FEDERIS, Rolando M.

Federis, Rolando

Rolando Federis came from a poor family. His father Dionisio once owned a tailoring shop in Camarines Norte. His wife contracted cancer and died early, leaving him to raise his extended family himself. Dionisio left for Manila, where he hoped to find better employment. He found work as a master cutter in a tailoring shop in Cubao, rented a small place in Project 4, Quezon City, and brought his children one by one from Bicol to live with him. (He later remarried.)

Life during Rolando’s childhood was usually difficult and the going always hard. Nevertheless, Rolando (or “Lando” as he was called) managed to get to college, the first in his family to do so.

At PSBA, he started to become politically involved. He joined discussion groups where he sought to understand the roots of his family’s poverty, the same relentless poverty that seemed to burden thousands of other Filipino families, from which there seemed no escape, even as evidently a few privileged families did not face the same fate. Even as

Rolando studied what activists called the “three –isms,” he started organizing the youth in his community to join the youth movement. He joined the Kabataang Makabayan (KM).

When Marcos imposed martial law in 1972, Rolando went underground. He joined a collective of activists in his community, secretly organizing to build resistance against martial law. He focused his organizing efforts on three communities of informal settlers, often faced with eviction threats as the martial law regime pushed for “beautification” of Metro Manila. Rolando  sought to help enlighten the community on their basic rights, including the right to decent housing. When civilian armed groups were sent by the regime to harass and evict these “squatters,” Rolando also sought to organize the residents for resistance.

Needless to say, Rolando lived dangerously, putting himself always at risk of being abducted or arrested. But because he was an “insider,” or one among the people, he had the advantage of being known to the people he worked with, and he enjoyed their trust and cooperation. He even gained the respect of the community thugs and those who made a living by fencing or petty thievery. His friends included ones with fearsome aliases like “Boy Pilay,” and once, a gang leader tried to donate to the movement some bicycles he had earlier stolen!

Yet, Lando never pandered to these friends, and always tried to explain to them in ways they appreciated that stealing was not the answer to poverty.

In 1973, Lando married another activist, Carol Ojeda, and eventually had a son by her. Carol Ojeda came from a much more prosperous background but she was full of admiration for the tall and charming activist, who challenged her to “transcend” her privileged background and helped her deal with the realities of working with the poor.

Later, Carol became the target of military harassment, and she decided to leave for the States with their son, hoping to return when the situation improved. The couple exchanged letters.

The year before he disappeared, Lando took an assignment as courier, bringing letters and ferrying people and packages to and from the city to the countryside. In one of these trips, in October 1976, he was with two women activists he was to accompany to Bicol.

One of these women, Adora Faye de Vera, a student from the University of the Philippines, would later reveal that the three of them were seized by plainsclothes operatives at Lucena City en route to their destination, dragged into an ambulance, and taken to an apartment, and later to other places, in that city. The three were subjected to torture continuously for more than two weeks, the women raped and abused repeatedly. The last time Adora saw Lando and Flora alive, Adora stated, the two were being “transferred” elsewhere.

Adora identified the officers, from the colonels down to the enlisted men, who were personally involved in their abuse and torture. Still, the government never revealed the whereabouts of the two missing activists. It is believed the area where they had likely been buried has since been clearned and made into a paved roadway. The bodies of the two have never been found.

On February 15, 2011, Rolando’s widow Carol received $1,000 as settlement from the Marcos estate, for the death of Rolando, a compensation she says, that is more insult than compensation.

FLORES, Ceferino Arbon Jr.

Flores, Ceferino Jr

Ceferino Flores Jr. came from a poor family in Negros Oriental province. When he was a young teenager he came to Manila to find work. At 16, he started as a roomboy at the famous Manila Hotel. He worked there for the next 13 years, resigned in 1970, after that, moved from one job to another. A friend then recommended him for a job at the Hotel Intercontinental, also in Manila. He worked at the Intercon from 1972 until the night of his disappearance in 1983.

Ceferino’s first known brush with politics was in 1971, when he helped set up the short-lived Samahan ng mga Manggagawa sa Otel at Restawran sa Pilipinas, or SMORP. This organization was among those that disintegrated after Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. In 1973, intelligence agents of the newly-installed regime came asking for him at the boarding house where he and his wife Blanca lived. Ceferino managed to slip away. He was arrested in 1975 by men under the 5th Constabulary Security Unit (CSU), then detained for seven months on charges of subversion. The case was subsequently dismissed and Ceferino released from detention. (Find case files, lawyer.)

After his release, he reclaimed his job at Intercon’s housekeeping department  but he complained that he was being harassed by the management, accused of stealing hotel property or pressured to resign. With six children to sustain, he refused to back down. Despite these problems, or maybe also because of them, Ceferino became more active in trade union work. He joined the Hotel Intercontinental Manila Employees Union (HIMEU), later becoming a member of its board of directors. He was also a founding member of the National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN).

As he became more deeply involved in unionism he tried to have his wife Blanca and his children accept, if not understand, this growing commitment. One of his sons remembers how his father took his children to picketlines, trying to show them how workers struggled to improve their own working conditions. He took time out to explain some of the issues to his children. Blanca Flores once described her husband’s involvement in union work as “his life and his doom” (buhay at kamatayan).”

Cerefino did not have a charismatic personality. His was of a quiet and steady nature. Some of his neighbors were known to have told their time by the “clockwork consistency” of Ceferino walking home along that dark street to his old home in Manila’s Malate district, whistling, and a doggie bag tucked under his arm. He was conversant in politics and he studied the Philippine history seriously. But he preferred to work in the background.

And unknown to his many of his union colleagues, Ceferino worked for years providing support to certain anti-Marcos underground groups. His main duty had been to provide them safe meeting places and ensuring their safe entry and departure to and from these meeting places.

When he was not at work, Ceferino would scour the five-star hotels around Metro Manila, finding places for top-level secret meetings, and reliable contacts at these places. And for these meetings, he himself would fetch some persons in the Marcos regime’s most-wanted list, to meet with well-known and high-profile individuals. He would sometimes even buy meals for them. Sometimes he would even sit in these meetings, a rapt, wide-eyed listener.

Ceferino was regarded by his comrades as extremely trustworthy, and a careful worker. Several of those whom he served during these meetings later said they felt that they gave their lives to his keeping and that they would stay safe because Ceferino watched their backs for them.

In 1982, the Marcos regime instituted a series of high-level trade union arrests. Not a high-profile leader himself, Ceferino’s work in the underground was sensitive and important enough, he was in danger himself. In fact, he was abducted early in 1983, and never surfaced.

It was a Friday night. Ceferino was leaving the hotel after a long shift. He drove himself practically 24 hours a day because of all the things he had to do at work, in the union, in the underground, and at home. But unless he was in one of those delicate missions, he was always home and in bed before midnight. That Friday night, he did not come home. His wife, a parttime college teacher in social science, was used to Ceferino spending a night away, and did not worry, until Monday -- Ceferino never went on long meetings without telling her. She started calling friends, the Intercon, and when she got no answers, she feared the worst. She visited hospitals, detention centers, police stations and even morgues and funeral parlors.

Twice, Blanca received insider information about her husband in detention. One said he was under the notorious colonel Rodolfo Aguinaldo, of the same 5th CSU that arrested him eight years before. She was never able to confirm this. She called press conferences and talked at rallies to focus attention on her missing husband. She filed a habeas corpus case before the Supreme Court. Then defense secretary Juan Ponce Enrile expressed interest in Ceferino’s case.

But Blanca never saw Ceferino again. Ceferino was 44 when he joined what would be a list of about 200 desaparecidos under the Marcos dictatorship. What he suffered, how long he survived, his thoughts as he absorbed his punishment, are the terrible unknowns that will always haunt his wife and children until they finally know what really happened to him.


Laguerder, edwin C. pic

Uban niini nga gula sa Budyong, among ipadayag ang among pagbangutan sa kamatayan ni Edwin C. Laguerder, usa ka batan-on nga gidagit kaniadtong Nobyembre 26, 1987, ug nakit-ang patay sa Disyembre 7, 1987. Hinaut nga ang ilang kinabuhi, pakigbisog ug pakighiusa sa kinabag-ang katawhang Pilipino ug sa tanang gidaug-daug nga katawhan, kagsilbi nga madasigong pahanumdum ug ehemplo kanatong tanan nga ipadayon ang pakigbisog alang sa kalingkawasan sa mga mag-uugma ug katawhang Pilipino.

Little is known of Edwin’s childhood. He is remembered as a generally quiet boy, but bright. He graduated from grade school with the highest honors and for college, he passed the competitive entrance tests to the University of the Philippines, and three scholarship examinations, including the highly-competitive National Science Development Board (NSDB) exams.

His political awareness started as member of the Pi Sigma fraternity in UP, becoming so engrossed with these activities he neglected his studies and soon lost his scholarship privileges. Without funds to sustain him, and upon the urging of his widowed mother, Edwin went back home. He subsequently enrolled at the Notre Dame of Marbel College.

Still, he pursued his involvement in the anti-dictatorship movement, at this time rising to greater heights. Rallies and demonstrations were becoming ever more frequent and daring, even as the dictatorship grew more reckless with its abuses against the population. Edwin left school altogether to do fulltime social political work, and choosing jobs that gave him a chance to put in practice his cherished principles.

His first job was as coordinator of the Integrated Youth Development Program (IYDP) in Mindanao, supervising projects for the youth, covering the areas of Davao and Cagayan de Oro cities, as well as rural youth from South Cotabato, Agusan and Iligan. Then in 1985, he started work as Mindanao coordinator of the People’s Ecumenical Action for Community Enlightenment (PEACE) Foundation, and simultaneously also became involved as consultant and adviser for the Consortium for Rural Services and Programs (CRSP) of Mindanao, a service institution for farmers.

He chose these jobs because they gave him opportunities to work with and organize young people, raise their awareness, and help provide them social and political training. Later on, he chose to work with farmers, especially the poor and landless, supporting an advocacy for agrarian reform and seeking to uplift the farmers’ plight.

As he went about these tasks, he was also performing clandestine work fighting the dictatorship, leading a double life that put him always at risk. Nevertheless he calmly filled his days with his manifold tasks, convinced that democracy, peace and justice was a future worth fighting for.

When militarization did not ease in Mindanao after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986, Edwin began to doubt that the situation had changed for the better, although he continued to hope for a more peaceful and promising future.

On the week of his death, he had a speaking engagement scheduled in Butuan City and another meeting in Manila. Witnesses saw him picked up by the police at a checkpoint in the Sasa district of Davao City. Witnesses heard him urgently crying out a series of telephone numbers (to the crowd gathered nearby). He was later seen moved into a military vehicle with four soldiers and then taken away.

When he failed to return home, relatives and friends, frantic for his safety, looked for him, demanding that the police produce him, even paying spaces in newspapers in search of clues. Some ten days later, Edwin’s body was fished out of the Sasa wharf. It had torture marks, as well as gunshot and stab wounds. His legs were tied with rope, and his skull and part of his ribs were cracked. The body’s state of decomposition indicated Edwin was killed one or two days after his abduction. He was 26 years old.

Edwin’s friends condemned the military’s treatment of Edwin and demanded justice. They launched protest activities to mark his death and launched a protest action at his funeral, attended by around 1,000 people. Edwin’s case was later submitted before the Commission on Human Rights.

MOLINTAS, Wright "Ka Chadli" M. Jr.

Molintas, Wright Jr. pic

Wright Molintas Jr. was a scion of two of Benguet province’s most illustrious political families – the Mencios of Atok town and the Molintases of Bokod town – with governors and congressmen belonging to both sides of his family. Had he survived, Wright would have been Benguet’s equivalent of one Benigno Aquino Jr.

His parents were government employees -- his mother a grade school teacher, and his father a municipal and later provincial treasurer. Wright and his six brothers were all city-born and bred but stayed close to their Ibaloi roots. (Ibalois are the Benguet “tribe” that regarded Baguio City as part of its ancestral territory in pre-colonial times.)

Wright might have been one of seven boys, but he stood out because, unlike his brothers, he was aggressive and boisterous. (His family called him Junior, but more often, Tombol, Ibaloi term for a young cock.) His brother Jose said the brothers had great ambitions, Wright dreaming to become president of the Philippines!

In school, Wright was competitive, often winning honors. He was in high school when he joined the Order of Demolay. Like his brothers, he showed an interest in the military, entering the Cadet Officers’ Qualification Course (COQC). On his senior year in high school, he held the post of corps commander for the CAT.

Wright passed the competitive tests for the University of the Philippines and won a full scholarship for geodetic engineering. He spent two years in the Diliman campus, filling his spare hours with various activities, competing in sports fests, joining a fraternity (Gamma Sigma Pi), learning and competing in bridge, entertaining his friends with card tricks, or charming them with his guitar-plucking of old-fashioned tunes such as Unchained Melody, sometimes even gaining a few coins winning bets playing competitive billiards.

During this time, the UP campus was also all afire with student protests directed against the abuses of the Marcos dictatorship as well as education policies meant to perpetuate the dictatorship.

Wright took notice of these issues, and started attending fora and joining protest rallies. He also joined the UP Bodong, an association of students who traced their roots from the Cordillera region in the north.

By his second year at UP, Wright was speaking in rallies and fora, giving simple speeches that appealed to his young and usually spellbound crowd. He became associated with another young activist leader from UP, the late Lean Alejandro (a Bantayog honoree). Before long, he was being asked to serve as one of Lean’s escorts, and whenever needed, in rallies for example, one of his close-in security. Wright was very much suited for it, being tall and with a powerful frame, a military bent and training, and a support network via his fraternity brothers.

Still, Wright kept a keen interest on his home, the Cordilleras. At this time, the Cordillera region was wracked with proposed “development projects,” such as dams and logging projects, which the Marcos dictatorship wanted implemented but were being resisted by the local population as, at best, unnecessary and wasteful, and at worst, severely harmful to the population and to the environment. The dictatorial regime was responding to the resistance by terrifying the population with operations by heavily-armed troops and jailing resistance leaders.

In 1980, the late Macliing Dulag (another Bantayog honoree), a much-respected Kalinga leader and the most well-known leader of the resistance to a proposed dam project, was gunned down by soldiers in a midnight raid of his home. Wright railed at this latest proof of a brutal regime. On the first anniversary of Macliing’s murder, Wright was one of many young activists who trooped to Macliing’s village to hold a memorial in honor of the brave slain leader. It was at this point Wright decided to join the armed struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.

He returned to Kalinga after a few weeks, joining the armed resistance. He now bore the name Ka Chadli and undertook work as a political officer. But he showed excellence in the military field as well, and quickly became involved in a military action, a task he kept for the next five years. He was first sent to Sagada-Besao area in Mountain Province, then to Kalinga province, next to Ifugao province, and, finally, to his own home province of Benguet. He was flat-footed, and sometimes laid down by malaria and skin allergies, but he took these difficulties in stride.

In 1984, he left the guerrilla areas briefly to get married to fellow activist Marvie Perez of Pangasinan.

Then on July 4, of 1987, he left his wife for what should have been a short meeting in Kapangan, Benguet. He never reached the place. On the way, he and two companions, all unarmed, were seized by members of the police and the Citizens’ Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU). Witnesses later revealed that Wright tried to argue with the soldiers, quite confident he had logic and right on his side. Still, he was shot in the back.

Bleeding from his wounds, Wright was hog-tied to a bamboo pole and ferried by his companions under guard to the town center of Baguling in La Union. Wright still alive and talking when they started, but dead by the time they reached their destination. The devastating news reached his family a few days later, after which relatives claimed his body. A week-long wake was held for him in Baguio City, with political personalities of all colors attending. Wright was 24.

His two companions were charged and convicted with rebellion, and served their terms in the national penitentiary. Two months later, Wright’s friend, national resistance leader Lean Alejandro, would himself be shot to death.



Joji Paduano was an exceptional young girl, bright, self-confident and talented. At age four, she was the youngest finalist in a radio singing contest. She started school before she was six, led the pupil’s government, and graduated with honors in the elementary. In high school, she edited the school paper,  represented her school in declamation contests, and was top of her graduating batch. (Mother’s letter)

She excelled in singing and writing, showing leadership qualities and an early interest in people’s problems. Teachers and friends say she was an eloquent speaker always full of ideas for helping other people. A former schoolmate remembers having long talks with Joji: “ She was very concerned with people being persecuted or maltreated, with children suffering from malnutrition, with broken families, with the government … Listening to her, it was like talking with a grownup, full of ideas, concern and love for everyone.” (Letter from Jolly Cinco)

“It is not often a school has the opportunity to have a pupil with such bright potential,” wrote Joji’s former elementary math teacher. (Letter from teacher Tessie Meneses)

Joji was the eldest of six brothers and sisters of poor middle-class parents. Her father was once occupied as a jueteng collector, then later chief cook at a Bacolod restaurant. Her mother was a church worker and was active in local affairs, once serving as barangay captain. Joji’s father and the late Haydee Yorac were cousins.

After leaving high school, her father sent her away to study. In Manila, she stayed with relatives and augmented her finances by offering rich classmates tutoring services. The following year, she transferred to a local college in Bacolod, also working to finance herself and provide for her family.

In Bacolod, Joji was elected president of the Student Catholic Action of Negros Occidental. She also became active in the Patbutlak Cultural Theater, a diocesan theater group. At that time, the Negros church under the late Bishop Antonio Fortich was running pro-poor programs, something which appealed very much to someone of Joji’s nature.

“If you come from Negros,” says former activist Rolando Salutin, who worked once with Joji in the poor communities,“you will see evidence everywhere of the disparity between the rich and the poor. Farm workers (sacadas) are made to live in dwellings worse than pig sties. Sacadas mostly came from the provinces like Antique or Aklan. Labor contractors recruited them and brought them to Negros by the truckload. These contractors ignored the appalling work conditions these sacadas suffered in the hacendas, and so did the hacenda owners. All they wanted to see were the profits to be made from the sacadas.  I think exposure to that kind of inhumanity was what started Joji’s political awareness.”(Salutin interview)

As these abuses became more well-known, and the human rights situation deteriorated in Negros as in the entire country, Joji became a frequent presence in protest rallies being held almost weekly in Bacolod City. She attended consciousness-raising seminars, learning about the power structures that controled the province and the entire country, connecting the relationship of the local rich families to the Marcos dictatorship. She was soon known in Bacolod as one of those student leaders fighting the Marcos dictatorship.

Risks to her safety were growing. Protesters and ordinary citizens were being hauled to prison by the score. A number were being killed or abducted. Because she was becoming well-known, Joji’s security had become a concern. “You will soon miss me,” she told her family.

Not long after, Joji left the city and moved to the rural areas of Aklan. She took up a responsibility in the underground movement to enlighten the community and eventually became editor of the Daba-daba (Flame), an underground newspaper being circulated in Aklan. She would issue statements and even give radio interviews. She had taken the name Ka Kristin.

From Aklan, she had written her family: “Mama, whatever happens, you should be proud of me for I dedicate my life in defending our rights and fighting for freedom. I am happy here with the people. My brothers and sisters, love each other, help Mama in everything. I love you.”

In the early morning of May 11, 1984,  army soldiers belonging to the 47th IB surrounded the nipa hut where Joji and a companion were staying. Joji was pounding at a typewriter when she was hit by a burst of fire from the soldiers. Her companion (name) was killed immediately while Joji  sustained a wound in the back hip. When the firing stopped, the neighbors, nearby who were in hiding, heard Joji ask the soldiers to take her to the hospital. The soldiers ignored her pleas, searched the house and left her to bleed to death. Joji and her companion’s bodies were later retrieved by local people to be buried.

“Her memory will live forever and will serve as a great example to others,” wrote one of her teachers, most of whom had been certain that Joji would someday be “a great leader.”


Roz Galang-Reyes pic 300dpi

Rosalinda Galang’s first political exposure was as editor of the UST’s student organ, the Varsitarian, and as member of the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines. She joined a circle of progressive writers reporting on social and political issues and developing critical thinking. She covered the rallies held by students and workers in Metro Manila during the First Quarter Storm of 1970, which was her baptism in the reality of police brutality.

She was with the country’s leading newspaper The Manila Times when Marcos imposed martial law in 1972. Rather than join the Marcos media and tolerate censorship and repressive policies, Roz, as she was called, chose to join the anti-dictatorship resistance movement.

Carolina Malay would write about her:

Despite the objections and fears of her family – her father after all was a military officer, fully aware of the brutality that the military and police forces were capable of – Roz chose to place her gifts, skills and conscience in the service of the common people  specially taken advantage of and abused by the Marcos dictatorship.

Conventional journalism meant reporting favorably on the activities and pronouncements of the authorities and the political, economic, social, cultural and military elite.  Exposes of wrongdoing usually came to light only because rival factions could use the press to promote and defend their own narrow interests. Individuals and organizations advocating progressive ideas were ignored, much more so if they used “provocative” language.  Ordinary people, meanwhile, were not expected to hold important views and their actions were dismissed as insignificant.

The antidictatorship press did the opposite. 

Through its crudely printed news sheets it dug up plenty of dirt about the Marcos regime, and using highly inflammatory language too.  There were enough credible sources from among the same elite, though anti-Marcos, who provided inside information about the corruption of the dictator's family and their cronies.

More importantly for Roz and the others, the underground revolutionary press went deep among the workers, the urban poor, landless farmers, hinterland tribes.  These new journalists reported on their struggle for just wages, agrarian reform. They wrote about guerrilla ambushes, people's organizing committees, the heroic deeds of those who died young.

I can testify how happy Roz was doing this kind of work.  Even if the opportunity presented itself, I think she would not have exchanged the fulfillment she was enjoying then for the perks and privileges of an establishment journalist.  No airconditioned offices, no expense accounts, no rubbing elbows with the rich and famous.  No salary, and often, not even a pseudonym for a byline.  It was enough that for the first time in their lives, ordinary people found themselves being written about admiringly, in language they could understand.

Fellow activist Isagani Serrano remembers Roz (at that time, carrying the name Tani) as working till the late hours in some friend’s apartment, preparing the publication often all on her own. “She wrote well and needed no editing. And she’s fast. She would come out with the stuff shortly after a decision was made on content and angle… She did that press statement on (Horacio) Morales’ defection from the Marcos government in 1977.” (Isagani Serrano is now President of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction movement)

Doing this very dangerous job, she often escaped arrest and detection only by a hair’s breadth and with the support of friends and a community that was sympathetic to the underground.

After martial law was dismantled in 1986, Roz chose to write and edit for human rights organizations such as the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, and briefly for the Freedom from Debt Coalition.

She was once given a citation by a London-based human rights institution for her articles about human rights, and by the PhilRights for her long service. She worked with PhilRights until her death from lung cancer in 1998.

Joel Rocamora summed up Roz’ contribution to the struggle against the dictatorship thus: “She sacrificed a great career and used her brilliance instead in writing unbylined stories for the Marcos underground.”

LUNAS, Ruben Marinda

Lunas, Ruben M.

Ruben Marinda Lunas was a sickly toddler. His parents brought him to an albulario who recommended that his name be changed to improve his health. Thus to his family, he came to be known as Mito, shortened from Maximito, the name of a beloved maternal uncle who had passed away.

Ruben or Mito did grow up strong and healthy; he had a happy normal childhood playing with his siblings and cousins in their compound in Albay. He loved to draw and would compile his drawings into a comic book for his younger siblings. A favorite theme would be World War II: he often asked his playmates to pose as Filipino soldiers or Japanese soldiers. He was bright, intelligent, musically gifted and was very good in math.

In college, he attended the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City as a scholar. He stayed with an aunt in a rented house in Palaris, a community within the sprawling UP campus. He joined the Epsilon Chi Fraternity which was composed mainly of engineering students. Ferment and dissent against Pres. Marcos’s government was surging through the campus at that time and students’ protests were a regular occurrence. The many issues discussed raised Ruben’s awareness of the social realities, and in no time he became a member of the Samahang Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK). He was among the hundreds of students who rocked the streets of Manila in 1970 to show their disagreement over Marcos’ running for a third term as well as to certain inclusions in the Constitutional Convention (First Quarter Storm). In 1971, he joined other UP students, faculty members and residents who barricaded the university in protest over  the rising costs of fuel and other perceived anti-people issues (Diliman Commune).

In 1972, upon the declaration of martial law, Ruben found himself unable to return to his classes at the university lest he be picked up and jailed. Not wanting to be idle and taking to heart SDK’s motto to “Serve the People,” he, along with some members of the SDK and Kabataang Makabayan (KM) who were in the same situation, initiated a project in the UP communities of Palaris and Dagohoy.  Noting that there were many young children just milling about, children whose parents could not afford to send to kindergarten, Ruben and his group put up an informal nursery school. In this makeshift structure of bamboo and nipa leaves  which they themselves gathered from the then forested area of Balara, Ruben and his group of 10  to 12 activists taught the children the basics of Language, Reading and Math. Guitar in tow, Ruben often sang the lessons, to the great delight of his young charges and their grateful parents. Another such center was established in Old Sapang Balara, where Ruben later retreated to elude arrest from agents looking for him. He used the name Oliver to further confound the arresting officers.

By this time, all of Ruben’s family had migrated to Quezon City. To the consternation of his parents, his visits home became increasingly sporadic and far between. His mother, popularly known as Nanay Tering in the community, would often plead with her son to come home. Her Mito however, would plead back for her understanding; he said that he was doing something good and worthwhile for the people.

Ruben’s convictions led him back to his hometown of Bicol, where he joined the underground resistance against martial rule. The opposition in the area had almost all been decimated upon the declaration of martial law and Ruben wanted to help revive it. He lived with the farmers who were grappling with cases of landgrabbing by big landowners. Ruben essayed several roles in the countryside community where he stayed; often, the peasants would ask him to write letters to government agencies to air their concerns. On other occasions he was mediator and helped settle small disputes within the community.  His musical skills provided entertainment during joyous occasions.  He had also become proficient in acupuncture and helped heal minor medical cases. Indeed, some years later, Ruben visited home to find his mother suffering from a toothache. He promptly took out his needles and proceeded to apply a needle or two; Nanay Tering says her tooth had not hurt once to this day.

Fellow activist Roberto Ador offers this view of Ruben: In those occasions that we discussed our common aims, I found Ruben to be very sincere in his ideals for the poor people’s uplift. Smallish in figure at a little more than five feet, with wavy to curly hair, he was a fast talker and his ideas swirled with much conviction.” (Roberto M. Ador is currently the Executive Director of the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines)

Ruben, however, had been in the military’s list of students wanted for their anti-government activities, and not finding him, picked up his younger brother who was then studying in Manila. His brother was detained for more than two months and tortured. To assuage their fears for him as well as bolster their morale, Ruben would often write letters to his family. In one such letter addressed to his parents, he wrote that he wishes to honor them with what he is doing, even as it causes them so much pain. To his brothers and sister, he wrote: “Don’t forget that you have a brother who is fighting, not only for your sake, but for the sake of all the suffering masses. You may have been suffering too for the consequences of my actions. Don’t let the monsters of today frighten you.”

On June 12, 1975, a company from the Philippine Constabulary swooped down on a barangay in Oas, Albay, where Ruben was staying. He was able to scamper to safety but went back to gather his meager belongings, among them the acupuncture kit which was valuable to him. It was then that he received five shots that ended his life. It would be some months later when his family would receive word about his death, and two years before they would be able to retrieve his body which the villagers had buried in a public cemetery. (The rural sanitation inspector of Albay who helped facilitate the transfer of his remains to a Catholic cemetery was Clemente Ragragio, one of Bantayog’s martyrs.)

TACA, Arturo Montemayor

Taca Arturo M., MD pic

Arturo Taca was a young doctor, bright and gifted, when Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. Arturo’s parents as well as Arturo himself were members of the opposition Liberal Party under the wardship of then Manila city mayor Antonio J. Villegas and then senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.

In the persecution that followed against members of the opposition, the three Tacas lost their government jobs in the city government. Arturo’s father Vivencio lost his post as chair of Manila’s Veterinary Inspection Board, his mother Basilisa as director of the Manila Zoo, and Arturo as new member of the hospital staff of the Ospital ng Maynila. Arturo was in fact arrested by constabulary authorities and held incommunicado for a few hours in February 1973. (Taca letter, 1977)

Fearful for his wife and three sons, Arturo decided to immigrate to the United States. In St. Louis, Missouri, he applied and was taken in at the Homer G. Phillips Hospital, first as intern, then as resident in the general surgery department and then in the urology department. Meanwhile, he took and passed both the Missouri and Illinois medical licensure examinations and he was able to open his practice in both states. (Taca CV)

Dr. Taca applied for political asylum in the US in 1977, citing his concern in his application letter that “ …  upon my return I will surely be subjected to … unjust prosecution and persecution based on my past activities and close associations with prominent members of the banned opposition… “ His petition was granted in the late ‘70s but he never applied for U.S. citizenship.

Meanwhile Dr. Taca kept track of events in the Philippines, particularly the fate of Ninoy Aquino, who was his political mentor as well as marital godfather. Ninoy Aquino was then being kept in prison under very harsh conditions, undergoing trial before a military tribunal and facing a possible death penalty. Dr. Taca wrote a succession of letters to US senators, asking them to pressure the Marcos government to release Aquino.

In 1977, Dr. Taca led the St. Louis chapter of the Movement for a Free Philippines (MFP), founded 1973 in Washington DC by former senator Raul Manglapus to organize anti-Marcos resistance in the US. Among its first set of officers are the late Bonifacio Gillego, Gaston Ortigas, and Manglapus himself (all three Bantayog honorees).

Elected  MFP chapter head at St. Louis, Dr. Taca proved himself a relentless recruiter, paying particular attention to Filipino physicians because he knew they had a base of Filipino expatriates and they wielded an influence invaluable in the anti-Marcos resistance. His efforts won over many doctors in St. Louis, although this was a far from easy task because many US-based Filipino doctors were apathetic or even hostile to anti-Marcos activities. (Fuentecilla letter 2011)

At his own expense, Dr. Taca published a newsletter that reported news events from the Philippines and insightful opinion pieces on these events.

Although members of the US-based opposition were often called “steak revolutionaries,” Dr. Taca did not deserve the description. He staked his life, his career, and even his family’s safety and future, in his efforts to oppose what he considered an unjust regime in his home country. He lobbied strongly against continuing US military aid to the regime, thus inviting harassment from US officials who favored Marcos. (Fuentecilla letter, 2011)

Rene Saguisag: “He was an established doctor who did not have to fight the dictatorship openly, but he did.”

Members of the US-based opposition were made to feel what they called the “Marcos-Reagan persecution machine,” consisting of, among others, office break-ins, house raids, and phone record subpoenas. In 1982, a grand jury investigation opened in San Francisco, California, of what were charged as illegal activities of the anti-Marcos opposition. The opposition accused the US government of using the investigation to harass Marcos’ opponents in the US. An admission of telephone wire-tapping by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of US-based Filipino activists indirectly confirmed US government’s involvement in persecuting these activists. (Letter of Willy Cornello, chair, MFP New York region, and Orly Apiado, MD, regional representative, New York Region to Arturo Taca, dated July 31, 1982)

Dr. Taca was asked to appear before the San Francisco grand jury to testify about these suspected illegal activities. In what was seen as a daring move, he refused to testify, saying he did not “want to be part of an investigation intended to silence legitimate opposition to the Marcos dictatorship. He cited US law to support his refusal, although he actually risked imprisonment with his act. (We Forum 1982)

At around this time, Dr. Taca, acting on a request by fellow MFP Bonifacio Gillego, began to search for Ferdinand Marcos’ guerrilla records during the Japanese occupation at the US army archives in St. Louis. This started what would be a two-year research with Bonifacio Gillego. Marcos had made claims of heroic action during the anti-Japanese resistance, which he said earned him war medals from the US. Gillego believed that Marcos’ claims were false, particularly the war medals. For his part, Dr. Taca trained his investigative eye on Marcos’ claim of having organized and led a guerilla unit in Pangasinan called “Ang Mga Maharlika,” numbering anywhere from 300 to 8,000. He believed this claim to be false. (Swallow letter 2011, and unpublished Taca memoirs)

Dr. Taca doggedly pursued the paper trail. But faced with bureaucratic redtape and even coverup attempts by the US army in cooperation with the Philippine military, he never saw the documents, until a separate effort led to a New York Times exposé of the fake war medals in early 1986. When the story on the fake US war medals was eventually published in the New York Times, a sidebar appeared featuring Dr. Taca’s own efforts.

Convinced that the US was aware of Marcos’ sham claims, Dr. Taca accused the US government of “seeking to protect Marcos’ war record,” investing legitimacy to his claims of heroic service to the American flag. Dr. Taca put  the responsibility “for breeding this monster of a dictator” on the US government, as well as many traditional politicians and WWII veterans in the Philippines. (Unpublished Taca memoirs)

In his unpublished memoirs, Dr. Taca wrote: “Marcos, among the rest, stood out for the most absurd and grandest deception foisted to a largely unbeknownst people, and who tested the limits of incredibility (sic), with so much success, through his crass depiction of his self-contrived heroic past to propel himself into the highest office of the land.” Those who knew better tended to turn a blind eye on Marcos’ fake claims because they shared the same guilt, he said, which partly explained why Marcos’ mythical claims were not challenged by other prominent guerrilla personalities. (Unpublished Taca memoirs)

He ceased his research efforts in 1984, after he became convinced that, following the assassination of the late senator Aquino, greater events were happening, overtaking MFP’s efforts, and that with or without these exposés on Marcos’ war records, Marcos himself was about to see his downfall.

(Later Ferdinand Marcos became visibly upset in an interview by Ted Koeppel for the latter’s TV program Nightline, when asked about his Maharlika claim. Marcos threatened to cut the interview short if Koeppel pursued his line of questioning! Dr. Taca felt indirectly vindicated by Marcos’ reaction.) (Unpublished Taca memoirs, “Steak Guerrillas” – XVIII )

In the turbulent years in the Philippines between 1983 and 1986, Dr. Taca became a frequent presence in US media, an articulate and intelligent source of insight and opinion on Philippine events. He had by this time become chairperson of the MFP.

His priorities, according to MFP colleague L.John Swallow Jr., were: first, the anti-Marcos resistance; second, his family, and third, his medical practice. Swallow Jr. recalls that at the time of his involvement with the anti-Marcos resistance, long-suffering patients in the two clinics he maintained waited for him to arrive, believing he was at the other clinic while he was actually being interviewed by journalists. At the height of his involvement, he was receiving half the income he was used to because, not only did he neglect his practice, but pro-Marcos doctors refused to refer patients to him and hospitals refused any association with someone too openly political as he had been.

Dr. Taca was tireless and tenacious, he loved polemics and debate, and he had sharp political instincts. For example, he challenged the new government of Corazon Aquino to negotiate a political settlement with the National Democratic Front. He said the NDF was the “earliest organized group to resist Marcos,” and he credited the NPA insurgency for bringing the Philippines to international attention. He said that denying the NDF and the NPA “a meaningful role” in the new government was “unfair” because the NDF and the NPA, as a single entity, suffered the most during the anti-dictatorship struggle through “battle casualties, salvagings and unjust detention.” He said it was the only group consistently uncompromising in its opposition, whereas those who have assumed power in the Aquino government were belated participants in the anti-dictatorship struggle, including pro-American exiles.

He said that although Marcos was gone, “inequitable and oppressive social, economic and political structures remain firmly entrenched,” and the new democratic space should be used to allow the NDF to achieve their goals through peaceful processes, and give the country “lasting peace” and “national reconciliation.”

Meanwhile, he refused to receive offers from the new government, except an honorary appointment as attaché to the Philippine Mission to the United Nations, with a salary of P1 a year.

Then in 1987, the California grand jury case against Dr. Taca was revived. Thankfully, he was spared from testifying. (Fuentecilla letter 2011 and Swallow Jr. letter, 2011)

A bomb exploded in  his clinic in Illinois in February 1988. (Arturo Taca letter to Rene Saguisag, Aug. 15, 1988.) Writing about this, he said that “… even in this so-called land of liberty, remnants of the failed regime continue to operate with impunity, with an insidious but deadly campaign of retribution and vengeance. We are being made to pay for our involvement in the struggle, and its erstwhile patron, the Reagan administration, appears unwilling to rein in this odious debris of the dictatorship.”

Dr. Taca was able to return to the Philippines many times after the dismantling of the dictatorship, enjoying his homeland and visiting old friends. “What is so ironic is that I didn’t feel this way when I was in my own country. It was only here in the United States where my eyes were truly opened. It’s been said quite often that you don’t realize the value of something until you lose it. Right now (with the EDSA revolution going on in the Philippines), many of us Filipinos in the US feel quite emotional in being away from our country.”

However, illness started to catch up with him. A long-time smoker, he developed lung problems and had to be hospitalized several times. He grew weak from emphysema, dying quietly in his St. Louis home on his 52nd birthday. His body was taken back to be buried in the country he loved.

He contributed articles to Manila Times before he immigrated to the US. In the US, wrote for Life magazine, Washington Post, St. Louis Post Dispatch, the US-based Filipino Reporter, and Philippine News. Worked with other politicians who fled to the US, such as Sonny Alvarez, Serge Osmena, Raul Daza, Steve Psinakis

VIERNES, Gene Allen

Viernes, Gene

Gene was born in Washington, USA, of a large but poor family. His father was a Filipino migrant worker and his Caucasian mother a waitress. Both also worked in farms and warehouses. Gene was fifth of 5 brothers and 5 sisters, growing in a small farming town with a considerable Filipino-American community. (Wapato claims itself to be at one time the only place in the United States where a Filipino could legally own land.)

Gene started to work in the farm when he was barely 11 years old. When he turned 15, he went with his father to work in Alaska, where work in the canneries paid better. Work in Wapato was hard but one was accepted without question, surrounded by family and friends. Alaska introduced Gene to racism, when he often had to swallow insults against people of color. Like most young men who rebelled against such treatment, Gene was advised by the older workers to “endure the situation,” earn money to finish college, and thus leave the hard life.

Friends describe Gene as “the quiet type,” not a rabble-rouser, but Gene could not take the casual insults and indignities he experienced in Alaska. He chose to fight. His first engagement was a strike in 1968 against unequal and segregated meals, which he and his fellow strikers won.

When Gene entered college, he met other Asian American activists, notable among them, Silme Domingo, with whom his life would take a parallel path until the end.

Gene, a half-Filipino, was very interested in his father’s homeland and history. He kept a popular column in community newspapers in Seattle where he documented how Filipino Americans participated and even led in the union struggles in the US from the turn of the 20th century to the 1950s.

Through his association with various student groups in Seattle, Gene became one of the first members of the Seattle-based movement against martial law in the Philippines. He joined the letter-writing campaigns whenever news filtered of a new round of arrest of political prisoners in Manila. They exposed the torture suffered by these prisoners, or the disappearance of others. They passed information to other Filipino migrant families in Seattle.

Meanwhile, he was also active in the Alaska Cannery Workers’ Association-International Longshoremen and Warehousemen’s Union (ACWA-ILWU), and the Northwest Labor and Employment Law Office (LELO). He supported the United Farm Workers (UFW)’s Radio KDNA, the first Spanish-language public radio in the Pacific Northwest.

He and fellow activist Silme (also a Bantayog nominee), began to seek reform within the ACWA-ILWU’s Seattle chapter, called Local 37, inspired by stories told by older union members, the “manongs,” to seek fair hiring and dispatching procedures. (The union local had the task of hiring and dispatching recruits to Alaska.)

In 1977, he helped establish the Rank and File Committee, around which fellow reform-oriented members of Seattle’s Local 37 could gravitate.

Then in a union election in 1980, under a platform of ridding the union of bribery, vote buying, violence and intimidation, members from the Rank and File Committee took leadership of the union’s executive board. Gene and Silme were elected dispatcher and secretary-treasurer, respectively.

The following year, 1981, Gene came to the Philippines for the first time, where he saw for himself grinding poverty unlike any he had seen before, but also, the heroic struggles against such poverty as well as against the repressive policies of the Marcos regime. He met with many worker-activists and even visited guerrilla zones in the countryside.  Later he would recall telling a very young guerrilla fighter the latter was “too young” to understand the dynamics and philosophy of the struggle against the dictatorship, and that he should go back to school, to which Gene got the following answer: “How old does one have to be to understand right from wrong?”

His Philippine experience fresh in his mind, Gene then travelled to Hawaii, where together with Silme Domingo, made a presentation at an international convention of the ILWU in Hawaii, providing documents that gave details of Marcos’ repressive rule, including anti-labor decrees promulgated by the regime. With support from the giant Local 142 in Hawaii (incidentally heavily represented by migrant Ilocanos), and despite opposition from pro-Marcos ILWU members, Local 37 won over the entire convention into passing a resolution criticizing these repressive policies and authorizing a high-level ILWU team to travel to the Philippines to look into the human rights situation in the country, particularly involving Filipino workers.

The only other labor union in the US that had taken a position on the Philippines prior to this was the United Farm Workers. UFW leader Cesar Chavez had been invited by the Marcoses to visit the country, wined and dined there, and later gave glowing reports about the country when he returned to the US.

The ILWU convention’s critical position was potentially disastrous to the Marcos regime. ILWU members could decide to boycott the servicing of Philippine ships abroad, and worse, could lead other unions into taking similar positions against the increasingly notorious Marcos rule. And most alarming of all, Marcos was scheduled for a state visit to the US the following year, 1982, where he expected to secure US aid from his friend and supporter, Ronald Reagan, making any political action against him in the US a huge public relations disaster.

Less than a month after their coup of sorts in Hawaii, Silme and Gene were shot dead inside the Local 37 office in Seattle. Two gunmen simply walked in and fired at the two. Gene died on the spot, but Silme managed to give the identities of the assailants before he died the next day.

The campaign for justice for the two activists’ murder took 7 years, but it was sustained by friends and family, forming the Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes (CJDV), The CJDV helped build the case, uncover evidence, search for witnesses and consistently pressure the US government to pursue the investigation and prosecution.

Finally in 1989, three members of a local gang called Tulisanes were found guilty of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. A fourth gang member was arrested then released, but later killed in mysterious circumstances.

For his role in planning and implementing the murder, a former president of Local 37 was also later sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

The hands of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos were clearly seen in the murders of Silme  Domingo and Gene Viernes, through the decision of the U.S. Federal Court in a civil suit. Through a family friend, a physician, the Marcoses channeled the blood money to the hitmen. In 1991, the court ordered the Marcos estate to pay the families $15 million in damages.

Honoring Macli-ing Dulag, Defender of the Cordillera

ABOVE: SAMUN, (seated, with child on lap), wife of Macli-ing Dulag, and her children put up streamers in their house in the village of Bugnay in Tinglayan to call for justice over the murder of the Kalinga elder. MA. CERES DOYO

(Written by Analyn Salvador-Amores for the Philippine Daily Inquirer.)

MACLI-ING Dulag, a pangat (village elder) from the community of Bugnay in Tinglayan, Kalinga, was murdered by government soldiers 35 years ago for leading the struggle against the World Bank-funded Chico Dam project under the regime of strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Macli-ing died on April 24, 1980 when soldiers, led by Lt. Leodegario Adalem, fired at his house and those of Pedro Dungoc, his neighbor, and another resident opposing the project.

The Chico hydroelectric dam project would have submerged the sacred lands of indigenous peoples near the Chico River—from south of Bontoc in Mountain Province to north of Tomiangan in Tabuk, Kalinga—to provide electricity for the lowlands. If not for Macli-ing’s leadership and his determination to stand up to power, whole communities would have been displaced by the project.

Every April 24 since 1985, Cordillerans mark People’s Day to honor Macli-ing. Recently, the University of the Philippines (UP) Press published the book, “Macli-ing Dulag: Kalinga Chief, Defender of the Cordillera,” by Inquirer columnist Ma. Ceres Doyo. The book has an accompanying anthropological text by Prof. Nestor Castro of the Department of Anthropology at UP Diliman.

The accompanying study on the Cordillera complements the story on Macli-ing in the context of the history and culture of the region, the mountainous ancestral domain of major indigenous communities in the Philippines.


‘Watershed moment’

“This book is yet another way of honoring and keeping alive the memory of the man who fought for his people, the Kalinga people, whose mountain homes were marked to give way to so-called development. Macli-ing’s struggle served as a watershed moment,” writes Doyo.

The book is an expanded version of an award-winning 1980 magazine article that led to Doyo’s interrogation and chastisement by the military. While the article put her and the magazine’s editor and publisher in trouble with authorities, the piece earned a journalism award handed by no less than Pope John Paul II during his 1981 visit to the Philippines.

Elders in Bugnay deeply remember Macli-ing but younger members of the community remain clueless on his larger contribution to the story of indigenous Filipinos.

Asked how the retelling of Macli-ing’s story could remind the Butbut-Kalinga and other Filipinos of his struggle and triumph, Doyo says: “I would tell them the impact of Macli-ing’s death not only on the people of the Cordillera but on people beyond. The elders and the youth should be proud that someone like Macli-ing once walked among them.”

“I would probably show the young the scar I have on my right elbow, narrate how difficult it was at that time to reach their village,” she says.

Doyo’s team was the first fact-finding group that reached the village after Macli-ing’s death. Several fact-finding missions, among these church-based and human rights groups, came later.

“It was difficult during that time—there was no food, water was scarce. The military was everywhere. We had to be vigilant,” says Apo Takhay, a Bugnay woman elder who is now more than 100 years old.

She recalls how a group of women dismantled and burned the campsites of project proponents in Basao, a village next to Bugnay. In one incident, she tells about the lusay—when elderly women disrobed and displayed their tattooed torsos and limbs in front of government surveyors and soldiers to protest the dam construction. This act, she says, is believed to bring extreme harm and bad luck to men observing them.

Apo Takhay says “the village mourned, but did not weep,” when Macli-ing died.
Her memory of Macli-ing is vivid: “He was eloquent and calm, full of courage. People intently listen to him with stillness.”

Doyo says Macli-ing’s words had an “almost mystical, spiritual quality.”

Asked what she wants to ask Macli-ing if she interviews him today, Doyo says: “Where did he draw his courage and timeless wisdom? Who is Kabunian to him? I would have wanted to have a really good glimpse not only of his mind but of his heart.”

Doyo says she also wants to learn about his childhood, the influences in his life, and what Bugnay and the Chico River were like before militarization and the proposed dam threatened the community.

Today, Macli-ing’s name is etched on the Wall of Remembrance of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City, one of the Filipino martyrs and heroes who offered their lives for freedom and justice during martial law.

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 next