LORCA, Rolando Porras

Rolando Lorca pic

Like many young men and women of his time, Rolando “Rolly” Lorca activism started when he joined student organizations like the Kabataang Makabayan (KM). The countless marches and student protests from January 30 to March 1, 1970 in Manila went down in Philippine history as the First Quarter Storm (FQS), a time when student spoke about problems that plague the country, from the tuition increases, government corruption and U.S. imperialism.

While Manila was the centre of political ferment, the issues carried by the student movement were not confined to the metropolis. Thus, Ilonggo student activists from various schools – U.P., Ateneo, Lyceum, FEATI, FEU and others – met to discuss organizing students in Panay Island. Rolly was among the core leaders and eventually leading the group from Manila that arrived in Iloilo before the end of March 1970.

The converged forces of Manila and Iloilo-based student leaders gave rise to the Federation of Ilonggo Students (FIST). The group was behind organizing, “teach-ins” or discussions and demonstrations that drew thousands of students. The demands were varied but not confined to student issues; they include fair wages for workers and rural laborers. Most of all, they called on students to defy government restrictions on freedom of assembly and expressions amid threats by President Marcos to impose martial law. The times were remembered as Iloilo’s summer of discontent.

Rolly was not only known among student activists circles, he was also an organizer of farmers in his hometown of Dueñas. The farmers eventually joined the student demonstrations in Iloilo City. But perhaps one of the major contributions of Rolly was his sense of history, in seeing the student movement as a historical moment in the long struggle of Filipinos towards emancipation from colonial and homegrown tyrants.

When summer has ended, the Manila-based student leaders decided to go back to school, but not Rolly. He decided to stay in Iloilo to organize FIST chapters in Capiz and in Negros Occidental. In Capiz, FIST was set up in the towns of Cuartero, Dumarao, Pilar, Ivisan, Maayom and Dao. FIST also formed student groups and worker associations in the central Iloilo towns of Calinog, Dueñas and Janiuay.

When Marcos suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus after the Plaza Miranda bombing on August 1971, FIST continued to hold demonstrations in Iloilo City. Some prominent Ilonggo student leaders in Manila were among the 60 student leaders that Marcos reportedly ordered arrest.

Circumstance of death

Sometime on the first weeks of January 1974, Rolly, along with Antonio Tagamolia, (Bantayog recognized martyr) trekked for three days to reach Taroytoy in Libacao, Aklan where they joined Antonio Hilario and Tomas Dominado for a meeting to assess their work of organizing peasants in Panay. However, a military and constabulary commando raided the hut they were staying on February 19, 1974. The military fire killed Rolly, Hilario and Tagamolila. Dominado was wounded but he was able to escape. There two other casualties include a pregnant woman and a local organizer, both still unnamed. Rolly died a hero defending the rights of the oppressed and the voiceless. He was buried at Taroytoy, side by side with Hilario and Tagamolila. Rolly’s family recovered his remains three months later and brought it to Duenas for proper burial.

The military tagged Rolly as one of the leaders of the revolutionary movement in Panay. Thus he was a prized catch, dead or alive. However it was odd that a 24-year old student activist could be among the hunted by the Marcos’s dictatorship when all that he aspired for was a society where everyone would have a better life and not be afraid to speak out.

Impact of death

Rolly’s activism and his death disturbed his family, especially his father who was an Air Force personnel. Part of their unease and sadness was also due to the fact that Rolly’s brother, Napoleon, also joined the revolutionary movement in Panay and died earlier, on September 3, 1973. In short, the family lost both Rolly and Napoleon in the span of five months. Rolly was recognized as among the martyrs of Panay during the dedication of the monument of heroes resisting the Marcos dictatorship in 2007.

LORCA, Napoleon Porras

Napoleon Lorca pic

Napoleon Lorca is the older brother of Rolando Lorca. Nap, as he was called, became a youth activist by joining the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in 1968. As KM members, Fluellen Ortigas said that he and Nap had common friends like Eugene Grey (Bantayog recognized martyr), Boy Ramos (died in Bicol) and Charlie Shin whom they met during a meeting somewhere in UP village. Nap traveled with Ortigas to Iloilo late in 1971 after Marcos suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus right after the Plaza Miranda bombing. Nap and Fluellen worked with the leaders of the Federation of Ilonggo Students (FIST) based in Iloilo that was organized by both Manila and Iloilo based student leaders. FIST was behind the huge student demonstrations in Iloilo in the summer of 1970 and until the months preceding the martial rule decreed by President Marcos on Sept. 21, 1972. From FIST’s ranks came the leaders of KM and the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK), which are the more prominent student groups at that time.

As early as 1971, student activists in Iloilo have been thinking about moving to the countryside to elude arrests and politicize the peasants and the rural poor. They eyed the foothills and remote villages situated along the Madia-as Range that once was the lair of guerrillas and revolutionaries of the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (Huk or HMB).

Before the end of January, Nap and two other companions, went to Daan Sur, which is a village next to Minan, Tapaz. They started organizing the mountain villagers through periods of hunger, bouts of fatigue and attacks of leeches. They organized the Tumandok or Sulod-Bukidnon, the indigenous people of Panay that were victims of extortion by forest guards and influential people from the lowlands who cheated them on their harvest’s share. The team also organized the Tumandok’s self-defense groups against roving bandits and cattle rustlers. When the locals got sick, Nap and his team helped secure their medicines. They taught the locals how to farm efficiently and establish safe water supply. These acts earned them the trust of the residents of Daan Sur. The word spread that the Tumandok of Daan Sur were able to defend themselves from bandits and cattle thieves, thanks to the students who helped organize the village defenders. Soon there were requests for the three to organize other areas as well and they followed the same tact when organizing the neighboring villages.

Circumstance of death

Nap died when government troops, led by second lieutenant Roberto Guillergan, raided their safehouse in Lapaz, Iloilo City.

When his friends at the BARC learned about the death of Nap and his companion, they were given honors during a ritual that remembered their contribution to the history of resistance in Panay Island.

Impact of death

Nap was buried in Dueñas. His death came five months ahead of his brother, Rolly, who is also a student activist and one of the leaders of the Border Area Revolutionary Committee (BARC) in Panay. Their involvement was not well received by their families, especially his father who was a Philippine Air Force personnel.

Another sad note on the death of Nap was that he never saw his son by Roseana Thompson who was pregnant when he died. Rose was a member of Makibaka, an underground feminist organization. She went to Italy and died there of breast cancer in 2006 but her remains were brought to Iloilo.

ESPINAS, Alberto Tuason

Alberto Espinas2photo

Alberto Espinas, also known as Bert, started his elementary education in the working class community of Rizal Estanzuela in Iloilo City. He completed his secondary education in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, as his father was with the Philippine Army. In college, he went to Lyceum to study journalism.

His first foray into student activism took place when he joined his fellow students to demand a stop to tuition increase in the late 1960s. As a student, he was an avid reader of political and philosophy books that he was considered by his friends as an expert on Marx, Lenin and Mao. He was also influenced by the writings of Filipino nationalist Claro M. Recto that he joined the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN). He also joined the National Students League, Student Power Assembly of the Philippines and the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in which he sat as member of the national council. In short, he attained a stature of a prominent student leader. Although it was not mentioned by his family and former activist-friends, journalism may have also shaped Bert’s values as an activist. Activism’s relentless search for truth, its predilection for free expression and its desire for a better society can be enhanced by journalism that also share the same values.

When the so-called First Quarter Storm (FQS) raged in Manila, Bert was one of the active leaders because of his involvement with KM and the Movement for Democratic Philippines.

When student activists in Manila were encouraged to help organize students in the provinces, Bert volunteered to go to Iloilo. The move was not only to expand the student movement. It also targeted organizing the countryside.

In August of 1971, after the Plaza Miranda bombing, Marcos suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and restricted the right to assembly. Arrests took place and among those targeted were 60 student leaders including Bert. The repression did not stop student demonstrations from taking place because the leaders worked clandestinely in organizing their ranks. This was true in Manila and Iloilo City at that time. By the end of the year, the student movement in Iloilo had some 10,000 members whose presence in street protests challenged the controls placed by Marcos.

Circumstance of death

In July 1973 Bert joined the group of six that conducted research in Antique to learn about the conditions of peasants and the sacada, or the seasonal sugar workers in the haciendas or the sugar cane plantations of Negros. The workers were heavily exploited by plantation owners, in terms of wages and living conditions that were almost subhuman. The research was timed with the weeks leading to the referendum to get the approval for the 1973 Constitution that will grant extra powers and extended stay in office of President Marcos.

However the research team was arrested by the military on July 24. The students escaped but they were pursued by the military and shot. Bert died, on July 27, 1973, of multiple gunshot wounds but not before shouting “Mabuhay ang lumalaban.”

Impact of death

Bert was buried six days later in Antique. Five years later, on August 1978, his family recovered his remains and gave it a proper burial in Tangalan, Aklan. He died a hero, and this was recognized by his comrades and family alike.

On February 20, 1974 Bert’s father, Antonio, sent a typewritten note to Restituto Ortigas, who also mourned the death of one of those shot, Virgil Ortigas (Bantayog martyr). It went: “Our sons made a pledge that no matter what happens they will never surrender the principles they believed (in). Theirs was a paradox only a few will understand. (24 July 1973).”

BELORIA, Vicente Laus

Vicente Beloria pic

Vicente “Vic” Beloria’s college education took place in the Baptist-founded Central Philippine University in Jaro, Iloilo City. He entered the university in 1970, a time of ferment and upsurge of student activism, not only in Manila but the rest of the country. In the university, he was introduced to continental philosophy and the Filipino nationalist ideas of Claro M. Recto and historian Renato Constantino. He had also read books like the Philippine Society and Revolution of Amado Guerrero and other Marxist tracts at that time.

Vic was a leader in the student government of the university, the CPU Republic. It was probably through campus politics that he joined the Movement for Democratic Philippines in 1970 that gave rise to the Federation of Ilonggo Students or FIST. It was under FIST’s leadership that a series of huge rallies and demonstrations were held in Iloilo City. It was also FIST, that Vic met student Ilonggo student leaders from Manila including Fluellen Ortigas and Alberto Espinas, who became his friends and mentors.

Vic’s activism allowed him to ask deep questions about society and change. He also joined the Iloilo chapter of Kabataang Makabayan (KM), As the student movement in Iloilo became more politicized and restive, Vic foresaw the impending threats on the persons of local student leaders, with the plan of Marcos to declare martial law. However Vic and other student leaders in Iloilo were undeterred; they continued to launch demonstrations and organize students in the Iloilo City and other provinces in Panay, in defiance of the government’s restrictions.

Vic set up a coordinating group that simultaneously led open demonstrations and clandestine organizing and teach-ins. This two-pronged tactic was intended to expand the ranks of student activists but at the same time ensure their safety in an event of a crackdown.

In January 1972, months before Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972, Vic and other student leaders in Iloilo decided to abandon the open arena of activism by going to the countryside to join the underground resistance against the dictatorship.

Circumstances of death

Vic joined six others to conduct a research in the remote areas of Antique on July 1973, timed with the campaign to reject the Marcos’s Constitution seeking acclamation through a referendum. The group visited remote villages in Antique that were home to the sacada or seasonal sugarcane plantation workers in Negros Island. At the close of their field visits, they were arrested. They tried to escape, taking various routes but almost all of them were pursued and shot. Of the seven, five of them died. Vic and Ferdinand Arceo were the last to fall on July 29, 1973. They managed to escape the military that were chasing them for two days before they were caught in San Joaquin town. Vic and Ferdinand were summarily executed while another companion was captured and tortured.

His family brought Vic’s remains to Culasi, Ajuy town, for burial on August 3, 1973.

Impact of Death

Vic’s activism was a source of pride for his family because it demonstrated his selflessness and resoluteness. For Cesar Beloria, the brother of Vic, the latter was a hero and martyr, driven by his patriotism that he carried up to his last breath.

Despite their loss, some members of his family joined the anti- Marcos struggle. Cesar, who became a lawyer, was active in defending human rights cases. For him, Vic was a committed revolutionary who dedicated his life to educate the masses. The people that his brother met would fondly remember him for his ideals.

There were no public honors for Vic, except that he was recognized as among the martial law martyrs of Panay during the dedication rites for the monument of heroes at Plaza Libertad, Iloilo City, in 2007.

SANTOS, Antero Guerrero

ANTERO Santos pic

Antero Guerrero Santos was born on January 3, 1948 to an upper middle class family in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. His father was the provincial agriculturist while his mother, who hailed from a landed family from the town of Paoay, owned a fashion and finishing school in Laoag City. Known to family and friends as Terry, he was the 6th of 9 children.

Antero grew up in a family where education was highly valued and encouraged by their parents. His passion for reading and the written word manifested at a young age and Antero spent much of his allowances on books and magazine subscriptions. A studious boy, he graduated from elementary and high school as salutatorian. He was passionate about philosophy, literature and poetry. He was a writer, orator and always a winner in local singing contests. Raised in a devout Catholic home, he also served as altar boy in their parish.

He displayed leadership at an early age, becoming vice-president of the student body both in elementary and high school.

History of political involvement

Antero entered college in 1964 as a Caltex company scholar at the University of the Philippines in Los Banos, Laguna, then known as the UP College of Agriculture. While at the university, he was soon exposed to nationalist and progressive ideas, later on becoming one of the founding members of the campus chapter of the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK), a nationalist organization. He took active part in discussion groups and school activities that dealt not only with campus matters but also with national issues. The Vietnam War and the American bases in the country were at the center of activism at the time.

Antero was also active in the College of Agriculture Cultural Society which conducted weekly book review sessions on progressive and radical ideas such as the nationalist writings of Renato Constantino and the works of Mao Tse-Tung. The vigorous discussion in these sessions drew in many students to the activists’ cause. (Among Antero’s contemporaries in the SDK-UPLB Chapter and the Cultural Society were Bantayog martyrs/heroes Aloysius Baes, Leticia Pascual and Christina Catalla.)

An active campus writer, Antero became Managing Editor of the student paper Aggie Green and Gold in 1968, and later, Editor-In-Chief in 1969. He had a regular column, Stock and Scion, written from a nationalist and progressive perspective which incisively tackled a wide range of issues such as school facilities, student autonomy, campus press freedom, student activism, and Marcos government’s corruption and abuses, among others. He often criticized college programs that seemed to him to serve foreign interests, and urged for reforms in the system to achieve real agricultural development (Façade Mentality, AGG, October 1968). A contemporary of his said that as Editor-In-Chief, Terry made sure that critical issues landed at the front, center and back pages of the paper.

Antero fought hard for the independence of the student publication when there were attempts to put it under control. He challenged student apathy to the widespread exploitation and abuse that was happening, and exhorted the students not to “confine themselves within the walls of the academe” (Winning editorial, AGG, 1968). In one of his columns, he put forward the idea that for student activism to become a potent force for change, students must recognize the commonness of their cause with other oppressed sectors of society. Thus he wrote; “one can only be heroic and noble if one’s interests reflects that of society” (The students’ will, Stock and Scion, AGG, October 1969).

He also started a magazine supplement for the AGG, titled Pingkian, which more extensively tackled those issues that Antero believed UPLB students should know about.

Antero did not confine himself to writing. As one of his friends, Yolanda Catalla, put it, he was “making history while editor and eventually became a part of our national history.” Together with his SDK comrades and other campus activists, he also took active part in protest actions inside the campus as well as in rallies and demonstrations in Manila. He was among the leaders of the week-long UPLB boycott in 1969 which brought together students, non-academic personnel and faculty and presented 39 issues for school authorities to address, among them affordable education, academic freedom, greater participation in the drawing up of campus policies and regulations and affordable campus housing. The boycott paralyzed the entire campus, forcing school authorities to negotiate.

He was also among those who initiated a summer program for students called the Learning from the People Summer Work Camp. Students lived with farmers in selected areas near the UPLB campus – in Victoria, Laguna and Nakar in Quezon – and directly learned about their hard lives. This experience deepened Antero’s commitment to further work with the poor and help bring about meaningful progress in the rural areas.

As national politics headed towards a crisis after the highly-fraudulent 1969 presidential elections, Antero wrote about the growing specter of state violence, and government attempts to suppress civil rights. In 1970, after his editorship at the AGG, he wrote for the Philippine Collegian as Los Banos associate. Writing under the column Tagisan, he exposed instances of infiltration by the military of campus organizations and activities. That early, he urged for vigilance against a looming dictatorship. His columns became quite popular with students but earned him the military’s ire.

Circumstances of death
Terry was a people’s scholar, a good writer, a hard-working student leader, a passionate freedom fighter, and a kind-hearted friend. He had a lot going for him, but he turned his back on all these to serve the people in the way he felt most proper. What a rare privilege having known him. We commend him for his single-minded commitment to the ideals of our generation.” -Bonifacio Ilagan, award-winning director, colleague of Antero Santos

 In early 1971, Antero went to Isabela to join a group that was training to reinforce a fast-expanding resistance movement against the Marcos government. He wanted to gain experience there, and to bring this experience to his own hometown, to arouse local farmers to action.

In the bosom of the Sierra Madre range in Isabela, he learned to enrich his skill at providing political education to farmers who were often illiterate and had very little exposure to the world. He also learned techniques for organizing in villages.

Sometime in May 1971, the military got wind of the existence of the activists in the vicinity. Soon, they were surroundedby heavily-armed troops. In spite of the stormy weather, Antero’s group was able to get out of the area but was relentlessly pursued. While the group was crossing a river in Barrio Dipogo, the water started to rise. Most made it safely to the other side but the tail end, which included Antero, got caught by and was swept away by the raging torrent. Four of those swept away did not survive the tragedy. One of them was Antero Santos.

In the intensifying political scenario of the time, Antero’s family was not able to receive any word about his death. It was only in recent years that they were able to piece together a coherent picture of what befell Antero. His remains have never been recovered. He was 23 years old.

MORALES, Horacio R. "Boy" Jr.

Horacio Morales Jr. pic

Horacio “Boy” Morales Jr. was a man with a mission. He took on various roles: the ubiquitous campus figure in the 1960s and wunderkind technocrat of the 1970s. Since the 1980s, he was the enigmatic underground rebel, civil society innovator, and state reformer. Through his many transformations, Boy went all in. He did nothing halfheartedly, and perhaps there was no greater example of this than in 1977, when he turned his back on a promising government career and became one of the lightning rods of the resistance movement against the Marcos dictatorship. Morales’s defection, the highest such from a government official,struck a major blow to the regime that presented itself as a technocratic state; it also jolted mainstream society that had begun to accept life under authoritarian rule as the new normal. Boy was only 34 years old when he took aim at the Leviathan.

In fact, Boy’s life could have gone the other way. Born to a landed, political family on 11 September 1943, he seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, Luis Lopez Morales, who was Tarlac legislator and governor during the American period. Boy’s leadership qualities became apparent at the University of the Philippines where he took up economics. He joined the UP Vanguard, the organization of ROTC officers, and rose to become ROTC Corps Commander. As Grand Princep, he invigorated the Beta Sigma Fraternity.
“Most of us who joined the fraternity had come from humble beginnings and grown up in poor farming communities….Though many of us entered UP as entrance scholars, our scholastic preparation in our poor hometowns left much to be desired….We admired Boy for his ability to empathize deeply with us when we had problems….In fact, Boy, being a consummate organizer and strategist, prepared us to take leadership positions in our own colleges or regional organizations….Those were the golden years of the fraternity, when we rode the wave of Boy’s grand strategies, captured many campus positions, and developed our leadership skills. In turn, we his fraternity brothers became intensely loyal to him. – Victor O. Ramos, former Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary (1995-98)

Neither did he neglect his studies. After college, he earned a master’s degree in economics at the University of Oklahoma in 1968 and became a professional lecturer at the UP School of Economics from 1968 to 1977 while helping start up government programs and institutions (e.g., the Fund for Assistance to Private Education, Federation of Electric Cooperatives of the Philippines, and Responsible Parenthood Council). He also helped found the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) and was its executive vice president from 1973 to 1977 – the year the Philippine Jaycees named him the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) awardee for public administration.
“Mr. Morales played a key role in social science research in those critical years. He secured funding for the Social Indicators Project’s pilot survey in Batangas province, the first Philippine experiment in estimating self-rated poverty and other quality of life indicators regularly used today.” – Dr. Mahar K. Mangahas, CEO and President of the Social Weather Station, and former Director of the DAP Social Indicators Project, 1974-75.

History of political involvement

Though driven, Boy was nevertheless not oblivious to the defining issues of his generation. The 1960s saw the growing polarization of Philippine society leading to the imposition of martial law in 1972. Boy entered government in the hopes of reforming it and improving its service delivery, but soon realized the limits of working for a regime intent on preserving the system. Instead, exposure to the actual conditions of the people in need led him to conclude that the poor and marginalized required empowerment and participation in the development process. He pioneered a countryside development program that integrated land reform, the establishment of cooperatives and small and medium enterprises, and rural credit. To Boy, real development would come only with an empowered citizenry working toward structural transformation. That path put him on a collision course with the Marcos regime.

In 1975, he joined the National Democratic Front (NDF) while still in government. His DAP office set up people’s organizations and cooperatives in the rural areas. With a new sense of urgency, he rejected an offer to serve as Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program in Indonesia in 1976, deciding instead to remain in the Philippines. On 26 December 1977, the day he was to receive the TOYM award, he issued a statement announcing that he was joining the underground to fight “the ruling system that had brought so much suffering and misery to the broad masses of the people.”
“For the people who, at one time or another, had worked closely with him, the surprise was not so much in the decision but in the timing. Some members of his staff at DAP admitted to feeling demoralized when he left, disappointed because Morales did not even warn them. But then they realized on hindsight that through his years as a government technocrat he was always consistent, with the kind of projects he would pursue (always involving consciousness-raising, always for the direct benefit of the people), with the drive with which he would pursue them….Relates a colleague, ‘He would push us to work for the projects’ success….We thought it was a commitment to the institution (DAP) which went through very difficult times, funding-wise. It turned out later on that it was a commitment to the cause of the people.”– Gemma Nemenzo, “The Other Technocrat,” April 1984

Boy was well aware of the risk he was taking. His defection timed a year after the capture of communist leaders Jose Ma. Sison and Dante Buscayno seemed to signal to the public that the struggle against an unjust order was far from over. For the next five years, Boy parlayed his prestige, organizing skills, and credibility into strengthening the resistance to the martial law regime. His presence in the NDF allowed the organization to move outside the shadow of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). He spoke the same language as those in the legal opposition and knew that the defeat of authoritarian rule required forging a popular front of all those fighting Marcos across the different arenas of struggle. It did not take long for Boy to reach out to opposition luminaries, most notably, former Senators Lorenzo Tañada and Jose Diokno. During this period, the NDF sought to promote anti-dictatorship unity by indirectly supporting such political projects as the People’s MIND (Movement for Independence, Nationalism, and Democracy), launched in 1982.

Marcos’s security forces, however, were never far behind. On April 1982, Boy was captured and heavily tortured by members of the Military Intelligence Group 15. Incarceration restricted his mobility, but did not eliminate the fight in him. In detention, he had countless discussions with other political detainees (in particular, Edicio dela Torre and Isagani Serrano) about Philippine society and a broad left program. Such conversations spawned the idea of popular democracy, based on a platform of political pluralism and people’s empowerment. He also remained in the public eye. On January 10, 1984, when various pro-democracy groups and individuals from different political blocs and regions convened KOMPIL (Kongreso ng Mamamayan Pilipino), Boy was elected as one of the 15 alternative leaders. He was the youngest in the group and the only representative of the Left.

Boy’s release after the 1986 EDSA uprising gave him the opportunity to pursue his principles and ideas on development and democracy. He was involved in government reorganization and the peace process. From 1991 to 1993, he served as a member of the Peace Secretariat and Adviser to the Emissary. But the post-EDSA period saw Boy pursuing development work mainly as a citizen activist. Boy joined and became president of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and the Cooperative Foundation of the Philippines Inc. (CFPI), both of which were then chaired by former Senator Manuel P. Manahan. By 1998, PRRM was operating in 20 provinces and had helped in the formation of issue-based alliances such as the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and the Congress for a People’s Agrarian Reform (CPAR).
“When released by President Cory in 1986, Boy wasted no time to help in the democratic transition….He created…civil society organizations and citizens’ movements, like the Institute for Popular Democracy and Movement for Popular Democracy. He was part of the founding of several others. These served as his reference base for helping the new government and spurring citizen action for rebuilding a ruined nation and establishing a new democracy.” – Isagani R. Serrano, President, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement

Boy played a leading role as well in building global citizenship alliances and movements including the US-based CIVICUS (World Alliance for Citizenship Participation), Fundacion El Taller, headquartered in Tunisia, and People's Alliance for Social Development, based in Chile.

The year 1998 proved another turning point in Boy’s life as he was asked by President Joseph Estrada to head the Department of Agrarian Reform. As DAR Secretary, Boy sought to integrate land transfer and rural development toward responding more holistically to the needs of rural farming communities. He worked to raise the profile of agrarian reform by putting it at the center of national development imperatives. From 1998 to 2001, he also served as the Coconut Trust Fund Committee executive director, Presidential Task Force in the 20:20 initiative chair, National Anti-Poverty Commission government lead convener, and Population Commission vice-chair. From 2001 until his death, Boy remained active in issues that had defined his life.

Circumstance of death
 “When a nation loses one of its giants, it is time for not only mourning but for celebrating a life well-lived. Boy Morales was one of those giants who had a vision of development for his country — a vision of a modernized agriculture and growing industry, anchored in improved social justice. He was a risk taker and understood progress could not be made without building broad alliances around a development agenda. Having established his commitment to the cause of social change through sacrifices made during the long struggle against dictatorship, Boy tried to embark on a new route after the restoration of democracy, elaborating a pragmatic programme for progress. — Dr. James Putzel, Professor of Development Studies, Dept. of International Development, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Boy Morales passed away due to health problems on 29 February 2012. In and out of government and as a revolutionary and reformer, Boy never lost sight of the mission that had propelled him forward – that is, to put government in the service of those who needed it most: the poor and the marginalized.

LACBAO, Ernesto Dog-ah

Ernesto Lacbao was of the Kalanguya, an ethnic people living in the mountains that join the three provinces of Ifugao, Benguet and Nueva Vizcaya. The people lived simply, subsisting on rootcrops, vegetables, and some palay. They grew livestock like pig and chicken for food and for ritual use. Up to the mid-70s, the Kalanguya area was accessible only by foot and people had to hike to go to school, to the market or to visit relatives.

The Lacbao family lived in Tukucan, a barangay in the town of Tinoc in Ifugao. Ernesto grew up in these chilly and foggy fastnesses, with the tallest mountain in Luzon, Mount Pulag, always in his horizon. (The area lies so deep in the Cordillera ranges it is where the Japanese forces made their last stand during the Second World War.) With school a good distance away, Ernesto stopped schooling after the fourth grade and started to help in the family’s farming chores.

At 15, Ernesto (called Isko) married a Kankana-ey girl from Badayan, a Benguet village on the other side of the mountain. Following tradition, the marriage was arranged through a go-between (mungkalon). The bride, Lumina, was even younger at 12 years old. When they were married, the couple had previously seen each other only once at a village feast.

The couple settled in Pakawan, a small and sparsely-populated sitio of Tukucan, where they farmed, and had eight children. Living was a struggle, but the family flourished. They built a small house along an old Spanish trail, and hiking travelers often stopped by to rest and quench their thirst, or even stay the night, partaking of the plain fare offered by the Lacbaos.


Into these surroundings came the New People’s Army in 1972 when it started to do political work among the Kalanguya. A team of four or five guerrillas would come in the evening, share a meal, and discuss with the local folk about national and local politics, urging the villagers to organize for an armed struggle that would eventually bring change in society and make life better for the poor.

Ernesto listened intently to these messages. Government to him was a hardly visible presence, notable only through the school. How could their life in the mountains be made better by taking up arms?

But suddenly, the government started making its presence strongly felt in Tukucan. Soldiers came raiding, looking for the guerrillas. They set up military detachments near the communities. The area was becoming militarized although no battles had yet erupted. Because the Lacbao house stood along the trail, it became a preferred stopover for both army and guerrilla troops. Ernesto was friendly with the NPA but he kept his peace whenever the soldiers were about.

Then in 1974, military authorities ordered all residents in the boundary regions to leave their communities and to camp near the military detachments. This was the “hamletting” policy that would later be implemented in other parts of the country, a move meant to deny the NPA its access to the population.

Around the military camp, people had to build makeshift houses, but with no ready source of food or water. In order to tend to their farms or to go anywhere else, they had to ask for permission from the military, and permission was not always easy to get. As a result, houses and farms became neglected. Those who fell sick received no medical attention. Worse, those who protested the evacuation were seen as rebel supporters or even rebels themselves. Soldiers resorted to roughing up the “noisy” ones. They arrested anyone found outside the camp without permission, beating them up to get information about the NPA movements.

The evacuation policy greatly alienated the military from the local people. People started comparing their predicament to the “bakwit” of the Japanese period. They even adopted the NPA term for the soldiers, Japanese (Hapon).

Isko was one of the outspoken who complained of the growing abuses. He was not a barrio official but the people respected him because he was a local religious leader, a mumbaki, someone who interpreted the signs and interceded with the spirits. His voice carried weight in the community. They also admired his courageous criticism of the evacuation policy. For this outspokenness, Isko was arrested in 1974, together with eight others, tortured and sent to jail at the military camp in the capital town of Lagawe. There he would stay seven months.

The gentle Ernesto later told his wife that one night, soldiers brought in the head of an NPA guerilla they had earlier decapitated. It was placed next to Ernesto’s bed, and the following morning, Ernesto was told to throw it in a nearby river. Ernesto’s ethnic belief regarded that a dead person’s body had to be whole when returned to its creator so the act was to him utterly disrespectful of the dead. But left with no choice, he had to do it, praying to the spirits for appeasement and for the body to be made whole again. He also performed cleansing rites after he was released from prison.

After his release in 1975, Isko found that military operations in the areas around Tukucan had further intensified. Relatives and neighbors told him his life was under threat. Unfazed, Isko began a strong campaign against the worsening militarization of Ifugao. He joined the NPA guerrillas as they trekked the trails and visited the communities around Tinoc and Buguias towns. He became known as Ka Pablo. He spoke about the military abuses and of his personal experience in prison. His counsel and assistance was sought over how to address the trouble with the military and other community problems. By this time, he had become a marked man in the military’s eyes. Military spies were told to watch for him and he had to see his family only secretly.

In 1977, a second order for forced evacuation was imposed over an even wider area of Ifugao and Benguet. The seven sitios of Tukucan were again herded to live near military camps. For Isko’s strong activism, soldiers burned the Lacbao house. His wife took her one-month-old child back to her family in Benguet, leaving the older children among relatives in Ifugao. The soldiers pursued her, however, and hauled mother and child to Camp Holmes in La Trinidad, Benguet, and kept her incarcerated for a month.


Isko evaded a second arrest, but up in the mountains, disease started to slow him down. His body began to bloat and his skin to turn yellow. He was brought to a Manila hospital where he was diagnosed with diseased kidneys. Realizing the futility of finding a cure, Isko asked to be returned to his hometown.

Weakened by illness but unable to return home because of the military’s ongoing operations, he and his family, along with those who continued to resist forced evacuation, moved into the forests of Namal, in what is today Asipulo municipality. The family cleared a part of the forest and planted camote for the family’s food. It also took up a new identity.

Isko’s health continued to deteriorate, but he continued to provide leadership to his neighbors, urging them to always strive for freedom, to never give up. When he knew he was certain to die, he told his family to bury him in the new place but to go back to their old homestead, and to return for his body once when peace prevailed again. The family did as told and returned for him in 1986, after soldiers had left the area.

Today, his widow and all his children and their own families live in Pakawan where they had put down their roots. The local people still speak of Isko with respect and admiration. They talk of his kindness, and they also remember his courage and strong leadership.

CUPINO, Edgardo Ranollo

Edgardo Ranollo Cupino lifted high his family’s name by giving his life for the sake of freedom and justice. As the eldest in a brood of seven, Edgardo Ranollo Cupino had a big influence on his siblings. He influenced his siblings to have nationalist sentiments including his youngest sister, Juliet Cupino Armea, a Bantayog honoree.  In a wider scale, he had inspired his peers, his school, his community, and country by devoting his life to the service of the poor and oppressed. In July 1973 his last breath was offered in an attempt to cover the escapes of his comrades in a military raid in Mt. Buntis, Bongabon, Nueva Ecija.

Ed, as he was fondly called, was a son of a District Engineer assigned in the provinces of Region 3 – Bulacan, Bataan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales, Nueva Ecija and Aurora. Thus at an early age, he helped his mother care for his younger brothers and sisters. His father was usually assigned to work in the provinces leaving Ed and his mother to look after the younger children.

Ed was a college engineering student at the Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT) in Manila when he got involved in the student council. He helped the Kaisahan Party, a progressive student party, win an overwhelming victory over their rivals in the campus election.

There, he was recruited into Gabay ng Kabataan, an association of student activists in civil engineering and architecture. With Ed’s new involvement, he was exposed to issues like tuition fee hike, students’ rights among others.

He started joining protest actions and rallies inside and outside the campus. He would usually head the MIT contingent and would always carry a banner. Whenever there was violent rally dispersal, Ed and a few daring souls would respond by throwing rocks against the pursuing armed troopers of the Metropolitan Command. This was done to prevent arrest of more students and rally participants. He was in the forefront of the First Quarter Storm in the 1970s.

Before his activist’ days, Ed was a typical “Amboy” (American boy) wearing “Hush Puppies” and “Levi’s” jeans and jacket. In between classes, he would hang around with his fraternity brothers at the campus main quadrangle. He was the envy of many because of his good looks and fashionable style.

Perhaps in the beginning, joining rallies was merely an exciting “trip” for him. Defying the authorities, singing protest songs, shouting slogans and engaging in skirmishes against anti-riot policemen, was the “in” thing to do then.  As he gained a deeper understanding of the students’ issues and later the national peoples’ concerns, he embraced their cause with his heart and soul.

He joined the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) and became very active in its Pasig and Quezon City chapters. He became good friends with KM Quiapo chapter members, a known group of toughies from Manila’s most feared neighborhoods.

Ed was present when Francis Sontillano, a UP freshman was killed near Feati University during a rally. He was one of those who would always safeguard students’ leaders like UP Student Council president Eric Baculinao and Philippine College of Commerce (at present PUP) Student Council president and Students For National Democracy (STAND) chairman Crispin Aranda.

Ed was also present at the historic May Day rally in 1971. When the government troopers started firing indiscriminately at the rallyists, Ed and several others stood their ground. Ed responded with his sling shot. A fellow student tried to pull him but Ed stayed until he had used up his arsenal of stones and pillboxes.

Because of his passion for the students’ cause, he was expelled from MIT. He finished his engineering degree at the Central Colleges of the Philippines.

When the writ of habeas corpus was suspended in August 1971, Ed together with some student leaders left Manila. To evade arrest, they went to Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija to do some organizing and consolidation work.  There, Ed met Emma Viseno, who became his girlfriend. Their relationship lasted until his death.

In Cabanatuan, he created and led discussion groups. He discussed not only students’ issues but also the causes and the role of the state in perpetuating poverty and the impending martial rule. He related the widespread and deeply rooted poverty in the province to the “hacienda system” wherein only a few families owned the thousand hectares of rice land in Nueva Ecija.

Most of the time, Ed was left on his own with no guidance and direction. However, he managed to link with Dumagat communities.  He organized the Dumagats (Nueva Ecija’s indigenous people) although he knew very little about rural organizing work.

Members of his group would remember him buying and cooking food for them. The Dumagats would always expect “pasalubong” from him. His own allowances from his parents were shared with his new found family.

Circumstances of death

Ed left Cabanatuan City when Marcos declared martial law in 1972.  With nowhere else to go, he moved to the mountainous town of Pantabangan. There he joined the New People’s Army where he became a political officer of an armed propaganda unit (SYP). The unit’s primary work was to engage the community in discussion about issues surrounding the Marcos dictatorship and the need for an organized movement to resist the dictatorial regime.

Ed was barely in his 9th month in the mountain when he was killed during a military raid in Mount Buntis, Bongabon. His group was preparing lunch inside a hut when they were fired upon by PC soldiers.  Ed told his four companions to escape as he covered them. Unfortunately, only one survived to report the incident.

To his last breath, Ed took care of others before himself. Countless were touched by his commitment and sacrifice. His siblings, fellow students, comrades and especially those in Cabanatuan and Pantabangan where he spent his final days know that “Ka Nards” was a hero forever engraved in their hearts.

Ed’s remains have never been recovered by his family. But Ed’s legacy was passed on to his younger sister, Juliet Cupino-Armea, also a Bantayog honoree and other siblings who continue to fight poverty and injustice in their own noble way.

15 Bantayog Honorees Join Others on the Wall


(First posted at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo)

This year's Bantayog ng mga Bayani honorees comprise a big batch—15 in all. Seven died in Mindanao, four in the Visayas and four in Luzon.

Nine were in their 20s.

Of the 15 honorees, 12 died during the martial law years under the Marcos dictatorship. Three died after freedom was restored in 1986.

The conferment of honors will be held at 4 p.m. today at Bantayog Memorial Center located near the intersection of Edsa and Quezon Avenue.

Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen will be the guest speaker.

For soft-launching today is Bantayog’s #NeverAgain #NeverForget project.

The project, organizers said in a statement, was “a response to recent attempts by certain groups to rewrite Philippine history, to confuse the young generation about the truths of the Marcos dictatorship, to erase its horrors, abuses and deceptions and to have [it] remembered as a ‘golden era’ in the Philippines.”

Bantayog is preparing to launch new activities that will include publishing biographies, dissemination of informative materials, film showings, roving exhibitions and museum tours.

The honorees’ names, age, year and place of death are:

Fr. Roberto Salac, Catholic priest, 36 (1987, Compostela Valley); Horacio Morales Jr., development technocrat, 69 (2012, Quezon City); Ernesto Lacbao, 38 (1980, Ifugao).

The students: Edgardo Cupino, 25 (1983, Nueva Ecija); Antero Santos, 23 (1971, Isabela); Vicente Beloria, 26 (1973, Iloilo); Alberto Espinas, 26 (1973, Antique); Rolando Lorca, 27 (1974, Aklan); Napoleon Lorca, 27 (1973, Iloilo City); Evella Bontia, 23 (1974, Misamis Oriental).

The teachers: Ester Resabal-Kintanar, 32 (1983, between Surigao del Sur and Cebu City); Nicanor Gonzales, 67 (2007, Davao City).

The community and youth organizers: Fernando Esperon, 23 (1985, Davao City); Ma. Socorro Par, 32 (1985, Misamis Oriental); Cecilio Reyes, 36 (1975, Agusan del Sur).

From gov’t to underground

Kintanar, a teacher and activist during martial law, was among those who died in the sinking of the MV Cassandra in 1983.

Nine honorees, Salac among them, died in military operations. He spent time in the underground during the martial law years. The priest was involved in the peace process in Mindanao in 1987 when he was killed during a military attack.

Morales was the most well-known of the 15 because of his dramatic repudiation of the Marcos regime that he served and his joining the underground movement. Hunted during the martial law years, Morales spent several years in detention.

An economist, Morales served in several government positions during the post-Marcos years. He died a natural death in 2012.


Wall of Remembrance

The biographies of these honorees will be posted on the Bantayog website.

All of them were opposed to the regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos and are considered freedom advocates.

The way they lived and died varied but they had a heroic streak that made them worthy to be included on the list of names on the Wall of Remembrance.

The 2015 honorees bring to 268 the names engraved on the Wall, which stands a few meters away from the bronze monument created by renowned sculptor Eduardo Castrillo.

The monument depicts a defiant mother holding a fallen son.

The monument, the commemorative wall and other structures at the Bantayog complex are dedicated to modern-day martyrs who fought to help restore freedom and democracy in the country.

Bantayog hopes to spread lessons from the martial law period and “to have issues related to it included in the national debate during the 2016 electoral campaign,” the event organizers’ statement said.

‘Historical deception’

It hopes to counter the “historical deception and mass forgetting of the sins of the dictatorship” so that “Philippine politics and the writing and learning of Philippine history will be the better for it,” the statement added.

The Bantayog complex now includes a P16-million building, which houses a small auditorium, library, archives and a museum.

Bantayog’s 1.5-hectare property was donated by the administration of then President Corazon Aquino, through Land Bank of the Philippines, the year after the dictatorship was toppled and Aquino was swept to the presidency in 1986.

Every year, names are added to the Wall of the Remembrance.

The first 65 names were engraved on the Wall in 1992.

The Bantayog Foundation is chaired by Alfonso T. Yuchengco. Former Senate President Jovito R. Salonga is chair emeritus. May Rodriguez is the new executive director.

The Annual Honoring of Martyrs and Heroes 2015

The following are this year's honorees. From Luzon: Edgardo Cupino, Ernesto Lacabao, Horacio Morales Jr., Antero and Santos. From the Visayas: Vicente Beloria, Alberto Espinas, Napoleon Lorca, and Rolando Lorca. And from Mindanao: Evella Bontia, Fernando Esperon, Nicanor Gonzales Jr., Ma. Socorro Par, Ester Resabal-Kintanar, Cecilio Reyes, and Roberto Salac.

This year's guest of honor will be Hon. Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the Philippines. The 2015 Annual Honoring of Martyrs and Heroes will happen on November 30, 2015 4PM at the Bantayog Center.

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Honoring 2015

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