19 real heroes hailed at Bantayog ng mga Bayani

“We will not allow the torch to be extinguished. We will hold it high until our last breath.”

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Nineteen martyrs who fought the Marcos dictatorship were hailed as heroes in an open ceremony, Nov. 30 at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani.

Attended by at least 1,000 relatives and activists, the event came two weeks after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was secretly buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Honored as heroes were five youth activists, three journalists, three union organizers, three Church people and five professionals.

Former Senator Wigberto Tañada, chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation said, “The message we want to convey is that we need to spread the truth about history, because if not, this will keep on happening. We saw what happened this month, the one who had committed a sin against our nation was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.”
Tañada said that the Bantayog joined the protest actions condemning the Supreme Court decision allowing Marcos to be buried at the LNMB.

Tañada said the 19 names enshrined at the Bantayog’s Wall of Remembrance were true heroes.

First to be honored was former Senator Jovito Salonga who was detained during martial law. He exposed several anomalies in the Marcos administration. He also worked for the release of political prisoners.

‘Among the best youth of their generation’

Five of the 19 died young fighting the Marcos dictatorship.

Eduardo Q. Aquino, Fortunato Camus, Edgardo M. Dojillo, Ricardo Filio and Joel Cecilio Jose were student activists who organized among peasants and indigenous peoples during Martial Law.

Aquino was a member of the Sigma Kappa Pi Fraternity at the University of the Philippines Diliman. In late May 1970, Aquino went to Mindanao and organised banana plantation workers. Later, he would organize among the peasants in Tarlac. He was killed by soldiers on April 23, 1973.

Camus was a youth leader in the Visayas, He organised peasants at Hacienda Osmena and drivers and the urban poor in Cebu. He later joined the New People’s Army (NPA) and had been deployed in Cagayan Valley, Quirino, Aurora, Quezon and Nueva Ecija. He was killed during an encounter in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija in June 1976. He was 26.

Dojillo was a popular student leader at the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos in Bacolod City. He was grand chancellor of the Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity and student council officer. Ed became the provincial chairman of KM in 1971. When martial law was declared, he joined other young activists who went to the hinterlands of Negros. He was eventually killed by Philippine Constabulary troops.

Filio was a member of Kabataang Makabayan Ateneo de Davao College chapter. When Marcos declared Martial Law, Filio’s house was raided by the military. After that, Filio decided to join the NPA in Davao. He died in an unfortunate miscounter with his comrades in Laac, now part of Compostella Valley on March 11, 1976. He was 22.

Jose was a member of the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan in UP Diliman. He left the university in 1971 and went back to his hometown in Davao where he continued organizing. He went underground after Martial Law was declared but was arrested in May 1977. He was severely tortured. Upon his release, he continued fighting the dictatorship. He organised Subanen tribe in Zamboanga Peninsula. He was killed on May 19, 1987 when the military attacked him and his comrades in San Isidro, Mawab, Compostela Valley.

Press freedom fighters

Journalists Lourdes “Chit” Estella-Simbulan, Leticia Jimenez-Magsanoc and Antonio Zumel were honored for utilising journalism in fighting the dictatorship.

Estella-Simbulan was a student journalist of the Philippine Collegian, student publication of the University of the Philippines, which exposed the ills of the dictatorship. She later wrote for underground publications Liberation, Balita ng Malayang Pilinas and Taliba ng Bayan. She also wrote for Pahayagang Malaya and Mr. & Ms. which were critical of the Marcos dictatorship.

Jimenez-Magsanoc wrote anti-Marcos stories in Philippine Panorama, a magazine linked to one of the cronies of the dictator. She was forced to resign from Panorama and continued writing for Mr. & Ms. Special Edition. She would later found the Philippine Daily Inquirer together with Eugenia Apostol.

Zumel was a highly-respected journalist who went underground when martial law was declared. He edited underground publications Ang Bayan and Liberation and later became the chairperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) recognised the three journalists as among the staunchest to defend press freedom at a time of tyranny.

Church people, professionals

Bishop Julio Labayen was honored for building a Church for the poor. He was one of the seven bishops who wrote an open letter to then-President Ferdinand Marcos against the atrocities committed under martial law in 1973. He initiated programs that strengthened the Church people’s involvement in the defense of human rights.

Romulo Peralta is a Protestant lay missionary who organized among professionals and government workers against the dictatorship. He and his wife Carmencita Karagdag became targets of the Marcos regime and were forced to go into exile. They continued their anti-dictatorship activities, organizing Filipinos in several countries.

Jose Aquilino Tangente was a seminarian who organised sacadas and peasants in rural areas in Iloilo. He later went to the hills of Panay to join the armed resistance against the dictatorship. He died in a military ambush in Pandan, Antique in August 1987.

Benjamin “Behn” Cervantes was an artist who dedicated his art for the people. He was one of the founders of the UP Repertory Company and Philippine Educational Theatre Association (PETA) and directed plays that depicted the struggles of the marginalised sectors. He was imprisoned thrice during the Marcos dictatorship.

Margarita “Maita” Gomez was a model and beauty queen who joined the NPA during Martial Law. She co-founded Gabriela and helped form the Women for the Ouster of Marcos and Boycott in 1985.

Danilo P. Vizmanos was a Navy captain who left his promising military career to fight the dictatorship. He was imprisoned for more than two years. After the ouster of Marcos, Vizmanos chaired the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Para sa Amnestiya (SELDA) which spearheaded the filing of the class suit against Marcos.

Manuel Dorotan was an engineer who left his job to join the underground movement in the city after martial law was declared. He became a union organizer. He and his wife, also a labor organiser, left for Bicol. He was tortured and killed by soldiers in Basud, Camarines Norte on September 6, 1983.

Labor organizers

Also honored were three labor organizers.

Simplicio Villados was a local labor leader who defied the strike ban imposed by Marcos. On one occasion, when strike breakers and scabs attacked their strike, Villados sustained head injuries. He opened his home to underground activists, including Edgar Jopson, then a union organiser. Later, Villados left his job in the factory to become a full-time labor organiser. He became a founding member of the Kilusang Mayo Uno-National Capital Region where he became its vice chairman.  The KMU led protests against the dictatorship.

Marciano Anastacio Jr. helped organise workers, which led to the La Tondena strike, which broke the silence of workers in 1975. In 1980, he survived an assassination attempt by a military agent. After recovering, he joined the NPA in Quezon and Bicol. On December 18,1982, Anastacio and a companion farmer were ambushed by soldiers in San Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte.

Hernando Cortez is considered as one of the pillars of the labor movement in Mindanao. His organizing work included banana plantation workers, stevedores, and workers in commercial establishments in Davao City, Davao del Norte and del Sur, North Cotabato, and South Cotabato. He was arrested, tortured and killed in August 1983.

Marcos not a hero

The families and friends of the 19 martyrs received the certificates of recognition from the foundation.

Dr. Carlitos Magsanoc thanked the “Bantayog ng mga Tunay na Bayani,” stressing the word “Tunay” (real) for honoring his wife Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc.

Maria Loreto Jose, wife of Joel Cecilio Jose, vowed to produce a book about other martyrs and heroes “so that we would not forget and we would prevent another dictatorship from happening.”

“Never ever again. Never ever forget,” Maria Loreto said in a quivering voice.

Carmencita Karagdag, wife of Romulo Peralta, told the crowd, “May these stories infuse us with renewed vigor … against rehabilitating the dark legacy of Marcos.”

Aquino’s fraternity brothers, meanwhile, who joined the family in receiving the plaque of recognition, chanted, “Marcos! Hitler! Diktador! Tuta!”

Joined by Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, the family and friends of Dojillo chanted, “Aso, Pusa, Marcos Tuta!”

Joel Saracho who served as one of the emcees, said, “It feels good to honor real heroes. We need not hide.” The audience applauded.

In honor of the martyrs, Roland Simbulan, husband of Estella-Simbulan, said, “We will not allow the torch to be extinguished. We will hold it high until our last breath.” ()

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  1. erratum: Edgardo M. Dojillo: middle initial should be changed to G (Galve)

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