To Seek and Live the Truth and Share a Vision

(Mrs. Edith Burgos shared about the life of her husband, Bantayog Martyr and press freedom advocate Joe Burgos during the First Quarter Celebration of Life last February 28, 2014.) 

"To seek and live the truth and share a vision." This in a capsule was the life of Jose G. Burgos, Jr.

I was a teacher and he was a reporter, those times before, during and right after martial law, the salaries of a teacher and newspaper reporter put together would be enough to live a decent albeit frugal life. With four children then, it was difficult but not heavy to make both ends meet. This was because, Joe would somehow be able to provide for occasions to create memories: out of town camping trips, food excursions, picnics in the most unlikely places in the metropolis, the slopes of Antipolo to watch the city skyline’s colors change while savoring a balot.

The good life could be lived with the bare minimum requirements. This was why it was not difficult for him to give up a lucrative position of public affairs manager of one of the biggest government corporations when he put up the We forum.

Joe lived the ‘impossible dream’ in his short stint on earth (65 years). He was only 38 when we started publishing. At the height of Martial Law in 1977, Joe saw the need for an alternative opposition paper so that there would be a venue for the other side of the stories to be published (at that time all the newspapers were controlled by the dictatorship).

Thus was born the ‘mosquito press", so named because we were so small, we didn’t even own a printing press when we started. With one table, one chair and one borrowed typewriter, We Forum was born.

Typical to a mosquito the newspapers were small but buzzed and irritated the powers that be. Persistent and constant the newspapers eventually grew into (we still hold the record of the biggest number of copies printed in one day --- 300,000) a 5-editions per day newspaper. At this time we already had 4 publications – We Forum, Malaya, Masa and Midday Masa.  English and Tagalog, broadsheet and tabloid. Joe was practical, he lived in the office. But he was always able to spend quality time (with his family).

This was Joe, nothing deterred him, not even the raid on our newspapers, the confiscation of our printing press, office, his being incarcerated in solitary confinement.

Where did he get his drive and courage? Little is known about Joe’s spiritual life. He appeared to be gruff and loud and carefree if one knew him cursorily. But I who lived with him in the same house, the same room and shared all his moments, I assure you his relationship with God was so solid that he spent hours per day just in silence with God. Early morning, late at night, at 6 a.m., 12 noon, 6 p.m., he would take time out to seek his friend and converse with his friend wherever he was.

Joe got his courage from knowing that he was doing God’s will for him. He knew that he could go anytime: be killed or ambushed only if this was God’s will. He dared the ‘kings’ and ‘pharisees’ – stood before them to point out the unjust structures that oppressed the small, the poor, the marginalized. To my mind, that made Joe a prophet.

When I asked him once if he felt that the newspaper had any effect on the decisions of those who read it, his answer was “It is my duty to report the truth. What they do or decide is their lookout.”

As he was with his children, believing in the potential of each one, so also was he in managing the staff of the newspapers. He somehow brought out the best in each one. For a measly ‘barya’ as they called it, the staff refused to leave Malaya even after we were closed down. They willingly worked, for free if necessary, just so the newspapers would come out. Through all these he remained humble.

When he was very sick I would ask him – if he saw meaning in all the pain. I was half expecting to hear him say that he offered for those who forgot what happened during the dictatorship.  Instead he smiled and said, “If we pray we do not need to look for meanings. His last words were “Praise to you God.”

He lived the truth, whether it was as a father, a husband, a newspaperman or just a simple farmer. This vision of sharing the truth he left with his children and those who worked with us. His memory lives on through them.  He offered his life, even to the grave, a martyr for the country and for God.

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‘Lean the Musical’ Timely Restaging Rides Public Clamor for Change


(Written by Kristine Angeli Sabillo for the Inquirer)

Sixteen years since it was first staged, “Lean,” a musical about the life and death of iconic student activist Lean Alejandro, remains relevant and thought-provoking.

“Lean” traces the young activist’s life, from his stint as University of the Philippines council chairman at the height of the Marcos dictatorship to his stymied attempt to bring progressive politics to Congress, just months before he was assassinated at the age of 27.

Amid heavy rains, people filled the University of the Philippines’ Aldaba Hall last Saturday to watch UP Repertory breathe life into the musical penned by Gary Granada and first performed by the likes of Chikoy Pura, Cookie Chua, Bayang Barrios and Noel Cabangon.

For the next two hours, “Lean” entertained the audience – many too young to have first-hand experience of Martial Law – into understanding the lessons of Lean’s short-lived life.

September to remember

The original “Lean the Musical” was staged in September 1997 after prominent artists from the local folk and alternative rock music scene banded together in a fitting tribute for the young martyr’s tenth death anniversary.

September was a significant month in Lean’s life. On September 21, 1972, then President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law, changing the course of Philippine history and the lives of many Filipinos. It was during these dark and trying times that Lean was molded into an influential student leader and later rose to national prominence for his courageous struggle against the dictatorship.

However, on September 19, 1987, more than a year after the restoration of democracy, Lean was shot dead in his car by still unknown assassins.

It is in this context that the UP Repertory, through the direction of their alumna Kathryn Manga, staged the new “Lean” from September 9 to 21 in commemoration of “the life of Lean Alejandro and the struggle of the Filipino people against martial rule.”

Musical director Karl Ramirez said the play, which combined socially-relevant lyrics and popular music genres, “is an attempt to bring the life of Lean Alejandro closer to the youth through music…while inspiring them to act for change.”

Among those who watched last Saturday’s run was first year UP law student Lee Edson Garcia who said not only did the songs help students like him connect with the story, it also created context.
Coinciding with snowballing protests against the pork barrel system, the play put the audience in a pensive mood, reflecting on the country’s state of affairs and the need to act for change.

“There are a lot of issues coming out about corruption…and closer to students are the issues of basic services [including] budget allocation to education. I think [the play encourages] the students to be more involved in these issues. I think this is the reverberating theme of the play ‘Lean,’” Garcia said.
Rupert Mangilit, secretary general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said the restaging “came at a right time.”

“Everyone’s angry about the pork barrel scam, the apparent misuse of public funds. The anger of the people needs direction. During Lean’s time, he was one of those who helped direct the people’s anger…towards something substantial for the society,” he said.

Mangilit said the play should be seen by many, especially now that public outrage is peaking.

Meanwhile, television actress and UP Repertory alumna Ces Quesada lauded the cast for “a very spirited performance” at a time when there’s a lot that needs to be done in the country.

“Sometimes we are bothered because the youth of today seem apathetic…It’s a good feeling that we have students like them (in the UP Repertory) who would mount something like this to get the message across,” she said.


Breaking the fourth wall

Though mostly faithful to the original play, Ramirez said the new “Lean” had several small but substantial deviations such as changes in the musical arrangement and the use of videos as the play’s backdrop.

He said the music was re-arranged to accommodate not only rock and blues but also techno and other popular music genres.

“The production (team) thought the adaptation should also be based on the ability of UP Rep. UP Repertory is popular for their fun and comic acts,” Ramirez said, explaining why the play had more light moments compared to the original.

It was therefore not surprising when members of the UP Repertory, known for their “tula-dula” and comical but socially-relevant skits, kept delivering humorous lines and witty side-comments with perfect timing.

Among the most applauded was Ekis Gimenez who played “Jojo,” the typical villain’s sidekick.
At the start of the play, Jojo broke the ice with the expectant audience, when he told Mr. Tim (the antagonist played by Jose Adrian Dalangin) that he has indeed seen the activists and they were even dancing.

“Ganito nga choreography nila oh (This is how there choreography looked like)…” he said, with matching demonstration.

Throughout the play, Gimenez’s character interacted with the audience, drawing attention to and breaking the boundaries of the “fourth wall.” This was also done by the other actors a couple of times, implying that their fictional characters knew that they were in a play and that there was an audience watching.

Limited by budget constraints, the use of the relatively small Aldaba Hall also contributed to the charming intimacy of the play.

Activists, Metrocom (police) officers and Aquino supporters would pass by the aisles, discussing or shaking hands with the audience as part of the story.

At one point, an officer wittingly exclaimed, “Ang sikip lang dito sa daan (The road is too narrow)!” blaming the jam-packed auditorium for his late arrival and failure to catch Lean (played by Odraube “Third” Alub, alternating with Vencer Crisostomo) and other protesters.

In another scene, Mr. Tim would tell Jojo to arrest anyone just to show their superiors that they were doing their job. Jojo would then walk over to the front and arrest someone from the audience, picking them out based on the color of their clothes.

“During the 3 pm show, he arrested the ‘man in the red shirt, the singer from The Jerks’,” Ramirez said, referring to Chikoy Pura who was the original Lean in the 1997 play.

But amid the humor and the “kilig-worthy” love story of Lean and Lidy (played by Isabel Maria Luz Quesada and Chyrene Moncada on alternate days), UP Repertory’s “Lean” stayed true to its objective of imparting, to younger generations, both the horrors and heroic acts of the era.

As the play’s synopsis said, Lean’s life “defined an era of student activism.” But it also inspires the youth of today, especially since many societal problems during that time have still not been resolved.

The second act of the play showed Lean grappling with personal and political contradictions, as well as his attempt to enter mainstream politics by running against the moneyed Tessa Oreta-Aquino.

The scene, while set more than two decades ago, seemed fairly familiar to the young audience as Lean’s opponents, in an upbeat tune, sang of vote-buying and registering corpses as voters.

“Dito, dito lang sa Pilipinas (Only, only in the Philippines)!” the chorus sang as Lean argued for the need to change the culture of elections.

“Lean” is indeed a remarkable piece of literature – tied to history but at the same time very much alive and evolving.

The new “Lean” is engaging as it combines the old and the new, marrying the profound details of the past to contemporary art and sentiments.

The scene which shows Lean driving as he sings the half-somber half-hopeful “Parating na Ako (I am Coming)” creates an intense, brooding mood just before the climactic ending.

Ramirez said the video backdrop showed the actual streets Lean passed by after his announcement at the National Press Club of a “welgang bayan (general strike)” and before he was killed in the afternoon of September 19, 1987.

“The scene of Lean’s death, the footage showing the camera fall (implying Lean falling after he was shot) is actually from the Mendiola massacre,” Ramirez said.

He said their research team was able to gather actual footages of protests during Lean’s time and used them as moving backdrops for the play. He said that particular “camera shake” was from the actual Mendiola massacre, when a camera was toppled over as the first shots rang out.

The beauty of the new “Lean” does not only come from its gripping libretto (based on the young activist’s quotable quotes) or last-song-syndrome-worthy music, it comes from the truthful and creative re-telling of history and the play’s overall ability to weave the past and the present together to bring forth a story that engages and provokes the audience.

“Lean” shows that art, like freedom, is a process and a struggle.

Ma. Serena Diokno's Speech at 2012 Annual Honoring

Speech of Dr Maria Serena I. Diokno, Chair, National Historical Commission of the Philippines at the annual Bantayog ng mga Bayani honoring of heroes and martyrs.

Bulacan Martyrs of 1982

While most ordinary Filipinos were cowed by the repressive machinations of the Marcos dictatorship, a good number actually exhorted the population to defy the regime and struggle to reclaim their freedoms and see democracy restored in the country. Most of these courageous few came from the youth sector.

The youth had the advantage of exuberance, idealism, and a deep sense of love for country. They, particularly the students in schools, also had access to information and resources useful for understanding the situation the country was in. It was natural that the youth would be the least cowed by the dictatorship.

Testing the martial law waters, first they organized to demand reforms in the campuses, raising issues such as tuition fee increases and demanding the restoration of student councils and student publications. Then they spread out into the communities and the rural areas, where they engaged the rest of the working population in discussions and debates, seeking to sweep away apathy and fear, and bolster the people’s courage to fight for justice and freedom. In doing this, these young people often had to abandon lives of comfort and ease, risking discovery, arrest, jail, even death, for some higher purpose. Many survived these risky ventures but some did not. They fell on the wayside, never returning to their old lives or their waiting families, their bloods merging with the soil where they fell.

Among these young people who heeded this powerful call to give all for one’s country despite the risks, never to return and never even to see victory, are the five youths from Bulacan province being nominated for Bantayog’s roster of heroes and martyrs: Danilo Aguirre, Edwin Borlongan, Teresita Llorente, Renato Manimbo, and Constantino Medina.

The group had been meeting to draft a program of action and to evaluate their initial work. Just this early stage had taken months to do. Then, one day in June of 1982, they were meeting inside a farmer’s house in Pulilan town when a huge group of soldiers came and took them away. The following day, all five were found dead.

A factsheet from the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (July 9, 1982) later gave an account of the incident:

They were six organizers, including a female, meeting at a farmer’s house to assess their work when suddenly they heard orders “not to move” for the house was surrounded. Then emerged some 30 heavily-armed soldiers from the 175th Philippine Constabulary (PC) Company led by a captain and a major. One of the six organizers inside the house managed to climb out of a window undetected and hide himself on the rooftop. The rest of the unarmed organizers submitted themselves without resistance.

Early the following morning, townspeople of San Rafael, some 20 kilometers away, were shocked to see five bullet-riddled bodies displayed at a corner of their municipal hall. Casualties from an encounter, the PC soldiers said. The municipal hall employees shelled out personal money to buy caskets, and for the female who was clad in pajamas, a pair of jeans. They had the bodies buried at the local cemetery in the afternoon of that same day.

The sixth member, still unaware of his friends’ fate, quickly told the victims’ families what had happened. Relatives immediately went to inquire at the camp of the 175th PC Company as well as in other possible military centers, but they were told no such detainees were being held in their camp. They learned of the deaths the following day.

The families of Rey Manimbo and Edwin Borlongan recovered their bodies on the third day. Those of the three others were recovered ten days after the incident, but only with the intercession with the military of the Bishop of Malolos. The bodies of all five showed heavy bruises and many bullet wounds.

Nine priests offered to concelebrate a funeral mass for the last three bodies to be recovered. The mass was said at the Barasoain Church in Malolos, after which the bodies were buried at the Meycauayan Cemetery. A campaign was started in Bulacan among various church and human rights groups to press for justice for the five youths. When Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. was himself assassinated a year later, many Bulakeños joined the protests, remembering the five unarmed youths whose lives were so harshly snuffed out the year before. Many poems, songs and stories would be written in memory of the five organizers. The AMGL itself began to take root in Bulacan. The perpetrators were not known to have been investigated nor punished.

Ibaloi Rebel Enshrined at Bantayog Ng Mga Bayani

Written by Ace Alegre, originally posted at Nordis

An Ibaloi scion who joined the New Peoples Army in the eighties and martyred six years later is among 14 new heroes enshrined November 30, National Heroes Day at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani.

Wright M. Molintas Jr., who used the nom de guerre “Ka Chadli”, a scion of two prominent Ibaloi clans was immortalized on the Wall of Remembrance this year in the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation’s Annual Celebration of Martyrs and Heroes in the Bantayog grounds in Quezon City.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation processes nominations under an earlier set of standards of who have given their lives in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship, and honors them with their surviving family annually.

To date, Molintas Jr. is the second Benguet Ibaloi honored in the Bantayog after young Baguio activist Jennifer Cariño who was earlier enshrined on the Wall of Remembrance along with Kalinga chieftain Macliing Dulag and  Pedro Dungoc, both from Tinglayan, Kalinga; and human rights defender Atty. Arthur Galace.

Among the more prominent honorees at the Bantayog are Sen. Benigno Aquino II and former Pres. Corazon Aquino,  Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, film director Catalino Brocka, journalist Jose Burgoz Jr., Gov. Cesar Climaco, historian Renato Constantino, nun Mariani Dimaranan; Sen. Jose Diokno, Italian priest Tullio Favali, legislator Bonifacio Gillego, Gov. Evelio Javier, Edgar Jopson, Dean Armando Malay and his wife Paula Carolina, Sen. Raul Manglapus, Justice Jose B Reyes, Dr. Nemesio Prudente, Sen. Lorenzo Tanada and Justice Claudio Teehankee.

“It is really an honor for us (the family) to have Chadli in there,” said Chadli’s older brother, former Baguio City councilor and lawyer Jose Mencio Molintas, a former UN expert on Indigenous Peoples Mechanisms and a known social activist too.

His example of selfless service and “offering his life so that others may live” is worthy of emulation even in everyday life under the social realities of today, added Atty. Molintas. “The youth should learn from his and the other heroes’ example of love of country and devotion to democracy.”

Leaving a supposedly promising career after graduating from his Geodetic Engineering scholarship at UP Diliman, Chadli joined the NPA in Kalinga province in 1981.

He was in the underground movement in Northern Luzon until he was slain in a supposed encounter with government troopers in La Union on July 9, 1987.

The NDF-allied Cordillera Peoples Democratic Front also enshrined Ka Chadli as “a Hero of the Cordillera Peoples” and named the New Peoples Army’s Regional Operational Command (ROC) after him – the Chadli Molintas Command (CMC).

Chadli, a soft-spoken but jolly and witty charmer, was a by-word everywhere he went while with the NPA, said a former comrade.

North To South Heroes

Listed this year with Molintas Jr. are Davao activist Edwin Laguerder, Norberto Acebedo Jr.;  Amada Alvarez; Marsman Alvarez; Monico Atienza; Silme Domingo; Rolando Federes; Ceferino Flores Jr.; Ruben Lunas; Joji Paduano; Rosalina Galang Reyes; Dr. Arturo Taca; and Gene Viernes.

Edwin Laguerder, an adviser of a farmer’s organization in Davao who was murdered in December 1987. He was also a prominent student leader and a member of the Pi Sigma Fraternity that was founded in 1972 to mould frat brods into the social realities and facing them.

So was Prof. Monico Atienza who was a faculty adviser of the Pi Sigma in UP Diliman.

Ruben Felipe, their brod and former student leader said, “Pi Sigma salutes the brods who have offered time, their thoughts, and even lives for freedom, justice and democracy.”

14 Martyrs for Freedom Honored Today

(Originally posted at A writer, a medical doctor, a professor, student activists, US-born Filipino-Americans, and organizers of students, the youth, workers, peasants and communities will be among the honorees at the 25th anniversary celebration of Bantayog ng Mga Bayani (Monument of Heroes) to be held November 30 in Quezon City.

Several of the honorees were killed either arbitrarily or died in bloody battles. Three are women. Most died young, while a number of them died of natural causes. Several are missing until today. All were activists opposed to the martial law regime of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The way they lived and died varied, but they all had a heroic streak that made them worthy of emulation and special remembrance.

Read the rest at Inquirer.Net

Why Young Filipinos Should Know the Tragic, Inspiring Story of Gene & Silme

(Written by Benjamin Pimental and originally posted at

Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes each had a chance to visit the Philippines only once. But 30 years ago, the two Filipino Americans died fighting to help set the country free.

On Wednesday, Nov. 30, Domingo and Viernes, together with Arturo Taca, will be added to the roster of heroes and martyrs of the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani — the first Filipino Americans to have their names included on the respected foundation’s Wall of Remembrance honoring those who died fighting the regime of Ferdinand Marcos.

Domingo and Viernes, both whom died at the age of 29, will join the ranks of such respected figures as Ninoy Aquino, Jose Diokno and Chino Roces.

The story of Domingo and Viernes is not that well known to many Filipinos. But it’s a tale of courage and commitment that should be told and retold in the Philippines and the United States.

Viernes was the son of a migrant worker from Urdaneta, Pangasinan who worked in the fields of Yakima Valley in Washington State, and in the canneries of Alaska.

Domingo’s parents, who were from Ilocos Sur and Cebu, were also farm workers. His father and brother were labor activists, and with them, Domingo helped organize cannery workers facing discrimination in the workplace.

In the 1970s, Domingo and Viernes’ paths crossed. Outraged by the rise of a dictatorial regime in the Philippines, they joined thousands of U.S.-based Filipinos in the long fight against Marcos.

Like Domingo and Viernes, many of these young Filipinos were children of immigrants who grew up in the U.S., but who found themselves drawn to what was going on in their parents’ homeland,

It was a risky struggle. Marcos was known to have allies in the United States who spied on and bullied the regime’s opponents.

In the case of Domingo and Viernes, the harassment turned to violence.

On June 1, 1981, three assassins walked into the Cannery Workers Local 37 in Seattle, and shot Domingo and Viernes.

The killers were later arrested and convicted. But Domingo and Viernes’ family and allies knew the dictatorship was behind the murders.

After a long legal battle, a US federal court agreed. The court ruled that the Marcoses were liable for the killings.

In her decision, U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein wrote, as quoted in the Seattle Times: “The court concludes that the plaintiffs have provided clear, cogent and convincing evidence that the Marcoses created and controlled an intelligence operation which plotted the murders of Domingo and Viernes.”

The Marcoses were ordered to pay the families of the two murdered Filipino American activists.

Filipino American activist Geline Avila said paying tribute to Viernes and Domingo is “an important step” in remembering the “significant role that the U.S.-based Filipino community played in the anti-dictatorship struggle then.”

It’s an important point.

Many young Filipino Americans probably have never heard of Domingo and Viernes and the role that many FilAms played in overthrowing the Marcos regime. Many of them are probably looking at events in the Philippines with confusion, even dismay.

Domingo and Viernes are being remembered as the Philippines reels from one political drama to the other. Meanwhile, the Marcos forces are making a comeback. Marcos Jr. wants to become president. And he is making shameless claims that the Philippines, under his father’s dictatorship, was a happy, prosperous country.

And just like during the time of the Marcos regime, that view has its supporters in the Filipino community in the United States.

One ardent U.S.-based Marcos supporter has repeatedly sent me e-mails, defending the regime, once claiming, “Anywhere I go in the Philippines today, there are many in their ripe years who are saying that mas mabuti pa noong panahon ni Marcos.”

This supporter claims Bongbong Marcos is “one of the best provincial governors we have had since time immemorial,” and makes it a point to highlight the scandals during the administrations in the post-Marcos era.

The message from this U.S.-based Marcos follower is clear – and twisted. It goes something like this: ‘See how these presidents have failed and made a mess of things — which just goes to show how life under Marcos was so much better?’

Which is why it’s important to remember the nightmare we endured under Marcos. And it’s important to remember the Filipinos who led the fight against the dictator — including those who did their fighting in the United States.

As the Domingo and Viernes legal battles showed, the Marcoses used a network of paid allies to do their dirty work in the U.S.

It might even be said that, in the United States, Marcos was known to attract cockroaches – even literally.

That’s what Terri Mast, Domingo’s widow, discovered during the deposition of the late dictator in Hawaii where Marcos fled after his regime was overthrown.

During one of the sessions with her attorneys, as Marcos was answering a question, Mast witnessed a bizarre incident.

“All of a sudden, I saw this huge cockroach — just huge,” she told me in an interview a few years ago. “And it was crawling up him. I was watching and wondering if anyone else is seeing it, watching it climb up him… He was answering a question and all of a sudden his lawyer saw the cockroach, and so he reaches out and slaps it away from him.”

The move startled Marcos, as Terri Mast recalled: “Marcos says, ‘What? Did I say the wrong thing?’ Everyone chuckled, of course. It was one of those light moments.”

A light moment in a story that was both tragic and inspiring.

Indeed, Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo never had the chance to spend much time in the homeland of their parents.

But Filipinos, especially young people, should remember and honor their courage and commitment to the Filipino nation.

The Story of Bantayog: a Monument to Heroes

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

Cory Aquino, Nun, 4 Activists Join Bantayog Heroes

(Written by Ma. Ceres Doyo for the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Former President Corazon C. Aquino leads this year’s batch of heroes and martyrs whose names will be inscribed on the Wall of Remembrance of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Monument of Heroes).

Besides Aquino, the latest additions to the roster are Sr. Asuncion Martinez, ICM, and activists Antonio G. Ariado, Melito T. Glor, Alfredo L. Malicay and Ronald Jan F. Quimpo.

The yearly Bantayog rites are held either on Nov. 30, Bonifacio Day, or Dec. 10, Human Rights Day.

Both Aquino and Martinez have been classified as heroes. They died of natural causes at a late age—Aquino at 76 on Aug. 1 and Martinez at 84 in 1994. The four young men, who all died in their 20s in the 1970s, are considered martyrs.

This year’s honorees bring to 179 the number of names etched on the black granite Wall of Remembrance near the 45-foot bronze monument by renowned sculptor Eduardo Castrillo that depicts a defiant mother holding a fallen son.

The monument, the wall and other structures in the Bantayog complex are dedicated to “the nation’s modern-day martyrs and heroes who fought against all odds to help regain freedom, peace, justice, truth and democracy in the country.”

The Bantayog recognition is conferred only after a close examination of a person’s life and manner of death.

Aquino couple

Aquino, fondly called Tita Cory by Filipinos, continues to be recognized around the world as an icon of democracy and had received numerous honors here and abroad while she was alive.

Her husband, former Sen. Benigno S. Aquino, who was assassinated in 1983, was among the first 65 persons whose names were etched on the Wall of Remembrance in 1992. The Aquinos are not the first couple to be included in the Bantayog roster. Their sacrifices and love of country are known to almost every Filipino.

Bantayog is honoring the former President for leading the fight to end the Marcos dictatorship, restoring civilian supremacy, reestablishing government accountability and helping restore the faith of the Filipino in themselves, their country and in democracy.

She is also being cited for “upholding her electoral mandate by stepping down at the end of her term, thus ensuring a calm transition.”

Nun at barricades

Martinez, or Sister Asun as she was fondly called, of the Immaculate Heart of Mary began her missionary work in the academic setting. When she was nearing her 60s, she responded to the call to work for the “church of the poor” and immersed herself among sugar workers in the Visayas.

She worked with the National Federation of Sugar Workers and the Federation of Free Farmers, and became exposed to the plight of sugar workers and farmers. She was among the founders of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.

When she returned to Manila in 1972, she immersed herself among workers and the urban poor. In 1975, when workers of the La Tondeña Distillery decided to strike to press their demands, she was among those they trusted to help them.

When soldiers broke up the strike and hauled the strikers to prison, Sister Asun dared them to arrest her, too, and held on to the bus that carried the workers.

“La Tondeña was my second baptism,” Martinez wrote in the book “I Climb Mountains.” She said: “I acquired a new heart, a new vision, a new understanding of my country's history and my people.”

After La Tondeña, Sister Asun became involved with the Urban Missionaries, the Friends of the Workers and other groups that supported workers. She continued to live with the poor in Bagong Barrio in Caloocan City, long after she had reached “retirement age.”

She ran The Wooden House which became a haven for distressed workers and activists.

Martinez died in 1994.


Born in 1949 to a well-to-do family in Sorsogon, Ariado excelled in academics. A gifted orator, poet and stage actor, he was also called escribiente or writer. He was also into sports.

When he went to college at Far Eastern University, Ariado became exposed to national issues. He joined demonstrations and experienced rough police dispersal. Undaunted, he continued to join rallies against US involvement in Vietnam.

Ariado became a member of the National Union of Students of the Philippines and, later, of the militant Kabataang Makabayan (KM). In 1970, he transferred to Araneta University but soon dropped out and returned home.

He then began organizing a local chapter of KM. He organized a long march in Bicol so that ordinary people could air their grievances and press for reforms.

When martial law was imposed in 1972, Ariado learned that he was on the government’s wanted list. With other activists, he went underground and joined the guerrilla movement. His family suffered harassment because of his activities.

A year later, Ariado and 12 others died in a military operation. He was 24.

Guerrilla fighter

Glor, who was from Quezon province, also came from a well-to-do family.

In high school, Glor was often called the campus James Dean. Bold and daring, he was a natural leader. In his yearbook, he wrote that his ambition was to be a soldier.

But Glor went to the University of the Philippines for a pre-med course, hoping to become a doctor. Soon activism got in the way of this ambition. He was often in protest rallies.

When martial law was declared in 1972, Glor went home to Quezon and recruited people for the armed resistance. He soon became one of the leading officers of the communist armed wing New People’s Army (NPA) in Southern Luzon and Bicol.

Glor married someone named Flor in 1973, but marriage did not stop him from doing his guerrilla work. He was a wanted man.

While on a trek with his pregnant wife and comrades, military troops caught up with them and opened fire without warning.

Glor died in the first volley. He was 24.

His wife, who was unhurt, was arrested. One of their companions, Manuel Blasco, was executed the next day.

The Melito Glor Command, an NPA command in Southern Luzon, was named after him.


Malicay was the son of poor farmers from Davao. As a student, he was hardworking and showed natural leadership. He graduated from high school with honors and was awarded a college scholarship by the 4H Club Scholarship Program.

He enrolled at the UP College of Agriculture in Los Baños, Laguna, and studied agricultural chemistry.

Malicay showed exceptional writing skills and became editor in chief from 1968 to 1969 of the Aggie Green and Gold, the student publication of the college. He joined the KM and, later, the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity.

As a KM organizer, Malicay recruited members from different schools. He wrote articles for the school publication, urging students to embrace nationalism, democracy and academic freedom.

He also supported friends from the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan.

Malicay and his friends organized a Friday discussion group which met and discussed the books of nationalist Renato Constantino and Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong.

Malicay finished his course in 1971 but he did not seek employment after graduation. He went into full-time organizing in Laguna, Quezon and Batangas, calling on the youth to demand social reforms for the exploited sectors of society.

He went back to school for graduate studies in UP Diliman, but when martial law was imposed in 1972, he returned to Los Baños to do full-time recruitment work against the dictatorship.

In 1973, while Malicay was in Malabon for a meeting with fellow activists, the house they were in was raided by the military. Three were arrested and two were shot dead.

Malicay was one of the dead. He was 27.

Because his family was too poor to travel from Davao to Manila, Malicay’s fraternity brothers took charge of retrieving his body and burying him at the Navotas Public Cemetery. Three of his brothers later also joined the anti-Marcos movement.

Well-behaved boy

Quimpo was known to be a well-behaved boy, but he also had a rebellious streak.

Born in Iloilo City, Quimpo was the seventh of nine children. He attended San Beda College in Manila for his elementary schooling and went to Philippine Science High School (PSHS) where he got exposed to activism. He was only in high school when he joined the KM.

He joined rallies to protest a sudden increase in gas prices in 1971. The shooting of a student further fanned the flame of protests.

Although he was only a senior at PSHS, Quimpo joined the students in barricading the UP campus in Diliman, Quezon City. The standoff became to be known as the Diliman Commune.

Quimpo went to UP for a degree in BS Geology. But his love for science could not match his desire to become a revolutionary and “serve the masses.” He left school and spent time in poor quarrying communities on the outskirts of the city where he felt like he was in a “Little Isabela,” the northern province where many activists dreamed of going.

Quimpo became aware of police abuses against the poor and was determined to work for their cause.

One day in 1973, while Quimpo was in the house of a fellow activist, narcotics agents raided the house. He and two other students, and two sisters who lived in the house were taken to a camp and subjected to psychological and physical torture.

One of the sisters, Liliosa Hilao, died after suffering torture.

Quimpo was a changed man after the experience. He quietly resumed his geology course. One day in 1977, the Philippine Constabulary raided the Quimpo house to arrest him and his younger brother, Ishmael Jr.

Not finding them, the soldiers left. One morning two weeks later, Quimpo, then 23, left home, saying he would be back for dinner. He never returned. He was never found.


Located at the corner of EDSA (Epifanio delos Santos Avenue) and Quezon Avenue in Quezon City, the Bantayog Memorial Center complex now boasts of a P16-million building, with a 1,000-square-meter floor space. It has a small auditorium with 72 seats, symbolic of the year (1972) tyrannical rule was imposed through martial law.

A museum and library-archives are also housed in the building.

Bantayog’s 1.5-hectare property was donated by the government, through Landbank, a year after the Marcos dictatorship was toppled and Aquino became president.

Every year, names are added to the Wall of Remembrance. The first 65 names were engraved on the black granite wall in 1992. An estimated 10,000 Filipinos are believed to have suffered and died during the Marcos dictatorship that ended in 1986.

Set up after the 1986 People Power Revolution, The Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation Inc. is chaired by Alfonso T. Yuchengco. Former Sen. Jovito R. Salonga is chair emeritus.

Bantayog’s facilities could accommodate special gatherings for special occasions.

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