bantayog.foundation

bantayog.foundation

Board of Trustees 2019-2020

Wigberto E. Tañada
Chairman

Carolina S. Malay
Vice-Chairman


Ma. Cristina V. Rodriguez
Corporate Secretary / Executive Director


Felipe L. Gozon
Treasurer


Mary Rose G. Bautista, Member


Edith Burgos, Member


Edicio E. dela Torre, Member


Jose Manuel Diokno, Member


Ester C. Isberto, Member


Myrna Jimenez, Member


Alan T. Ortiz, Member


Rafael M. Paredes, Member


Juan Perez III, MD,  Member


Marie Jopson Plopinio, Member


Susan F. Quimpo, Member


Solomon Y. Yuyitung, Member


 

Board Committees

Our Partners


  • Project Nameless  Poetry inspired the naming of Project Nameless. From Jose Lacaba's Ang Mga Walang Pangalan to Emmanuel Lacaba's An open letter to Filipino Artists and Carlos Bulosan's Song for Chris Mensalvas' Birthday. It is a site that celebrates heroes of all political persuasions, and possibly of different historical periods. This project is an initiative of activists of the Martial Law period.

Martyrs of the 1981 Daet Massacre

The morning of June 14, 1981, a Sunday, was bright and sunny. Thousands of protesters, mostly rural folk, were coming to Daet from various directions and expected to merge at the town’s Freedom Park beside the Catholic Cathedral, where there would be speeches and protest declarations. Some groups started the night before to escape detection by the authorities. They passed through little-known trails and used bright stones and white rice grains to light their way. Some did not converge immediately but waited until it was the right time for coming together.

They marched north to Daet, taking the secondary roads to bypass military checkpoints. Other marchers from other towns joined in at the junctions. Over 300 marchers from Mercedes town turned up. They reported that some 1,500 started the march but the rest were stopped by the military. Another 500 marchers from Talisay were also intercepted by soldiers. Despite this the marchers to Daet had grown to some 3,000 to 4,000 men, women and children, sweaty and eager to join the bigger crowd waiting at the park.

Barely a kilometer away from their final destination, at the crossing called Camambugan, they were stopped by some 35 soldiers of the 242nd company of the Philippine Constabulary, commanded by a Capt. Joseph Malilay. The marchers were told to stop, disperse and return to their villages. But Freedom Park was now so near, the group would not disperse. The impasse lasted for half an hour while the marchers debated their decision. Then firm in their determination, the marchers decided to move forward, with the frontliners’ arms held tight to each other.

There was pushing and shoving between the two forces, and then the order to fire was given, with Capt. Malilay himself among those firing at close range.The PC commander of the province, a Col. Nicasio Custodio, was also present at the incident. The firing lasted less than a minute. But in that half-instant, four men were killed and more than forty were wounded.

[pt_view id="1e8fa112fa"]

Martyrs & Heroes

After six years of work, the Monument and the temporary Wall of Remembrance were unveiled on the morning of Bonifacio Day, November 30, 1992. The names of the first 65 martyrs were honored and enshrined.

The following year, in 1993, after long reflection, the Foundation officers and members decided to honor as heroes those who died after EDSA, but had given their all for freedom, justice and democracy during the Marcos years. The Articles of Incorporation were amended to reflect this decision. On November 30, 1993, the first three heroes were honored, and every year after, the Foundation honored additional martyrs and heroes.

OLALIA, Rolando "Ka Lando" Mariano

atty-rolando-ollalia pic

Lawyer Rolando Olalia (Ka Lando) projected a quiet and shy persona that was a startling contrast to his life of dramatic political struggles. He was a humble person who, at the time of his assassination, was a leader of thousands of democrats, nationalists and activists from the Philippine labor and anti-dictatorship movement.

Personal background

Losing his mother early and having a labor activist for a father, Rolando’s youth was one of poverty and want. He took on odd jobs through his high school years all the way until he reached his 20s. In 1958, at the urging of his father, the famous labor leader Felixberto Olalia Sr., Rolando joined the newly organized National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU). In 1962, he was arrested for leading a strike at the Delta Manufacturing in Pasig.

History of political involvement

He persisted with his studies even while he engaged in activism. In college, he joined the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in school and helped organize KM chapters in other schools around Manila’s university belt. He also helped in his father’s work among farmers under the Malayang Samahan ng mga Magsasaka (MASAKA).

Rolando passed the bar in 1971, achieving high marks. He started practice as a labor lawyer and became a member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Philippine Trial Lawyers Association.

The following year, with Marcos’ declaration of martial law, Rolando was one of those herded to the stockades. He was charged with subversion and detained for three months. He was arrested again in August 1982. This followed the arrest of his own father, and father and son were charged with inciting to rebellion and conspiracy to commit rebellion.

As the senior Olalia grew increasingly debilitated with age and infirmity, Rolando, now himself a personality known as Ka Lando, took more and more of his father’s responsibilities in the labor and the democratic movement. He was elected NAFLU president in 1983 (the year his father died) and chair of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) the following year and then of the Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Manggagawa Laban sa Kahirapan.

As a patriot, Ka Lando dreamed of and worked for a prosperous, free and democratic Philippines. As a unionist, he believed that workers were as valuable as any other sector in society, and that in fact workers had a crucial role to play in the country’s emancipation. He tirelessly explained his view, telling all who would listen that the country would never enjoy true development until the struggles of its workers saw victory.

Under his quiet leadership, labor unions grew in strength and number and indeed became a strong and committed participant in the movement to topple the Marcos dictatorship. Sweatshop laborers left their shops to join the ranks of street protesters. Industry workers held strikes to highlight the miserable depths that workers have gotten under martial law. Soldiers and goons broke the rallies and picket lines, and truckloads of strikers were hauled to jail, or lost their jobs. Yet despite the repression by the Marcos regime, the labor movement grew stronger in the 1980s, helping and being helped by the growth of the anti-dictatorship movement.

In the aftermath of the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983, the shy Ka Lando became one of the national leaders of the popular and widespread anti-dictatorship movement that developed. He was elected member of the national executive council of the Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Democracy (NAJFD).

When democratic space reopened in 1986, Ka Lando helped establish the left-leaning political party Partido ng Bayan, where he was elected its first secretary-general. He was also elected acting president of the militant alliance Bayan, with student leader Leandro Alejandro (a Bantayog honoree) as his secretary-general.

Within the first few months of the new Aquino government, it was being pulled apart by different political pressures, including on the one hand from the military which had held unparalleled power under martial law, and on the other, from its progressive mass support. The military, specifically military renegade groups, resorted once more in intimidation and harassment, including assassination.

Circumstances of death

Ka Lando and his driver Leonor Alay-ay had gone to a union meeting on the 12th of November, barely eight months after the new Aquino government came to power. Both failed to come home. The following day, their bodies were found along a roadside in suburban Metro Manila, hogtied, mouths stuffed with newspaper, and heads bearing gunshot wounds. The bodies were mutilated and hardly recognizable.

Through various sources, it became known that members of the renegade military group Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa (RAM) had perpetrated the crime although no investigations were ever pursued.

Massive grief and anger met the twin assassinations. Some 25,000 gathered in protest in front of the military headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. A 12-hour funeral march followed the burial, and drew over a million mourners.

Labor leader Crispin Beltran, who took over the helm of the KMU after Ka Lando’s death, later said that Rolando Olalia was KMU’s “sacrifice” for the Aquino government, that his death had been meant to create chaos to provide the military a reason to create a junta, but that instead, it would hopefully lead to long-lasting peace.

Meanwhile, with little else known of the unfortunate driver Leonor Alay-ay to satisfy Bantayog nomination requirements, we here add this poem, written in his honor by poet and writer Jose F. Lacaba:
Ang mga walang pangalan
Alay kay Leonor Alay-ay, drayber

Nalalaman na lamang natin
ang kanilang mga pangalan
kung sila’y wala na.
Subalit habang nabubuhay,
sila’y walang mga pangalan,
walang mukhang madaling tandaan.
Hindi sila naiimbitang
magtalumpati sa liwasan,
hindi inilalathala ng pahayagan
ang kanilang mga larawan,
at kung makasalubong mo sa daan,
kahit anong pamada ang gamit nila
ay hindi ka mapapalingon.

Sila’y walang mga pangalan,
walang mukhang madaling tandaan,
subalit sila ang nagpapatakbo
sa motor ng kilusang mapagpalaya.
Sila ang mga paang nagmartsa
sa mga kalsadang nababakuran
ng alambreng tinik,
sila ang mga bisig na nagwagayway
ng mga bandila ng pakikibaka
sa harap ng batuta at bala,
sila ang mga kamaong
nagtaas ng nagliliyab na sulo
sa madilim na gabi ng diktadura,
sila ang mga tinig na sumigaw
ng “Katarungan! Kalayaan!”
at umawit ng “Bayan Ko”
sa himig na naghihimagsik.
Sa EDSA sa isang buwan ng Pebrero,
sila ang nagdala ng mga anak
at nagbaon ng mga sanwits
at humarap sa mga tangke
nang walang armas kundi dasal,
habang nasa loob ng kampo,
nagkakanlong, ang mga opisyal
na armado ng Uzi.

Wala silang mga pangalan,
walang mukhang madaling tandaan,
itong mga karaniwang mamamayan,
pambala ng kanyon at kakaning-itik,
na matiyagang kumilos at
tahimik na nagbuklod-buklod at
magiting na lumaban
kahit kinakalambre ng nerbiyos,
kahit kumakabog ang dibdib.

Wala silang mga pangalan,
walang mukhang madaling tandaan,
subalit sila’y
naglingkod sa sambayanan
kahit hindi kinukunan ng litrato,
kahit hindi sinasabitan ng medalya,
kahit hindi hinaharap ng pangulo.
Sila’y naglingkod sa sambayanan,
walang hinahangad
na luwalhati o gantimpala
kundi kaunting kanin at ulam,
kaunting pagkakakitaan,
bubong na hindi pinapasok ng ulan,
damit na hindi gula-gulanit,
ang layang lumakad
sa kalsada tuwing gabi
nang hindi sinusutsutan ng pulis
para bulatlatin ang laman ng bag,
isang bukas na may pag-asa’t aliwalas
para sa sarili at sa mga anak,
isang buhay na marangal
kahit walang pangalan,
kahit walang mukhang madaling tandaan.

(Jose F. Lacaba, Mula sa kalipunang Sa Panahon ng Ligalig, Anvil Publishing, Maynila, 1991)

OLALIA, Felixberto Sr.

kabert

Felixberto Olalia Sr., known to generations of unionists as Ka Bert, was born to a family of poor farmers in Pampanga. He stopped formal schooling at fourth grade and worked briefly as a houseboy in Tarlac. Later he and his family left to try their luck in Manila and went to live in Bagumbayan (the site of Sta. Cruz and Tondo today). Pampanga migrants lived in enclaves there, attracted by the potential for work in various manufacturing and commercial establishments nearby.

The young man found work as an apprentice in a shoe factory. He also began to perform in theatre groups, then popularly called the vaudeville, often travelling with them all over Luzon. The experience gave him confidence and skill in public speaking, which would be very useful to him later. It also broadened his view and showed him how other poor people lived and struggled.Political Involvement

His first exposure to the cause that would direct his whole life was when he was elected union secretary and later president in the shoeshop where he worked. At this time, he had also become interested in the then national debate over Philippine independence. The young Bert, who had barely learned to read and do sums in school, started reading newspapers and saving money for books, and reading up on the current issues of the day. He joined rallies urging Philippine independence from the United States, and still more rallies calling for eight-hour workdays (the standard then were 12-hour workdays).

Ka Bert modeled himself after fellow unionist Crisanto Evangelista, whose bold and principled leadership of labor unions was extolled even by then Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon.

During World War II, Ka Bert joined the resistance against Japanese occupation, leading several Huk squadrons. After the war, he and other labor leaders who survived it rebuilt the unions and resumed agitating for reforms. Ka Bert also rejected the formal grant of independence, stating that the post-war relationship between the Philippines and the US perpetrated colonialism and not “genuine” sovereignty.

Labor played such a strong role in post-war national debate that by the 1950s, its leaders, including Ka Bert and poet Amado Hernandez, were arrested and thrown into jail on charges of rebellion. After his release, Ka Bert, then in his 50s, went back to union organizing and advocacy for genuine independence.

In 1957, he helped organize the National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU). He was a fiery speaker and a fierce negotiator and his reputation as a forceful and effective union and political leader grew.

When Ferdinand Marcos came to power, unionists were at the forefront of the protest rallies. They protested Philippine support of the Vietnam War and other local issues such as oil price increases and police brutality. They denounced the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971. Such heightened understanding of national politics among unionists and factory workers may be said to have been partly due to Ka Bert’s efforts.

In 1972, on the eve of martial law, Marcos sent him as emissary to China preparatory to establishing relations with that country. News of the martial law and the ensuing mass arrests reached him in China. He was offered temporary asylum but he decided to return -- and the minute he reached the airport was arrested and thrown into jail where he joined other NAFLU leaders earlier arrested.

After a few weeks’ incarceration, Ka Bert was released and he steadfastly went back to union work. He was the obvious candidate to become chair of the newly-organized Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) in 1974 but martial law authorities objected and he never got the position.

Most union activities under martial law were seen as actual and virtual acts against martial law. The dictatorship saw unionism as a violation of the prohibition against organization, and awareness-building campaigns as subversion against “established authorities.” Yet NAFLU persisted, calling for worker activism and campaigning for trade union rights. Ka Bert helped establish the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights and the National Coalition for the Protection of Workers’ Rights to draw the participation of sympathetic professionals and church people in the defense of trade union rights.

To challenge Marcos’ claims of economic development under martial law, NAFLU under Olalia launched sustained information campaigns and called for workers’ strikes which exposed the sweatshop conditions of Filipino workers, particularly in export processing zones.

The militant labor sector eventually organized itself in 1980 into the Kilusang Mayo Uno. Ka Bert, then called the “grand old man of Philippine labor,” was its first chairperson. Militant labor’s crucial role in the anti-martial law struggle has become so established at this point that participants to the KMU founding congress not only included unionists, but a broad cross-section of oppositionists to martial law. Marcos ordered a crackdown on labor not long after. Soldiers raided the KMU and NAFLU offices and the homes of its leaders and threw these leaders into prison. Ka Bert, then 79, was imprisoned a third time.

Circumstances of Death

Ka Bert was not in the best of health by the time of this arrest. He became even more ill in prison due to terrible jail facilities. He was eventually released on “house arrest.” He died not long after. He was 80. He left behind a brand of nationalist unionism that permanently changed the landscape of Philippine politics and the Philippine labor movement. He could have chosen the smoother path, the path taken by labor leaders before him, the path of comfort, cooptation, and even corruption. He could have retired when martial law conditions made unionism difficult and dangerous, using age and infirmity as excuse. But Ka Bert loved his country and was dedicated totally to labor. Not age, illness or adverse conditions stopped him from facing life’s challenges squarely and living his principles boldly.

MARCOS, Ma. Violeta

Sr. Violeta Marcos AMP

Ma. Violeta Marcos was christened Maria Remedios. She grew up amidst a devoted Catholic family. The young Remedios grew up religious herself, going to Mass and receiving communion daily. She was shy and quiet, even docile. Her mother brought her every year for a religious pilgrimage to Antipolo in Rizal, praying she would survive a sickly childhood.

Later Remedios’ mother became ill and died, and the siblings came under the care of relatives. Then eight years old but eldest of four, Remedios learned to do house chores, and on weekends assisted in the care of her sister and brothers. Occasionally she also helped prepare food for the family farmhands.

After graduating from elementary school, Remedios told her family she wanted to become a nun. But religious though the family was, the elders disagreed and moved her to Manila to try to distract her from her plan. Remedios enjoyed her years as a high school student in Manila, gaining new friends, including boys, but still prayerful and devout. She completed her course, became a licensed chemist, found a job as teacher at the La Consolacion College in Manila, and took a second course in education.

When she turned 23 and no longer needing family consent, she entered the Augustinian convent. On learning about it, her father came and told her her grandfather was on his deathbed and asking for her. Coming home, she discovered the subterfuge. A serious discussion followed, ending in the family finally accepting Remedios’ intent. With the family’s blessing this time, she resumed her life as a young Augustinian novitiate, rechristened now Ma. Violeta.

She continued her training as an academic, attending classes and reading up on literature covering a wide range of interests. One of the topics that began to interest her was the seachange offered to Catholic life by the Vatican II. Meanwhile, in 1966 she became director of the La Consolacion College in Manila and later in the early 1970s, she accepted an assignment to Negros island as administrator and principal of La Consolacion College in La Carlota City. This new assignment would both test and renew her faith, as well as change her life.

History of political involvement

Her time in Negros revised much of what she once thought as her work among “God’s people.” The island was a social volcano about to explode. Sugar export was becoming a very lucrative industry and Negros’ landowners often resorted to grabbing lands to expand their holdings. The exploitation of sugarworkers was onerous. Families being thrown out of their lands and farm leaders getting killed were becoming common incidents.

Violeta became involved with the Bacolod diocese’s program for sugar workers run by then Fr. Luis Jalandoni, diocesan social action director. She once attended a seminar of Catholic religious and layworkers where she heard sugarworkers explain their situation. “That was my wake-up call (Doon ako namulat),” she later revealed. Being a natural leader and a teacher, she was soon giving similar seminars to her fellow nuns and priests in Negros.

Under martial law, the social conflict in Negros became worse, as landowners close to the regime grew even more abusive and seized lands with even more impunity. Soldiers poured into the island, terrorizing communities, and arresting protest leaders and their supporters, including priests, seminarians, students and union organizers.

In 1975, Violeta gave up school work altogether and became a fulltime secretary of the Justice for Sugar Workers Committee, a new group composed of religious and lay workers sympathetic to the plight of sugarworkers. She helped establish the Negros Occidental Women Religious Association (NOWRA), which then created several committees, including a justice and peace committee which undertook the care of political prisoners. Violeta also became part of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines under the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines.

By 1976, abuses in Negros have become very serious. Civilians were getting shot and killed for the flimsiest reasons. Parishes that supported people-oriented activities were being threatened. Soldiers tortured a 19-year-old female catechist in Kabankalan. Violeta joined a church team that searched for the catechist, including at the constabulary headquarters, signed letters and sent urgent telegrams to martial law officials such as Juan Ponce Enrile. The catechist was found after ten days in a hospital, badly beaten and emotionally broken. Violeta helped minister to her as the young woman sought to recover psychologically. Violeta cared for another woman shot on the foot by soldiers, having to recover for a year in hospital. In 1978, she handled the documentation and protest campaign in an attempted summary execution of other Catholic lay leaders.

Working fulltime now as a human rights worker, Violeta often had to face danger herself. She opened her convent to victims of atrocities, and convinced fellow religious and lay leaders in Negros to do the same. She helped create a human rights network in Negros that documented the abuses, found legal aid for the victims, gave support to the victims and their families through prison visits, assistance with medicine and clothing, and other kinds of humanitarian support. Human rights workers like Sr. Violeta risked their lives every day, facing possible arrest and detention themselves, even abduction, or sexual abuse, or assassination. Living in a small convent with only her strong spirit for defense and protection, Sr. Violeta pushed on despite the daily risks of her work.

By the late 1970s, Violeta was herself joining protest rallies against military abuses and against the continued landgrabbing and other abusive practices of Negros landowners. The martial law government had sent a special team, the Long Range Patrol, that promoted the slogan Walang Patawad and cracked down even harder on the protests in Negros. In 1980, 12 people were summarily executed within weeks of each other. The jails in the province were packed with political prisoners. The human rights network of which Violeta was part had its hands full handling both the humanitarian aspect and the protest campaigns. They even documented anomalies in military camps, as in a jail warden profiting from a hollow-block-making project supposedly for the prisoners’ benefit.

Violeta is considered as having helped win then Bacolod bishop Antonio Fortich to the cause of justice in Negros. A priest who was a human rights supporter had built a considerable collection of pictures of human rights cases and protest actions in the island. He and Violeta made them into albums and made duplicate albums for Bishop Fortich, giving him complete and updated information about the abuses. This, among others, convinced the bishop that the church in Negros had to take the side of the poor.

In the early 1980s, Violeta left Negros to take up new duties in Manila. In Manila, she continued to be active in human rights advocacies under the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines and Balay Rehabilitation Center, as member of the justice and peace commission of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, and as director of the Tahanan Social Services at the La Consolacion Convent.

She also focused her energies in instituting reform within her own religious order. In 1989 she and a group of sisters of her order sought permission from the Vatican to create a new order, the Augustinian Missionaries of the Philippines (AMP). This was granted in 1999, and Violeta became its first superior general.

Circumstances of death

Not long after the successful establishment of her new order, Violeta began to weaken physically and was later diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2001, she succumbed to the disease, ending quietly and with little fanfare what she once described as her “dialogue of life with the poor.”
“She worked as if there was no tomorrow especially in areas where the poor was downtrodden. Her undying love and devotion to the people of God is unmatched, from the rallies that we organized on the streets of Negros, to battling oppression during the Marcos regime, to the endless hours we spent with prisoners, talking to them and documenting their stories. (Sr. Violeta) was a remarkable woman.” (Mila Abrera of the Negros Occidential Women’s Religious Organization)

“She was a gentle woman with a strong conviction and deep-rooted love for the poor, deprived and oppressed. She stood for what she believed to be right and put the good of the many over herself. She was intelligent and assertive, but open to listen and learn from others… She never complained no matter how difficult or risky the task was… She gave up the comforts of life to immerse herself in the sufferings of the many… Every encounter with her was a learning experience.” (Rose P. Tan, executive director, Commission on Family & Life, Diocese of Bacolod)

GUEVARRA, Rogelio Salayon



Pope John Paul II came to visit the Philippines in February 1981. With world media focused on the country, Ferdinand Marcos declared in January that he had lifted martial law and partially restored the writ of habeas corpus. He was seeking to justify his one-man rule. Nine years since he launched his dictatorship and promised a New Society, the country was instead mired deep in debt, deficit, and price increases. It was fighting a war against Muslims in the South that had claimed thousands of lives, both civilian and combatant, with no end in sight. Except for the Marcos cronies, most Filipinos found themselves in even a worse condition than before. The mood for protest was becoming increasingly bold in many parts of the country.

Marcos needed a fresh mandate. He called for presidential elections in June 1981.

But the announcement was met with national cynicism, for how could fair, free and credible elections be expected with soldiers terrorizing the population? A call to boycott the elections spread. It started with protest forums, small-town rallies, open manifestos, and painted wall slogans. By April, bigger demonstrations were being held, attracting many first-time protesters. By May 1st, Labor Day, not only labor workers filled the ranks of demonstrations, but a wide section that included bank employees, teachers, lawyers, priests and nuns and even traditional politicians. On June 12, Independence Day, a record number of protest rallies were held in 31 cities and towns, a coordinated movement not seen since Marcos declared martial law in 1972.

Nevertheless the elections pushed. Election day cheating and coercion were widespread as expected. Marcos “won” over his unknown opponent Alejo Santos, and he called his victory a fresh mandate from the people.

Then US President Ronald Reagan declared himself “pleased” with the election results and said the US government saw the Marcos regime in the “warmest terms possible.” US Secretary of State Alexander Haig and then US Vice-President George Bush came to the Philippines to show support. Bush attended the inauguration and later gave a speech in Malacañang, making the incredible and unforgettable statement, “We love your adherence to democratic principles and to the democratic process.” He also promised, “(We) will not leave you in isolation.”

Still, the boycott campaign was a success, with 60 percent of all qualified voters in Metro Manila staying away from the precincts. More importantly, it became obvious that the Marcos regime would not give up power voluntarily. Marcos had to be forced out. Filipinos were becoming convinced that the insanity had to be stopped, but it would go on until ordinary folks united in action. Thus each repressive act ignited another round of protests from local citizens.

The historic events of 1981 provided the fertile ground on which, five years later in 1986, at EDSA, the people would indeed drive Marcos out of Malacañang.

Protest movement in Bicol

In the months preceding the presidential elections, the southern Tagalog region had exploded with the red hues of protest. In February, farmers were in another protest march in Guinyangan town in Quezon when soldiers shot at the marchers and killed two protesters.

The 1981 boycott campaign thus reverberated across the Bicol region. It was coordinated by the Kilusang Mamamayan para sa Tunay na Demokrasya, or KMTD. On the eve of election day, KMTD organized rallies to be held in four population centers of Bicol: Daet in Camarines Norte, Sipocot in Camarines Sur, in Iriga City, and in Daraga in Albay. All except the rally in Daet pushed through. The Daet rally was cancelled on the hour it was supposed to start.

Daet Rally

The morning of June 14, 1981, a Sunday, was bright and sunny. Thousands of protesters, mostly rural folk, were coming to Daet from various directions and expected to merge at the town’s Freedom Park beside the Catholic Cathedral, where there would be speeches and protest declarations. Some groups started the night before to escape detection by the authorities. They passed through little-known trails and used bright stones and white rice grains to light their way. Some did not converge immediately but waited until it was the right time for coming together.

But at Daet’s Freedom Park, thousands of protesters and protest leaders were already waiting with placards and streamers that said “Down with the Marcos dictatorship!,” “Raise the prices of copra!” and “Dismantle Cocofed.”

In Barangay Matnog in Basud town, most residents were joining the rally. They left their homes past dawn to begin their trek early. They had prepared their meals the night before. Rallyists remember they packed simple lunchesbut were told not to bring spoon or fork, because fork might be construed as a weapon.

They marched north to Daet, taking the secondary roads to bypass military checkpoints. Other marchers from other towns joined in at the junctions. Over 300 marchers from Mercedes town turned up. They reported that some 1,500 started the march but the rest were stopped by the military. Another 500 marchers from Talisay were also intercepted by soldiers. Despite this the marchers to Daet had grown to some 3,000 to 4,000 men, women and children, sweaty and eager to join the bigger crowd waiting at the park.

Barely a kilometer away from their final destination, at the crossing called Camambugan, they were stopped by some 35 soldiers of the 242nd company of the Philippine Constabulary, commanded by a Capt. Joseph Malilay. The marchers were told to stop, disperse and return to their villages. But Freedom Park was now so near, the group would not disperse. The impasse lasted for half an hour while the marchers debated their decision. Then firm in their determination, the marchers decided to move forward, with the frontliners’ arms held tight to each other. There was pushing and shoving between the two forces, and then the order to fire was given, with Capt. Malilay himself among those firing at close range.The PC commander of the province, a Col. Nicasio Custodio, was also present at the incident.

The firing lasted less than a minute. But in that half-instant, four men were killed and more than were forty wounded. The crowd dispersed. Soldiers pursued the protesters and those they got they had them line up along the side of a road with their hands on their heads, threatening to shoot them all.

At this point a group led by KMTD leader Grace Vinzons-Magana arrived and confronted the soldiers. Magana was quoted as telling the soldiers: “Why did you do this? Those people were unarmed and could not defend themselves! You should have given them firearms (to even up the fight)!” She also demanded they bring the wounded to hospitals. The soldiers then loaded all dead and wounded on trucks. Mrs. Magana stayed until this was completed. Later she visited the wounded in the various hospitals and clinics.

No photographs survived what was later termed Daet’s Black Sunday. No journalist was present and everyone else was intent on the business at hand. FLAG chair Jose Diokno came the day after the massacre, and was himself detained a few hours in the military camp. There were unconfirmed reports that two more protesters died from their wounds weeks later (Rosita Arcega, 30, and Ernesto Encinas, 25).

Three weeks after the shooting, Magana, a radio station owner and coordinator of KMTD for Camarines Norte*, and KMTD chair Antonio Carpio**, a lawyer, were themselves put under arrest, on orders reportedly signed by Marcos. Carpio was picked up by the notorious Capt. Malilay himself. Malilay was also seen terrorizing the wounded confined in hospitals.

The dictatorship-controlled mass media reported the shooting as an encounter between rebels and government troopers. A team of military lawyers, sent to investigate the incident, promised action in due time. Magana and Carpio were released on bail later. (However, a Malaya report four years after the incident stated that Malilay and Custodio remained free and even enjoyed promotions.)

In its own report, the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) made the following observations of the incident: (a) all the wounded and killed were standing at the front of the march; (b) all the four killed were from direct shots, not ricocheting bullets, and that their wounds and those of the wounded came from the direction where the soldiers stood; and (c) no weapons were found on the marchers. It was obviously a one-sided affair, the TFDP said.

In a statement, the KMTD said it denounced the use of soldiers to “stop and disperse Filipino citizens peacefully exercising their constitutional right to assemble and petition for redress of grievances in an orderly manner,” the “callous disregard for human life demonstrated by the Camarines Norte PC in resorting to guns to stop our citizens’ march,” and condemned as criminal act of the higher military authorities (the) covering up of the wanton slaughter of defenseless, innocent citizens of this Republic.”

The violent dispersal of the peaceful rally added to the growing national outrage against the dictatorship.

The four killed at the rally were all ordinary people, leading mostly uneventful lives. But they heard the call of citizenship at a time when it was most needed. In doing so, they gave their lives so that justice and democracy may be enjoyed again in this country. Because they were ordinary folk and lived in faraway villages, their names would not be remembered if the country that owes them their freedom would not put their names on the record.

By adding their names to its list, Bantayog shows the Filipino youth that life given for the heroic cause of justice and freedom, is worthy of emulation and edification.

The four martyrs of Daet are Elmer Lis Lagarteja, Jose Esteban Alcantara, Benjamin Buena Suyat, and Rogelio Salayon Guevarra.

ELMER LIS LAGARTEJA

Elmer Lagarteja was born in Basud, Camarines Norte. His father was a farmer renting a piece of land from a landowner, and his mother a dressmaker and hairstylist. Elmer earned a few units at a local college in Daet. He left the college when his parents separated, and found work at a clothes factory in Angono, Rizal, to help his mother rear his four younger siblings.

Tall and lanky, family and barriomates describe Elmer as a happy person, usually clowning around, providing laughter in gatherings. He was back home for a short visit when he heard news about the rally. Most of his barriomates were joining, including his father and younger brother. He himself supported their causes and wanted to give support, and so he marched in high spirits that fateful morning.

Elmer was shot in the head, chest and left arm. He was 21 years old.

JOSE ESTEBAN ALCANTARA

Jose Alcantara was a few days shy of his 40th birthday when he was killed. The son of tenant farmers, he worked hard in doing odd jobs as a young boy in Payo, Catanduanes, where he was born. In search for greener pastures, the Alcantaras moved to Naga where Jose found work in a bakery, married a coworker, and moved to Daet.

In Daet, Jose rented farmland and provided for his growing family by growing rice and and vegetables for the family table and selling his coconut crop. Friends remember Jose as someone hardworking, and one who related well with his neighbors.

Life was simple in Barangay Matnog where Jose and his family settled, but the presence of soldiers terrorizing them was becoming a burden. He yearned for peace and freedom from military presence. Jose was all for joining the rally, although his wife feared for his safety. Jose said this was a chance to tell the government in Manila how he and others in the village felt. Jose was in the frontlines of the delegation from Matnog when the marchers met the soldiers in Camambugan, and thus provided an immediate target. He left behind a wife and five children.

BENJAMEN BUENA SUYAT

Benjamen Suyat, 47, was born in Tabaco, Albay but he and his siblings grew up in Matnog. Seeking sanctuary from the Japanese during its occupation of the Philippines in the 1940s, the Suyat couple relocated to mountainous Camarines Norte. Benjamen became a tenant farmer, and his wife Margarita sold farm produce in the local market. The couple had ten children.

With a big family to provide for, Benjamen was up and out to the farm very early in the morning but always made it a point to gather all his children late in the afternoon to ask about their day. He was kind but a bit strict with the children’s discipline. He was ever ready to dispense advice to them as well as to friends. The couple persevered to put all their children to school. One was in college and the rest in high school and elementary when Benjamen was killed.

Benjamen joined the rally with no trepidation. His children were looking forward to their daily afternoon talk with him. Instead they were told he had been killed in the rally. Later his family managed to retrieve his bullet-riddled body at the morgue.

ROGELIO SALAYON GUEVARRA

Born and raised in Daet, Rogelio Guevarra, 45, worked at several jobs in Manila during his bachelor days. He was sales clerk at an appliance store and then tailor at a shop in Sampaloc, Manila, where his father also worked. During visits to the province, he met Juana Abad, wooed and married her, and the two settled in Matnog, to farm on Juana’s father’s land. The couple had five children.

Rogelio engaged in copra production and was thus heavily affected when the price of copra dipped during the late 1970s and into the 1980s. An avid newspaper reader, he kept abreast of current events and was particularly angered by news of the political maneuverings of crony capitalists. He joined the rally to air his grievances against government’s wrongdoings and what he felt was an oppressive coconut levy.

Rogelio was a leader in the barangay, being once a barangay secretary. At the march to Daet, he was in the frontlines and thus was prime target for the soldiers’ bullets. His fatal wound was in the neck but witnesses say soldiers clubbed him on the head even as he fell.

He joined because he “wanted to say his piece,” his daughter says. “To this day I see in my mind my father holding a cup of coffee in one hand, newspaper in the other, and telling us his children of the urgent need for changes in government. ‘Kapit-bisig ngani, we must do it,’ were his words.”

*The late Grace Vinzons-Magana was the granddaughter of wartime hero Wenceslao Vinzons of Camarines Norte. The family operated a radio station in Daet.

**The late Jesus Antonio Carpio was a member of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and was in the forefront of the anti-dictatorship movement in the Bicol region. After the dictatorship was dismantled and the Cory Aquino government took over, he accepted the post of director of the National Bureau of Investigation.

SUYAT, Benjamen Buena



Pope John Paul II came to visit the Philippines in February 1981. With world media focused on the country, Ferdinand Marcos declared in January that he had lifted martial law and partially restored the writ of habeas corpus. He was seeking to justify his one-man rule. Nine years since he launched his dictatorship and promised a New Society, the country was instead mired deep in debt, deficit, and price increases. It was fighting a war against Muslims in the South that had claimed thousands of lives, both civilian and combatant, with no end in sight. Except for the Marcos cronies, most Filipinos found themselves in even a worse condition than before. The mood for protest was becoming increasingly bold in many parts of the country.

Marcos needed a fresh mandate. He called for presidential elections in June 1981.

But the announcement was met with national cynicism, for how could fair, free and credible elections be expected with soldiers terrorizing the population? A call to boycott the elections spread. It started with protest forums, small-town rallies, open manifestos, and painted wall slogans. By April, bigger demonstrations were being held, attracting many first-time protesters. By May 1st, Labor Day, not only labor workers filled the ranks of demonstrations, but a wide section that included bank employees, teachers, lawyers, priests and nuns and even traditional politicians. On June 12, Independence Day, a record number of protest rallies were held in 31 cities and towns, a coordinated movement not seen since Marcos declared martial law in 1972.

Nevertheless the elections pushed. Election day cheating and coercion were widespread as expected. Marcos “won” over his unknown opponent Alejo Santos, and he called his victory a fresh mandate from the people.

Then US President Ronald Reagan declared himself “pleased” with the election results and said the US government saw the Marcos regime in the “warmest terms possible.” US Secretary of State Alexander Haig and then US Vice-President George Bush came to the Philippines to show support. Bush attended the inauguration and later gave a speech in Malacañang, making the incredible and unforgettable statement, “We love your adherence to democratic principles and to the democratic process.” He also promised, “(We) will not leave you in isolation.”

Still, the boycott campaign was a success, with 60 percent of all qualified voters in Metro Manila staying away from the precincts. More importantly, it became obvious that the Marcos regime would not give up power voluntarily. Marcos had to be forced out. Filipinos were becoming convinced that the insanity had to be stopped, but it would go on until ordinary folks united in action. Thus each repressive act ignited another round of protests from local citizens.

The historic events of 1981 provided the fertile ground on which, five years later in 1986, at EDSA, the people would indeed drive Marcos out of Malacañang.

Protest movement in Bicol

In the months preceding the presidential elections, the southern Tagalog region had exploded with the red hues of protest. In February, farmers were in another protest march in Guinyangan town in Quezon when soldiers shot at the marchers and killed two protesters.

The 1981 boycott campaign thus reverberated across the Bicol region. It was coordinated by the Kilusang Mamamayan para sa Tunay na Demokrasya, or KMTD. On the eve of election day, KMTD organized rallies to be held in four population centers of Bicol: Daet in Camarines Norte, Sipocot in Camarines Sur, in Iriga City, and in Daraga in Albay. All except the rally in Daet pushed through. The Daet rally was cancelled on the hour it was supposed to start.

Daet Rally

The morning of June 14, 1981, a Sunday, was bright and sunny. Thousands of protesters, mostly rural folk, were coming to Daet from various directions and expected to merge at the town’s Freedom Park beside the Catholic Cathedral, where there would be speeches and protest declarations. Some groups started the night before to escape detection by the authorities. They passed through little-known trails and used bright stones and white rice grains to light their way. Some did not converge immediately but waited until it was the right time for coming together.

But at Daet’s Freedom Park, thousands of protesters and protest leaders were already waiting with placards and streamers that said “Down with the Marcos dictatorship!,” “Raise the prices of copra!” and “Dismantle Cocofed.”

In Barangay Matnog in Basud town, most residents were joining the rally. They left their homes past dawn to begin their trek early. They had prepared their meals the night before. Rallyists remember they packed simple lunchesbut were told not to bring spoon or fork, because fork might be construed as a weapon.

They marched north to Daet, taking the secondary roads to bypass military checkpoints. Other marchers from other towns joined in at the junctions. Over 300 marchers from Mercedes town turned up. They reported that some 1,500 started the march but the rest were stopped by the military. Another 500 marchers from Talisay were also intercepted by soldiers. Despite this the marchers to Daet had grown to some 3,000 to 4,000 men, women and children, sweaty and eager to join the bigger crowd waiting at the park.

Barely a kilometer away from their final destination, at the crossing called Camambugan, they were stopped by some 35 soldiers of the 242nd company of the Philippine Constabulary, commanded by a Capt. Joseph Malilay. The marchers were told to stop, disperse and return to their villages. But Freedom Park was now so near, the group would not disperse. The impasse lasted for half an hour while the marchers debated their decision. Then firm in their determination, the marchers decided to move forward, with the frontliners’ arms held tight to each other. There was pushing and shoving between the two forces, and then the order to fire was given, with Capt. Malilay himself among those firing at close range.The PC commander of the province, a Col. Nicasio Custodio, was also present at the incident.

The firing lasted less than a minute. But in that half-instant, four men were killed and more than were forty wounded. The crowd dispersed. Soldiers pursued the protesters and those they got they had them line up along the side of a road with their hands on their heads, threatening to shoot them all.

At this point a group led by KMTD leader Grace Vinzons-Magana arrived and confronted the soldiers. Magana was quoted as telling the soldiers: “Why did you do this? Those people were unarmed and could not defend themselves! You should have given them firearms (to even up the fight)!” She also demanded they bring the wounded to hospitals. The soldiers then loaded all dead and wounded on trucks. Mrs. Magana stayed until this was completed. Later she visited the wounded in the various hospitals and clinics.

No photographs survived what was later termed Daet’s Black Sunday. No journalist was present and everyone else was intent on the business at hand. FLAG chair Jose Diokno came the day after the massacre, and was himself detained a few hours in the military camp. There were unconfirmed reports that two more protesters died from their wounds weeks later (Rosita Arcega, 30, and Ernesto Encinas, 25).

Three weeks after the shooting, Magana, a radio station owner and coordinator of KMTD for Camarines Norte*, and KMTD chair Antonio Carpio**, a lawyer, were themselves put under arrest, on orders reportedly signed by Marcos. Carpio was picked up by the notorious Capt. Malilay himself. Malilay was also seen terrorizing the wounded confined in hospitals.

The dictatorship-controlled mass media reported the shooting as an encounter between rebels and government troopers. A team of military lawyers, sent to investigate the incident, promised action in due time. Magana and Carpio were released on bail later. (However, a Malaya report four years after the incident stated that Malilay and Custodio remained free and even enjoyed promotions.)

In its own report, the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) made the following observations of the incident: (a) all the wounded and killed were standing at the front of the march; (b) all the four killed were from direct shots, not ricocheting bullets, and that their wounds and those of the wounded came from the direction where the soldiers stood; and (c) no weapons were found on the marchers. It was obviously a one-sided affair, the TFDP said.

In a statement, the KMTD said it denounced the use of soldiers to “stop and disperse Filipino citizens peacefully exercising their constitutional right to assemble and petition for redress of grievances in an orderly manner,” the “callous disregard for human life demonstrated by the Camarines Norte PC in resorting to guns to stop our citizens’ march,” and condemned as criminal act of the higher military authorities (the) covering up of the wanton slaughter of defenseless, innocent citizens of this Republic.”

The violent dispersal of the peaceful rally added to the growing national outrage against the dictatorship.

The four killed at the rally were all ordinary people, leading mostly uneventful lives. But they heard the call of citizenship at a time when it was most needed. In doing so, they gave their lives so that justice and democracy may be enjoyed again in this country. Because they were ordinary folk and lived in faraway villages, their names would not be remembered if the country that owes them their freedom would not put their names on the record.

By adding their names to its list, Bantayog shows the Filipino youth that life given for the heroic cause of justice and freedom, is worthy of emulation and edification.

The four martyrs of Daet are Elmer Lis Lagarteja, Jose Esteban Alcantara, Benjamin Buena Suyat, and Rogelio Salayon Guevarra.

ELMER LIS LAGARTEJA

Elmer Lagarteja was born in Basud, Camarines Norte. His father was a farmer renting a piece of land from a landowner, and his mother a dressmaker and hairstylist. Elmer earned a few units at a local college in Daet. He left the college when his parents separated, and found work at a clothes factory in Angono, Rizal, to help his mother rear his four younger siblings.

Tall and lanky, family and barriomates describe Elmer as a happy person, usually clowning around, providing laughter in gatherings. He was back home for a short visit when he heard news about the rally. Most of his barriomates were joining, including his father and younger brother. He himself supported their causes and wanted to give support, and so he marched in high spirits that fateful morning.

Elmer was shot in the head, chest and left arm. He was 21 years old.

JOSE ESTEBAN ALCANTARA

Jose Alcantara was a few days shy of his 40th birthday when he was killed. The son of tenant farmers, he worked hard in doing odd jobs as a young boy in Payo, Catanduanes, where he was born. In search for greener pastures, the Alcantaras moved to Naga where Jose found work in a bakery, married a coworker, and moved to Daet.

In Daet, Jose rented farmland and provided for his growing family by growing rice and and vegetables for the family table and selling his coconut crop. Friends remember Jose as someone hardworking, and one who related well with his neighbors.

Life was simple in Barangay Matnog where Jose and his family settled, but the presence of soldiers terrorizing them was becoming a burden. He yearned for peace and freedom from military presence. Jose was all for joining the rally, although his wife feared for his safety. Jose said this was a chance to tell the government in Manila how he and others in the village felt. Jose was in the frontlines of the delegation from Matnog when the marchers met the soldiers in Camambugan, and thus provided an immediate target. He left behind a wife and five children.

BENJAMEN BUENA SUYAT

Benjamen Suyat, 47, was born in Tabaco, Albay but he and his siblings grew up in Matnog. Seeking sanctuary from the Japanese during its occupation of the Philippines in the 1940s, the Suyat couple relocated to mountainous Camarines Norte. Benjamen became a tenant farmer, and his wife Margarita sold farm produce in the local market. The couple had ten children.

With a big family to provide for, Benjamen was up and out to the farm very early in the morning but always made it a point to gather all his children late in the afternoon to ask about their day. He was kind but a bit strict with the children’s discipline. He was ever ready to dispense advice to them as well as to friends. The couple persevered to put all their children to school. One was in college and the rest in high school and elementary when Benjamen was killed.

Benjamen joined the rally with no trepidation. His children were looking forward to their daily afternoon talk with him. Instead they were told he had been killed in the rally. Later his family managed to retrieve his bullet-riddled body at the morgue.

ROGELIO SALAYON GUEVARRA

Born and raised in Daet, Rogelio Guevarra, 45, worked at several jobs in Manila during his bachelor days. He was sales clerk at an appliance store and then tailor at a shop in Sampaloc, Manila, where his father also worked. During visits to the province, he met Juana Abad, wooed and married her, and the two settled in Matnog, to farm on Juana’s father’s land. The couple had five children.

Rogelio engaged in copra production and was thus heavily affected when the price of copra dipped during the late 1970s and into the 1980s. An avid newspaper reader, he kept abreast of current events and was particularly angered by news of the political maneuverings of crony capitalists. He joined the rally to air his grievances against government’s wrongdoings and what he felt was an oppressive coconut levy.

Rogelio was a leader in the barangay, being once a barangay secretary. At the march to Daet, he was in the frontlines and thus was prime target for the soldiers’ bullets. His fatal wound was in the neck but witnesses say soldiers clubbed him on the head even as he fell.

He joined because he “wanted to say his piece,” his daughter says. “To this day I see in my mind my father holding a cup of coffee in one hand, newspaper in the other, and telling us his children of the urgent need for changes in government. ‘Kapit-bisig ngani, we must do it,’ were his words.”

*The late Grace Vinzons-Magana was the granddaughter of wartime hero Wenceslao Vinzons of Camarines Norte. The family operated a radio station in Daet.

**The late Jesus Antonio Carpio was a member of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and was in the forefront of the anti-dictatorship movement in the Bicol region. After the dictatorship was dismantled and the Cory Aquino government took over, he accepted the post of director of the National Bureau of Investigation.

ALCANTARA, Jose Esteban



Pope John Paul II came to visit the Philippines in February 1981. With world media focused on the country, Ferdinand Marcos declared in January that he had lifted martial law and partially restored the writ of habeas corpus. He was seeking to justify his one-man rule. Nine years since he launched his dictatorship and promised a New Society, the country was instead mired deep in debt, deficit, and price increases. It was fighting a war against Muslims in the South that had claimed thousands of lives, both civilian and combatant, with no end in sight. Except for the Marcos cronies, most Filipinos found themselves in even a worse condition than before. The mood for protest was becoming increasingly bold in many parts of the country.

Marcos needed a fresh mandate. He called for presidential elections in June 1981.

But the announcement was met with national cynicism, for how could fair, free and credible elections be expected with soldiers terrorizing the population? A call to boycott the elections spread. It started with protest forums, small-town rallies, open manifestos, and painted wall slogans. By April, bigger demonstrations were being held, attracting many first-time protesters. By May 1st, Labor Day, not only labor workers filled the ranks of demonstrations, but a wide section that included bank employees, teachers, lawyers, priests and nuns and even traditional politicians. On June 12, Independence Day, a record number of protest rallies were held in 31 cities and towns, a coordinated movement not seen since Marcos declared martial law in 1972.

Nevertheless the elections pushed. Election day cheating and coercion were widespread as expected. Marcos “won” over his unknown opponent Alejo Santos, and he called his victory a fresh mandate from the people.

Then US President Ronald Reagan declared himself “pleased” with the election results and said the US government saw the Marcos regime in the “warmest terms possible.” US Secretary of State Alexander Haig and then US Vice-President George Bush came to the Philippines to show support. Bush attended the inauguration and later gave a speech in Malacañang, making the incredible and unforgettable statement, “We love your adherence to democratic principles and to the democratic process.” He also promised, “(We) will not leave you in isolation.”

Still, the boycott campaign was a success, with 60 percent of all qualified voters in Metro Manila staying away from the precincts. More importantly, it became obvious that the Marcos regime would not give up power voluntarily. Marcos had to be forced out. Filipinos were becoming convinced that the insanity had to be stopped, but it would go on until ordinary folks united in action. Thus each repressive act ignited another round of protests from local citizens.

The historic events of 1981 provided the fertile ground on which, five years later in 1986, at EDSA, the people would indeed drive Marcos out of Malacañang.

Protest movement in Bicol

In the months preceding the presidential elections, the southern Tagalog region had exploded with the red hues of protest. In February, farmers were in another protest march in Guinyangan town in Quezon when soldiers shot at the marchers and killed two protesters.

The 1981 boycott campaign thus reverberated across the Bicol region. It was coordinated by the Kilusang Mamamayan para sa Tunay na Demokrasya, or KMTD. On the eve of election day, KMTD organized rallies to be held in four population centers of Bicol: Daet in Camarines Norte, Sipocot in Camarines Sur, in Iriga City, and in Daraga in Albay. All except the rally in Daet pushed through. The Daet rally was cancelled on the hour it was supposed to start.

Daet Rally

The morning of June 14, 1981, a Sunday, was bright and sunny. Thousands of protesters, mostly rural folk, were coming to Daet from various directions and expected to merge at the town’s Freedom Park beside the Catholic Cathedral, where there would be speeches and protest declarations. Some groups started the night before to escape detection by the authorities. They passed through little-known trails and used bright stones and white rice grains to light their way. Some did not converge immediately but waited until it was the right time for coming together.

But at Daet’s Freedom Park, thousands of protesters and protest leaders were already waiting with placards and streamers that said “Down with the Marcos dictatorship!,” “Raise the prices of copra!” and “Dismantle Cocofed.”

In Barangay Matnog in Basud town, most residents were joining the rally. They left their homes past dawn to begin their trek early. They had prepared their meals the night before. Rallyists remember they packed simple lunchesbut were told not to bring spoon or fork, because fork might be construed as a weapon.

They marched north to Daet, taking the secondary roads to bypass military checkpoints. Other marchers from other towns joined in at the junctions. Over 300 marchers from Mercedes town turned up. They reported that some 1,500 started the march but the rest were stopped by the military. Another 500 marchers from Talisay were also intercepted by soldiers. Despite this the marchers to Daet had grown to some 3,000 to 4,000 men, women and children, sweaty and eager to join the bigger crowd waiting at the park.

Barely a kilometer away from their final destination, at the crossing called Camambugan, they were stopped by some 35 soldiers of the 242nd company of the Philippine Constabulary, commanded by a Capt. Joseph Malilay. The marchers were told to stop, disperse and return to their villages. But Freedom Park was now so near, the group would not disperse. The impasse lasted for half an hour while the marchers debated their decision. Then firm in their determination, the marchers decided to move forward, with the frontliners’ arms held tight to each other. There was pushing and shoving between the two forces, and then the order to fire was given, with Capt. Malilay himself among those firing at close range.The PC commander of the province, a Col. Nicasio Custodio, was also present at the incident.

The firing lasted less than a minute. But in that half-instant, four men were killed and more than were forty wounded. The crowd dispersed. Soldiers pursued the protesters and those they got they had them line up along the side of a road with their hands on their heads, threatening to shoot them all.

At this point a group led by KMTD leader Grace Vinzons-Magana arrived and confronted the soldiers. Magana was quoted as telling the soldiers: “Why did you do this? Those people were unarmed and could not defend themselves! You should have given them firearms (to even up the fight)!” She also demanded they bring the wounded to hospitals. The soldiers then loaded all dead and wounded on trucks. Mrs. Magana stayed until this was completed. Later she visited the wounded in the various hospitals and clinics.

No photographs survived what was later termed Daet’s Black Sunday. No journalist was present and everyone else was intent on the business at hand. FLAG chair Jose Diokno came the day after the massacre, and was himself detained a few hours in the military camp. There were unconfirmed reports that two more protesters died from their wounds weeks later (Rosita Arcega, 30, and Ernesto Encinas, 25).

Three weeks after the shooting, Magana, a radio station owner and coordinator of KMTD for Camarines Norte*, and KMTD chair Antonio Carpio**, a lawyer, were themselves put under arrest, on orders reportedly signed by Marcos. Carpio was picked up by the notorious Capt. Malilay himself. Malilay was also seen terrorizing the wounded confined in hospitals.

The dictatorship-controlled mass media reported the shooting as an encounter between rebels and government troopers. A team of military lawyers, sent to investigate the incident, promised action in due time. Magana and Carpio were released on bail later. (However, a Malaya report four years after the incident stated that Malilay and Custodio remained free and even enjoyed promotions.)

In its own report, the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) made the following observations of the incident: (a) all the wounded and killed were standing at the front of the march; (b) all the four killed were from direct shots, not ricocheting bullets, and that their wounds and those of the wounded came from the direction where the soldiers stood; and (c) no weapons were found on the marchers. It was obviously a one-sided affair, the TFDP said.

In a statement, the KMTD said it denounced the use of soldiers to “stop and disperse Filipino citizens peacefully exercising their constitutional right to assemble and petition for redress of grievances in an orderly manner,” the “callous disregard for human life demonstrated by the Camarines Norte PC in resorting to guns to stop our citizens’ march,” and condemned as criminal act of the higher military authorities (the) covering up of the wanton slaughter of defenseless, innocent citizens of this Republic.”

The violent dispersal of the peaceful rally added to the growing national outrage against the dictatorship.

The four killed at the rally were all ordinary people, leading mostly uneventful lives. But they heard the call of citizenship at a time when it was most needed. In doing so, they gave their lives so that justice and democracy may be enjoyed again in this country. Because they were ordinary folk and lived in faraway villages, their names would not be remembered if the country that owes them their freedom would not put their names on the record.

By adding their names to its list, Bantayog shows the Filipino youth that life given for the heroic cause of justice and freedom, is worthy of emulation and edification.

The four martyrs of Daet are Elmer Lis Lagarteja, Jose Esteban Alcantara, Benjamin Buena Suyat, and Rogelio Salayon Guevarra.

ELMER LIS LAGARTEJA

Elmer Lagarteja was born in Basud, Camarines Norte. His father was a farmer renting a piece of land from a landowner, and his mother a dressmaker and hairstylist. Elmer earned a few units at a local college in Daet. He left the college when his parents separated, and found work at a clothes factory in Angono, Rizal, to help his mother rear his four younger siblings.

Tall and lanky, family and barriomates describe Elmer as a happy person, usually clowning around, providing laughter in gatherings. He was back home for a short visit when he heard news about the rally. Most of his barriomates were joining, including his father and younger brother. He himself supported their causes and wanted to give support, and so he marched in high spirits that fateful morning.

Elmer was shot in the head, chest and left arm. He was 21 years old.

JOSE ESTEBAN ALCANTARA

Jose Alcantara was a few days shy of his 40th birthday when he was killed. The son of tenant farmers, he worked hard in doing odd jobs as a young boy in Payo, Catanduanes, where he was born. In search for greener pastures, the Alcantaras moved to Naga where Jose found work in a bakery, married a coworker, and moved to Daet.

In Daet, Jose rented farmland and provided for his growing family by growing rice and and vegetables for the family table and selling his coconut crop. Friends remember Jose as someone hardworking, and one who related well with his neighbors.

Life was simple in Barangay Matnog where Jose and his family settled, but the presence of soldiers terrorizing them was becoming a burden. He yearned for peace and freedom from military presence. Jose was all for joining the rally, although his wife feared for his safety. Jose said this was a chance to tell the government in Manila how he and others in the village felt. Jose was in the frontlines of the delegation from Matnog when the marchers met the soldiers in Camambugan, and thus provided an immediate target. He left behind a wife and five children.

BENJAMEN BUENA SUYAT

Benjamen Suyat, 47, was born in Tabaco, Albay but he and his siblings grew up in Matnog. Seeking sanctuary from the Japanese during its occupation of the Philippines in the 1940s, the Suyat couple relocated to mountainous Camarines Norte. Benjamen became a tenant farmer, and his wife Margarita sold farm produce in the local market. The couple had ten children.

With a big family to provide for, Benjamen was up and out to the farm very early in the morning but always made it a point to gather all his children late in the afternoon to ask about their day. He was kind but a bit strict with the children’s discipline. He was ever ready to dispense advice to them as well as to friends. The couple persevered to put all their children to school. One was in college and the rest in high school and elementary when Benjamen was killed.

Benjamen joined the rally with no trepidation. His children were looking forward to their daily afternoon talk with him. Instead they were told he had been killed in the rally. Later his family managed to retrieve his bullet-riddled body at the morgue.

ROGELIO SALAYON GUEVARRA

Born and raised in Daet, Rogelio Guevarra, 45, worked at several jobs in Manila during his bachelor days. He was sales clerk at an appliance store and then tailor at a shop in Sampaloc, Manila, where his father also worked. During visits to the province, he met Juana Abad, wooed and married her, and the two settled in Matnog, to farm on Juana’s father’s land. The couple had five children.

Rogelio engaged in copra production and was thus heavily affected when the price of copra dipped during the late 1970s and into the 1980s. An avid newspaper reader, he kept abreast of current events and was particularly angered by news of the political maneuverings of crony capitalists. He joined the rally to air his grievances against government’s wrongdoings and what he felt was an oppressive coconut levy.

Rogelio was a leader in the barangay, being once a barangay secretary. At the march to Daet, he was in the frontlines and thus was prime target for the soldiers’ bullets. His fatal wound was in the neck but witnesses say soldiers clubbed him on the head even as he fell.

He joined because he “wanted to say his piece,” his daughter says. “To this day I see in my mind my father holding a cup of coffee in one hand, newspaper in the other, and telling us his children of the urgent need for changes in government. ‘Kapit-bisig ngani, we must do it,’ were his words.”

*The late Grace Vinzons-Magana was the granddaughter of wartime hero Wenceslao Vinzons of Camarines Norte. The family operated a radio station in Daet.

**The late Jesus Antonio Carpio was a member of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and was in the forefront of the anti-dictatorship movement in the Bicol region. After the dictatorship was dismantled and the Cory Aquino government took over, he accepted the post of director of the National Bureau of Investigation.

prev 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 130 140 150 160 170 180 190 200 210 220 230 240 250 260 270 280 290 300 310 320 330 340 350 360 370 380 390 400 410 420 430 440 450 460 470 480 490 500 510 520 530 540 550 560 next