid in the rice paddies nearby. But five lay dead.

Those who fell that day led fairly simple plain lives.

Martyrs & Heroes 2019

Student activists, labor organizers, artists and cultural workers, a church social worker and organizer, a people’s lawyer, and a group of five farmers and fishermen: all of them will be honored on Saturday, Bonifacio Day, their names etched on the black granite Wall of Remembrance at Bantayog ng mga Bayani grounds in Quezon City.

This year’s honorees are Suellen C. Escribano (1945-1993), Violeta A. Marasigan (1939-2000), Godofredo C. Abellana (1948-1975), Napoleon T. Abiog (1953-2015), Herbert P. Cayunda (1944-1975), Rodolfo G. Lagoc (1935-2012), and the so-called Bacong Bridge martyrs composed of Leopoldo A. Anos, Aquilino Castillo, Fortunato M. Dalisay, Remigildo P. Dalisay and Joel B. Plaquino who were killed on Dec. 19, 1981.

Every year, names are added to the Wall of Remembrance to recall the heroes who defied martial law, and to make sure that people will never forget the horrors of that era.

The ceremonies will begin at 4 p.m. with former Supreme Court Justice and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales as guest speaker. The public is invited.

The Bantayog Memorial Center is at the corner of Edsa and Quezon Avenue.


Fashionisita turned activist

Escribano was a popular campus figure at Maryknoll (now Miriam) College and the University of the Philippines, where her fashionista image gave way to that of an activist when she got drawn into problems that plagued the country under the Marcos government.

Using her talent in the visual arts, Escribano raised the consciousness of impoverished farmers and workers even as she sought out and got other artists involved. She provided guidance to younger activists and later trained and organized settlers in rural areas so they would not become victims of abuse.

After the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, Escribano and her family moved to Tacurong in Sultan Kudarat and set up farmers’ organizations. She ran for governor of the province in 1992, but lost. She died of natural causes in 1993.


Bulletx

Marasigan was a known figure in church groups under the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), where she was familiarly known as Bulletx. She worked in the NCCP’s family ministries and later headed its Ecumenical Ministry for Political Detainees. Her activism made her a target of the Marcos dictatorship, and landed her in detention for a year.

After the Marcos years, the Marasigans moved back to California where she worked as a social worker in the Filipino migrant community, opening her home to newly arrived immigrants.

She died in a freak accident in 2000. Her passing was met with posthumous awards and citations.


Godofredo Abellana

When the so-called First Quarter Storm broke in 1971 in Manila, many student activists in Davao, including Abellana, responded to the call to oust the Marcos government. At the onset of martial law in 1972, he packed his bags and headed to the rural areas of Davao del Norte where he did political work. He later moved to Misamis Oriental to help intensify the resistance movement there.

Abellana was reportedly killed sometime in 1975 in a raid by soldiers on a remote village in Magsaysay, Misamis Oriental, though his family did not learn of this until much later.

The Abellana home was a target of military raids in the 1970s and early 1980s. His brother Nelson was arrested and tortured, while his brother Noel was killed by the military in 1986.


Napoleon Abiog

Abiog studied political science at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in hopes of becoming a lawyer like his father. Inclined toward the arts, he joined Samahang Kamanyang and became a performer, choir master and musical director.

Despite the ban on all forms of protests during the martial law years, he found ways to use the performing arts to expose the excesses of the regime, educating trade union members south of Manila.

Abiog continued his organizing work in the labor sector even after the Marcoses were ousted. He died of a heart attack in 2016.


Herbert Cayunda

Born and raised in Davao City, Cayunda pursued a chemical engineering course at the University of Mindanao while also spending a lot of time in cultural activities, including directing street plays that depicted societal ills. He was among those who participated in the “Battle of Claro M. Recto,” the aftermath of student protests over campus matters where one student speaker, Edgar Ang Sinco, was shot and killed by a policeman.

Included in the campus blacklist, Cayunda decided to be a full-time artist-activist.


Ilaga

Cayunda and his then girlfriend, Fe Carreon, were arrested on Nov. 20, 1972 in Indangan, Davao City. His captors tortured him but he did not break. After almost a year in detention, Cayunda and Carreon were released. They proceeded to Zamboanga del Norte where they got married and eventually worked in an underground publication.

Arrested anew in Iligan City in September 1974, Cayunda was again tortured before being released five months later.

He was in a meeting in Midsalip, Zamboanga de Sur, when his group encountered the paramilitary group Ilaga, who killed him and an unnamed woman in an encounter. His head was reportedly displayed in a military detachment in Dumalinao town. His family never recovered his body. He was 31 when he died.


People’s lawyer

Rodolfo Lagoc was known as a “people’s lawyer,” who worked as an arbiter at the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) for Region 6 based in Iloilo.

During martial law, he was among the progressive lawyers often called upon to defend arrested students, workers and farmers. He also organized professionals, including other lawyers in Western Visayas to advocate for a nationalist education and industrialization, human rights and the economic empowerment of the working class.

When the military invited Lagoc for “a few questions” sometime in 1972, the invitation turned into six months of detention at Camp Delgado in Iloilo and two months of provincial arrest. No charges were filed against him.

After his release, Lagoc continued his work as NLRC labor arbiter. He joined the Free Legal Assistance Group founded by Sen. Jose W. Diokno despite risks to his security, and became NLRC director for Region 6 toward the end of the Marcos dictatorship.

Not one to sit around, he defended indigenous groups whose ancestral lands were threatened by mining, dams, and other infrastructure projects.

While visiting his children in California in 2012, Lagoc died of heart failure. He was 77.


Blood on Bacong Bridge

The so-called Bacong Bridge martyrs were killed on Dec. 19, 1981, during a protest rally in Culasi, Antique.

The rallyists, mostly farmers, wanted the mayor to stop collecting taxes on farm produce brought down from the uplands. Though soldiers kept blocking their way, the farmers were confident about their safety.

When they reached Bacong Bridge, the soldiers stopped the farmers for the third time. But they only wanted to see the mayor, the rallyists protested.

Suddenly shots rang out. Some farmers ran to the fields, others jumped off the bridge. When the smoke cleared, five lay dead: Leopoldo Anos, farmer, rope maker; Aquilino Castillo, farmer; Fortunato Dalisay, fisherman and farmer; Remigildo Dalisay, farm helper and a cousin of Fortunato, and Joel Plaquino, fisherman.


Rites for 3 more

Three Bantayog honorees of previous years will be specially honored today. They are: Claro G. Cabrera (1956-1984), Rolando M. Castro (1952-1984) and Pepito L. Deheran (1956-1984). Their names were among the first on the Wall of Remembrance, but no ceremonial honors were given them in the past.

The eleven honorees of 2019 bring to 316 the names engraved on The Wall which stands a few meters away from the 14-meter (45-foot) bronze monument of a defiant mother holding a fallen son.

The monument by renowned sculptor Eduardo Castrillo, the commemorative wall and other structures at Bantayog Memorial Center are dedicated to the nation’s modern-day martyrs and heroes who fought, in ways they knew how, against martial rule (1972-1986), to help restore freedom, justice and democracy in the country.

The first 65 names were engraved on the wall in 1992. The Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation is chaired by former Sen. Wigberto Tanada.

Bantayog’s activities include publishing biographies, forums, information dissemination, film showing, roving exhibitions and museum tours.

PLAQUINO, Joel B.

The Bacong Bridge Martyrs

To the Marcos regime is attributed some 900 massacres,perpetrated by military and paramilitary forces, primarily to instill fear on communities or groups raising a voice of protest against certain issues or policies, or against the regime’s growing abuses.

In 1981, six massacres were recordedby the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, three taking place against people taking collective protest actions: in Guinayangan, Quezon (2 killed on February 1), in Daet, Camarines Norte (4 killed on June 14) and in Culasi, Antique (5 killed on December 19).


Culasi

This municipality lies 92 kilometers north of the provincial capital, San Jose de Buenavista. From a thin coastal strip that faces Sulu Sea, the land rises to form the foothills of the majestic Mount Madyaas. One-fourth of Culasi’s barangays live on these foothills. Kinaray-a is the language spoken. Most residents fish and farm, mostly growing palay, corn, abaca, coffee, cacao and coconuts. As in most rural areas in the country, the people are poor, eking out various livelihoods for survival.

Life in Culasi seemed slow in 1981. It still had no electricity and only a few stores. But new disturbing things were happening. A curfew prevented people from leaving their homes after dark. The people were uneasy with the increased presence of Constabulary men in the villages. No abuse had been recorded but they had heard how soldiers in other areas stole chickens, burned houses or drove people out of their homes.

Activists, mostly students who had left the universities to work against the dictatorship, were living in these villages, trying to organize residents to resist the dictatorship. Small teams from the New People’s Army (NPA)were also doing political work and taking in local recruits.


Protest rally

The upland barangays planned a march to town to raise several concerns with the mayor, Romulo Alpas. They wanted to ask the mayor to stop collecting taxes on goods they brought down from upland to sell in town. Every mat spread on the market grounds offering goods for sale was issued a ticket to pay. It was nearing Christmas. With life as hard as it was, any bit of earning would go a long way. Another of the residents’ demands was to ask the mayor to stop more soldiers from coming. The people wanted a worry-free holiday season.

On December 19, a Saturday, around 500 residents, men, women and even children, started the march. They came from six barangays. Some young people had made rough placards and they were taken to the front of the marchers’ columns. It was a noisy but jovial bunch of villagers that started out from Barangay Condes. A few kilometres down the road, three constabulary men stopped them and asked for their leader. “We are all leaders!” they cried, and marched on. In barangay Balabago, more soldiers came up, again asking to know and see their leader. They got the same happy, confident response. The marchers had absolutely no inkling death was waiting at the next stop.
They had reached the Bacong bridge when soldiers stopped them a third time. The soldiers had built a bamboo barricade at the center of the bridge. They told the marchers to stop or be killed. Again the soldiers asked for the leaders.

But the townhall was barely two kilometers away. The marchers meant to reach that goal. See the mayor. Some men in the front moved closer to the barricade to try to get the poles out of the way.

Shots rang out. The marchers dispersed in disarray. Some jumped off the bridge. Some hid in the rice paddies nearby. But five lay dead.

Leopoldo Anos, 48, was from barangay Flores. He was married to Basilia Estopacia with whom he had three children. He gathered abaca and made ropes he sold at the market. He did not own land but he cleared land up in the hills to plant cassava, camote, corn and abaca. His son remembers his father as a jolly person with whom he spent many happy evenings. On the day of the rally, Leopoldo had sore eyes, the son remembers. But the issues were important and he wanted to join the action. So he did.

Aquilino Castillo, also a farmer, was from Barangay Carit-an. The family had left Culasi.

Fortunato Dalisay was born on June 2, 1926, in Barangay Batonan Sur. His father was a farmer and his mother a hilot. He got only to first grade in school. He was married and had three children. As with most everyone, he fished and he farmed. When the seas were too rough to fish, he tended his farm or went up the hills to gather firewood.

Neighbors say that people looked up to Fortunato because not only was he level-headed, he was ever ready to extend help to those who needed it.

Neighbors say that Fortunato was often seen in discussion with the activists. He was one of those in his village who urged people to join the march. He was 55 years old when killed.

His daughter Cecilia, a high school student at the time, was part of the march. She got shot in the foot at the violent dispersal. She was afraid to seek medical treatmentat first. But the wound got infected and she had to be ferried in a basket to be brought to hospital, there to be confined by the soldiers. Her father was buried without her because she was not allowed out. She does not forget that before the ill-fated march started, her father told her to be careful. He gave her his hat to wear as protection against the sun.

Remigildo Dalisay was a cousin of Fortunato. He was born September 1934, also in Barangay Batonan Sur. He never went to school and could not write or even read his name. He and his wife Fermina have eight children. Fermina says they met at a baylehan (community dance social). She found Remigildo, or Dodong, hard-working and very kind. He worked often alongside his older brother Fortunato and like him, was actively urging neighbors to be part of the march to town.

Joel Ballenas Plaquino, the fifth casualty, was also from Batonan Sur. He got to sixth grade until poverty made it impossible to go on. He made a living mostly by fishing, and was married to Lolita, with whom he had five children. He had also worked as farmhand if opportunity offered. Joel, neighbors remember, also had frequent discussions with the activists, and like the Dalisay brothers, was a strong supporter of the protest march to the town. He was 34 and with very young children when slain.

The bodies of all five men were brought to the municipal hall and put on display. All had many bullet wounds from the waist down. Seven others injured were brought by their families to hospital for treatment. Some were taken in for questioning by the soldiers. Others kept their injuries to themselves to avoid the same fate.


Responsibility

Aftermath. “ … The demonstrators tragically proved with their own deaths and injuries their fear that the arrival of more soldiers posed a danger.” Reporting about the incident in Who magazine, writer Roberto Z. Coloma observed that the very thing the residents feared might happen, had happened.

Coloma reported that Mayor Alpas, who belonged to the Marcos party Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, blamed the activists in the mountains for the incident, as did the military authorities from the 315thcompany of the Philippine Constabulary.

But the massacre generated outrage.

The Catholic bishop of Antique, Monsignor Cornelio De Witt, issued a pastoral letter denouncing the killing of those “on their way to town to express their hunger for a better life.” Bishop De Witt said: “All of our human powers, whether political or economic or physical, must be at the service to protect and develop human life, never to kill by the sword or to manipulate by lies and threats. Man is born free and can only become himself in freedom. “

The governor, Enrique Zaldivar, called the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC), which passed a resolution urging then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile to send a team to investigate the incident, or allow the council to do so. The vice-governor, Lolita Cadiao, wrote an urgent letter to Pres. Marcos, saying the marchers should have been given the chance to express themselves.

The Promotion of Church Peoples Rights, led by Bishop Tomas Millena of the Philippine Independent Church, to which majority of Culasi’s residents belonged, called for justice and an impartial investigation.

Months later, the Panay Broad Alliance for Justice and Peace was established, with lawyers, religious, professionals and students among its members. The alliance exposed the military abuses happening all over Panay. It demanded that those guilty be brought to court and punished.

It was a sad Christmas in Culasi in 1981.The families of those slain and hurt had to scrounge for the money to pay for funeral expenses and medical costs. Many sold or pawned their farm animal or even their land. The bridge in Bacong today is new and bigger, but the blood that stained its wooden boards years ago remains a bitter memory. The sight of a uniformed person still brings anxiety attacks to some.

It was the first time that the poor folk of Culasi, many never having spent a day in school, went to hold a march and rally to try to find a way to collectively improve their lot. They found the courage to break the silence and the order imposed by the dictatorship. The details of the lives of those who died are little-known and sparse. They are no less martyrs for our democracy. Their story should be told, for the new generation to remember.

DALISAY, Remigildo P.

The Bacong Bridge Martyrs

To the Marcos regime is attributed some 900 massacres,perpetrated by military and paramilitary forces, primarily to instill fear on communities or groups raising a voice of protest against certain issues or policies, or against the regime’s growing abuses.

In 1981, six massacres were recordedby the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, three taking place against people taking collective protest actions: in Guinayangan, Quezon (2 killed on February 1), in Daet, Camarines Norte (4 killed on June 14) and in Culasi, Antique (5 killed on December 19).

Culasi

This municipality lies 92 kilometers north of the provincial capital, San Jose de Buenavista. From a thin coastal strip that faces Sulu Sea, the land rises to form the foothills of the majestic Mount Madyaas. One-fourth of Culasi’s barangays live on these foothills. Kinaray-a is the language spoken. Most residents fish and farm, mostly growing palay, corn, abaca, coffee, cacao and coconuts. As in most rural areas in the country, the people are poor, eking out various livelihoods for survival.

Life in Culasi seemed slow in 1981. It still had no electricity and only a few stores. But new disturbing things were happening. A curfew prevented people from leaving their homes after dark. The people were uneasy with the increased presence of Constabulary men in the villages. No abuse had been recorded but they had heard how soldiers in other areas stole chickens, burned houses or drove people out of their homes.

Activists, mostly students who had left the universities to work against the dictatorship, were living in these villages, trying to organize residents to resist the dictatorship. Small teams from the New People’s Army (NPA)were also doing political work and taking in local recruits.

Protest rally

The upland barangays planned a march to town to raise several concerns with the mayor, Romulo Alpas. They wanted to ask the mayor to stop collecting taxes on goods they brought down from upland to sell in town. Every mat spread on the market grounds offering goods for sale was issued a ticket to pay. It was nearing Christmas. With life as hard as it was, any bit of earning would go a long way. Another of the residents’ demands was to ask the mayor to stop more soldiers from coming. The people wanted a worry-free holiday season.

On December 19, a Saturday, around 500 residents, men, women and even children, started the march. They came from six barangays. Some young people had made rough placards and they were taken to the front of the marchers’ columns. It was a noisy but jovial bunch of villagers that started out from Barangay Condes. A few kilometres down the road, three constabulary men stopped them and asked for their leader. “We are all leaders!” they cried, and marched on. In barangay Balabago, more soldiers came up, again asking to know and see their leader. They got the same happy, confident response. The marchers had absolutely no inkling death was waiting at the next stop.
They had reached the Bacong bridge when soldiers stopped them a third time. The soldiers had built a bamboo barricade at the center of the bridge. They told the marchers to stop or be killed. Again the soldiers asked for the leaders.

But the townhall was barely two kilometers away. The marchers meant to reach that goal. See the mayor. Some men in the front moved closer to the barricade to try to get the poles out of the way.

Shots rang out. The marchers dispersed in disarray. Some jumped off the bridge. Some hid in the rice paddies nearby. But five lay dead.

Leopoldo Anos, 48, was from barangay Flores. He was married to Basilia Estopacia with whom he had three children. He gathered abaca and made ropes he sold at the market. He did not own land but he cleared land up in the hills to plant cassava, camote, corn and abaca. His son remembers his father as a jolly person with whom he spent many happy evenings. On the day of the rally, Leopoldo had sore eyes, the son remembers. But the issues were important and he wanted to join the action. So he did.

Aquilino Castillo, also a farmer, was from Barangay Carit-an. The family had left Culasi.

Fortunato Dalisay was born on June 2, 1926, in Barangay Batonan Sur. His father was a farmer and his mother a hilot. He got only to first grade in school. He was married and had three children. As with most everyone, he fished and he farmed. When the seas were too rough to fish, he tended his farm or went up the hills to gather firewood.

Neighbors say that people looked up to Fortunato because not only was he level-headed, he was ever ready to extend help to those who needed it.

Neighbors say that Fortunato was often seen in discussion with the activists. He was one of those in his village who urged people to join the march. He was 55 years old when killed.

His daughter Cecilia, a high school student at the time, was part of the march. She got shot in the foot at the violent dispersal. She was afraid to seek medical treatmentat first. But the wound got infected and she had to be ferried in a basket to be brought to hospital, there to be confined by the soldiers. Her father was buried without her because she was not allowed out. She does not forget that before the ill-fated march started, her father told her to be careful. He gave her his hat to wear as protection against the sun.

Remigildo Dalisay was a cousin of Fortunato. He was born September 1934, also in Barangay Batonan Sur. He never went to school and could not write or even read his name. He and his wife Fermina have eight children. Fermina says they met at a baylehan (community dance social). She found Remigildo, or Dodong, hard-working and very kind. He worked often alongside his older brother Fortunato and like him, was actively urging neighbors to be part of the march to town.

Joel Ballenas Plaquino, the fifth casualty, was also from Batonan Sur. He got to sixth grade until poverty made it impossible to go on. He made a living mostly by fishing, and was married to Lolita, with whom he had five children. He had also worked as farmhand if opportunity offered. Joel, neighbors remember, also had frequent discussions with the activists, and like the Dalisay brothers, was a strong supporter of the protest march to the town. He was 34 and with very young children when slain.

The bodies of all five men were brought to the municipal hall and put on display. All had many bullet wounds from the waist down. Seven others injured were brought by their families to hospital for treatment. Some were taken in for questioning by the soldiers. Others kept their injuries to themselves to avoid the same fate.

Responsibility

Aftermath. “ … The demonstrators tragically proved with their own deaths and injuries their fear that the arrival of more soldiers posed a danger.” Reporting about the incident in Who magazine, writer Roberto Z. Coloma observed that the very thing the residents feared might happen, had happened.

Coloma reported that Mayor Alpas, who belonged to the Marcos party Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, blamed the activists in the mountains for the incident, as did the military authorities from the 315thcompany of the Philippine Constabulary.

But the massacre generated outrage.

The Catholic bishop of Antique, Monsignor Cornelio De Witt, issued a pastoral letter denouncing the killing of those “on their way to town to express their hunger for a better life.” Bishop De Witt said: “All of our human powers, whether political or economic or physical, must be at the service to protect and develop human life, never to kill by the sword or to manipulate by lies and threats. Man is born free and can only become himself in freedom. “

The governor, Enrique Zaldivar, called the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC), which passed a resolution urging then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile to send a team to investigate the incident, or allow the council to do so. The vice-governor, Lolita Cadiao, wrote an urgent letter to Pres. Marcos, saying the marchers should have been given the chance to express themselves.

The Promotion of Church Peoples Rights, led by Bishop Tomas Millena of the Philippine Independent Church, to which majority of Culasi’s residents belonged, called for justice and an impartial investigation.

Months later, the Panay Broad Alliance for Justice and Peace was established, with lawyers, religious, professionals and students among its members. The alliance exposed the military abuses happening all over Panay. It demanded that those guilty be brought to court and punished.

It was a sad Christmas in Culasi in 1981.The families of those slain and hurt had to scrounge for the money to pay for funeral expenses and medical costs. Many sold or pawned their farm animal or even their land. The bridge in Bacong today is new and bigger, but the blood that stained its wooden boards years ago remains a bitter memory. The sight of a uniformed person still brings anxiety attacks to some.

It was the first time that the poor folk of Culasi, many never having spent a day in school, went to hold a march and rally to try to find a way to collectively improve their lot. They found the courage to break the silence and the order imposed by the dictatorship. The details of the lives of those who died are little-known and sparse. They are no less martyrs for our democracy. Their story should be told, for the new generation to remember.

DALISAY, Fortunato M.

The Bacong Bridge Martyrs

To the Marcos regime is attributed some 900 massacres,perpetrated by military and paramilitary forces, primarily to instill fear on communities or groups raising a voice of protest against certain issues or policies, or against the regime’s growing abuses.

In 1981, six massacres were recordedby the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, three taking place against people taking collective protest actions: in Guinayangan, Quezon (2 killed on February 1), in Daet, Camarines Norte (4 killed on June 14) and in Culasi, Antique (5 killed on December 19).

Culasi

This municipality lies 92 kilometers north of the provincial capital, San Jose de Buenavista. From a thin coastal strip that faces Sulu Sea, the land rises to form the foothills of the majestic Mount Madyaas. One-fourth of Culasi’s barangays live on these foothills. Kinaray-a is the language spoken. Most residents fish and farm, mostly growing palay, corn, abaca, coffee, cacao and coconuts. As in most rural areas in the country, the people are poor, eking out various livelihoods for survival.

Life in Culasi seemed slow in 1981. It still had no electricity and only a few stores. But new disturbing things were happening. A curfew prevented people from leaving their homes after dark. The people were uneasy with the increased presence of Constabulary men in the villages. No abuse had been recorded but they had heard how soldiers in other areas stole chickens, burned houses or drove people out of their homes.

Activists, mostly students who had left the universities to work against the dictatorship, were living in these villages, trying to organize residents to resist the dictatorship. Small teams from the New People’s Army (NPA)were also doing political work and taking in local recruits.

Protest rally

The upland barangays planned a march to town to raise several concerns with the mayor, Romulo Alpas. They wanted to ask the mayor to stop collecting taxes on goods they brought down from upland to sell in town. Every mat spread on the market grounds offering goods for sale was issued a ticket to pay. It was nearing Christmas. With life as hard as it was, any bit of earning would go a long way. Another of the residents’ demands was to ask the mayor to stop more soldiers from coming. The people wanted a worry-free holiday season.

On December 19, a Saturday, around 500 residents, men, women and even children, started the march. They came from six barangays. Some young people had made rough placards and they were taken to the front of the marchers’ columns. It was a noisy but jovial bunch of villagers that started out from Barangay Condes. A few kilometres down the road, three constabulary men stopped them and asked for their leader. “We are all leaders!” they cried, and marched on. In barangay Balabago, more soldiers came up, again asking to know and see their leader. They got the same happy, confident response. The marchers had absolutely no inkling death was waiting at the next stop.
They had reached the Bacong bridge when soldiers stopped them a third time. The soldiers had built a bamboo barricade at the center of the bridge. They told the marchers to stop or be killed. Again the soldiers asked for the leaders.

But the townhall was barely two kilometers away. The marchers meant to reach that goal. See the mayor. Some men in the front moved closer to the barricade to try to get the poles out of the way.

Shots rang out. The marchers dispersed in disarray. Some jumped off the bridge. Some hid in the rice paddies nearby. But five lay dead.

Leopoldo Anos, 48, was from barangay Flores. He was married to Basilia Estopacia with whom he had three children. He gathered abaca and made ropes he sold at the market. He did not own land but he cleared land up in the hills to plant cassava, camote, corn and abaca. His son remembers his father as a jolly person with whom he spent many happy evenings. On the day of the rally, Leopoldo had sore eyes, the son remembers. But the issues were important and he wanted to join the action. So he did.

Aquilino Castillo, also a farmer, was from Barangay Carit-an. The family had left Culasi.

Fortunato Dalisay was born on June 2, 1926, in Barangay Batonan Sur. His father was a farmer and his mother a hilot. He got only to first grade in school. He was married and had three children. As with most everyone, he fished and he farmed. When the seas were too rough to fish, he tended his farm or went up the hills to gather firewood.

Neighbors say that people looked up to Fortunato because not only was he level-headed, he was ever ready to extend help to those who needed it.

Neighbors say that Fortunato was often seen in discussion with the activists. He was one of those in his village who urged people to join the march. He was 55 years old when killed.

His daughter Cecilia, a high school student at the time, was part of the march. She got shot in the foot at the violent dispersal. She was afraid to seek medical treatmentat first. But the wound got infected and she had to be ferried in a basket to be brought to hospital, there to be confined by the soldiers. Her father was buried without her because she was not allowed out. She does not forget that before the ill-fated march started, her father told her to be careful. He gave her his hat to wear as protection against the sun.

Remigildo Dalisay was a cousin of Fortunato. He was born September 1934, also in Barangay Batonan Sur. He never went to school and could not write or even read his name. He and his wife Fermina have eight children. Fermina says they met at a baylehan (community dance social). She found Remigildo, or Dodong, hard-working and very kind. He worked often alongside his older brother Fortunato and like him, was actively urging neighbors to be part of the march to town.

Joel Ballenas Plaquino, the fifth casualty, was also from Batonan Sur. He got to sixth grade until poverty made it impossible to go on. He made a living mostly by fishing, and was married to Lolita, with whom he had five children. He had also worked as farmhand if opportunity offered. Joel, neighbors remember, also had frequent discussions with the activists, and like the Dalisay brothers, was a strong supporter of the protest march to the town. He was 34 and with very young children when slain.

The bodies of all five men were brought to the municipal hall and put on display. All had many bullet wounds from the waist down. Seven others injured were brought by their families to hospital for treatment. Some were taken in for questioning by the soldiers. Others kept their injuries to themselves to avoid the same fate.

Responsibility

Aftermath. “ … The demonstrators tragically proved with their own deaths and injuries their fear that the arrival of more soldiers posed a danger.” Reporting about the incident in Who magazine, writer Roberto Z. Coloma observed that the very thing the residents feared might happen, had happened.

Coloma reported that Mayor Alpas, who belonged to the Marcos party Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, blamed the activists in the mountains for the incident, as did the military authorities from the 315thcompany of the Philippine Constabulary.

But the massacre generated outrage.

The Catholic bishop of Antique, Monsignor Cornelio De Witt, issued a pastoral letter denouncing the killing of those “on their way to town to express their hunger for a better life.” Bishop De Witt said: “All of our human powers, whether political or economic or physical, must be at the service to protect and develop human life, never to kill by the sword or to manipulate by lies and threats. Man is born free and can only become himself in freedom. “

The governor, Enrique Zaldivar, called the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC), which passed a resolution urging then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile to send a team to investigate the incident, or allow the council to do so. The vice-governor, Lolita Cadiao, wrote an urgent letter to Pres. Marcos, saying the marchers should have been given the chance to express themselves.

The Promotion of Church Peoples Rights, led by Bishop Tomas Millena of the Philippine Independent Church, to which majority of Culasi’s residents belonged, called for justice and an impartial investigation.

Months later, the Panay Broad Alliance for Justice and Peace was established, with lawyers, religious, professionals and students among its members. The alliance exposed the military abuses happening all over Panay. It demanded that those guilty be brought to court and punished.

It was a sad Christmas in Culasi in 1981.The families of those slain and hurt had to scrounge for the money to pay for funeral expenses and medical costs. Many sold or pawned their farm animal or even their land. The bridge in Bacong today is new and bigger, but the blood that stained its wooden boards years ago remains a bitter memory. The sight of a uniformed person still brings anxiety attacks to some.

It was the first time that the poor folk of Culasi, many never having spent a day in school, went to hold a march and rally to try to find a way to collectively improve their lot. They found the courage to break the silence and the order imposed by the dictatorship. The details of the lives of those who died are little-known and sparse. They are no less martyrs for our democracy. Their story should be told, for the new generation to remember.

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