HILAO, Liliosa R.


From the day martial law was imposed by President Marcos in September 1972, Liliosa Hilao began to wear black as a sign of mourning, because, as she wrote then in her diary, “Democracy is dead.”

Barely six months later she herself was dead, in the first reported case of a political detainee’s death under martial law.

A talented young woman with many friends and extracurricular activities, Hilao garnered honors all through her school years; she was due to graduate cum laude with a degree in communication arts in 1973. But although student activism was at its height by the time she entered college, she didn’t join rallies or shout slogans. Besides, she had asthma and allergies that prevented her from being more physically active.

At the same time, she had a strong sense of justice and a mind of her own. This was expressed in the thoughtful essays she wrote for the student paper at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (where she was associate editor); some had titles like “The Vietnamization of the Philippines” and “Democracy is Dead in the Philippines under Martial Law.”

One evening in April 1973, drunken soldiers barged into the Hilao family residence in Quezon City, looking for Hilao's brother, an engineer. They were members of the Constabulary Anti-Narcotics Unit. When the young woman insisted that they produce a search warrant or an arrest order, the soldiers beat her up, then handcuffed and took her away. She was brought to Camp Crame, headquarters of the Philippine Constabulary (now the Philippine National Police).

There a brother-in-law, an army officer, was able to see Hilao. She told him, and he saw for himself, that she had been tortured. But he was unable to do anything. The following day her older sister Alice was called to the Camp Crame Station Hospital. Liliosa’s body bore visible marks of severe torture, and even sexual abuse. She was already dead.

The authorities claimed that Hilao committed suicide by drinking muriatic acid. Officials at the highest levels declared the case was closed. But no one really believed that the military had nothing to do with her death.

Because of the tragedy, several members of the Hilao family had to leave their home to avoid arrest and detention, or worse. For years, they were aware of being under military surveillance.

At the graduation ceremonies held two weeks afterward by the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, a seat was kept vacant for Liliosa Hilao, who was still conferred her degree, posthumously and with honors.

And in Bulan, Sorsogon, where she was born, the municipal council named a street after her in 2001.

LACABA, Emmanuel "Eman" Agapito F.

Lacaba, Emmanuel

Emmanuel Lacaba was a poet who searched for meaning and relevance in his art and life, and discovered these in the midst of the Filipino masses.

He won many awards as a poet, fictionist, essayist and playwright; he was a magazine illustrator, a stage actor and a production hand. He taught at the University of the Philippines, wrote songs, practiced the martial and even the occult arts. He was an honor student from grade school to high school (studying in the United States for one year as an exchange scholar), and he went to college on a full scholarship.

“Flower child” Eman Lacaba started to show political awareness during the First Quarter Storm of 1970, when he began taking part in political actions. He named his two daughters, born during that period, Miriam Manavi Mithi Mezcaline Mendiola, and Emanwelga Fe.

Lacaba was teaching a course on Rizal's life and works when he was arrested and detained due to his participation in a labor strike. He lost his job at the UP as a result.

In 1974 he decided to join the New People’s Army (NPA) in South Cotabato. He took the name Popoy Dakuykoy, an allusion to a comic book character whose name he had once used for a character in an epic poem he had written in the 1960s.

His passion for writing was well known. When he ran out of paper to use, he wrote on the back of cigarette foil wrappers. In one of his poems, he described himself as the "shy young poet forever writing last poem after last poem," the "brown Rimbaud" who became a people's warrior.

Lacaba had been with the NPA two years when, in March 1976, an informer led a troop of soldiers to the peasant hut where he and his fellow guerrillas had spent the night. With no warning shots or calls for surrender, the soldiers opened fire. All the guerrillas were killed immediately, except Lacaba and a pregnant teenager who were both wounded. They were being taken to Tagum, Davao del Norte, when the sergeant who headed the soldiers gave the instruction "not to bring anyone back alive."

The pregnant woman was first to be shot dead, then Lacaba, who is said to have dared the informer, "Go ahead, finish me off." The informer had then put a .45-caliber pistol into his mouth and fired. Lacaba's mother claimed her son’s body later.

Eman Lacaba is perhaps the first nationally-known creative writer who joined the armed struggle against the Marcos dictatorship. Poems and articles were written about him after his death. A collection of his poems, Salvaged Poems, was published posthumously in 1986. Another collection, Salvaged Prose, of his short stories, plays and essays, came out in 1992.