Heroes who fought the dictatorship honored at Bantayog ng mga Bayani

Eleven heroes and martyrs were added to the Wall of Remembrance at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, Nov. 30. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)

The honoring of heroes and martyrs took place amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s threats of crackdown on activists and declaration of a so-called “revolutionary government.”


MANILA – Eleven names have been recognized as heroes and added to the Wall of Remembrance at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, Nov. 30.

This year’s honorees include a journalist, a priest, a soldier, two tribe leaders, two women guerillas, an academic, a businessman, a brother of a desaparecido and a student. All of them joined the resistance against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos between 1972 until the early 1980s.

The honoring of heroes and martyrs took place amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s threats of crackdown on activists and declaration of a so-called “revolutionary government.”

Earlier in the day, supporters of Duterte took the streets purportedly to express the clamor for “revolutionary government.” They were outnumbered by members id progressive organizations who condemned the escalating attacks on human rights.

In his keynote address, Reynaldo Vera, president of Mapua Institute of Technology, said, “there is greater importance in recounting the abuses of the dictatorship in the face of danger of historical amnesia, or worse, historical revisionism.”

Last year, the remains of the former dictator were buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The Marcoses’ political clout has been empowered under the Duterte administration.

Vera, then a student leader, was detained for 20 months during martial law. His sacrifices, he said, “pale in comparison with the 11 heroes and martyrs who gave their sweat, blood and life to regain our democracy.”

Journalist and unionist

Antonio Ma. Nieva was a journalist and union leader during martial law. He was former president of the National Press Club (NPC) and founder of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

Nieva fought for the rights and welfare of journalists and media workers. He led the union at the Manila Bulletin and helped in forming unions in other media outfits. He led his colleagues in the campaign against repression in the media, calling for the release of We Forum publisher Jose Burgos Jr. Nieva himself was arrested and detained for his union organizing work.

Chaplain of street parliamentarians

Fr. Joe Dizon was called the “chaplain of street parliamentarians” for being in the thick of the struggle for democracy.

The priest’s political involvement started during martial law when he joined other Church workers in support of workers’ strikes and other struggles of the poor.

He was instrumental in the formation of anti-Marcos dictatorship groups such as the Justice for Aquino, Justice for All (Jaja), Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Democracy, Coalition on the Restoration of Democracy and then Bayan.

After martial law, Fr. Joe did not stop his advocacy. He joined the movement to overthrow then President Joseph Estrada. During the Arroyo administration, he became a convener of election watchdog Kontra Daya and Oust Gloria Movement.

Tribe leaders

Tayab (Arthur) Aboli and Lumbaya Gayudan were both leaders of Kalinga tribes who fought the Chico dam project of Marcos along with Macliing Dulag.

Aboli and Gayudan were among the 165 tribal leaders who attended the historic Vochong Conference on Development in May 1975 in Quezon City that opposed the Chico dam project.

When Macli-ing was killed by soldiers, Aboli took over the leadership and organized the village militia for the defense of the community. In 1982, he joined the New People’s Army. After martial law, Aboli became a local leader until his death in 2007.

Gayudan also joined the New People’s Army. He died four years later due to pneumonia.


Pablo Fernandez held the rank of 2nd lieutenant in the Philippine Army when Marcos declared martial law. He defied his superior’s orders and instead joined the armed resistance against the dictatorship in October 1972.

He was captured by the military on June 9, 1973. It is believed that he was summarily executed, as attested by two bullet wounds below his eyes.

Youth, academic, businessman

Francis Sontillano was a high school student at the Philippine Science High School when he joined street protests against martial law.

In a protest action on December 4, 1970, a security guard threw a pillbox at the protesters. Sontillano was not able to run for safety and died.

Cesar Cayon became an activist after his brother, Fred Cayon, went missing. Cesar joined the armed resistance against Marcos, organizing among the lumad and peasants in Northern Mindanao.

Cayon, known as Ka Andy to the community, led the Pulang Bagani (red warriors) with most of its members coming from the ranks of the Higaonon tribe. The group spent many hours educating and organizing the tribe on how to defend their lands from plunderers, thieves and the destructive projects of the dictatorship.

He was killed by the military in a raid in 1983.

Sabino Garcia Padilla Jr. was an academic, anthropologist, artist and organizer. He was detained for three years during the Marcos dictatorship.

He was active at the Social Action Center in Ilagan, Isabela, producing a newsletter that openly exposed human rights abuses in the countryside.

After the people power uprising, Padilla focused on his advocacy for indigenous peoples until his death on March 22, 2013.

Alfonso Yuchengco came from a wealthy family. He provided support to the opposition against Marcos through the Light a Fire Movement.

In the book Alfonso T. Yuchengco: A Lifetime of Integrity, the businessman said of those days, “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.”

Two women guerrillas

Elma Villaron, known as Dalama, rebelled against her tribe’s tradition when she renounced her being binukot (a literally-kept maiden) and worked in the fields.

During martial law, her community, the Sulod-Bukidnon people endured harassment from the Marcos military. A 1962 presidential fiat promulgated that 33,000 hectares of their ancestral land be turned into an army reservation.

Dalama joined the armed resistance to the dictatorship, becoming the first woman from her community to join the guerrilla movement.

She was killed in 1987 when the military attacked the peasant community where she and her colleagues were staying.

Coronacion Chiva was a member of the Hukbalahap movement in Panay Island during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. Chiva, who chose the nom de guerre Walingwaling, was believed to be the highest-ranking Huk woman in the Visayas.

Walingwaling was captured in 1952 and was released from prison after giving birth to her only son.

Her political involvement ensued before martial law was imposed. She became an organizer for the Panay Association of Nationalistic Laborers, Employees and Farmers’ Union (PANELFU), which advocated for land reform and better wages. In 1972, she was among those arrested and detained at Camp Delgado. She was released after six months.

Walingwaling was arrested for the third time and detained briefly to force her son Eduardo, who joined the NPA, to surrender. (Eduardo eventually died a guerrilla at 17).

On April 16, 1977, Walingwaling was killed by two gunmen. On the day she was buried, classes and work stopped, the market was closed and the municipal hall was empty in Calinog, Iloilo.

Erlinda Chiva, daughter of one of the honorees Coronacion “Ka Walingwaling” Chiva, said in Filipino, “We are now facing a danger to our democracy and human rights.”

“Let us fight all attempts to revive dictatorial rule,” Chiva told the relatives and friends of other honorees. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

Share This Post