bantayog.foundation

bantayog.foundation

GAYUDAN, Lumbaya Aliga "Ama Lumbaya"

Lumbaya Aliga Gayudan, known as Ama Lumbaya, was a Pangat, or peace pact holder, who played a critical role in one of the most important chapters in the history of the Cordillera nation, the fight against the Chico Dam River Project during the Marcos regime.


Rise of a Tribal Leader


Born in 1935, Ama Lumbaya was a Butbut tribal leader from Ngibat in Tinglayan, Kalinga who grew up in the Cordillera hinterlands. He had little formal education, but was steeped in the customs and traditions of his people. He was a farmer who was committed to his community where he was known as quiet and unassuming.

In the 1960s, Ama Lumbaya began to emerge as a leader after he was elected teniente del baryo, or barangay captain. He helped forge a peace treaty and end years of conflict between his tribe, the Butbut, and the Naneng tribe.

When peace could not be achieved, Ama Lumbaya was prepared to lead his tribe to war. That’s what happened in the 1970s when a conflict erupted over how to respond to the arrival of a mining company in their area. The Tulgao welcomed the mining operation, while the Butbut opposed it.


The Fight Against Dictatorship


Lumbaya

Ama Lumbaya and communities in the Mountain Province and the Kalinga confronted a bigger challenge in the 1970s when the Marcos regime unveiled the Chico River Dam Project. Funded by the World Bank, the project called for the construction a series of dams along the Chico river. It would obliterate villages, burial grounds,  and ricefields. The tribes resisted.

Lumbaya and another respected triba leader, Macli-ing Dulag, launched a campaign to prevent teams from the National Power Corporation (NPC) from conducting surveys on their land. They later traveled to Manila to explain their objections to the project Marcos and other agencies. They were ignored by the regime. Instead, the dictatorship sought to undermine the tribal leaders by organizing community meetings where they sought to convince residents to allow the NPC to proceed with the surveys.

Lumbaya and other tribal leaders kept on fighting back. In early 1975, the first bodong, or peace pact, was forged against the Chico River Dam project. This led to the Vochong, or a bodong among the Kalingas and Pechen among the Bontoks, during a May 1975 conference held at the St. Bridget’s School in Quezon City. The historic gathering was attended by 165 peace pact holders and tribal leaders of Bontoc and Kalinga as well as Church-based support groups.

The conference led to the adoption of the Anti-Dam Pagta ti Bodong, or Laws of the Peace Pact, and led to a multilateral agreement against a common external threat.  Lumbaya, Macliing and other tribal leaders were instrumental in the  consolidation of the resistance to the dams.

Like other Cordillera leaders, Lumbaya became a target of bribes and then threats.

When PANAMIN, or the Presidential Assistance on National Minorities, came to Kalinga in 1975, then Secretary Manda Elizalde summoned him to Lubuagan where he tried to buy him off. He failed. When Elizalde and his men then resorted threats, Lumbaya remained unfazed.

In the end, they had to let him go back home to Ngibat. On another occasion, Elizalde and his men went to Ngibat, summoned Lumbaya and offered him money. In response, Lumbaya said the money should be given to the community so they can decide what to do with the money.  Knowing the community would reject any proposal to push through with the project, Elizalde and his team left.

Opposition to the dam continued to grow. Lumbaya and other leaders continued organizing, eventually reaching out to the New People’s Army which had begun organizing in the Kalinga.

The Marcos regime responded to the opposition to the dam project by launching a militarization campaign, deploying more units of the Philippine Constabulary and the Civilian Home Defense Force. In 1976, the military cracked down on the opposition. Tribal leaders, including Ama Lumbaya, and other tribe members, some as young as 12-year old boys, were arrested and brought to the army’s provincial headquarters in Bulanao, Tabuk, Kalinga. Later, 50 arrested leaders, including Lumbaya, were transferred to Camp Olivas in Pampanga. They were released a few months later.


Circumstance of Death


Lumbaya remained active in the campaign against the dam project. By 1978, he had become a target of the military which also launched raids in Bugnay, Ngibat, and Butbut. The respected leader, Maci-ing Dulag, was killed in this campaign.

With peaceful options for opposing the Chico River Dam Project severely limited, Lumbaya joined the New People’s Army in 1980. Four years later, in 1984, he became ill with pneumonia after surviving a massive military operation. With no access to medical care, he succumbed after a month-long illness. He was buried near where he died. A year later, he was given proper burial in his native Ngibat. He was 50 years old. Lumbaya was survived by his wife Agsing and three children.


Ama Lumbaya and the community


On April 24, 2017, steel markers bearing the portraits of Lumbaya, Macli-ing Dulag and Pedro Dungoc were installed along the road in Bugnay in honor of the heroes of the fight against the Chico River Dam Project.

FERNANDEZ, Pablo Galvez



A first impression of Pablo Fernandez was that he was the silent type. Pabs, as he was fondly called, was tall and stood ramrod straight.  But he had a way about him that drew people to him. He was loved especially by the elderly for being “mabuot” or well-behaved. Friends described him as one who loved to talk, and that he was intelligent and logical in his reasoning.

Pablo was born in Pandaraunan, a rural barangay in Nueva Valencia, Guimaras Province.  He belonged to one of the respected families in the area which also held political power for generations. He started his elementary education in Dolores Elementary School, located in an adjacent barangay, then went to the Central Philippine University in Iloilo City for his secondary education. He was a consistent academic achiever from elementary through secondary school.

Pablo’s athletic skills were recognized when he became the captain of the University of the Philippines (UP) Iloilo college basketball varsity team. Following his parents’ wishes, he took a pre-med course at UP Iloilo, where his love for soldiery led him to become corps commander of the school’s ROTC. He had always been militarily- inclined, thus he pursued his dream of becoming a military man by taking advance courses in ROTC. As his aim was to be commissioned, he went for further military training in Cebu and became a reserved officer of the UP ROTC. In 1971, he married Alma Cabungcal, his childhood sweetheart who also went to the city for her secondary and college education. Their only child, Paul, was born three days before the declaration of martial law.

He was a firm believer in the dictum “mas maayo pa ang maginmatay ngana gabato para sa matarong nga kausa (It is better to die fighting for a just cause).”

History of political involvement


In the late ‘60s to the early ‘70s, Iloilo City slowly became one of the hotbeds of student activism against Marcos’ rule outside of Metro Manila. Pablo was in college then. Some of his classmates and good friends were leaders of the nationalist youth organizations. His younger brother, Ricardo, with whom he was very close, was a student activist himself. Their words of nationalism and efforts to call for reforms and justice for all strongly resonated with him. Thus, despite his military ambitions, Pabs became drawn to the teach-ins and discussion groups that transpired within the school premises. He avidly read books and other reading materials which showed the real Philippine situation.

Inspired by the First Quarter Storm of 1970 and the establishment of the Movement for a Democratic Philippines (MDP, an alliance of mass organizations and student councils), the Ilonggo students in Manila decided to establish an organization in Iloilo similar to MDP which would later be known as the Federation of Ilonggo Students (FIST). FIST welcomed nationalist professionals to the alliance, thus the Makabayang Samahan ng mga Propesyunal (MasangProp) was born. Pablo Fernandez joined the MasangProp – UP Visayas Chapter. Along with the other members, he gave political talks in schools, organizations and offices in an effort to enlighten people on various local and national issues affecting the country and to rally the people behind social change.  MasangProp also held medical and dental missions to depressed areas and it was in activities like these where he saw the government’s neglect and felt the lack of social justice.

After the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971, more than 60 activists and opposition leaders were ordered arrested by Marcos. Four of those activists arrested were from Iloilo. Pablo Fernandez and his group of activist friends took over the leadership of the student movement in Iloilo and protested the possible declaration of martial law. They called for the release of the political prisoners.

Pablo was elected municipal councilor of Nueva Valencia, Guimaras in November 1971 and took his oath in January 1972. As a municipal councilor and activist advocating reforms in the government and the military, he was disillusioned by the systemic corruption he had witnessed.

When martial law was declared in September of 1972, Pablo Fernandez (who held the rank of  2nd Lieutenant in the Philippine Army) was about to be sent by the military to Mindanao. He chose to follow his conscience and refused to work with Marcos’ martial law, which was then aiming to wage war against the Moro and the Filipino people in Mindanao. He avoided a court martial and left his home in October 1972 for the hills (where fellow activists had prepared a base for all those activists who were being pursued by the Marcos troops).

Circumstances of death


In June 9, 1973, Pablo and his group were in the boundaries of Calinog and Bingawan towns when they encountered members of the Philippine military. He was among those wounded and captured, and was brought to the military camp in Sta. Barbara for interrogation. It is believed that he was summarily executed and bled to death, as attested by two bulletwounds below his eyes. Five other bodies were brought to the city for identification by their families. Pablo’s remains was brought back to Guimaras for burial. He was 25 years old.

Impact of death on the family and community


Shock, grief and anger were the emotions that swept the Fernandez family upon learning of Pablo’s death.  His son would never know him.  But the hundreds of people who came to Guimaras to attend his wake and burial assuaged their grief, for they were one in expressing their admiration for Pablo’s courage, selflessness and love of country. His death gave them hope and inspiration to forge on with the resistance to a tyrannical system.

DIZON, Jose Pacturayan "Fr. Joe"

Fr Joe

Fr. Joe Dizon celebrated his 40th year in the priesthood on October 15, 2013 in Rosario, Cavite, with a holy mass presided by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle. Those 40 years as a priest he devoted to serving workers, the urban poor, landless farmers and fisher folk.  During that celebration, Fr. Joe summed up his lifelong passion ‒ “Sandigan ang masa; paglingkuran ang sambayanan.” (Rely on the masses; serve the people.)

Fr. Joe Dizon was an activist who was devoted to his vocation, and a priest who was committed to his activism. His passion for justice and love for the poor drove him to devote his life in the service of the “poor, deprived and oppressed.”

As a seminarian, he defied his bishop’s wishes to stay out of the fray and consequently compromised his enrollment in the archdiocesan seminary of Manila when he defended five professors who were dismissed without due process. With ten other students he was dismissed and had to seek another bishop who would take him in. That person was the late first bishop of the Diocese of Imus, Msgr. Felix Perez, who welcomed and guided him until the bishop’s death in 1992.

Fr. Dizon was a familiar face to street parliamentarians and media persons who covered rallies and press conferences. One of his activist friends summed up his religious views and worldview in a tribute after his death:
I have never heard Fr. Joe express moral conflict about his being a priest and a dyed-in-the-wool activist. I attribute this to his clear-minded understanding about what it is, and what it must be, to be a priest in a society driven by class exploitation and oppression; with a state characterized by the deceitful and violent defense of the status quo; and in light of an institutional Catholic Church weighed down by feudal tradition as well as socio-economic ties to the ruling elites.

Armed with his experience of sustained immersion in the lives of the basic masses of workers and peasants and his avid study of the Church’s social teachings, Fr. Joe embarked on efforts to build and rebuild projects that would bring church people once more to the front lines of the people’s movement for change. Thus was begun the Clergy Discernment project which counts scores of priests nationwide in their renewed effort to find their “prophetic” role in Philippine society.  Fr. Joe was indefatigable in bringing the issues and causes of the people to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and individual bishops through such mechanisms as the Church-Labor and Church-Peasant conferences.

It has been said that Fr. Joe’s parishioners are in fact the Filipino people.  This truism is perhaps best seen in his work helping to build social movements and alliances on a range of national concerns and issues.  These include the multi-sectoral alliances that fought against the US-backed Marcos dictatorship such as the People’s Alliance for the Pope’s Visit (PAPA), the Justice for Aquino, Justice for All (JAJA), the Nationalist Alliance for Freedom, Justice and Democracy, BagongAlyansangMakabayan (BAYAN) and the Coalition for the Restoration of democracy (CORD).

(Carol P. Araullo, in a tribute published in Business Day)

History of political involvement


Fr. Joe spoke and led various organizations launching protest actions against injustices, corruption in government and violation of human rights during martial law and through succeeding administrations until the time of his death. He also fought for honest elections.

During martial law, he supported workers’ strikes and the right to organize unions -- basic constitutional rights that were both banned by the Marcos dictatorship. The Basic Christian Communities-Community Organizing (BCC-CO), which he headed as National Director, helped form and strengthen people’s organizations in rural areas so they could deal with issues such as land grabbing, military abuses and hamletting. Fr. Joe Dizon was a supporter of the underground opposition before he became known as a leader in the open protest movement. He provided facilities for secret meetings called to assess or plan protests in Metro Manila against the fascist rule.

When Senator Benigno Aquino was assassinated in August 1983, Fr. Joe became a key figure in broad alliances against martial law and the Marcos dictatorship. These included the Justice for Aquino and Justice for All movement (JAJA), which held numerous demonstrations to oust the dictatorship. He would say mass during rallies both to prevent brutal dispersion as well as to boost the courage of demonstrators.

Fr. Joe was sought to bring the issues and causes of the people to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and individual bishops through such mechanisms as the Church-Labor and Church-Peasant conferences.  He also urged fellow priests to carry out the Church’s social teachings by convening and joining Solidarity Philippines and the National Clergy Discernment Group.

Circumstance of death


After the EDSA people power revolution of 1986, Fr. Joe continued to support workers’ rights; was active in the Estrada Resign Movement and the impeachment of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; spoke against graft and corruption, abuse of power, andpuppetry to US-led wars of aggression, such as the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.

He also became the face of poll watchdog KontraDaya and, in two elections (legislative and local elections in 2007 and the national elections in 2010), was a fixture at protest actions in front of the Comelec main office in Manila. At one of the rallies, Comelec security personnel shoved and pushed him and other KontraDaya leaders to prevent them from entering the building to deliver a letter to the commissioners. At that time, Fr. Joe was already weakbecause of his diabetes. He finally succumbed from its complications on November 4, 2013.

Impact of Fr. Joe's death on the community


Among his last involvements were first, the formation of the Workers Assistance Center where he taught workers the value of self-organization, self-help, collective action, unionism, just wages and benefits and second, the campaign against the pork barrel and use of the national budget for political patronage.

Because of the above involvements, Fr. Joe was given a number of appellations during the tributes given to him: chaplain of the parliament of the streets, priest of the people, consummate patriot, a thoroughgoing democrat, and an unwavering pastor-servant of the people.

VILLARON TANGENTE, Elma "Dalama"

Elma Villaron, known as Dalama, became a champion for the rights of her community, the Sulod-Bukidnon of Panay, called Tumanduks, before embracing the broader struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.

She was the daughter of her community’s leader, a man known as Sardin. Dalama was raised a binukot, literally a kept-maiden. In other words, she was a “chosen daughter,” who was not allowed to leave the house and be seen by strangers from age three. It is an old custom in which a “special” daughter is expected to command a lucrative dowry.

To prepare for her life as a chosen wife, Dalama learned how to cook, clean and be a keeper of Sulod-Bukidnon culture. She was taught to dance the binanog,  a courtship dance based on the movements of a hawk. She learned beadwork and sewing traditional clothes.

Surviving A Family Crisis


Dalama

But she was 15, when her family was rocked by a crisis. Her father, who was leader of the Panayanon [1], was imprisoned in Bilibid Prison for killing several people from a rival clan during a panambi or clan war. For her family’s financial security, Dalama was forced to marry. But she eventually left the arranged marriage because her husband was abusive.  Dalama renounced her binukot status and worked in the fields to help her family.

It was in 1971, at a time when young Filipinos were rising against the government of Ferdinand Marcos and a corrupt, elitist political system, that Dalama’s  political involvement broadened.

Student activists set up a school in Menan, next to Dalama’s village. They taught Tumanduk children to read, write and do arithmetic. Dalama took part in these classes and became known as a serious learner. She also became exposed to ideas about political and social issues.

When martial law was declared in 1972, more student activists from the city joined the first group of activists who set up the school in Menan. Dalama started helping the activists. She became romantically involved with one of them, but he  was later wounded in an ambush and captured by the military when he sought treatment in Iloilo City.

Resisting Military Harassment


Meanwhile, the Sulod-Bukidnon people endured harassment by the Marcos military who made many of them leave their ancestral lands. A 1962 presidential fiat promulgated that 33,000 hectares of land be turned into an army reservation. Military operations disrupted the lives of thousands of Tumanduks and there were many documented cases of human rights abuses. The community was abused in other ways. For example, they were compelled to pay rent to till their own land.

Dalama’s interactions with the young activists who organized in her community eventually shaped her political worldview. The activists had joined their resistance to the military and private interests. They helped the Tumanduks understand their land rights and shared new farming techniques with the community.

The activists also shared new ideas about women’s rights and equality with the community, which led Dalama to embrace a broader worldview. While speaking out against the discrimination suffered by the Sulod-Bukidnon people, she also questioned the cultural belief of early, if not forced, marriage, the tribal wars and feudal relations of land-owning, traditions she grew up with.

A Warrior Named Dalama


Eventually, Dalama joined the armed resistance to the dictatorship, despite the disapproval of her mother. She became the first woman from her community to join the guerrilla movement.

Dalama eventually played a key role in the guerrilla resistance. She organized new guerilla zones in the mountains of central Panay where Sulod-Bukidnon communities are located and she helped unify these communities to oppose the militarization brought about by the dictatorship.

But it was a dangerous life. In her early years with the underground, she was arrested by a Sgt. Nick Roca, a Vietnam War veteran and a psych-ops expert. She was taken to the city, but instead of jailing her, she became a maid in Roca’s household for several months. She later escaped and re-joined the resistance movement.

In 1978, Dalama married fellow activist Jose Aquilino Tangente (Bantayog honoree), a former seminarian from the city. They had two children.

A Pioneering Organizer


Dalama emerged as an effective organizer among her people. She helped reform the onerous sharing system between landowners and landless peasants. Moreover, she was able to broker peace pacts between the warring communities of Panayanon and Akeanon[2].  She was able to convince them to unite against the common injustices they suffered from the Marcos dictatorship, including human rights abuses, poverty and discrimination.

Dalama’s work and example would have a tremendous impact on her community. The Sulod-Bukidnon continue to resist the entry of mining firms, the construction of a mega-dam, land-grabbing and proselytizing evangelicals who regarded the indigenous beliefs inferior and pagan.

Dalama’s underground involvement eventually took her to Maayon and Cuartero, Capiz where she helped organize peasant communities. In 1987, police raided the community where she was based. Dalama and her four companions fought back, but were overpowered by the security forces. However, there have been no details of how Dalama actually died and where she was buried.

But she was eventually named among the martyrs of Panay in the struggle against Marcos.




[1] The indigenous communities in Panay, named Sulod-Bukidnon by anthropologists, identified themselves by their location – either they live near Aklan River (Akeanon) or near Pan-ay River in Capiz (Panayanon). Territorial and cultural disputes had erupted between them, ending in mass killings that were even made symbolic by cutting down the last tree stranding in the enemy community.

[2] The indigenous communities in Panay, named Sulod-Bukidnon by anthropologists, identified themselves by their location – either they live near Aklan River (Akeanon) or near Pan-ay River in Capiz (Panayanon). Territorial and cultural disputes had erupted between them, ending in mass killings that were even made symbolic by cutting down the last tree stranding in the enemy community.

Walingwaling, a Poem by Judy Taguiwalo

Walingwaling

Fellow activist and former social welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo had written the following poem in (1984) in Walingwaling’s honor:

Walingwaling

Lagi kitang naalaala
Lalo na ngayon
Tulad mo, sanggol ko’yisinilang din / sa
daigdig na hugis kuwadrado
Tulad mo, pag-asa’y di nawawala
Patuloy na pinaalab ito / ng hanging
nagdadala / ng dagundong ng mga
paa / mga sigaw na di kayo nag-iisa /
at ng halimuyak ng mga
Walingwaling / di lamang sa bundok

CHIVA, Coronacion "Walingwaling"

Walingwaling

Coronacion Chiva and her second husband were both members of the Hukbalahap movement in Panay Island during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. As an anti-Japanese guerrilla, Coronacion chose Walingwaling, the name of a rare Philippine orchid, as her nom de guerre, and the alias stayed with her even after the war.

Just like in Central Luzon, the Huk movement in Panay did not dissipate after the war. Its members continued to demand for agrarian reform from the government. At the height of the Huk movement in Panay in 1948-1949, the name Kumander Walingwaling was a byword in the villages.

Walingwaling’s first husband died in WWII. After the war she remarried; her second husband Andres was a fellow Huk member and an intellectual who read political tracts and was a member of the Federacion La Liga Filipina, organized in Iloilo by the well-known labor leader, Jose Nava.

The couple stayed with the Huks, Andres the ideologue and Walingwaling the combatant. Both were captured in 1952. Walingwaling was detained first at the Iloilo Provincial Jail and later moved to join her husband at the Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa. Andres was given a sentence of 10-to17 years; Walingwaling, believed to be the highest ranking Huk woman in the Visayas, got the heavier penalty of life imprisonment.

Walingwaling gave birth to son Eduardo in prison, which won her a release on humanitarian grounds. Years later, after Andres was released from prison, the couple decided to take up the government’s offer to move to Mindanao. They were given a 10-hectare homestead, where they grew coffee and other crops.  This was in the early 1960s.

After several years, Walingwaling received a government pension in behalf of her late first husband, and the couple decided to return to Calinog in Iloilo, to use the money to start again. They purchased a piece of land and work animals, and started farming. They also built a concrete house. Life was not difficult. People in need would go to Walingwaling for help and were rarely turned down.

Still, mission called. Walingwaling noted how people in communities around her continued to suffer poverty, for lack of land to till, and for low wages they received from farm employers. So from 1967 up to 1971, she became an organizer for the Panay Association of Nationalistic Laborers, Employees and Farmers’ Union (PANELFU), which advocated for land reform and better wages. She was elected union president in her town. She also spoke at rallies organized by the union in the central Iloilo towns and in Iloilo City, railing against poverty, military abuse, exploitation of their workers by sugar planters, unfair sharing schemes, and so on. The rallies drew thousands. She was so popular she received speaking invitations even for fiestas and village dances.

In 1972, after martial law was declared,Walingwaling was among those arrested and detained at Camp Delgado, along with student activists and other professionals. She boosted the morale of her fellow prisoners by regaling them with stories about her life as a Huk and her jail experience at Bilibid. Because of her local stature, her jailers often let her be, sometimes even slipping her a bottle of her favorite gin.

She was let out of prison after six months. Back home, the couple opened their house to the secret activities of students who formed the resistance against the new martial-law regime. Walingwaling gave succor to them, fed them and gave them supplies like salt and cigarettes. With martial law in place, PANELFU, where she had been organizer and speaker, was discontinued. Walingwaling sent the students to revive her old union contacts.

Circumstance of Walingwaling's death


Walingwaling and her husband became more than simple supporters. They became the young ones’ teachers. Often they would tell the activists who visited them about the local people’s long struggle for a better life, connecting this to the Filipino people’s struggle for nationhood. The couple provided them historical context.

Walingwaling was arrested for the third time and detained briefly after her son Eduardo was found to have joined the New People’s Army. For the next year, she was obliged to report every month to a military station in Janiuay town. (Eduardo died a combatant at 17.)

The couple’s own activities were continuously monitored by the intelligence forces of the regime. Walingwaling received threats and was secretly advised by friends in the police force to “lie low.” Still she went on with her regular activities, including going to the town to visit family and buy supplies from the market.

Her colorful life finally came to an end as she was coming home from one such visit. She and several women were preparing to cross a river when two men came, with one pointing a gun at her. Her companions heard her saying, “You better squeeze that trigger or I’ll kill you.” She died from multiple bullet wounds. She was 51.

On the day she was buried, the town of Calinog was a dead town. Classes and work stopped, the market was closed and the municipal hall was empty. Walingwaling’s political life spanned over three decades which made her a symbol of her people’s struggles for decent life, and under martial law, resistance against oppression.

She is today a legend of sorts in Iloilo, a unique, brave and outspoken woman, fully committed to her cause. Student activists who once met her tell fond stories of her warmth and her bravado. Feminists also honor her.

Fellow activist and former social welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo had written a poem in 1984 in Walingwaling’s honor.

CAYON, Cesar Tiaga

Cayon

Cesar Cayon’s fight against the Marcos dictatorship began with the disappearance of his Manoy Fred, his elder brother. Fred Cayon, a seminarian from Saint Francis Xavier Seminary, Davao City, was one of the original Davao activists who went to the hills to fight the Marcos regime.  He was later abducted and killed in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley along with three other activists during the earliest fascist attacks of the regime.  But Cesar would know of his brother’s death much later, when he was already at the front, and grappling with the pressing concerns of the Higaonon lumads of Northern Mindanao

Cesar, or Titang to his family, was the happy-go-lucky child who grew up in a middle class district of Davao City. Totally unaware of the social ferment surrounding the city, he would be seen going around with his street friends, with a bottle of lapad (bottle gin) in his back pocket which he got from the family’s sari-sari store.

At that time, Cesar did not show any particular interest in politics, nor of his Manoy Fred’s activism.  He was simply the ordinary tambay of Brgy. Obrero who took up the cause of his barkada and defended them to the teeth, which usually ended up in street brawls.  He was known as a faithful and reliable friend.  Once, he even took the entrance exam for one of them. Cesar, however, did not finish high school because he thought there was so much more to learn from his friends than from school.

It was his Manoy Fred who gently chided him to change his ways and painstakingly explained why Philippine society had so many problems and why it was important to change it.  Since Cesar had a very high respect for his elder brother, he tried to listen to his advice.  However it was Fred’s lifestyle and exemplary courage in the face of martial law that struck a sensitive chord in the heart of the younger sibling.  So when Fred was missing and was vaguely referred to as one of the Nabunturan victims, Cesar went to the hills to search for the answers.

History of Political Involvement


Cesar’s first few days in the hills were difficult.  In his young life in Obrero, in Davao City, he had never known the “wilds” of the rural countryside. When he started his first trek up the mountains, he almost could not withstand the needle-like pain from stepping on the roots of the cogon grass.  His feet and legs were all cuts and bruises. (At that time, the NPAs went around barefoot, just like ordinary poor peasants.)  Cesar didn’t know what real hunger meant far up in the mountains with no sari-sari store in sight. And since alcohol was prohibited, life in the hills became a radical departure from his early days.

His comrades and the peasant masses around him, however, made everything worthwhile. With characteristic good humor, they would tease him about his city legs and promised to provide him custom-built shoes that would put all the weeds to shame.  The camaraderie, kindness, and joie de vivre of everyone seemed a thousand times more meaningful than the happenings he had with his barkada.  Cesar began to understand what his Manoy Fred meant.  More importantly, he was starting to get a feel of what it meant to be with the masses; what they were going through under the dictatorship.

Cayon with the Lumad


Ka Andy (Cesar Cayon’s nom de guerre) was first assigned in Agusan Norte of Northern Mindanao, in the forest areas of Butuan and Nasipit.  These forest areas are part of the original ancestral domain of the Higaonon lumads who had lived in these areas since time immemorial.  Unfortunately, a timber license agreement was awarded to the Nasipit Logging Company (NALCO) by the Marcos regime, totalling 98,000 hectares.  NALCO was a big and powerful logging company which was responsible for the eventual denudation of the mountains in Northern Mindanao.

When Ka Andy entered the Higaonon territory, Datu Mankalasi, the great tribal chieftain of the Higaonon had just been killed by NALCO’s forest guards because of his open resistance to the logging company. His death unleashed the pent-up anger of the tribe.  It would mark the beginning of decades of struggle of the lumads and the peasants who were being evicted from their homes by the logging company.  It would also mark the recruitment to the underground movement of practically every able-bodied lumad in the village

With the Higaonon mountain tribe, Ka Andy found his callingas a fighterfor the cause of the oppressed.  Now he understood what the Filipino people, and particularly the lumads, were going through under the dictatorship.  Everything that his elder brother tried to teach him began to make sense. Feudal oppression, imperialist control, liberation, democracy—theories that were previously vague and abstract to him now suddenly took on meaning and became clear.  All the questions, and the meanderings of his young life were answered by three important letters in the alphabet -- STP – Serve The People.

Serving the People


Under the fighting banner of STP, Ka Andy learned to be an exemplary activist. Lumads, peasants, farm workers and the poor people of Northern Mindanao came to know the dashing young man who was in the forefront of the resistance movement. He seemed to be everywhere, at the right time:  at education meetings, in the formation of mass organizations.  He facilitated the formation of the revolutionary autonomous governments of the lumads.  He encouraged peace pacts (dyandi or husaya) which forged unity among the tribes. He joined workshops, group discussions and cultural programs where he strummed the guitar and sang revolutionary songs.

His wisdom, sense of humor and total dedication to the cause of the oppressed endeared him to the people. His mass line was so powerful and so charismatic that people thought he had “extraordinary powers” when he figured in an encounter in the busy streets of Butuan and miraculously escaped.  He later showed up, all muddied and full of cuts and bruises, in a remote village of the neighboring Buenavista town.   It was learned that he had to hide in the swamps for quite a while and brave the open fields in order to evade the martial law troops who were after him.

The activists that Ka Andy led were special to the lumads of Northern Mindanao, from the mountains of Agusan Norte and Misamis Oriental and to the hinterland villages of Mount Kitanglad in Bukidnon. The group was dubbed the Pulang Bagani (red warriors) with most of its members coming from the ranks of the Higaonon tribe. Its mass work was notable for its being so culturally attuned and sensitive to the needs and interests of the tribe. Since ancestral land was at the heart of the lumad struggle, the group spent many hours educating and organizing them on how to defend their lands from plunderers, thieves and the destructive projects of the dictatorship.  Pulang Bagani also helped the lumads cultivate the land in an effort to achieve self-sufficiency and not depend on the system of aids and dole outs that the PANAMIN was famous for. (PANAMIN then was headed by Manda Elizalde, a Marcos loyalist, who became notorious for the Tasaday hoax and for his manipulative abuses of the lumads.)

In 1981, Ka Andy met a young student who was doing a social investigation of the mode of production in Mindanao. They discussed and argued for many hours trying to decipher the data of rice, corn and coconut cultivation; and how to simplify the facts of political economy so the lumads and peasants would understand what feudal and semi-feudal exploitation meant.  She was argumentative, difficult and full of abstract theories but open to a lot of ideas that he found challenging and engaging. And then he realized she exemplified everything that the struggle was: courage, beauty, selfless sacrifice, and the will to fight against so many odds in order to serve the people.  Yes, serve the people.  It was this chemistry that fused them in a way that proved stronger and more binding than any contract could ever do.  In January 1982 they were married; in November of that year she bore him a healthy baby boy.  These were the happiest hours of the young father who proudly introduced his son to the lumad and peasant communities. It was a season of celebration.

Circumstance of Death


But the happiness was fleeting. In June of the following year, Ka Andy met his death during an early dawn raid of the village of Hinundayan in the mountains of Nasipit.  At that moment, the military could not identify their victim, but they wanted the reward. Greedily, they cut off his head to be brought for identification in the AFP headquarters of Cagayan de Oro.  The lumads wailed in protest of this desecration of their beloved son.  They all vowed to avenge his death and continue the fight against the dictatorship, against plunderous logging companies and against exploitation and oppression.

Up to this time, after almost half a century, the Higaonon tribe that Ka Andy first organized still flourishes and struggles and celebrates life.  It is ready and willing to embrace all the young activists who want to serve the lumads and be part of the continuing people’s history.

ABOLI, Tayab "Arthur" Ayyungo

Tayab Aboli was a Kalinga brave from Bugnay, Tinglayan, Kalinga and a member of the Butbut tribe, the same tribe to which (Bantayog martyrs) Macli-ingDulag and Pedro Dungoc belonged. A farmer, he was married to Forngay of the same village and they were blessed with seven children. A respected member of his community, his traditional role was the defense of his tribe and community in the event of tribal wars. He was also a barrio councilman in the 1960s onwards.

History of Tayab Aboli's political involvement


Tayab

Following the declaration of martial law in 1972, Kalinga was thrown into turmoil when the government embarked on a program to build a series of dams along the Chico River. As the project will submerge many communities from the Mt. Province down to Kalinga, people in the affected villages expectedly opposed these dams because it meant the obliteration of settlements and the destruction of ricefields, farms and even burial grounds.

Opposition was initially confined to areas along the river such as Bugnay, Ngibat, Butbut and Tomiangan in Tinglayan but it later spread to other communities. Tayab, as Aboli was known, actively participated in the resistance, along with the well-known faces of the anti-dam struggle --Macli-ing Dulag, Lumbaya Gayudan and Pedro Dungoc. He met with other tribes to broaden the resistance as well as joined meetings in Baguio and Manila to draw support from other organizations. He actively participated in the first ever inter-tribal bodong (peace pact) against the dam in early 1975 and the historic Vochong Conference on Development in May 1975 in Quezon City. The conference was attended by 165 Peace Pact Holders and tribal leaders from Bontoc and Kalinga as well as members of church-based support groups. This resulted in the adoption of the Anti-Dam Pagta ti Bodong (laws of the peace pact).

Tayab also had the added task of keeping the village elders safe from physical threats and danger in these meetings and consultations. (He was the de facto security of pangat Macli-ing Dulag.)

Unable to read and write, he took part in an adult literacy program conducted in Butbut by the Episcopal Commission on Tribal Filipinos. He learned the rudiments of basic literacy that enabled him to write his name and read.

In response to the growing anti-dam resistance, the government brought to bear on the community its various forces, employing suppression and cooptation. The area became heavily militarized with the resultant military abuses. In the course of government efforts to quell the opposition, many were arrested and imprisoned, manhandled or threatened. Looting became commonplace, livestock taken or killed, and movement of people restricted. Many farms became neglected.

In 1980, Macli-ing Dulag was murdered by the military and Tayab became the OIC Barrio Captain. On his shoulders fell the task of leading his community in the anti-dam struggle.  He organized the village militia for the defense of the community. He successfully managed the people’s cooperative which provided logistics for the militia. As expected, he soon became the target of the military. Drawing lessons from the fate of Macli-ing, Tayab decided to join the New People’s Army in 1982.

By 1986, he was a leading member of the Lumbaya Company which formed the core of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army that later exchanged sipat (peace tokens) with President Corazon Aquino in Mt. Data, Bauko, Mt. Province in September 1986. Known as the Mt. Data Peace Accord, this act paved the way for peace negotiations between the new democratic government and their group.

Circumstance of death


 Tayab Aboli later went back to Bugnay and continued to serve his community. He was eventually elected Barangay Kagawad in 1990 and became a member of the municipal Sanguniang Bayan in 1997. Recognizing his service, he was elected barangay head in 2007. He died from a lingering illness on December 30, 2007. He was 57.

He is survived by his wife Forngay and their children. His son, Rev. Jose Ampac, is a pastor of the Philippine Episcopal Church serving in Bauko, Mt. Province.

Bantayog Receives the MLQ Gawad Parangal Award

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The Manuel L. Quezon Gawad Parangal Awards, Quezon City’s highest honor, are bestowed on individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to society.

In ceremonies held last October 12, 2017 evening to mark the 78th foundation of Quezon City, Bantayog ng mga Bayani was one of six institutions and twelve individuals which received this recognition.

The citation reads:

  • For upholding justice and recognizing the heroic deeds during the martial law era;

  • For immortalizing the memory of unsung heroes, so that they may serve as an inspiration to keep the flame of democracy alive in the hearts of everyone;

  • For relentlessly educating and empowering the public on issues about freedom and guarding against historical revisionism;

  • For proving that "the Filipino is worth living and dying for."


Held at the Seda Vertis North, Ms. Carolina S. Malay received the award in behalf of Bantayog.

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Bantayog congratulates its fellow awardees this year:

  • Mrs. Zeneida Quezon Avancena

  • Justice Narciso Nario

  • Samson C. Lim

  • Senator Aquilino O. Pimentel Jr.

  • Dr. Orlando S. Mercado

  • Ramon G. Orlina

  • Mother Lily Monteverde

  • Prof. Corazon Cristobal Generoso-Iñigo

  • John Philip Jacob Lesaca

  • Dr. Cielito Flores Habito

  • Dr. Dionisia A. Rola

  • Leah Roman Reyes


The outstanding organizations/ institutions are:

  • V. Luna Medical Center (AFP Command Center)

  • Bayanihan (Philippine Folk Dance company)

  • Bantayog ng mga Bayani

  • The Sulo Riviera

  • Little Quiapo

  • The U.P. Singing Ambassadors


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Perfect Time to Remember and Honor Diokno

(This is an excerpt of Boying Pimentel's essay on the unveiling of Pepe Diokno's monument last September 21, 2017 at the Commission on Human Rights. Read his full column at the Philippine Daily Inquirer.)

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Yes, Ka Pepe is returning to the CHR, the institution now under siege from a government reviled worldwide for its brazen abuse of human rights. The timing of the statue is perfect. For now is the time to honor and remember a tireless, fearless fighter for freedom and human decency.

“I hope that this monument to him will inspire us to speak up to protect not just our rights, but the rights of all Filipinos – regardless of where we come from, how much or how little money we have, how we worship, and what we believe in,” Maia Diokno said.

Many young Filipinos probably don’t know much about or have never heard of Ka Pepe. The 1983 BBC documentary “To Sing Our Own Song” is an excellent introduction to his life of courage, to his strong commitment to human rights and justice.

You can easily watch it now on YouTube or on the Diokno Foundation website. During our time, we had to watch it on Betamax machines, usually during secret house meetings.

It was a dangerous time. Marcos was at the height of his power. And yet Ka Pepe agreed to be the narrator of a film that dared expose the brutality of the dictatorship.

If you want a quick introduction to the courage of Pepe Diokno, jump to the 4:00 mark of this video clip from “To Sing Our Own Song.”

This is the end of the documentary. In his closing remarks, Ka Pepe looks at the camera as he denounces the repression and injustice under Marcos.

“How can such a government stay in power?” he asks. “Because powerful nations principally the United States support it. And they support it because of my country’s strategic location and the profits that their multinationals make here….

“It looks impossible for my people and people of the Third World to get out of this trap. But we will,” Ka Pepe declares. “It would be a lot easier if you of the First World were to give us your sympathy and your understanding and prevail upon your governments to stop supporting repressive governments like the one in my country.”

The next part is the most memorable part of the film for me. I still like to watch it over and over again, feeling the power of Ka Pepe’s words.

“But whether your governments do or not, I know my people, I know other Third World people. I’ve worked with them I’ve lived among them.

“Whatever your governments do, whatever our own elites and our own rulers do, and even if we have to wade through blood and fire, we will be free, we will develop. We will build our own societies. We will sing our own songs.”

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(The statue of Ka Pepe was unveiled on September 21, the 45th anniversary of the start of the Marcos dictatorship. The sculpture by artist Julie Lluch shows a defiant Ka Pepe appearing to march forward, with a raised right fist.)

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