YUCHENGCO, Alfonso Tiaoqui


Alfonso T. Yuchengco gave his wholehearted support to the people’s opposition to the Marcos dictatorship as open resistance was building up in the urban areas towards the late 1970s. Before then, many citizens had been willing to keep their peace, but now more and more of them were telling each other: “We need to do something.”

His quiet involvement, in the form of valuable moral and material assistance, gave hope in particular to those oppositionists in the Light a Fire Movement. They had drawn up plans to destabilize the regime by planting small explosives in selected government buildings and properties owned by some Marcos cronies.  However, the arrest, detention and trial of several members of the group effectively put a stop to these activities.

Scion of a wealthy family descended from Chinese immigrants, Yuchengco was born and educated in Manila. He attended high school in De La Salle College, where he enjoyed the company of boyhood friends like any normal teenager. After the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II, he enrolled at the Far Eastern University where he earned a degree in commerce.  After passing the public accountancy board examinations (with flying colors), he was sent to the United States to study at New York’s Columbia University for a master’s degree in business administration.

Upon his father’s death in 1953, Yuchengco took over the family interests in trading, construction and insurance.  He steadily expanded, built up and diversified the various businesses that today include banking, pharmaceuticals, education, etc. His progressive outlook and management practices earned for him a good reputation in the Philippines as well as in Southeast Asia.

Although he could have taken advantage of his power and influence to further his own interests by collaborating with the Marcos regime, like many others, Yuchengco chose to keep his independence. There came a point, however, when he could no longer stand apart. “I could not just sit back and watch, as the greatest plunder in Philippine history was going on, wreaking havoc on the economy and driving capital and our best minds and talents to foreign lands.”[1]

After the fall of the dictatorship, Yuchengco served as the country’s ambassador to China, and later to Japan and the United Nations. He was proud to have the chance to represent the Philippines, as he had always thought of himself as a Filipino first and foremost.

In 1990, upon the invitation of his good friend Jovito R. Salonga, Yuchengco joined and was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, Inc. Subsequently he became a strong supporter of the foundation's activities, staying as trustee and holding positions of vice-chair, chair and eventually chair emeritus, until he died in 2016.

[1] As quoted in Wilfrido V. Villacorta, “Alfonso T. Yuchengco: A Lifetime of Integrity,” Manila, De La Salle University, 2003, p. 21.

SONTILLANO, Francis Superal

Francis Superal Sontillano died at 15, a young martyr in the fight against injustice during the time of Ferdinand Marcos.

Born on May 5, 1955, Sontillano came from humble origins in Santa Barbara, Iloilo where he grew up. He was the eldest of three children, who was valedictorian of of the Santa Barbara Elementary School in 1968. His academic record earned him a scholarship at the prestigious government-funded Philippine Science High School in Manila.

Fighting for Students Rights

At Pisay, as the school was called, Sontillano wrote poetry for the school organ called Lagablab, played basketball, and eventually was drawn to social activism. He joined discussion groups, and helped mobilize students in social actions geared to helping farmers, workers, and the urban poor.

He became close to Bantayog martyr Ronald Jan Quimpo and their schoolmate, Marie Hilao, the sister of the first known female martial law martyr, Liliosa Hilao.

They were young men and women at the forefront of the fight against institutional injustice. On campus, they struggled against the lack of clean water fountains and functioning bathrooms. They challenged the school administration to improve conditions at the school.

Taking On a Corrupt Government

Even they took the fight off-campus, as they saw connections between conditions at Pisay with the corruption under Ferdinand Marcos. Sontillano eventually became a respected member of the Malayang Kilusan ng mga Kabataan, or MKK.

By 1970, marching to denounce corruption and political abuse under Marcos became routine for the young activists of Pisay, including Sontillano. In fact, during one march, on December 4, 1970, he was so in a hurry to join a demonstration that he neglected to wear shoes, and ended up joining the protest in rubber slippers.

The Philippine Science High School contingent joined other students from the University Belt in Manila. The marched, chanting slogans and urging other young people to join. Then, when they reached Feati University, something happened.

Death of Young Sontillano


There was an explosion which one witness described as like “a thick plank of wood smashing itself onto my nape and back.” The students dispersed, run for safety -- except Francis Sontillano, who had collapsed on the street, bloodied and his head shattered. A security guard had thrown a pillbox at the student demonstrators. He was later charged and sentenced to life in prison.

Francis Sontillano, the teenager from Iloilo, became one of the first martyrs of the fight against Marcos. Two years later, after martial law was declared, other young people from Pisay and other schools followed his example in joining the fight against the regime.

In September 2011, more than 40 years after Sontillano’s death, the Philippine Science High School honored twenty-one Marcos-era martyrs, including Francis. The ceremony served as an opportunity to discuss with millennial students the brutality of the Marcos regime and the young Filipinos who waged the fight to end it.

One millennial used social media to join Sontillano, his niece Lexley Maree Villasis. With the help of her mother who is Francis’ younger sister, Siena Sontillano, the 11-year-old created a Facebook page in honor ofthe teenager who joined the fight against tyranny.

PADILLA, Sabino "Abe" Garcia


Sabino Garcia Padilla Jr., known as Abe, was an academic, anthropologist, artist and organizer who got involved in important activist struggles during the Marcos regime.

Born in Davao City, Padilla was the son of a devoted teacher and a surgeon in the U.S. military during the Commonwealth period. Although the family had the option of immigrating to the United States, they opted to stay. They later moved to Manila where his father opened a clinic and his mother taught in a private school.

As a young man in Manila, Abe Padilla became politically involved and was arrested for his activism after martial law was declared. Released after three months, he took some vocational courses on mechanics before enrolling at the University of the Philippines where he took up history.

For his undergraduate thesis, Abe explored the history of the Moro struggle in Mindanao. He inevitably was drawn to the struggles on the UP Diliman campus where he joined numerous campaigns for the restoration of student rights that were curtailed under martial law. He joined the staff of the revived Philippine Collegian and wrote student campaigns for better facilities and against rising tuition rates.

Campus Activism

Eventually, Abe Padilla was drawn to other issues and concerns outside the campus. He became involved in the struggles of the urban poor and the batilyo workers  in Navotas where he also helped oppose a plan to bring environmental waste into the country.

In August 1977, he joined demonstrations that sought to expose human rights violations under Marcos during the World Law Conference in Manila. The street protests turned violent after demonstrators were met with water canons and truncheons by security forces, a confrontation that was featured in the state-controlled Daily Express.

Abe Padilla also turned to art in opposing the regime. He led a group of artists in producing materials for political protests and activities, including leaflets, T-shirts, arm bands and posters.

While conducting research for his masteral studies, he got a broader view of the conditions outside Manila. This led to his involvement in Isabela with the Diocese of Ilagan’s Social Action Center, then under Bishop Miguel Purugganan, who asked him head the organization’s  research and documentation desk in 1979. It was while working for the Social Action Center that Abe Padilla met  his wife, Maria Teresa. Their son May-i was born in Ilagan.

Struggles in Isabela

It was during this time that Padilla became involved with tens of thousands of farmers in their struggle against Marcos ally, Eduardo Cojuangco and his associate Antonio Carag.

Cojuangco and Carag sought to change a Spanish-era grant stipulation that would have returned vast tracts of land to the farmers after a hundred years. Cojuangco was able to block the turnover and purchased the Tabacalera tobacco plantation at  Haciendas San Antonio and Santa Isabel in Ilagan, Isabela.

Through Courier, the SAC news letter, Padilla helped document and expose the Cojuangco maneuvers in collusion with the provincial government and the military which terrorized the farmers. Padilla also helped draw attention to the farmers resistance movement and the attempts to demolish their homes and relocate them to other areas.  The struggle culminated in a march of about 12,000 protesters from northern and southern Isabela towns to Ilagan. The campaign paved the way for 4,000 farmers to get titles to their land.

The Courier also documented other vital issues of the people of Isabela. The newsletter exposed violations of human rights by government and the military, including arbitrary and illegal arrests, detention, extrajudicial killings, torture,  rape, hamletting, land grabbing, and arson.

Political Prisoner

His political involvement inevitably made Abe Padilla a target. In July 1982, he was arrested with other activists in Bayombong, Nueva Ecija, during a meeting in the residence and clinic of Aurora Parong, the respected medical doctor who was involved in the community-based health programs in Cagayan Valley.

Padilla’s group came to be known as the “Vizcaya 13.” The arrests were denounced as illegal, especially since  ‘presidential commitment order’ (PCO) issued by President Marcos was signed six days after the arrest.

Padilla’s mother, Josefina Garcia-Padilla, with the aid of lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group, filed what eventually became the landmark “Garcia-Padilla v. Enrile Case.” The Philippine Supreme Court sided with the dictatorship by declaring the arrests legal.

Detenion at the Bayombong Stockade of the Philippine Constabulary was rough for Padilla and his fellow political prisoners. They suffered from inadequate food, poor living conditions and constant harassment from soldiers, led by the notorious Rodolfo Aguinaldo, known as one of the most brutal torturers of the Marcos security apparatus.

Padilla and his fellow detainees fought back by calling for better conditions for all political prisoners. Again, he turned to art in this campaign, organizing his fellow detainees in creating cards, decorative flowers, and wall hangers with inspirational quotes on human rights.

After his release in 1985, Padilla remained active in the fight against the Marcos regime, and even worked with Amnesty International exposing to the world media the deplorable social conditions in the country.

After the fall of the dictatorship in 1986, he focused on his academic pursuits, earning a PhD in anthropology in 1991. His academic work focused on the plight of indigenous communities. Among the projects he pursued during this period is developing geo-mappnig systems to better understand the health concerns of indigenous peoples. He was working on genetic studies of Negrito populations in the Philippines when he died on March 22, 2013 from cancer.

Impact of Sabino's life

There are many stories about Abe Padilla’s life and times, most of them highlighting his love of country, selflessness, and passion to help build a better life for all Filipinos. Many endorse his nomination to Bantayog’s roster of martyrs and heroes. Here are some of them:

“... I remember him attending a number of PNHS Conferences... I was saddened by news of his death - he was so young and full of determination, passionate to do what is good for the country and our people, especially the IPs. I am heartily endorsing his nomination to Bantayog ng mga Bayani where he will be in the company of students, friends, and colleagues who have sacrificed their lives for our country and for all of us.” - Bernardita Reyes Churchill, Professor of History (retired), Department of History, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines Diliman, and President, Philippine National Historical Society, Inc.

“We saw in Abe a dedication and an unwavering commitment to serve the people before, during  and after incarceration. We saw it in his research work, his teaching and in public service in working with non-government organizations and people's organization... His battle against the dictatorship and continued service to the people thereafter up to his death epitomizes the "Bayani" or "Para sa Bayan" life that he led. He deserves a place at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani.”-Ariel S. Betan, Associate Professor, UP Manila and Assistant Vice President for Administration, UP System

“... The late Abe Padilla was my colleague in the UP Faculty. I can vouch for his relentless but quiet and low profile work for the cause of freedom and justice in our country, particularly during the dark times of Martial Law.” - Randy David, Emeritus Professor, University of the Philippines

“Abe’s memory deserves to be enshrined in the Bantayog ng mga Bayani. His work offers a fine example to guide the youth. His life as an activist embodies the historical developments in the larger protest movement in the Philippines. And given the dreams that my good friend Abe placed in the nation’s service, it is a final act of justice for us, the living, to recognize formally the noble sacrifice Abe lived out daily in his life.” – Raul C. Pangalangan, Judge, International Criminal Court

And from activist writer and community organizer Violeta de Guzman, something short but succint– “Put his name on that wall. In these turbulent times, we should cherish the memory of heroes like Abe.”

NIEVA, Antonio Ma. Onrubia


Antonio “Tony” Nieva was a writer, journalist, union organizer and activist who devoted his life to the defense of press freedom, the rights of workers and the defeat of dictatorship.

He grew up in Zamboanga where his father was a teacher at the Ateneo de Zamboanga who wanted his children to nurture their intellect and to be wide-readers. As Tony Nieva once wrote: “As far back as I can remember, it had always been an uphill struggle against bills—water bills, electric bills, the monthly rent. While we had few luxuries, we were rich in reading material. We never ran out of books, magazines, and newspapers.”

Tony excelled in school, graduating with honors from his elementary school and winning gold medal that year as the school’s campus journalist. He was a college student in Zamboanga when he began his first journalism stint as a reporter for The Philippines Herald. He worked with Herald for almost a decade. In 1972, he became managing editor of Mabuhay, a sister publication of Herald. Tony later moved to Bulletin Today, working as a desk editor.

By 1972, Tony Nieva was a journalist with strong beliefs and a staunch opponent of the government of Ferdinand Marcos. When he heard that martial law had been declared in September that year, it is said that he ran to the National Press Club building in Manila to warn the organization’s officers, Antonio Zumel and Eddie Monteclaro, who were able to escape the first wave of arrests.

Fighting for Workers’ Rights

It was during martial law that Tony Nieva also became deeply involved in the struggles of Filipino workers, particularly those who worked in media. He came to see unions as an important force in the fight against dictatorship which took control of major media outlets.

He helped start the union at Bulletin Today and even became the union’s president. He also campaigned for the unionization of workers at newspapers, including the Daily Express, the Manila Times and other publications that were part of the Journal group of companies. He co-founded the short-lived Brotherhood of Unions in Media of the Philippines (BUMP). Later, he self-published a workers’ magazine called Bagwis.

From the late 1970s to the late 1980s, Tony also became an influential member of the National Press Club, serving as president from 1984 to 1986. Once known primarily as a social club, the NPC was transformed into an activist organization fighting for press freedom during the Marcos regime.

Tony Nieva is a Champion of Press Freedom

Under Nieva’s leadership, the NPC became more of a political center where journalists and activists held discussions about democracy and dictatorship. The NPC headquarters became a hub of journalists seeking to assert their rights and pursue honest reporting despite the constraints of martial rule. The NPC also spoke out against attempts to harass critical reporters and independent newspapers.

When the We Forum, an independent newspaper critical of the regime, was shut down by the regime which raided its newspapers and jailed members of its staff in December 1982, Nieva led the campaign to free publisher Jose Burgos Jr. and the other journalists. The Supreme Court later declared the arrest and raid as illegal.

A few months after Burgos was released, in 1983, Tony Nieva himself was arrested and detained following a military raid on his house in Malate, Manila.

His commitment to press freedom was rooted in history. Under his leadership, the NPC declared Aug. 30, 1984, the birth anniversary of Marcelo H. del Pilar, the journalist-activist of the Philippine revolution against Spain, “Press Freedom Day,” starting an annual tradition for the organization and other press freedom advocates. Two years later, in 1986, he helped launch the People's Movement for Press Freedom (PMPF).

Defying a Dictatorship

Nieva’s opposition to the Marcos tyranny included secretly supporting the underground movement against the Marcos dictatorship. On occasion, he offered the use of his car to fugitive leaders of the underground, and at times even drove them himself.  In 1985, Tony Nieva personally helped in the escape of imprisoned journalist Satur Ocampo during an NPC event that the famed political prisoner was allowed to attend.

Nieva remained active in media organizing even after the fall of Marcos in 1986. He helped start two new organizations: the Kapisanan ng mga Manggagawa sa Media ng Pilipinas (Kammpi) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP). By then, he was respected internationally as a champion of press freedom and the welfare of journalists.

In 1995, Nieva was appointed secretary-general of the Prague-based International Organization of Journalists (IOJ), the first Asian to hold that position. He served in this post until his death from natural cases in 1997.

Tony Nieva was respected and admired by his colleagues as these comments show:

Joel C. Paredes, Interaksyon
Tony Nieva advocated the rights of workers as a part of the Filipino journalists’ struggle for press freedom during the martial law years. In 1980, Nieva, then president of the Manila Bulletin Employees’ Union asked my help in the preparations for putting up an independent labor center which was later launched as the Kilusang Mayo Uno on May 1 that year.

Jaime Jose (Nonoy) Espina, member of the Directorate, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)
Antonio Nieva is, without question, one of the legendary figures in Philippine journalism. Many journalists who had fought the dictatorship’s efforts to suppress the truth can attest to how Tony helped keep the flames of resistance burning among them. In the early days of the NUJP, Tony would exhort the younger members NEVER to allow the mass silencing of media that Ferdinand Marcos pulled off when he declared martial law in 1972.

Sheila Coronel, Dean of Academic Affairs, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University
As a journalist, Nieva was a trenchant critic of martial rule. He wrote fearlessly and well, with a clarity and toughness that was rare in those difficult times when the press was cowered by fear and intimidated (or bought off) by the powers that be.

Lazaro "Jun" Medina (formerly with Herald)
Tony could not be a member of the Herald union by virtue of his (managerial) position as editor. But he supported the union in a strike that was probably the first successful one ever staged in any company owned by the very powerful Sorianos, who also owned then the giant San Miguel Corp.

Carolina "Bobbie" Malay
 At the National Press Club elections held in May 1985, Satur Ocampo was able to return to the club and cast his vote—and mysteriously disappeared into the underground right after. The dramatic escape from military custody was celebrated then and there by the NPC journalists as an act of defiance against the regime, and Tony Nieva played an important role in it. He gave an example of principled courage and perseverance in fighting for the people’s rights against an all-powerful dictatorial regime.

Al Mendoza (President, Bulletin Employees Union, 1983):
The reason I became president of the Bulletin Employees Union (BEU) was Tony Nieva. As BEU president from 1975 to 1983, Tony inspired me with his unflinching pro-worker stance. His heart was always there for the labor force.  He would give his last buck to a worker in need.

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


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.


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


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


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


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"


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.

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