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CASTILLO, Aquillino

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.

ANOS, Leopoldo A.

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.

MARASIGAN, Violeta Atienza



As a young girl in Lucena, Violeta was called Bolet but in high school, she changed it to Bullet because she “wanted to be different.” Later in the US, she again changed her nickname to Bulletx, believing it was a lucky name. Bullet was witty, full of humor, spirited and bold. Raised a Protestant, she was a very spiritual person and truly believed in “loving your neighbor.”


Political awakening

Bullet got her degree in social work at the University of the Philippines, later moving to the US for graduate studies. In California, she found a job as social worker of the Multi-Service Center of the United Filipino Association. There she was exposed to protest activities of elderly Filipino-Americans, mostly veterans, who were resisting eviction from their home, the International Hotel.

Bullet once wrote a colleague of these veterans’ predicament: “Most were single and retired farmworkers or seamen. Many had been in the US for over 30 years, but still barely able to speak or write in English. They lived on retirement benefits, receiving less than the maximum social security grant of around $200 a month.”

Eventually, she met and married fellow Filipino Pedro Marasigan. The couple had four daughters in succession. The couple left California in 1971 and relocated to the Philippines, thinking the country was the better place to rear their children.

In 1972, Bullet started work in the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) as director of its family ministries.  She was quite fresh in this job when Ferdinand Marcos launched his dictatorship. Thousands of activists and Marcos political opponents were arrested and detained without warrant or charges. Many suffered torture during interrogation, as well as prolonged solitary confinement.

In response to this development, the NCCP created an Ecumenical Ministry for Political Detainees and placed Bullet at its helm. The ministry was given the main task of offering material and moral support to families of political prisoners. Mothers of political prisoners, including Mrs. Ada dela Torre, were often seen trooping to Bullet’s office to carry messages of request or to bring prison artwork to be sold to supporters or sympathizers.

Bullet’s daughter Marnelle remembers that her mother sometimes took her to visit and bring food to political prisoners. In one of these visits, she remembers singing songs with the prisoners, and prisoner Edicio dela Torre playing the guitar in accompaniment.

Bullet also extended help to newly-released political prisoners through this NCCP program. Carlos Ocampo, then executive director of another NCCP program, says Bullet once invited him to a gathering of former political prisoners.  Bullet mobilized NCCP’s connection to the World Council of Churches to create a network abroad that supported the NCCP family and political prisoners ministries, and even overall, the Filipino resistance against dictatorship.

Eventually, Bullet too became a target of the dictatorship. In February 1982, Bullet was one of 17 arrested in a series of military raids in Metro Manila. Bullet’s eldest Marielle was also arrested but released on the same day. All those arrested were without warrant, subsequently taken for imprisonment at a Camp Crame detention center.

The night before, the military ransacked the Marasigan house, scared Bullet’s children, and took away documents as well as personal items such as family photos and treasured mementos, beloved books, even canned goods and an electric fan.

Bullet spent a year as political prisoner, visited by her husband, four daughters, and by then a three-year-old son.

Fellow political prisoner Doris Nuval Baffrey remembers how Bullet’s arrival “broke the stillness of the stockades, which suddenly came to life with her presence.” Bullet inspired other female prisoners, mostly labor union members rounded up and tagged as subversives by the Marcos administration.

Ms. Baffrey recalls how Bullet quickly assumed a leadership role, creating groups to handle household chores in prison. She also initiated political discussion groups. She urged the female detainees to stay strong “for Inang Bayan.” Bullet led a 22-day hunger strike to push for the release of detainees. On the final day of the fast, Ms. Baffrey said that Bullet still had not eaten a single morsel of solid food. She had grown so frail she had to be carried to and from the bathroom.

Bullet’s tough character is remembered by daughter Marnelle who said that during their frequent sad goodbyes, when her children would cry for wanting to bring their mother home with them, Bullet would whisper her daughter a question: “Ano ang mommy mo?” She wanted only a single word for an answer, Marnelle said, which was “matatag.”

After her release from prison, Bullet became even more politically involved. She started to support calls for the dictatorship to release all political prisoners. She also expanded the areas of her activity. She helped found two organizations that remain to this day: Selda, an association of released political prisoners, and Gabriela, a feminist advocacy organization. She helped found other groups such as AWIT (Association of Women in Theology) and KAIBA women’s party (with Maita Gomez, Bantayog hero, 2017).

Resuming her work at the NCCP’s family ministry, Bullet went on to assist prostituted women and women working in bars at Olongapo City in Zambales, then the host of a huge American military naval base. With the Menonnites and the Gabriela Commission on Violence Against Women, Bullet opened a drop-in center for women working in bars in Olongapo. The center later came to be called Buklod.  She started to support campaigns against women-trafficking. (Also in 1987 she helped organize the Batis Center for Women in Quezon City.) She became active in the movement to oppose the construction of a nuclear power plant in Bataan province.

A colleague at NCCP, Dr. Linda Senturias, (member, Human Rights Victims Claims Board, 2017-2019), described Bullet as a Protestant lay leader who challenged church leaders to face up to pressing issues such as violations against women, women-trafficking, and the plight of sex workers in the Philippines. Dr. Senturias described Bullet as one who believed in transforming church and society into one that responded to the needs of the oppressed and the poor.

Bullet not only used her position at NCCP to offer humanitarian service. She and husband Pedro opened their home as meeting place for groups fighting the dictatorship or as refuge to persons they knew were in trouble for being involved in fighting that dictatorship. Bullet’s daughter Marnelle said countless titas and titos stayed in their home, coming from various parts of the country, people Marnelle would find out later were important persons in the anti-dictatorship movement. Marnelle only realized later as an adult the great risks her parents took to resist Marcos’s illegal and abusive rule.

In her testimony submitted to Bantayog for her mother, Marnelle describes Bullet’s boundless faith. Bullet would bring her and her siblings, then mostly teenagers, to protest rallies and marches in the Philippines, sometimes getting teargassed or with bullets flying over their heads. Bullet took her to long “Lakbayan” marches, sleeping in fields with soldiers waving their guns. She remembers how her mother told her not to be scared because “people were protecting us.”

“She taught us to live our lives to be in service of the greatest good of humanity, even if sometimes we have to make sacrifices,” Marnelle writes. “She lived her purpose, stood up for others and loved immensely.”  She loved “beyond family and community, beyond distant shores, with a full heart and from the depths of her soul and feisty spirit.”

As to be expected, Bullet joined and was in the thick of the people power rallies at EDSA in the February 1986 revolt that marked the end of the Marcos dictatorship. Bullet and her daughters also found time to actually get into one of the detention camps of Camp Crame to take to safety baby girl Inday June Taguiwalo, born to political prisoner Judy Taguiwalo, and Bullet’s goddaughter. Bullet was aware that scores of political prisoners remained at Camp Crame at that time. Fighting could erupt between the soldiers taking opposing sides or bombs could be dropped into the camp, while political prisoners – and some of their children -- waited like sitting ducks locked in pens. And the Marasigan household as expected had room for still another person, in this case, a baby in trouble.

After the fall of the Marcoses from power, the Marasigan family moved back to Daly City in California. Bullet found work as health educator/counselor/social worker at the Westbay Pilipino Multi-services as well as with the Asian American Recovery Services. She became active in the Filipino migrant community in the Bay Area. She also worked as social worker at the Veterans Equity Center.

Again as they did in the Philippines, the couple opened the family house along Templeton Drive in Daly City to their activities. The Marasigan house was a beehive of action, like a “grand central,” according to friend Luz de Leon. As usual going far beyond her work as social worker, Bullet opened her home as refuge to newly-arrived immigrants from the Philippines. She also started a healing advocacy.

Bullet and friend Luz de Leon helped run the Philippine Resource Center, starting a project they called Pistahan (Filipino American Arts Exposition) in 1996.  Pistahan continues until today as a Filipino community festival in San Francisco city and county. The two friends also helped create theater groups (Teatro ng Tanan, Kilos Sining and Pintig).

Bullet led campaigns to reopen a Filipino education center for immigrant children. She advocated for equal military benefits for Filipino-American veterans of World War II. She protested TV sitcom slurs about Filipino brides being bought.

Bullet died in a freak accident in 2000. She had just parked her car along San Francisco Hill.

She had stepped out of it when it started to roll downhill, hitting and killing her.

Her sudden death stunned the community she served. She was given several posthumous honors in California: a plaque from the Quezonians of Northern California, a certificate from the Board of Supervisors in the City and County of San Francisco, another certificate from the Women Making History Award, and proclamations of a Bulletx Marasigan Day in San Francisco City (April 26) and in Daly City (May 27).

More than 1,000 people attended a series of memorial services in her honor. At one service, the Rev. Cecil Williams of Glibe Memorial Church called Bullet “a great warrior.”

The last serve was held at the San Francisco City Hall, attended by many of the city’s well-known representatives, and the city mayor giving a eulogy. Bullet is so far the only Filipino community leader given a tribute at the San Francisco City Hall.

NCCP also awarded Bullet a Gawad Kalinga at Pagpupugay.

Writer-publisher Luz de Leon, described Bullet as compassionate as well as militant. Bullet was a nationalist even in the US, but also multicultural. Ms. de Leon says Bullet’s death was a “loss in the quality of community activism she exemplified.”

In 2003, students from her alma mater, the San Francisco State University, created a community mural with images of “revolutionary heroines.” The mural included among others Gabriela Silang, Lorena Barros, and Violeta Marasigan.

LAGOC, Rodolfo Gedang



Rodolfo Lagoc was the youngest and the only son among the four children of Leoncio Lagoc, a native of Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte and Aurora Gedang of Guimbal, Iloilo. He was born and raised in Manila, where the family resided in a modest house along Isaac Peral St. in Paco. On top of the residence was a sign: LANALR Battery Shop−his father's, which was on the ground floor. LANALR stood for the first letters of the family members’ names: Leoncio, Aurora, then the children's: Nelly, Asuncion, Linda and Rodolfo.

Rodolfo obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree from the Adamson University in 1959. He took and passed the bar exams the following year.

Not long after, he got married to a distant relative on his mother's side, Julia Carreon, whom he used to fetch most afternoons after her classes at UP Diliman. Soon, the couple was blessed with four children - Rose, Roderick, Randy and Raileen.

Atty. Lagoc worked as a labor arbiter at the National Labor Relations Commission for Region 6, based in Iloilo.

Familiarly called “Rudy,” his friendliness and generosity are traits well-known to friends, neighbors, relatives and colleagues. He was a very caring family man, his wife adds.  He spoke Ilonggo very well. A wide reader, his favorite book was the iconic story about the poor and oppressed, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. “To him,” writes his wife Julia, “all of humanity are members of the great family of humankind, regardless of race, creed, color or nationality.”


History of political involvement

As protest against the government of then Pres. Ferdinand Marcos escalated nationwide in the late 1960's, Iloilo City experienced a similar surge of activism. Rallies, street demonstrations, labor strikes, boycott of classes, as well as various cultural presentations with political themes happened with increasing regularity in the provinces of Panay and Negros.

Atty. Lagoc’s wife belonged to a prominent political clan in Oton. But he became close to a nephew, Edmund Legislador (Bantayog martyr), a student activist who was a member of the Samahang Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK).  He was soon drawn into Legislador’s circle of activists-friends. Already well-aware of the plight of workers and other poor clients from his daily encounters with them, he started to join discussion groups proffered by student activists and professionals. Oftentimes he was the only lawyer, the oldest, even, in the group, but he listened well and with a soft voice discussed keenly with the students. Fatima Alvarez Castillo, a colleague, writes: “I think the main topic of discussion then was the socio-political crisis in our nation at that time, the rising student unrest and the reports of arrests in Manila.  It was one of my first DGs in Iloilo. But I cannot forget that I was very much impressed with the clarity of his views, the power of his analysis about the government being duty bound to respect the law and how Marcos was using the law against the law’s intent and logic. Even a high school student could have easily seen the basic but powerful reasoning, and the moral justness of it.”

Soon, he was one of the progressive lawyers often called to defend arrested activists - student demonstrators, striking workers and farmers.

In 1970, a constitutional convention was called to change the 1935 Philippine Constitution. Atty. Lagoc decided to run as a delegate to the ConCon. Although he did not have the financial means to run a campaign, he wanted to use this opportunity to talk to the people about the prevailing political and social issues.  Of particular concern to the opposition then was that Marcos might use this constitutional convention to lay the legal foundations to extend his presidential ambitions, which was then limited to two terms of four years each. He lost his bid but those who were with him during sorties remember his strong leadership, patience, determination and hard work in reaching out to people from all walks of life.

Atty. Lagoc was instrumental in organizing among the professionals in Western Visayas to join the legal national democratic struggle. Even before martial law was proclaimed, he helped form a group, the Makabayang Samahan ng Propesyunal or Masang Prop, which drew in as members lawyers, teachers, engineers, businessmen, government personnel and other interested professionals. Masang Prop advocated for a nationalist education and industrialization, human rights and the economic empowerment of the working class. As chair of Masang Prop, he was unfazed as he spoke before crowds, in rallies and demonstrations, even in radio programs, in criticism of the inequities of the Marcos’ government’s policies and warned of an impending dictatorship. Many of Masang Prop’s members would later form the core of a strong opposition to the dictatorship in the Visayas.

As a labor arbiter, he contributed articles in a local newspaper, Kasanag, that shed light on many laws and legal issues that confront many who have no access to legal education or find difficulty in understanding legal parlance.


History of detention

On September 25, 1972, Atty. Lagoc was working in his office when he was “invited” by the military for a “few” questions. The invitation lasted for six months of detention in Camp Delgado and two months of provincial arrest. No charges were filed against him.

In an article which came out in The FilAm, a magazine for Filipino Americans in New York, his wife Julia wrote about how this was such a trying time for the family. The children were very young then and could not understand why their father had to be imprisoned. Further, Atty. Lagoc’s mother got very sick during this period, but his detention was kept a secret from his aged parents in Manila. Upon petition, permission to visit her was granted on the condition that he was to be accompanied by a PC escort. The family had to come up with the plane fare of the escort as well, but Atty. Lagoc was by his mother’s side when she died.

Upon his release, Atty. Lagoc went on with his work as labor arbiter at the NLRC. He remained a staunch critic of the Marcos dictatorship and a strong advocate for human rights. He joined the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) that was founded by Sen. Jose W. Diokno in 1974 to provide counsel to the many victims of political repression at the time.

Despite the risks to their own security, he and his family supported the anti-martial law resistance. He was not wealthy but his house was a sanctuary for activists needing a place to meet, to rest, to sleep.

In the early 80’s, along with five other lawyers, he found the Iloilo Legal Assistance Center (ILAC) which provided free legal services to many activists in court trials. Farmers and other poor litigants also sought their help.

As the dictatorship lay dying in 1986, he was appointed Director of the NLRC for Region VI. He retired in 2000.


Circumstances of death and impact on family and community

In the early 1990s, there was a move for victims of human rights abuse under martial law to file for claims under a class suit. Atty. Lagoc never filed for compensation because he felt strongly that the case should have been tried right here in the country where the crimes were committed, and not in Hawaii, or any other foreign country for that matter.

Not one to sit around, he also became a consultant of the National Union of People’s Lawyers - (NUPL) Iloilo chapter which in 2011 defended the indigenous people of Panay, the Tumandoks, whose ancestral lands were being threatened by the entry of commercial mining, dam construction and other projects.

He and his wife would also spend time to visit children and grandchildren in the United States. He was in Oakland, California, when he passed on February 7, 2012, of complications from heart failure and diabetes. His remains were brought home to Iloilo in July of the same year.

Known and respected as a “Peoples’ Lawyer’” the municipal government of Oton honored him with funeral ceremonies. Government officials and many of his colleagues and former comrades in the anti-dictatorship struggle came and spoke in his honor. Many can still remember his ringing challenge to them years ago, that if one loves ones’ country, then one has to defend it too, without counting the cost.

Fellow activists attest that Atty. Lagoc indeed was not stingy when it came to serving the cause of democracy and freedom.The narrative of the nation’s struggle against the Marcos dictatorship will not be complete without recognition of his contribution. Those who were with him during those turbulent years submit these testimonials in his honor:

“In the history of the first quarter storm activism in Western Visayas, RG Lagoc contributed directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously to the education and development of cadres who led the national democratic struggle in Western Visayas.  He also made an important contribution in giving free legal assistance to those who were in need, using their house as sanctuary of comrades coming from faraway places, and supporting labor cause in his NLRC mediation work.  In the chronicle of national democratic struggle in western Visayas, the name Rodolfo G. Lagoc will always be in the heart of every cadre who participated in the liberation of the masses as one of the “leading mentors of the struggle”!”

  • Excerpt from the testimony of Eduardo Carilimdiliman, co-member of MakabayangSamahan ng Propesyunal Organization in the 70’s


“A bayani does not necessarily have to die during the martial law years because exploitation, injustice, perpetuation and abuse of power did not end with the lifting of martial law.  More forms of these are perpetuated in a society under a ruling class. Atty. Rodolfo Lagoc, for his dedication to serving the underprivileged sectors of society during his lifetime deserves to be recognized as such.  His determination to make the professional sector be politically aware and resist some forms of oppression urged to make it sustainable by putting up an organization which answered this need. Doing this at a time when the perpetrators of a dictatorship will do all means to destroy any form of opposition, he went on with the task, thus risking his work, his family and even his freedom.  Atty. Rodolfo Lagoc deserves to be in the list of the Bantayog ng mgaBayani.”

  • Excerpt from the testimony of Rosario Asong, PhD, professor, University of the Philippines- Visayas, co-member of MakabayangSamahan ng Propesyunal Organization in the 70’s


“…He must be recognized as one of the nation’s heroes. A hero is not being honored only for what he actually did but also for what his deeds and life symbolize; how much it can inspire; for the significance of these across generations and centuries.

Atty. Lagoc epitomizes, by his deeds, words and writings a Filipino who was steadfast in his principles; whose vision of good and bad was so clear there was no difficulty choosing for what and for whom he will offer his talents, intellect, time and knowledge. This is not common; the more common is for brilliant lawyers to choose career (with its economic and social perks) for isn’t the measurement of legal success one’s material possessions?

Atty. Lagoc chose doing what every Filipino ought to have done for their country - when it was difficult, dangerous and unpopular: take the side of righteousness.”

  • Fatima Alvarez Castillo, co-member of MakabayangSamahan ng Propesyunal Organization in the 70’s

ESCRIBANO, Suellen Coruna



Suellen Escribano was born in Igbaras, Iloilo, where the Escribanos originally came from.  But she grew up in Tacurong, Cotabato (now Sultan Kudarat) when the family moved following her father’s assignment to a post there. A captain in the Philippine army, he later became mayor of Tacurong for several terms. He was believed to be killed by political rivals in 1984.

Suellen studied high school in Maryknoll College (now Miriam College), one of the exclusive girls’ schools in Manila. Very creative and artistically inclined,she took up Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City a few years later.

In UP, Suellen was a popular UP coed, a “fashionista” in today’s terms, and one of the few who drove her own “snazzy blue” car.  She joined the Sigma Delta Phi sorority in 1963 which was particularly known as an exponent of dramatics and fine arts. Suellen got involved in the production of musicals. She eventually married a fraternity brother with whom she had a daughter and a son.


History of political involvement

With the growing dissent against the Marcos government and its policies in the late ‘60s, Suellen’s life began to undergo a transformation. Drawn into activism by prominent activists from her sorority -  Nelia Sancho and Elisa Tita Lubi as well as fraternity brother, Behn Cervantes (Bantayog honouree),  she was soon joining discussion groups and teach-ins about the problems of the country and the issues hounding the Marcos government. She went on social immersions in farming communities in Southern Tagalog. This quickly led to Suellen’s political enlightenment.  Upon her return, she would enthusiastically share her insights and recommendations with other activists for a more effective social involvement with the farmers. Soon, she was getting more and more occupied with the activists’ activities.

Friends say martial law changed Suellen’s life forever. A good friend, Sylvia Amos-Ty, recalls of Suellen’s transformation from party girl to committed activist:

“…Suellen was a puzzlement to me. When I first met her she was one of the campus figures in UP, a fashion plate driving her own car, a spoiled rich kid, daughter of a Mayor and used to the good things in life… I was surprised one day when she appeared at my house, no car, disheveled and weary looking and I began to understand why, when we sat down and I listened to her story…. She was exposed to the poor and needy and she wanted so much to be able to do something to better their plight. With the corruption and repression going on unabatedly and blatantly by no less than the people in power, she knew the only thing to be done was to involve herself in the struggle to change the system of government and expose and help dismantle the Marcos dictatorship.”

Suellen started her work in the anti-dictatorship movement by using her skill as a visual artist to tell the real story of what was happening in the country. She painted scenes that reflected the economic disparity that affected the life of the impoverished, for example, of farmers and workers who toil and labor in the fields and factories despite meager earnings and difficult working conditions, and of the impact of landlessness that brought poverty, ill health and malnutrition to the peasants’ children and their families. These she painstakingly hand painted on katsa (cheese cloth) for use as instructional aid in mass education sessions in the urban and rural areas.

Using her knowledge of commercial art, she helped raise funds to send food and other supplies to activists in the provinces. She would enlist the help of other artists from advertising agencies and cartoonists in designing and making Christmas decorations which she will offer to the offices of big corporations.

After she separated from her husband, Suellen went to the rural areas of Southern Tagalog and in the Quezon-Bicol border area to help raise the awareness of farmers and settlers of the ills of martial rule. TheQuezon-Bicol border area was a frontier area. Many poor people from Luzon and even from the Visayas and Mindanao had come to settle here years before to have land of their own.  They cleared the lands and planted coconuts, rice and other crops but now that the lands were yielding, the settlers were being victimized by land-grabbers and speculators reportedly with the backing of government authorities.  Soldiers often came to terrorize and cow the settlers to make them submit.

Suellen and the other activists organized the settlers to help empower them to resist abuse. She went about the sitios in the frontier area and talked with the people about the problems of the country, of the repression and oppression happening all around, of the unabashed greed and plunder by the nation’s ruler. Using her creative skills, she helped the people understand why the dictatorship had to be resisted.

Here, Suellen especially sought out the young women. She helped train those with aptitude to be barefoot doctors, para-teachers and/or cultural workers.Together, the activists and the settlers worked on projects to help improve their lot. Life was tough in the frontier – food was scarce, the work grueling, but fellow activists said Suellen was cheerful as she egged everybody to do their tasks well.

She even brought her children with her, kids used to the good life, to make them aware of the plight of the peasants. At that time and in the same area, another activist, Maita Gomez (Bantayog honoree) and her husbandwere also working with the peasants, agricultural workers and settlers.

She also worked with Horacio “Boy” Morales (Bantayog honoree, 2015) for some time after he defected to the anti-Marcos movement in 1977, helping in the forging of a united front of all anti-dictatorship forces.

In the early 80’s, as people got more emboldened in the struggle against the dictatorship, she came back to Manila and joined BAYAN and the women’s group GABRIELA.  She worked mostly with professionals, corporate employees and others from the middle class and brought them into the anti-dictatorship movement. She attended rallies and gave aid to victims of human rights violations under martial law; and did jail visit and support work for political prisoners in Camp Bagong Diwa. This was where she met Manuel Chiongson who became her partner after he was released from detention.  They had a daughter.

Suellen likewise worked well with and provided guidance to younger activists.  One of them was Marcial (Chuck) Anastacio, a known troublemaker in a family of activists. Anastacio was introduced by a cousin to Suellen whose quiet intelligence, calmness and humility while debating with him on social issues as well as life story of transformation and service to people inspired him to think beyond himself. He later joined the underground resistance movement and was killed in 1982. He would be recognized by Bantayog as a martial law martyr in 2016.

After the fall of the dictatorship in 1986, Suellen’s family moved back to Tacurong where she and husband Manny Chiongson set up a farmers’ organization which aimed to organize farmers to fight for land rights, develop agricultural production and build cooperatives to help them improve their quality of life.

She also tried going into the electoral struggle and ran for Sultan Kudarat governor in 1992 under the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) party. In sorties, she captivated the people with her fiery speeches and kindheartedness, but having neither guns, goons or gold, she lost her bid.


Circumstances of death

The following year, Suellen fell ill and was confined at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila.  She passed away on June 12, 1993, from sepsis or general breakdown of internal organs due to blood poisoning. She was 48 years old.


Impact of life on family and the community

Her family held a brief wake for her in Quezon City and then took her body back to Tacurong for the burial. Family and friends were joined by an immense turn-out of Tacurong’s peasants and community folk, who expressed their affection and gratitude for Suellen’s efforts to help improve their lives on the placards and banners they carried during the funeral procession.  On her gravestone her husband had engraved, “Freedom Fighter,” as a testament to his and the people’s resolve to never accept another one-man rule.

In the retelling of Suellen’s story, her family and friends cannot help but be amazed by her life’s journey. It was evident that the life of privilege she grew up in was never a hindrance in making her heed the call of the times.

A former high school classmate and sorority sister, Cecile Ascalon, in a letter sent to Bantayog, summons up the memories:“ In UP Suellen drove around in a snazzy blue car. She was young, beautiful and talented… I don’t remember when she became a tried and true activist. But I knew she talked of helping the people… she established cooperatives so the people can help themselves… joined the underground [movement]… survived on bananas and bayawaks, slept on the hard ground, washed in rivers, had to ran away from the military…”

Nelia Sancho remarked on her deep sympathy for the poor and oppressed: “It is this humanistic character in Suellen that drove her to immerse herself in the countryside, to learn more about how the situation of farmers can be better if land reform can be developed as a solution to landlessness.”

Suellen’s daughter Aba, who often had to endure long stretches of time away from her, is proud of her mother’s legacy. She says that while her mother can be a disciplinarian, she was also her biggest fan, Aba having inherited her mother’s artistic talents. She says she grew up knowing about those dark, turbulent martial law years because of her mother, and credits her for her own strong conviction against a return of dictatorial rule.

Another fellow activist, Reynaldo Hababag, offered this tribute: “ …what word can be used to describe a woman, a single parent, who was both mother and crusader for the cause of her country and people? To inscribe her name on the hallowed walls of the Bantayog Ng Mga Bayani would be a fitting tribute to her selflessness, sacrifice, bravery and devotion to the welfare of the oppressed.

Elisa Lubi, fellow Sigma Deltan and human rights advocate, in a narrative sent to Bantayog for Suellen’s nomination to the roster of martyrs and heroes, concludes with this poignant account of Suellen’s sacrifice: “[After she died], there was a problem in recovering her body from the hospital morgue because the family did not have enough to cover hospital expenses. Sorority sisters, fraternity brothers and friends got together to raise the needed funds. Suellen, at the end, became like one of her farmer comrades and friends -- a far cry and so different from the young Suellen, the campus rich girl and mayor’s daughter. Suellen should be among the martyrs and heroes being awarded recognition by Bantayog.”

CAYUNDA, Herbert Paña



Herbert Cayunda was born and raised in Davao City, and the eldest of eight children. His father drove a jeepney and ran a machine repair shop while his mother prepared and sold native delicacies in Davao City’s Bangkerohan district. Herbert helped the family by selling dried fish in the market.

Herbert took a chemical engineering course in college. But he spent a lot of time in artistic activities. He drew well, sang well, and played the guitar well. At the University of Mindanao, he joined the UM Dramatic Guild then under the directorship of Aurelio Peña, a former editor of the Mindanao Collegian.

The wave of student activism nationwide had reached the UM, where a student reawakening was also becoming evident. The UM dramatic guild featured plays by Filipino playwrights (as contrasted to foreign playwrights.) Herbert performed in full theater productions for “Wanted: A Chaperon,” by Wilfrido Ma. Guerero, and “The World is an Apple” and “New Yorker in Tondo” by Alberto Florentino. The guild held roadshow presentations and gave training to aspiring actors from other UM branches. Herbert attended intensive workshops in acting and stage directing.


History of political involvement

As student activists made their presence more and more felt in the national political scene, so did they in Davao.

Herbert joined the Samahang Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK) and was mostly active in its cultural arm, the Gintong Silahis (GS). He started directing street plays that depicted Philippine society’s ills. His group got invited and performed during protest demonstrations. Herbert was a good organizer of students. He was also creative, able to use his visual, theatrical and musical skills to convey and explain concepts and ideas.

In early 1971, UM students launched a strike over campus issues. It was February, in one such rally that a speaker from the students, Edgar Ang Sinco (Bantayog martyr), was shot and killed by a policeman. The violence enraged the students. They went on a rampage along the streets of Davao City. They found their way towards Claro M. Recto street, where the United States Service Library was located and which the students saw was a symbol of “US imperialism.”

Herbert was in the thick of what came to be called in Davao student lingo, the “Battle of Claro M. Recto.” For his participation in this incident, the university put Herbert’s name in the school blacklist.

But AngSinco’s death drove Herbert into a resolution. He would become a fulltime artist-activist.
That year he joined a newly-formed group of social realist artists and students, the Nagkakaisang Progresibong Artista at Arkitekto (NPAA). Herbert helped create the murals and posters usually brought in mass actions, or as visual aids for teach-ins. The murals usually depicted images of farmers struggling for land reform, or workers demanding just wages, or various people calling for government reforms. He talked with uninvolved professionals in Davao to join the protests.

In the crackdown that accompanied Marcos’ installation of his dictatorship, Herbert was one of six students arrested on November 10, 1972, in Indangan, Davao City. (They became known as the “Indangan Group” by fellow activists.) Arrested with Herbert was fellow activist Fe Carreon, then his girlfriend.

Fe Carreon, in a testimony submitted to Bantayog, described how Herbert was beaten up by their military captors to force information out of him. Herbert bore the abuse and stayed silent. And despite the fact he was tortured and in pain, he used the time every afternoon when all prisoners were taken out of their cells and allowed to come together, to give a musical performance, thus propping up the morale of his fellow prisoners.

He and Fe were kept in prison for nine months. Released in August 1973, Herbert and Fe left Davao City and proceeded instead to faraway Dipolog City in Zamboanga del Norte. The two comrades got married and continued with their lives as activists. Herbert continued to teach art and art techniques, and how to use art to raise awareness, to learn about US imperialism, and so on.

He and Fe also lived in other cities such as Dipolog, Ozamis, and Iligan. Herbert became part of an editorial team putting out an underground newspaper to resist the dictator’s censorship. He translated articles (English or Tagalog to Bisaya) to make them accessible to the underground newspapers’ readers, who were often factory workers.

The two were living in Iligan when they were again arrested in September1974. Herbert was again tortured. Their imprisonment lasted five months.

After their release, they went to the countryside and lived with the lumads where they became exposed to issues faced by indigenous communities, such as politicians or logging and mining concessions driving them out of their ancestral lands, military abuses, very little government attention, and so on.

Here Herbert’s contribution was more basic: teaching basic literacy and numeracy skills, health and hygiene. He also discussed about their human rights.

Unfortunately, the communities he worked in were not all welcoming with these efforts. On August 15, 1975, he and several others were invited for a political discussion in barangay Nanganangan, Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur. But his group was met by the Ilaga, a paramilitary unit operating in Mindanao. They were ambushed as they walked along a river, and two were killed: Herbert and an unnamed woman. Those who survived the ambush later reported that Herbert’s head was cut off from his body and displayed at a military detachment in Dumalinao town. His family never recovered his body. He was 31 years old the day he died.


Impact of death on his family and community

Fe, who was somewhere else at the time, learned of Herbert’s death a month later. Since his body was not recovered, he is reported as a victim of enforced disappearance. Fellow activists gave him tribute, who to this day, express admiration for this artist and budding stage actor’s offer of life for a cause he believed in.

ABIOG, Napoleon Torralba



Napoleon Torralba Abiog was known to most of his friends as “Benjie.”He spent an ordinary childhood in Sta. Cruz, Manila, but in high school, socio-economic troubles leading to social unrest made him join the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK). Disapproving of his decision, his school did not allow him to march during graduation rites in 1970.

In college, Benjie first enrolled for a course in electrical engineering at the University of Santo Tomas. But wanting to be a lawyer like his father, , he changed course and enrolled for a political science degree in 1971 at the Philippine College of Commerce (PCC, now Polytechnic University of the Philippines).

At PCC, he became attracted to Kamanyang Players, a student theater organization that presented socially relevant plays and performances. He soon joined the group as a guitarist, marking the beginning of his lifelong passion for cultural arts work for the people.

Benjie began taking more and more responsibilities in the group, which soon renamed itself Samahang Kamanyang, reorienting itself to identify with the growing mass movement. He started performing as a singer, composer, and reluctant actor. He then became the group’s choir master and musical director.

Drawing inspiration from the works and the stories of the struggles of the activist artists of the time, he decided he was going to be a people’s artist – “artista ng bayan” at a time when the phrase was not yet used.

When Marcos declared martial law in 1972, all forms of protest were banned. But like many artists, Benjie used the performing arts to find creative ways to speak out about the sins of Marcos’ new regime.

He also began working full time as an activist involved in trade union work in the areas south of Manila, helping workers of companies like La Suerte, Philacor, GE, Wyeth, Gatcord, Solid Mills, other factories in Makati, Paranaque, Pasay, Muntinlupa, and Las Pinas.

Bringing his passion for cultural performance, he incorporated music in his trade union tasks of organizing and educating workers. He clearly understood the role of cultural work in the fight to awaken, organize, and mobilize the people. Benjie used his mastery of cultural works to contribute to the broader movement in order to expose the true state of society, condemn martial law, and oppose the unfair policies of the martial law regime.

But it was in 1981 that Benjie helped form the group which fellow activists best remember him for: the cultural group Tambisan sa Sining, which staged performances in strike areas, rallies, and other protest actions.

At a time when worker activism was reeling under the dictatorship’s punches, Benjie stepped up and filled the need to help in the organizing work among the workers. As the group’s resident musician, Benjie wrote songs which gave artistic expression to the plight of workers and poor people under the Marcos regime, helping raise the protester’s spirits. These became a prominent part of Tambisan’s repertoire such that the group was considered by many as the “standard bearer of people’s music and art.”

The group became more and more popular among worker’s groups, until just the mention of Tambisan coming to a worker’s activity or rally was enough to generate excitement.

He was also heard as a performer on the albums “Kalipunan ng mga Makabayang Awitin”, and “Ibong Malaya” Volumes 1 and 2 – collections of songs of struggle and liberation which became very popular and in demand among groups involved in the anti-Marcos resistance. He also helped with the distribution of cassettes of these collections.
He generously kept assisting in the staging of many cultural presentations, awakening and mobilizing workers in various sectors at a time when organizing was very dangerous, and workers were just beginning to press for the right to unionize and vent their complaints about economic conditions (calling for fair wages, objecting to rising oil prices, etc.) Benjie served as musical director for productions with nationalists and progressive themes such as: “Sanlibong Sulo” (1982); “Awit, Tula, at Kasaysayan ng Kilusang Paggawa” (1983, later also performed in Japan); “Sigaw ng Bayan” (1983); “Cara y Cruz” (1984); “Welga! Welga!” (1985); “Mayo Uno ng Ating Paglaya” (1986 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines); and “Sang Bagsak” (1988).

Benjie also took a more active role as an educator, as he was often called upon to facilitate seminars and training workshops on lyric-writing, musical composition, and even public speaking. He created a training module on organization and project management, making sure it was suitable for the labor sector. Those who went through the seminars with him remember him as patient and kind, but passionate in trying to instill pride and commitment to one’s group.

After the fall of the Marcos regime in 1986, Benjie became Chair of Tambisan, continuing in that role until 1991. 1986 was also when he was elected national chair of newly formed Makabayang Alyansa Sa Sining Anakpawis, a federation of people’s cultural groups. He kept helping to organize community cultural groups, such as Silayan in Makati and Palanyag in Paranaque.

In 1988, he helped form Bugkos, a mass-based people’s national cultural center. In the same year, he became involved in what would later be known as the Amado V. Hernandez Resource Center – a new grassroots institution named after the imprisoned labor leader who would later be named National Artist for Literature. There, he kept training cultural groups among workers until he retired in 1992.


Circumstances of death

By 2015 Benjie was helping his wife Chona as a full time parent to their five children, while also working part-time as a music teacher in a school right across their home in Wood Estate Village in Bacoor, Cavite.

He passed on August 6, 2016. He suffered a heart attack amidst a neighbourhood protest against a water company.


Impact of life on family and the community

Friends remember Benjie as a visible figure during the protests of the Martial Law era – exceptionally tall with an afro hairstyle, and never far away from his guitar. They remember how his voice resonated wherever he went, be it in street protests or singalongs. They remember the effort he put into every presentation, big or small.

Most of all, they remember his music.

Filipinos are a musical lot, and Benjie expressed the people’s yearning for freedom and human rights through his songs.

His advocacy for workers’ rights lives on through Tambisan sa Sining, which continues to perform his songs.
The Ibong Malaya albums were one of the very few collections of protest and prison songs composed during the martial law era, and recorded under very difficult conditions. His willing participation in it is truly noteworthy, for the songs today remain significant testaments to the horrors of the dictatorship.


Organizational affiliations

  • Sining-Kamanyang, 1971 – guitarist, composer, choirmaster

  • GELMART Singers (during martial law) – singer, composer, arranger, guitarist

  • Samahan ng DemokratikongKabataan- PCC

  • Tambisan sa Sining

  • Makabayang Alyansa sa Sining Anakpawis

  • Partido ng Bayan

  • Bagong Alyansang Makabayan –Mindanao Chapter

  • Sining Bugkos

  • Kilusang Mayo Uno

  • Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas

  • Silayan Cultural Group


Literary works, groups organized

  • Ibong Malaya (album) Vols. 1 and 2

  • Gelmart Singers

  • IsangBagsak (song )

  • IsangBagsak (play)

  • CRISANTO (wrote the song and music)

  • WELGA, WELGA (play)

  • Sigaw ng Bayan (play)

  • Pasko ng Manggagawa

  • Mayo Uno ng AtingPaglaya (musical)

  • Awit, Tula at Kasaysayan (theatre production)

  • Lean: A Filipino Musical, 1997 (production manager)

ABELLANA, Godofredo



Godofredo Abellana, called Dodong by his family and friends, graduated valedictorian of his class in elementary and high school. He always stood out in school and interschool competitions. He once won an oratorical contest. In college, he majored in math, with English as his minor course. So exceptional was Godofredo as an undergraduate, the dean allowed him to hold lectures to his fellow students.

His father was from Cebu, a veteran who fought the Japanese in the 1940s. He found a job at the San Pedro Cathedral office in Davao City. Fluent in several languages, part of his work involved interviewing foreigners planning to get married. Godofredo’s mother looked after the household full of 11 children. Dodong, being the eldest, started work early. He got a job at the Sta. Ana Church office doing desk work and organizing weddings. He also helped his mother look after the large brood, even making sure they were tucked in safe and clean every night. He checked their school work and even tutored them. “He was not satisfied until we knew our lessons,” recalls his sister. He even checked their singing, to make sure they did it correctly, she says.

A little family story is told of Godofredo using a borrowed projector and showing American silent movies, winning bursts of laughter from the crowd with his Bisayan dubbing. A friend remembers him as emcee during an election campaign rally in Davao City in the 1960s: “He never ran out of words.”


Political awakening

When the First Quarter Storm (FQS) broke in Metro Manila in 1970, student activists in Davao joined in.They called for a more affordable education and for better facilities in schools. They also supported the call for a non-partisan constitutional convention. Recruitment for groups such as the Kabataang Makabayan and Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan started in Davao.

Godofredo was a college senior in the year 1970, with a very promising future, when he got interested in these events that rocked the country’s political life from 1970 to 1972. He joined the Kabataang Makabayan, became an activist, and went into organizing other young people for the youth movement that was soon calling for government reforms and denouncing the country’s pro-American foreign policy. Godofredo joined many rallies held in Davao City. He spoke before big crowds, winning him many admirers.

In August 1971 Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus and cracked down on activists. At that time, Dodong was taking daily trips to Davao del Norte because he had also started to organize there, doing political work among farmers. When Marcos declared martial law in September 1972, arrested people by the thousands and banned student organizations such as the KM, Dodong packed his things and moved his base to Davao del Norte.

“Mama, Papa, huwag na niyo akong hanapin,” he told his parents. “Delikado kung itutuloy ko pa ang pag-aaral ko, kasi pinaghahanap na kaming mga KM.” His parents never thought the conversation, although dire in itself, to be their last one with their son. The family accepted Dodong’s absence and prayed for his safety.

Godofredo first went to the rural areas in Davao del Norte where he had worked for months. Many activists evading arrest had also sought sanctuary in those places. He did more political work there. After a few months, he moved to Misamis Oriental up north, home to the Higaonons and to Visayan settlers, to help beef up the resistance movement in the area. A good speaker, he got people listening to him and his comrades talk about the repressive government policies that affected them.


Circumstances of death

He was reportedly killed in a raid by constabulary soldiers in a remote barangay in Magsaysay, Misamis Oriental sometime in 1975, as he and his fellow activists were doing political work.

Some of Godofredo’s siblings, convinced about their brother’s principles, joined the movement to fight the Marcos dictatorship. The Abellana family’s home in Davao City became a target of military raids in the 1970s and early 1980s. His brother, Nelson Abellana got arrested and was severely tortured, while his brother Noel was killed by the military in 1986. But another brother, Marlon, who was not in anyway active in the movement was not spared from military arrest and abuses forcing him to leave Davao City in the early 80s.

The family only learned of his death very recently. But all through the years after he left, they light a candle on his birthday.

Bantayog Ng Mga Bayani: a Unique Filipino Monument

(Remarks of Nene Pimentel at the commemoration of Bonifacio Day at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, Quezon City, on November 30, 2018)



Ladies and gentlemen:

At the outset, may I thank my dear friend, Senator Wigberto Tanada, the Chair of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, and his fellow Foundation officials for their kind invitation for me to speak before you this afternoon.

Today, we commemorate the birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, one of our national heroes, by mandate of Act No. 2946 of the Philippine Legislature, dated February 16, 1921 some 87 years ago.

Today is also the 26th anniversary of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani before which we are gathered this afternoon.

Let me immediately say that this Bantayog is a unique memorial that honors a select group of heroes in our country.

The heroes symbolized by the Bantayog did not raise arms or their voices or any effort against our country's colonial invaders from Spain. Or from the U.S. Or from Japan.

I stress that point because in many countries, their famous group memorials, in general, salute their heroes in their armed forces, which fought against foreign invaders.

There are number of examples.

  • In France, under Napoleon, the Arc de Triumph was erected in 1806 in Paris to give credit to the French Army for their victories over their enemies;


(2) In the United States of America, the military cemetery at Arlington, Virginia was created in 1864 for the interment of men and women in the US Armed Forces, who died in the service of the nation;

(3) In Romania, the Mausoleum of Marasesti was constructed in 1938 to bury "the remains of some "5,073 Romanian soldiers and officers who were killed in the First World War."

The monument is now also used to pay tribute to the 24,000 men who fought against the Germans in the Second World War.

(4) In Russia, the Soviet War Memorial in Vienna was put up in 1945 to honor the Soviet Soldiers who fought against the Germans in the Second World War; and

(5) Nearer to us, in China the 1952 Monument to the People's Heroes was constructed in Beijing to memorialize "the martyrs of revolutionary struggle (against domestic and foreign enemies) during the 19th and 20th centuries."

The epitaph at the back of the monument describes "in the words of Mao Zedong and written by Zhou Enlai" the thrust of the statue to proclaim:

"Eternal glory to the heroes of the people who laid down their lives in the people's war of liberation and the people's revolution in the past three years (from 1949 to 1951)!;

"Eternal glory to the heroes of the people who laid down their lives in the people's war of liberation and the people's revolution in the past thirty years (from 1922)!

"Eternal glory to the heroes of the people who from 1840 laid down their lives in the many struggles against domestic and foreign enemies and for national independence and the freedom and well-being of the people!"

And in the ASEAN region, all the 10 member States also have public memorials within their respective territories to honor those "who fought" against foreign invaders to maintain their respective independence.

(1) In Bangkok, Thailand, the 1941 Victory Monument Obelisk symbolizes the country's victory in the Franco-Thai War that lasted from October 1940 to May, 1941;

(2) In Laos, the 1957 "Victory Gate" salutes the nation's "soldiers who fought in the Laotian struggle for independence from France, and those soldiers who died during World War II and the independence war from France in 1941;

(3) In Cambodia, the 1958 Independence Monument, or Vimean Ekareach eulogizes those who fought for the independence and the liberation of the country from the French who ruled Cambodia for almost a century from 1863 to 1953;

(4) In Indonesia, the 1961 Heroes Monument is dedicated to its people who died during the Battle of Surabaya on November 10, 1945;

(5) In Malaysia, the 1966 National Monument pays public homage to those "who died in the country's struggle for freedom, principally against the Japanese occupation during World War ll, and the Malayan Emergency, which lasted from 1948 until 1960";

  1. In Singapore, two monuments were built separately to pay tribute to the civilians and the soldiers who fought in two wars in their homeland:


(a) The 1967 Civilian War Memorial by its very name honors its non-military population who were killed between February 15, 1942 and August 18, 1945 when the Japanese Armed Forces occupied Singapore, and

(b) The 1922 Cenotaph glorifies Singapore's soldiers who fought and died during World War I and World War 11;

  1. In Myanmar, the 1976 Monument of Bang Rachan Heroes honors the villagers of Bang Rachan who bravely fought against the Burmese army in 1765 during the reign of King Ekkathat of Ayutthaya.

  2. In Vietnam, the 1993 War Memorial commends the "men and women who sacrificed themselves during the Second Indochina War", and


(9) In Brunei Darussalam, aside from a statue that praises its soldiers, the country also built a monument to "oil", the country's number one money maker. It is called, "The 1991 Billionth Barrel of Oil Monument" in Serei, Brunei Darussalam.

In our country, we have a memorial cemetery constructed by the government for our heroes who died in defense of our country, called the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

This, aside from many monuments all over the land that are individually dedicated to our nationally recognized heroes like Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio.

In any event, there is another aspect that makes the Bantayog different from the memorials to the heroes of other countries.

Literally, the Tagalog phrase, "Bantayog ng mga Bayani", translates into English as "A Monument of Heroes".

But the heroes glorified by this Bantayog did not actually fight against foreign invaders. They were civilians - mostly ordinary men and women - from all walks of life; individuals, who worked courageously, openly. and selflessly for the restoration of the freedoms, rights and liberties of our people that were taken away by the abusive, arbitrary, and tyrannical martial law administration of the then President Ferdinand E. Marcos from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s. In the words of the late Senator jovito Salonga, who, incidentally, avidly pushed for the construction of the Bantayog, the monument was meant to memorialize "Filipino patriots who

struggled valiantly against the unjust and repressive rule of Ferdinand Marcos" and "those men and women who offered their lives so that we may all see the dawn (of a new day).

At the unveiling of this monument some 26 years ago today, Senator Salonga sagely urged our people that "even as we now enjoy our liberation ... with the help of Divine Providence from the tyrannical rule of the Martial Law Dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, we must not forget those who fell during the night ..."

By remembering "those victims of authoritarian rule," the late Senator stressed, "we shall become more vigilant in preserving our freedom, defending our rights, and opposing any attempt by anyone to foist another dictatorship upon us."

And, with brilliant prescience, Senator Salonga cautioned our people against honoring rascals, hoodlums and scalawags with public monuments simply because they might have occupied high government offices.

If we "honor a scoundrel," he pointed out, "we could never lift up our heads out of a deep sense of shame."

In any case, as of this year, 2018, the names of some 298 heroic individuals had been enshrined on the Wall of Remembrance attached to this Bantayog.

And more names of heroic figures who defied martial rule will inscribed in the Bantayog's roll of honor as the years pass by.

At this point, it may not be amiss for us to express our gratitude publicly to all those who thought of, and pushed for the construction of the Bantayog.

To the best of my information, the original members of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Memorial Foundation were:

Dona Aurora A. Aquino, Senator Jovito R. Salonga, Dr. Pedro L. Yap, Atty. Abraham F. Sarmiento, Ms. Josefa M.Jopson, Ms. Cecilia C. Lagman, Bishop La Verne

Mercado, Bishop Tito E. Pasco, Ms. Lydia de la Paz, Rev. drib A. Rigos, Sister Christine Tan, Atty. Ramon M. Osmena, Ms. Nievelena V. Rosete, Atty. Felipe L. Gozon, Dr. Led ivina V. Carl no, Ms. Pearl G. Doromal, Mr. Victor Barrios, Atty. Delilah V. Magtolis, Mr. Solomon Y. Yuyitung, Mr. Benjamin Guingona, Ms. Domini Torrevillas Suarez, and Ms. Thelma Arceo.

Most of them, I understand, have already passed on to the Great Beyond.

But whether living or dead, I submit that they all deserve our gratitude for their incredibly innovative idea that led to the building and maintenance of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani.

For the Bantayog, to repeat, serves mainly as a concrete reminder to all our citizens that we have won our right to be a free people and to live as human beings in a democratic Republic.

And that our country is now governed by the Rule of Law not by the will of the wealthy and privileged sectors of our society but because of the supreme sacrifices made by simple folks, ordinary men and women, who come mainly from the masses of our people. In this connection, let us all remember that human rights are so basic, so fundamental and so essential that no one - not even those occupying the highest positions In our land - can arbitrarily take them away from us.

Otherwise, we will cease to exist as human beings, who, suggest, as a believer in God, are created to His image and likeness. Sadly, however, today, there are brazen, outrageous, indeed, shameless attempts to rewrite portions of the history of our country especially during the dark days of Martial Rule.

Those fiction writers would want to depict the Dictator as a benevolent ruler of our country even during those horrible days of Martial Rule.

And hopefully, too, the villains who implemented Martial Rule, including those who rapaciously raided the public treasury for their own benefit, should be made to pay for their misdeeds without unnecessary delay.

These assertions, however, will remain empty rhetoric unless the government and the people would get their act together and pursue what is right and just according to the demands of our country's system of law and justice.

It is, further, suggested that the traditional media: radio, tv, and print should get involved in the dissemination of factual information regarding the barbarities suffered by our people under the Martial Law years of the Marcos administration. The media outlets, themselves, should not forget that among the very first institutions of freedom and democracy that Marcos shut down were the radio and television stations and newspapers that he thought would uphold the democratic rights and liberties of our people in defiance of his autocratic rule.

And considering today's advances in the development of information technology, the concerned sectors of our society should likewise tap social media, Facebook, Twitter, and the like, to facilitate the spread of the core message of the Bantayog.

In closing, may we recall the cautionary warning of Jorge Agustin Santayana that: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

For it is in remembering the lessons of the past - and avoiding a repeat of their negative repercussions - that we will truly advance the welfare, the wellbeing, and the rights and liberties of all our people pursuant to the demands of the Rule of Law and our democratic Constitution.

Thank you and God bless our people and country!

Buwan Ng Paggunita at Pagpupugay 2019

Buwan ng Paggunita at Pagpupugay 2019


Buwan ng Paggunita at Pagpupugay 2019 is a month-long celebration of life in honor of Filipinos who stood up in defiance of a repressive regime and all those who continue to uphold justice, democracy, and freedom.

This creative celebration marked by spokenword performances and a music concert is organized by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in cooperation with Musika Publiko and in partnership with spokenword organizations Tadhana Collective, Baon Collective, Ampalaya Monologues, and the iconic band Buklod.

Buwan ng Paggunita at Pagpupugay 2019 Schedule


Here's the schedule for #BuwanNgPaggunitaAtPagpupugay2019:



Organizations and Performers


Bantayog ng mga Bayani is a memorial for those who stood up in defiance of the repressive regime that ruled over the Philippines and those who continue to uphold justice, democracy, and freedom.

Musika Publiko is a network of composers, musicians, performers, music producers, and music enthusiasts advancing socially relevant Filipino music.

Tadhana Collective believes that everybody needs space to awaken their inner creativity that is being held back by all the excuses from their inner systems.

Ampalaya Monologues is a group of monologists and spoken word artists who entertain, educate and empower audiences through performances that showcase the bitterness of love and life.

“Nagtatanghal para lumaya,
Lumalaya para magmulat,
Nagmumulat para sa sarili.”
- Baon Collective



Buklod




The band was born in the 1980s at the height of the anti-Marcos struggle. Members Noel Cabangon, Rom Dongeto, and Rene Boncocan each had their own musical endeavors, but they banded together to form Buklod, which stands for Bukluran ng Musikero para sa Bayan.

Together with other cultural workers, they raised their voices against the Ferdinand Marcos’ government. They continued to sing about the social problems that persisted in the wake of Marcos’ removal, with songs that centerd on the lives, struggles, and aspirations of Filipino peasants.

“We discussed and agreed that so many things are happening in our country today and we believe that state of affairs is retrogressing – the war on drugs, mismanagement and corruption, inflation, misogyny, and the continuing attacks on institutions and personalities who don’t necessarily agree with some of the pronouncements and actions of the president and his allies in the legislative and judiciary. We felt that after three decades, our songs then are still very relevant today. And we believe that we can still contribute in raising public awareness on these issues and by providing our own perspectives on the same through music,” - Rom Dongeto, from Inquirer's Buklod's back and on a mission. (Photo and text from Inquirer)

Kaurali




Urduja




Urduja is a folk, rock, ethnic trio. Listen to their music on Facebook.

Ada Tayao




Ada Tayao is a singer-songwriter,theater actress, and teacher. Listen to some of her songs at Musika Publiko's Finding Peace collection on Spotify.

Pordalab




Banda ng mangingibig at umiibig sa bayan. Listen to their alternative pop-rock tunes in their Facebook page and on Spotify.

Talahib People's Music




Talahib People's Music is the leading folk-rock world music band in the Philippines. Listen to their songs on Facebook.

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