MARTINEZ, Asuncion "Ason" ICM


Sr. Asuncion Martinez came from a rich family in Leyte where her father was once governor. She was born Esther Martinez, joined the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (ICM) as a postulant in 1934, and took her vows and adopted her new name in 1937. She became Sr. Ason to friends and colleagues.

From 1937 to 1950 she taught high school and college subjects in congregation-run schools such as the Holy Family Convent, St. Theresa’s College Manila and the Infant Jesus Academy. She was the Belgian-dominated ICM’s first Filipina superior in 1950, and first Filipina provincial councilor from 1959 to 1969.

She also served as superior of St. Theresa’s College in Quezon City. Under her guidance, the school opened its doors to poor students, allowing them to pay reduced fees through eleven years of pre-college education. The school became known for its courageous stance for the unfortunates in society and for exposing its students to social issues and shaping them to become advocates for the poor, and for justice and truth.

When she was nearing 60, Sr. Ason responded to Vatican II’s call for the establishment of a “church of the poor” by shifting from school work to community work. The bishops had called on nuns to take rural assignments, and Sr. Ason went to Janiuay town in Iloilo, where she lived among farmers and sugar workers and worked with the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) and the National Federation of Free Farmers (FFF).

She helped organize her fellow nuns who responded to the same call into the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and became one of its two first co-chairpersons.

She was 63 years old when she started mission work in Manila’s urban poor communities. She became a trusted friend of the workers at the La Tondeña Distillery, and in 1975, was among the first outsiders to be told of a plan by the company’s casual employees who were seeking permanent working status to defy a martial law decree prohibiting labor strikes.

It was to be a sitdown strike by around 800 casuals. Sr. Ason was among the churchpersons who stood at the picketline as a supporter. Barely had it began when the Metrocom, the elite constabulary forces, swooped down on the striking workers and started dragging strikers into a bus to be hauled to jail. The workers and their supporters tried to resist the arrest. The 65-year-old Sr. Ason, quite prominent in her habit, clung to the bus window and dared the soldiers to arrest her also. Only urgent urgings from strike leaders that she could be more helpful “outside” than if she were also arrested convinced her to let go.

Sr. Ason later wrote that La Tondeña was her second baptism: “I acquired a new mind, a new heart, a new vision, a new understanding of my country’s history and my people.”

Laborers in other factories were heartened by the strike and a series of other strikes hit Metro Manila. The Church-Labor Center under the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines and the Rural Missionaries supported these strikes as the Catholic Church’s way of expressing dissent against martial law. The Friends of the Workers and the Kapisanan ng mga Relihiyoso para sa Kalayaan at Katarungan were born, followed by the Urban Missionaries (UM).  The workers organized the Kapatiran. Sr. Ason was involved with all these groups.

The La Tondeña experience is considered a turning point in the martial law period. It showed that martial law could be challenged and opposed. It broke the myth that there could be no strikes under martial law, and it opened the eyes of many to the potential of laborers and unionists as political activists and advocates for justice and democracy. Sr. Ason herself became a legend among Filipino church people taking the “option for the poor.”

At 68 years old, Sr. Ason went on to live in an enclave of the poor in Caloocan City, where she started organizing work. She officially retired in 1983, but she continued to manage a seminar house for her congregation. The Wooden House became a refuge and a meeting place for organizers and activists in the anti-dictatorship resistance.

She died of natural causes at the age of 84.

MALICAY, Alfredo L.


Alfredo was the son of poor farmers from Davao. He was an affectionate and respectful son, and a hardworking student. He was also a natural leader, active in several groups such as the 4H Club and the Boy Scouts of the Philippines and in high school PMT. He won a college scholarship from the 4H Club and took an agricultural chemistry course at the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture (UPCA) in Los Baños, Laguna.

Alfredo showed exceptional literary skills in college. He wrote poems, and was editor-in-chief from 1968 to 1969 of the Aggie Green and Gold, the official student publication at UPCA.

Activism was then spreading in the campus, and Alfredo joined the chapter of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in the university and became one of its organizers. He also became a member and later officer of the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity, then known for its nationalistic and progressive leanings.

As KM organizer, Alfredo went around recruiting for KM in key schools in Southern Tagalog and in communities around the campus.  He wrote rousing articles for the Aggie Green and Gold, addressing the youth and urging them to embrace nationalism, democracy and academic freedom.

He also worked with friends from the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK), to launch campus campaigns to urge students to become involved in issues such as academic freedom, high tuition fees, and the lack of student participation in campus decision-making.  Alfredo and his fellow activists organized a Friday discussion group called UP College of Agriculture Cultural Society (UPCACS), which met and reviewed books by nationalist historian Renato Constantino and by the Chinese leader Mao Zedong, among others, and other articles and books, particularly about the Vietnam war.

Under Alfredo, the Aggie Green and Gold became a powerful instrument in rousing and organizing students to support the youth movement espousing nationalism, democracy and freedom.

He completed his undergraduate degree in 1971, but did not seek employment after graduation.  Instead, he went into fulltime organizing, moving from Laguna, to Quezon, to Batangas, calling on the youth to demand social reforms for the poor and exploited sectors in the Philippines.

In 1972, he went back to school to begin a graduate course in UP Diliman. But martial law intervened. He returned to Los Baños and resumed fulltime activist work against the Marcos dictatorship, this time in a clandestine setting.  He combined his organizational and literary skills and effectively guided the small anti-dictatorship groups in the region to survive the crackdown, recruit new members, and launch actions to give people hope in becoming involved in fighting and eventually toppling the dictatorship.

In mid-1973, a series of arrests of activists in their network alarmed Alfredo’s group so the group called a meeting in October to plan contingency and security measures.  Unfortunately, intelligence teams found the very same house where they were meeting in Malabon, Rizal. In the subsequent raid of that house, three were arrested, including Nelia Sancho, Tita Lubi and Rosemarie Rodriguez, and two were shot and killed, including Alfredo, and one Cesar Hicaro.

Because his family was too poor to travel from Tagum, Alfredo’s fraternity brothers took care of retrieving his body and having it buried with simple burial rites at the Navotas Public Cemetery. It remains there today. Three of Alfredo’s brothers later became also involved in the anti-Marcos resistance movement.

GLOR, Melito

Melito Glor

Melito was an only child of a well-off family from Quezon province. Melito was a natural leader, and was once described by a teacher as a thinker and one of his best pupils. Melito’s ambition, he had written in his high school yearbook, was to be a soldier. The yearbook described him as the “Campus James Dean.” He had polished manners, but he was bold and daring, and he bore an aura of danger and mystery.

In college, Melito enroled in a pre-med course at the University of the Philippines, intending to go on to the university’s College of Medicine and to become a full-time town doctor. A conscientious college student, Melito’s only other occupation besides his studies was his membership in the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity.

The bloody police dispersal of student rallies during the First Quarter Storm of 1970 disturbed his complacency, however. He started attending protest actions, listening to activist discourses, and reading protest materials.

When martial law was declared in 1972, Melito decided to return to his home province of Quezon to build resistance to the dictatorship there. For a while, he recruited for the resistance in the town of Mauban, later moving on to Tagkawayan. In no time, he became one of the leading political officers of the local New People’s Army, covering an area of responsibility that spanned several provinces. His band would visit villages and urge them to build local organizations.

Melito got married in December 1973, telling his bride Flor he would be a good husband but that the life they would build together would not be easy. Melito took a few months’ leave but returned to Quezon in March the following year picking up where he had left off. His wife followed him after a few months.

In December 1974, Melito and two of his comrades as well as his wife, then nine-month pregnant, were cornered inside a house by soldiers in a campaign against the NPA. Melito was killed in the very first volley of fire. His wife and companions were arrested. One later escaped, but the other was executed after he refused to cooperate during interrogation.  Melito’s widow went into labor and underwent caesarean operation in the military camp. She was later told her baby was born dead.

Melito’s and his companion’s bodies were first left exposed on a roadside near the military camp, then later buried together in a public cemetery. Melito’s body was later retrieved then reinterred by his family in their hometown of Atimonan.  Melito had returned at last to where it all began.

ARIADO, Antonio G.

Ariado Antonio

The boy Antonio was born to a landed and well-to-do family in Sorsogon province and he grew in the midst of plenty. He excelled in academics and had a variety of interests such as acting, performing, and sports, particularly basketball, volleyball and table tennis. He also liked reading poems and giving orations. He would memorize long poems and recite them before his audience, usually spellbound playmates. His parents’ tenants called him “escribiente.”

Antonio, or Tony to friends, moved to Manila for college and became involved in the 1970s peace movement. His boarding house in Manila’s Sampaloc district saw long hours of impassioned discussions among students that included Tony and several of his provincemates.

The Vietnam War was escalating and the Marcos government had sent a contingent of soldiers called the Philippine Civic Action Group, or Philcag, to that country. The move drew strong criticism from Filipino peace groups and student groups. The National Union of Students of the Philippines called on students to protest the Philcag.

Tony was in his first semester in college when he joined a rally at the Manila Hotel where a Vietnam conference was being held. The rally was violently dispersed, resulting in street fighting between police and students, and giving Tony his first taste of teargas and truncheon.

Far from getting discouraged, Tony joined more rallies in front of Malacañang, the Congress building and the US Embassy, and in Plaza Miranda, mostly in protest of the Vietnam war. He joined more discussion groups involving students and laborers from Manila’s factories.

Tony became a member of the moderate NUSP and the more militant Kabataang Makabayan. His experience of the First Quarter Storm of 1970 sharpened his political awareness. School became second priority. He took a few units only to allow him access into the campus of the Araneta Univesity for his organizing work. By 1971, he had stopped going to school altogether.

Later, he went home to Sorsogon, more for political than sentimental reasons. Relieved at first to see their son back, Tony’s parents soon realized he had come home with his activism. He favored the company of his parents’ farmer-tenants, spending very little time at home. When he did, his talk focused on the farmers’ poverty and in convincing his parents “to share more” with them.

Tony helped organize a KM chapter in Sorsogon and undertook its propaganda and education section, while also helping in organizational work. Eventually he became local KM chair, the KM headquarters becoming more like home to him than his own. He gave fiery speeches during rallies and earned a local reputation as an activist leader and speaker.

Under his leadership, Sorsogon’s activists joined a historic “long march,” that took almost four days. The marchers were sometimes harassed by politicians’ goons, but more often they received warm greetings from local people.

By 1971, Tony and his fellow Bicolano activist leaders were in the government “wanted” list. When Marcos instituted martial law in 1972, Tony went underground and, not long after, joined a small group of armed activists living clandestinely in the villages far from the towns.

As his name became a military byword in Sorsogon, his family suffered for it. Many of his relatives were harassed by soldiers. His father was taken to prison for a week. His brother Norberto, a policeman, was mauled by soldiers for refusing to join a military operation.

Tony and 12 others died in a military ambush less than a year after he had gone underground. When his family brought his body for viewing at the townhall, some of the family’s tenants and villagemates wiped the activist’s battered face clean of blood and grime, a final gesture that showed their love, respect and affection for this young “escribiente” who had given up his short life for their cause. Tony was 24.

AQUINO, Maria Corazon "Cory" Cojuangco


Corazon Aquino, known to most Filipinos as “Cory,” was born to a landed family, said to be one of the richest Chinese mestizo families in the country. She was educated from grade school to college in exclusive Catholic schools in the Philippines and the United States. After college, she returned to the Philippines to study law, but gave it up on her first year when she married aspiring politician Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.

Ninoy’s rise in politics was meteoric. He was first elected mayor of Concepcion town, then as governor of the province, and finally as senator of the republic.  As President Marcos was ending his second and final term, and becoming very unpopular, it was widely believed that his staunch and vocal critic, the voluble and charismatic Ninoy, would be the country’s next president. But Marcos declared martial law in 1972 and established a dictatorship, aborting the coming elections, and ordering the arrest and imprisonment of activists and members of the political opposition, including Ninoy.  In prison, Ninoy launched a protest hunger strike that nearly cost him his life.

Cory stayed in the background throughout most of her husband’s political career.  She occupied herself raising her five children, keeping house, and entertaining her husband’s political friends in their Quezon City home. As the wife of a political prisoner, she visited Ninoy in prison and brought him food and clothing, was at his side during hearings, and guided her children through the ordeal.

Through US intervention, Ninoy was released after eight years in prison and allowed to leave for medical treatment in the States. The Aquino family then lived a three-year exile in Boston, Massachussets, years that Cory the housewife is said to have treasured as among the happiest in her married life.

This quiet interlude ended with Ninoy’s decision to return to the Philippines in 1983, his subsequent assassination at the airport, and the years of political turmoil that followed. Cory and her children returned to the Philippines to bury Ninoy and were immediately in the thick of the anti-dictatorship protest actions that grew bigger and bigger and more and more powerful until Marcos, believing himself invincible, called for “snap” presidential elections in 1986.

In the three-year period of protests, Cory emerged not only as a symbol and but also a leader of the opposition. As Ninoy’s widow she became the unifying center for the opposition. Her own qualities, her steadfastness, courage, humility, and even her unwavering spirituality earned her the respect and admiration of many of the most hardened politicians in the opposition.

She was asked to run against Marcos in the snap elections, and although initially reluctant, Cory took up the challenge. Protesters and supporters then turned their energies towards securing victory for her and her vice-presidential candidate Salvador Laurel. As expected, the elections were marked with fraud and violence. Many of Cory’s supporters were harassed and some were killed. A firm Cory supporter, Antique governor Evelio Javier, was assassinated, and several others abducted.

Marcos declared himself winner in the snap elections. The anger that met his announcement was so widespread, it soon reached members of the bureaucracy and the military. Cory called for bolder actions, including a general strike and a boycott of the businesses of Marcos and his cronies and followers. The mass movement culminated in the now historic EDSA civilian-military revolt  that forced Marcos and his followers to flee the country. Marcos’ political control was finally broken and his 14-year dictatorship ended.

Cory was installed as president and she immediately put up a transitional government, called a constitutional convention, and moved to restore order and civilian supremacy in government, including reopening the Congress and reorganizing the military. The 1987 constitution, drafted under her administration, is today noted for many of its nationalist, democratic and progressive features.

Cory became a world icon of democracy. She spoke before a joint session of the US Congress, was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize and named Time magazine’s Woman of the Year.

Rebuilding the country’s institutions after years of dictatorship was extremely difficult. Cory had to deal with left-wing and right-wing groups and those in between. Factions of the military continued to be abusive while others sought to weaken her government through coup attempts. The Left criticized the administration’s handling of the agrarian issue, the foreign debt issue, and continued US military presence in the country. Conservatives, on the other hand, criticized her administration for being lenient with the Left.

During her term, Cory was burdened by an energy crisis and several major natural and man-made disasters, including a very destructive earthquake, widespread flooding, a volcanic eruption said to be the world’s second most powerful in the 20th century, and the sinking of an overloaded passenger ship said to be one of the worst sea disasters in world history.

Despite these, Cory completed her six-year term, and, resisting calls to run again, ensured a peaceful transition of the next administration.

After leaving the presidency, Cory became quietly involved in non-government initiatives for good governance and in charitable activities, again away from the limelight. Her influence continued to be sought but she rarely spoke about political matters.  Some exceptions were when she called for the resignation of Joseph Estrada as president over accusations of plunder, and more recently, another president, Gloria Arroyo, over findings she manipulated the 2004 presidential elections in her favor.

Cory was discovered with colon cancer in 2008, underwent medical treatment and struggled with the disease, then died the following year. Thousands, including two of Marcos’ own children, came to her wake, as messages of condolences poured from all over the world. The funeral cortege was accompanied by hundreds of thousands of mourners, and it took eight hours before her body could be laid to rest next to her husband Ninoy.

Lorraine Badoy: Ahh the Now-beautiful Imee Marcos


(Reposted from Raissa Robles' blog and the original Facebook post of Lorraine Badoy. The above parody image is from Pixel Offensive.)
Ahhh the now-beautiful Imee Marcos.

Massive plastic surgery done exceedingly well.

I am grateful to know, for once, where our money went and that it was well-spent—unlike Bongbong’s Oxford “education”. (We all know what happened there. Nagpa aral TAYO sa Oxford, anong ginawa? Ha? Anong ginawa mo, Bongbong? DRUGS, PARTY, BULAKBOL. Pulpol.)

But Imee did her homework well.

Got one of the best plastic surgeons to chainsaw her baba and anime her eyes and god knows what else. Yes ok, it’s still a pain to know we paid for her makeover. Still, you gotta hand it to her.

The homely girl with Arsenio Lacson-like features is no more.

Plus OF COURSE, there’s photoshop, plastic surgery of the masses.

And people –even those who know the truth—have been oohing and aahing.

And me, left out in the cold again.

Because I see this for what it is.

I see how massive wealth stolen from a country bleeding and down on its knees can be used to buy not just respectability but oh-darn-god adoration from the very people this family of shameless thieves have bled dry.

I look at this and I can’t help but see, in my mind’s eye, the hordes of people who swoop down on Rustans grocery in my neighborhood when it closes at night, to scavenge for food.

And I see reed-thin half naked children knocking on my car’s window to beg for food.

Millions upon millions of Filipinos living worse than dogs—under our bridges, in hovels made of torn tarpaulin and stitched together with the flimsiest of their desperate hopes.

And I cannot help but see children of Samar covered in boils weeping with pus and blood from their heads down to their toes because there are no health services in a country mired in widespread theft by those in power—the solid Marcos legacy: systemic and systematic corruption.

And I can, once again, smell the sour pungent smell of the severely impoverished that hits you in the face and stays on your skin no matter how hard you scrub nor how many times you soap yourself.

And I see red, Imee.

I see the blood of thousands of martyrs of Martial Law–bloodied, hogtied, chopped with evidence of severe torture, rape.

And I see the bloodied body of Archimedes Trajano—the 22 year old Mapua student who had the temerity to ask Imee Marcos in an open forum “Must the Kabataang Barangay be headed by the president’s daughter?” And this so angered the plastic-surgeried one that Archimedes Trajano was picked up right there and then by Imee’s bodyguards and tortured and killed.

22 years old.

And his life was over.

22 years old.

Like my son is now.

And as curious-to-know-answers as my son is. Lucky for my son, he can now ask that question of any politician and not get killed. (And NO. I AM NOT A FAN OF NOYNOY. OH YUCK.)

I look at this and I see Archie’s parents looking down on their 22-year old son’s bloodied body in the mortuary and asking “Why him, God? Why our son?”

Before I hear any Marcos loyalist ask me for proof, eto na: In 1993, A U-S Federal Court in Honolulu awarded Agapita Trajano and ten thousand other Filipinos two billion U.S. dollars in damages for human rights violations covering torture, disappearance and murder under the Marcos regime.

Fat chance though that this will register with the willfully obtuse (obtuse is a polite term for ‘stupid’).

So yeah, I look at the heavily-photoshopped, massively-plastic-surgeried Imee and I see the truth Marcos loyalists do not want to see and what the deeply asleep cannot see:

A monster who continues to live in vulgar extravagance with wealth stolen from generations of Filipinos.

Someone who is part of that family of obscene fucks who stole our country’s bright future and has done so without a tinge of shame nor remorse.

And I see too, that OTHER obscenity—the Philippine Tatler, the Maurice Arcaches and Tim Yaps of Philippine high society (as in, “High ka ba?”) who collude with each other and cover each other’s crimes and grant each other respectability—no matter if it damns an entire country.

The feudal lords spraying Chanel no 5 on each other to cover the stench of blood on their hands and extolling each other so those who are asleep will blindly follow and oooh and ahhh.

Gising, mga kababayan ko.

Nagmamakaawa ako.

Gising na.

MORALES, Nicasio Manalo

Nicky Morales pic - edited

Nicasio “Nicky” Morales was born on May 1, 1955, to (Bantayog martyr) Capt. Rogelio C. Morales and Belen Manalo. His father was a Merchant Marine school superintendent and technical expert who, at the time of Nicky’s birth, was already fiercely championing the Filipino seafarers’ rights.  Well-travelled, Capt. Morales had seen the strides in governance that other countries had made, and wished the same for his people. Deeply patriotic, he instilled in his children the same love for country and freedom.

The elder Morales would usually bring home a lot of philosophical books from his travels abroad and Nicky would lap these up. He easily understood the social crisis that the country faced in the late ‘60s when he was in high school at the Ateneo. He joined organizations such as the Student Catholic Action (SCA) and the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) chapter in their school and would confidently lead discussion groups as the members immersed with the workers and poor communities in Barangka, Marikina, a town practically at Ateneo’s backdoor. At that young age, Nicky’s group were part of the protest actions that saw waves of students pouring out to the streets like the First Quarter Storm in 1970 and the Diliman commune the following year.

Nicky was in his first year of college in UP Diliman when martial law was declared. Many activists were arrested and most organizations were banned but that did not stop him and a few brave souls from registering their disapproval of the new regime. Small stickers with hand-written slogans like “Down with the Marcos dictatorship!” would suddenly get posted on the walls, or cats sporting like-worded banners would be let loose to roam about. Early in 1974, however, one after the other, Nicky and his father were arrested by the military. Both spent some time at the Ipil Rehabilitation Center in Fort Bonifacio.

Nicky resumed his studies after his release and even earned his degree in time. He took up graduate studies in Industrial Relations immediately after, and became the Grand Chancellor of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) Fraternity UP Diliman chapter,of which he was a member since his undergraduate days. It was during his leadership that the now famous annual APO “Oblation Run” came about.

In 1977, a member of APO, Rolly Abad, was killed in a brawl with another fraternity. Saddened by this, Nicky wanted to redirect the fraternity’s energies to more productive and nationally relevant pursuits. He planned for an activity that his group could engage in – sponsorship of a play called Hubad na Bayani – and after the mechanics were fully conceptualized, a stunt, to promote this event. At that time, the practice of streaking was in vogue in the US. According to Bob Pangalangan, one of Nicky’s contemporaries in the fraternity, their group decided to hold the stunt on December 16, the date of the fraternity’s anniversary, wherein three full-pledged APO members would run naked in the campus. (Note: Hubad na Bayani, written by Robert Arevalo and Teloy Cosme, was subsequently banned by the government. It was about the human rights violations occurring at the time and won awards from the Gawad Urian and the Catholic Media.) Thus had Nicky started a tradition in UP which, especially during the martial law years, served as a medium for popular dissent against repression.

After completing his post-graduate studies in 1978, Nicky worked as an administrative assistant at the National Environmental Protection Council (NEPC) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and then at the Natural Resources Management Center (NRMC). His fight for the people’s welfare did not stop with a job; the NEPC reported on the environmental degradation wrought by the operations of mining and similar companies duly licensed by the government. He was also then with the Kilusang Mamimili sa Pilipinas (KMPI), a consumer protection group headed by Julie Amargo. For Nicky, consumer protectionism was not incongruent to the resistance against the dictatorship; as Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, a colleague in the consumer protection movement tells it: “… During those days … no organization existed unless approved by a repressive, dictatorial government. Nicky was instrumental in transforming the consumers’ movement from a middle class oriented movement dealing with lemon cars, shrinking t-shirts and other sub-standard consumer goods into a strategic movement dealing with mass-based concerns.”

Nicky, as KMPI Executive Director for the years 1979 – 1980, was part of an umbrella group, the Citizen’s Alliance for Consumer Protection (CACP) which established Study Action Groups (SAGs). These SAGs were composed of 2 to 3 persons who would brainstorm, discuss and identify an issue, and then come up with a plan for the required action, implementation and follow-up. The consumer movement lashed out at cronies having a field day dumping products inimical to the public’s health and safety, such as various food and untested pharmaceutical items, as well as at the planned nuclear plant in Bataan. Inevitably, issues that pertain to the oil price hikes, workers’ wages, tuition fee increases, even indigenous peoples’ rights, urban poor housing and many other issues affecting the Filipino masses were being brought up and talked about.

Nicky became a marked man once again in 1980, when an organization which he established in 1979, the Samahan ng mga Manggagawang Konsumer (SAMAKO), was the signatory to a request for the use of the Araneta Coliseum on May 1. The event was an indoor rally which gathered 30,000 workers, students and activists. Soon, he received the dreaded ASSO – Arrest, Search and Seizure Order. After his house was raided one September dawn, he made up the hard decision to leave the country.

With the help of friends, Nicky secretly made his way to Washington, DC, in the United States of America. Meanwhile, Julie Amargo wrote a letter addressed to the “missing” consumer activist and published it in her column on the Bulletin Today on Sept. 17, 1980, titled “Where is Nicky Morales?” To this, Nicky responded from his hiding place with an article called “Why I am where I am” (sent to KMPI in December, published in the Ms. & Ms. Newsmagazine on June 1981). In it, he affirmed his “politics of consumption,” that is, he believed the protection of poor consumers to be a movement for “liberation,” whereas the laboring classes would be united “under the banner of consumerism.” (Hilton, 2009, p. 88)

“The price of defending the low-income consumers is frightening only because it calls for the massive education and organization of the exploited majority which runs directly opposite to the interests of Big Business, Bureaucrat Dictators, or the exploiting minority who gain from every war, benefit from inflation and profit from docile labor and unorganized consumers… For wherever I may be… it consoles me to know that we have discovered the formula for the effective protection of consumers in the Third World, and I am confident that the people behind KMPI will apply the formula at whatever price…” (Nicky Morales, I Am Where I Am, 1980)

In the relative safety and anonymity of his new surroundings in the US, Nicky could have just kept quiet and worked or engaged in a business for himself. Instead, he took on the struggle against the dictatorship with renewed vigor, intent on telling the world what was really happening in his country. He first worked for a big ecumenical organization called Church Committee for Human Rights Campaign in the Philippines (CCHRP), headed by Dr. Dante Simbulan, Sr., which lobbied for the severance of military aid to the Philippines. He was one of the prime movers of the Alliance of Philippine Concerns (APC),and of the Washington Forum, organizations of Filipinos in the US and Canada active in the campaign against human rights violations and militarization in the Philippines.

By the time of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983,“ … (Nicky) had quietly done the ground work among a broad based Filipino community … of nurses, domestic workers, Filipino doctors and Filipino professionals working in the World Bank, which laid the foundation for a heightened participation of the Filipinos in the anti-dictatorship movement in the US,” colleague Corinne Canlas attests.

Nicky was also a member of a New Jersey-based cultural organization called PAINTING which gave whatever aid it can raise to those in need in the Philippines such as typhoon or calamity victims. He had a good singing voice and oftentimes took part in cultural presentations. He even wrote a play, Juan Immigrant, a satire on the fate of Filipinos in the US.

How Nicky could have done all these activities and more is a wonder and source of admiration to his many friends, considering the differences in the time zones across the US. To make ends meet, Nicky had engaged in a newspaper distribution business which required him to be up at 1 o’clock in the morning to supervise and give instructions to his team. His job would be completed by 5 a.m., but he would not immediately go to sleep. He would still spend hours writing, planning, reading or communicating with somebody on the other end of the North American continent or on the other side of the world.  Nicky shared his family, time and resources to the cause of freedom for the Philippines, living out his dictum of “the personal is political.” He would bring his wife Dahlia and their 3 young children, who had joined him in the US, to the rallies and Filipino picnics he had organized. He opened up his home to anyone – friends, comrades of any political persuasion or visiting political personalities from the homeland who needed a place to stay in.

Nicky kept up with this pace and even doubled his efforts in 1985, in the run-up to the dictatorship’s eventual fall the next year. He coordinated with the different anti-Marcos groups in the US, organizing simultaneous protest actions that caught the attention of the US media. He was a part of the leadership that sustained daily protests near the Philippine embassy in Washington.  On February 26, 1986, Nicky, along with Filipino activists and American supporters, victoriously barged into the embassy and occupied it “in the name of the Filipino people.”

After EDSA, Nicky led the Alliance of Philippine Concerns lobby to the US Congress for Philippine interests to help the Cory Aquino government. He and his family went back home to the Philippines in 1990.

Nicky’s unrelenting efforts seemed to have taken a toll on his health. At the age of 44, supposedly at the prime of his life, he died of a sudden heart attack on November 1, 1999.


“…the children of this country, we believe, must learn from Nicky’s example of how character and resolve are better steeled and forged by those who seek no recognition, reward or payback for their acts of patriotism and fidelity to the people’s genuine democratic aspirations.”

 Thus reads in part the letter that Nicky’s many friends and colleagues wrote to nominate Nicasio “Nicky” Morales for inclusion to Bantayog’s roster of heroes and martyrs. For one born to a life of privilege but who, like many others of his generation molded by the circumstances they found themselves in, Nicky selflessly chose the high road.The letter goes on to say that “it will be remiss for those who truly understand the importance of nation-building to forget to honor those who helped shape the country’s democratic restoration at its darkest hour.”

IPONG, Inocencio "Boy" Tocmo


Inocencio’s parents were Boholanos who migrated to Mindanao before the Second World War. They settled in North Cotabato, where his father engaged in planting abaca for making hemp. His mother was a school teacher at the elementary school where Inocencio studied.

“Boy,” as he was fondly called by family and friends, was the eldest of 5 children reared in a very religious Catholic home. At a young age, he entered the seminary at Noling, Cotabato City for his high school education and continued on to study Philosophy at the Regional Major Seminary in Davao City. On his third year of college, he took his regency  – a period when seminarians are allowed to leave the seminary and decide on their priestly vocation – and transferred  to the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, where he graduated.

Boy was in college when students were stirring up the campuses with exposes of government shenanigans and calls for democratic reforms. In Cebu, he became involved with the Khi Rho, a youth organization whose advocacy work for the peasants was close to his heart. He would join the group in trips to Carcar, Cebu, to learn about the farmers’ struggles.

Eventually, he joined the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) and became active in its organizing and advocacy work. The organization expanded and chapters were set up in the Visayas and in many places in Mindanao, including in his hometown. His father, at that time the incumbent mayor of Makilala, once saw his son speaking with authority in a gathering of farmers. While he admired Boy’s dedication to uplift the condition of the farmers, he became afraid for his son’s safety.

When martial law was declared, however, Boy refused to tow the collaborationist line that the FFF leadership espoused.  Meanwhile, Vatican II and its call to serve the poor, deprived and oppressed sectors started to awaken church people. Influenced by the progressive theology of liberation, the Church’s message of social justice brought hope and courage to many. In the Philippines, amidst the despoliation and abuses of martial law, church people brought the gospel of liberation to the people of God in the chapels and rural communities.

Boy found his way to the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), a national organization founded by the Association of Women Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AWRSP) in 1969.  He worked as lay assistant, helping the nuns of the RMP craft and shape its vision of a “free, just, peaceful and egalitarian society,” among others. He travelled with the nuns all over the country and helped them organize the peasants and the lumad communities. “Know your rights!” was one of his battle cries; he believed that by raising the people’s consciousness of their human rights can they be empowered to defend themselves against the oppression and exploitation of the dictatorship and its powerful cronies.

Boy’s dedication to his work and selflessness endeared him to the RMP community. His calm persona and sense of humor often helped to alleviate the hardships and threats to personal security the RMP workers faced daily. He would play an original song (Pinagba ang Lawas) on his flute to cheer flagging spirits.

It was while working with the RMP that Boy met his wife Angie,a school teacher from Cebu. They married in simple but beautiful and meaningful rites that was a “protest” to the usual expensive weddings. Three co-worker priests officiated at the wedding held in a spartan seminar house, happily witnessed by family, close friends, RMP sisters and co-workers who brought their own food.

In 1982, while getting off a bus in Davao City, Boy was abducted and illegally detained at the Metropolitan District Command  Headquarters and at Camp Catitipan in Davao City.  Because he failed to report for work at the RMP office in Butuan City, friends and co-workers  searched for him at the camps and hospitals, to no avail. On the 10th day since he went missing, Boy’s father, who was also looking for him, passed by the MetroDiscom Headquarters when Boy himself spotted him through a window of his jail cell.  Boy called out to him, and his father immediately went in to ask to see him. The authorities at first denied Boy’s presence but relented when told that he had seen Boy through the grills. It was then that he was allowed to see Boy who looked haggard, was in a very weak state, and had bruises and contusions all over his body. Later, Boy narrated that he was tortured by his captors who wanted him to admit that he was a certain “Enciong” the military was looking for. Through the help of the RMP sisters and human rights groups, Boy was soon released.

Boy’s untiring effort to serve the poor and marginalized was tragically cut short on November 21, 1983. He was on board M/V Cassandra from Agusan, travelling with a group of 12 religious and lay people bound for Cebu to attend a seminar. A passing typhoon sent giant waves pounding against the ship and caused it to keel. After about four hours on rough waters, the boat sank, drowning over 200 passengers in the waters off Surigao, including everyone from Boy Ipong’s group. (Among those who perished were four nuns of the Religious of the Good Shepherd, all Bantayog martyrs: Srs. Mary Consuelo Chuidian, Mary Concepcion Conti, Mary Virginia Gonzaga and Mary Catherine Loreto). Survivors said they saw members of this group help many of the passengers put on their life vest. Amidst the chaos, they were last seen huddled together in prayer.

Boy’s life served as an inspiration to many people. Sr. Consuelo Valera, ICM, a co-worker, believes that his wide experience and deep grasp of the peasants’ situation ably directed the RMP’s task of social transformation. On its Silver Jubilee celebration in 1994, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines awarded him posthumously for his untiring service and dedication to the masses.

HICARO, Cesar Ella

Cesar Hicaro

Born in Atimonan, Quezon, Cesar Hicaro was the 2nd of the eight children of a school principal who opted to serve in different schools. This meant that the family had to move around a lot during Cesar’s childhood years. He started the primary grades in Camarines Sur and finished his elementary schooling in Guinobatan, Albay. Halfway through high school, the family again moved, this time to Indang, Cavite, where he graduated as the batch valedictorian.

“He was a born leader … critical, analytical and charismatic….”  These words were often used to describe Cesar Hicaro, who was an intelligent and hardworking student. Despite being uprooted several times, he had always been a student leader and in his younger years, actively presided over clubs such as the 4-H Club, Future Farmers of the Philippines, and the Student Body Organization.

As valedictorian, he won a scholarship grant from the Shell Chemical Company which enabled him to attend the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture (UPCA) in College, Laguna, in 1963. He joined the distinguished Upsilon Sigma Phi Fraternity, the oldest Greek-letter fraternity in Asia. He served as Fellow Recorder (secretary) the next schoolyear.  A close friend and fraternity brother, Dr. Reynaldo L. Villareal, recalls that he and Cesar often did their studying together at the library where their sorority sisters also hung out.  He was a “man of few words” but those he came in contact with were drawn to his pleasing personality, depth of insight and sincerity.  Dr. Villareal also recalls Cesar’s extreme fondness for certain foods like sautéed corned beef and fried dried fish.

Majoring in Agronomy, Cesar had high hopes of contributing to the nation’s emergent progress. He was once heard to have said that it was through his fraternity brothers that he fully realized the importance of nation-building. The Upsilon Sigma Phi seeks to mold aspiring young leaders for excellent service to the country and to its roster belonged some of the most distinguished movers and shakers of the country then, notably Conrado Benitez, Wenceslao Q. Vinzons,  Salvador P. Lopez and Sen. Benigno Aquino, among others. Proud of and loyal to this brotherhood, he, however, had to stand up for his principles and defy one of his prominent brothers, then Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos.

The 1960s saw a rise in student activism in the country. Then raging issues in the US – the civil rights movement, student power, the Vietnam War – sparked the students here as well to openly denounce the corruption and dirty politics of the Marcos government. Realizing the issues to be true, Cesar joined the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK) chapter in his university. Soon, he was one of its organizers and prime movers.

Cesar was tireless in his efforts to raise the peoples’ awareness of the social ills that plagued the country. He participated in demonstrations and other protest actions to add his voice to the growing clamor for reforms. Calling for more student involvement, Cesar and his friends went to the different schools in the Southern Tagalog area and spoke about these with the students. Whenever they had the opportunity, they also conducted such talks with the farmers and the rural folk living in the areas surrounding the campuses. Because of Cesar’s agricultural background, he was able to provide hands-on technical and practical help to the small farmers in the communities.

In the UPCA campus itself, controversial issues involving unpopular administration decisions arose.  Cesar took an active part in launching campaigns to push for academic freedom, better student services and participation in campus decision-making.

Many activities contributed significantly to the broad and effective student movement of the ‘60s. At the UPCA, then Student Council (1968) chair Aloysius “Ochie” Baes (Bantayog martyr) initiated a forum which met on Fridays. This was known as the UP College of Agriculture Cultural Society (UPCACS) which discussed and reviewed books of progressive world thinkers. Cesar was an eager participant at the lively exchange of ideas.

Upon receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1968, Cesar applied for post graduate studies and was admitted that same year as a botany teaching fellow.  Combining duties and activism, he encouraged students to take a comprehensive view of the society. As a nationalist scientist, he urged them to question government policies on agricultural development that favor foreign interests. He continuously advocated for social reforms to alleviate the exploitation of the Filipino people and the creeping militarization. He himself began spending more time integrating with the workers and urban poor communities, learning from their experiences as he shared his own knowledge and skills to uplift their plight.

The declaration of martial law in 1972 pushed Cesar to go underground. Like many of the other activists who suddenly found themselves in the same situation, he joined the resistance movement. During those uncertain times, Cesar worked out security measures which helped many activists survive the subsequent crackdown by the dictatorship’s forces. He opted to continue organizing in the urban areas, risking his own security to keep the flame of resistance alive.

In mid-1973, a series of arrests of activists alarmed Cesar’s group. A meeting was called in October to plan contingency and security measures.

Ironically, Cesar was with seven others in one such meeting in a house in Malabon, Rizal, on October 24, 1973. The group was already asleep on the floor when they were brusquely awakened by intelligence forces of the 2nd MIG-ISAFP, long guns pointed at their faces. In the scuffle to protect the other members of the group, two were shot and killed – Alfredo Malicay (Bantayog martyr) and Cesar Hicaro. Two who were nearest the window were able to escape although they too had gunshot wounds. Three women were arrested – Nelia Sancho, Tita Lubi and Rosemarie Husin, and were immediately brought to Camp Crame.

Cesar’s father and fraternity brothers from the Upsilon Sigma Phi brought his body home from Camp Crame to his house in Paranaque City for the wake. It was later transferred to the Catholic Church at Indang, Cavite for viewing by his townmates and schoolmates. His body was brought to its final resting place at the Indang Public Cemetery after a necrological service and the fraternity’s “final rights”.

One of the survivors of the raid that fateful night, Tita Lubi, remembers Cesar as being kind, well-mannered, and deeply principled. Despite the dangers and hardships they faced, theirs was a happy bunch, she says. They fought for what they believed in. Cesar is survived by a wife and daughter.

Escalante Massacre

Escalante Massacre

The province of Negros Occidental is a province made prosperous by the sugar industry. For hundreds of years, in a history that began during the Spanish colonial period, it had exported sugar and sugar products. Because owning sugar plantations proved very lucrative, land gradually became concentrated and under the control of the elite, the sugar planters or hacenderos, who became extremely rich and powerful. The great majority, on the other hand, were dispossessed of their land and earned their living as farm labor, or sacadas. They were poor, often severely exploited, powerless, and on top of everything else, landless.

Social tension was always high in the province because of this situation. Frequently, Negros was described as a social volcano waiting to explode.

In the late 1970s, world sugar prices collapsed. Across Negros, production had slowed down or worse, stood still. Half a million farm workers lost their livelihoods and hundreds of thousands of children faced hunger and death.

Negros and the Marcos Dictatorship

The regime of Ferdinand Marcos (1972-1986) super-imposed itself on this seething social volcano in Negros.

By itself, the regime had perpetrated terrorism in the Philippine countryside by ordering successive military operations, sending a stream of often abusive soldiers, killing and pillaging their way in the rural areas.

Armando Gustilo, one of Negros’ most powerful sugar planters and warlords, was himself a little dictator in northern Negros. His private army was said to number 1,500, which he wielded to strike terror in the hearts of his province mates.

Gustilo was congressman since 1963. When Marcos shut down Congress after he made himself a dictator, he made Gustilo governor of Negros Occidental. With Marcos and a powerful army behind him, Gustilo’s power knew no limits.

For the sacadas in Negros, life under the martial law regime – deceptively called the New Society – became much worse than the “old” society it claimed to replace. Farm wages stayed very low. Marcos promised to break up land monopolies and distribute land to the landless, causing a few to hope, but the promises remained on paper. Soldiers and paramilitary forces (Citizens’ Home Defense Forces or CHDF) stalked rural Negros, stealing from people, burning villages, and kidnapping and assassinating local farm leaders.

When the sugar crisis exploded in the late 1970s, the sacadas, and even a small number of enlightened landowners, said they have had enough. This triggered many protest marches, demanding agrarian reform and land distribution, fair wages and improved government services.

Escalante Massacre

Welgang Bayan

By the mid-1980s, especially in the wake of the assassination of the former senator Benigno Aquino Jr., Negros Occidental, as elsewhere in the Philippines, wanted system change, foremost being the dismantling of the Marcos dictatorship. In Negros, people in both urban and rural areas, joined protest activities in great numbers, raising their voices and fists to demand democracy and justice from the government.

By 1985, the 13th year of the Marcos dictatorship, a nationwide movement called for coordinated protests on the occasion of the 13th anniversary of the declaration of martial law. It was called the Welgang Bayan (general strike), with participants from most cities and towns, north to south of the country.

Northern Negros – the kingdom of Armando Gustilo -- responded eagerly to this call by organizing its own three-day welgang bayan. It was to start on the 19th and end on the 21st of September at the town of New Escalante, 95 kilometers north of Bacolod City, the provincial capital. Thousands joined the strike, including residents of the city of Cadiz, seat of Gustilo’s power.

On the night of the 18th of September, the eve of the three-day action, protesters began with an overnight vigil in front of the Escalante town hall.

On the morning of the 19th of September, Day One of the Escalante Welgang Bayan, people poured in to join the protest action. They came from the town centers and from far-flung areas. They were farmers and farm workers, fisherfolk, young and old, men and women, students, teachers, nuns, priests and seminarians. Some came marching in groups. Others brought their families and neighbors. Still others came by themselves. Many brought baskets of food with them, as well as change of clothing, intending to stay during the planned three days of protest.

Escalante Massacre

By Day Two, the 20th of September, protesters filled the roads to the Escalante town hall. They held banners, gave speeches, and chanted slogans. Fully-armed soldiers, policemen, and paramilitary forces (CHDF) surrounded them. Firetrucks were ready to disperse the crowd. A machine gun also stood at the rooftop of the town hall, ready to spew fire. At around noon, the fire trucks blasted water on the ranks of protesters but failed to break the protest line. Some protesters even exchanged wisecracks about enjoying the “free bath.”

After the water cannons came tear gas. The protesters, particularly those in the frontlines, linked their arms, chanting: “Bigas, hindi tear gas! (We need rice, not teargas!)” They also told each other: “Makibaka, huwag matakot! (Struggle, keep fear at bay!).”

Then came the bullets.

It was about an hour past noon, rallyists remember. The firing was totally one sided, all coming from the CHDF, the police, and the soldiers. As it happened, the protesters massed in front of the town hall were mostly sacadas and a few student leaders. Several farmworkers and one student leader were killed instantly. Others tried to run to the canefields and ricefields lying next the town hall. But the armed forces pursued them, shooting several more dead. Twenty in all were slain that day, with bullet wounds mostly on the back and the side.

Indignation, Impunity

Terror spread in Escalante after this, so far, worst case of repression the town had ever seen. Many residents grew angry too. The Marcos dictatorship faced angry and disgusted reactions from all over the Philippines and the rest of the world. Priests and bishops came to Escalante to express solidarity. This abuse, they said, had to stop. The regime of the Marcos dictatorship had to end.

Five months later, with the EDSA People Power revolt, Marcos, his cronies and relatives fled the country, ending a 14-year violent dictatorship.

Escalante never forgot this Bloody Thursday in its history. Every year since then, it has held commemoration activities for these martyrs to democracy. A monument to these martyrs has also been erected, almost on the same spot in the plaza that had been marked by the blood of their sacrifice.

Of the truly guilty, however, none have been tried or punished. A military officer who had been implicated in the killings rose to higher posts but three low-ranking policemen were found guilty and suffered imprisonment for 18 years. In Negros itself, land ownership continues to be concentrated among a few families, and landlords have kept their private armies and huge arsenals.

Gustilo died in the US, never made to answer for the terror he had sowed in Escalante.

Escalante Massacre

Escalante Martyrs

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Escalante Massacre

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