Veterans of martial law commemorate ‘Battle of Mendiola’

(Photo courtesy of Katrina Yamzon)


MANILA – Veterans and young activists marched to Chino Roces Bridge (formerly Mendiola bridge) on Jan. 30, Thursday, to commemorate the 50th year of the Battle of Mendiola.

It was on Jan. 26, 1970 when 10,000 students protested against the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in front of Congress (which was then located at the National Museum in Manila). The protest was met with violence by the Metropolitan Command (Metrocom). It was followed by mass protests near the Malacañan Palace on Jan. 30 and 31 joined by thousands of students and workers. Again a violent dispersal took place, which killed four students namely: Felicisimo Roldan of San Beda College, Ricardo Alcantara of University of the Philippines, Fernando Catabay of Manuel L. Quezon University, Bernardo Tausa of Mapa High School.

Photo by Lito Ocampo
Photo by Lito Ocampo

“The FQS gave birth to so many youth activists and so many youth groups. The organizers and speakers of the main political organizations and cultural groups played a key role in arousing, organizing and mobilizing the youth. They generated thousands of young activists who advanced the national democratic movement in schools, urban communities, factories and farms,” Sison added.

(Photo courtesy of Katrina Yamzon)

Prior to the Jan. 30 action, the FQS movement also organized a gathering of activists during martial law of 1979.

Read our stories of martial law veterans, some are martyred and some have the struggle up to the present:

A Tale of Three FQS Veterans 

The past quickly came back for the First Quarter Storm (FQS) veterans as I started to ask how it was back then. I saw many things in their eyes as they told me their stories. Grief was not one of them.

Defying the Dictatorship interviewed three activists during Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s martial law, partly to help the young generation to get to know their country’s past better, and partly to give recognition to the nameless thousands who, in one way or another, contributed to the Philippine struggle for democracy.

Edjop, Lean Remembered

Among the heroes in the struggle for democracy were Edgar Jopson known as Edjop, who was described as “the ultimate reformist-turned-radical” and was slain by soldiers of the Marcos dictatorship in 1982 in Davao City while Lean Alejandro, founding secretary-general of Bayan, was gunned down in Quezon City by state security forces in 1987, during the Cory Aquino administration.

FQS: A Look Back at Those Days of Disquiet

The First Quarter Storm of 1970 caught the attention of the people in the national and international levels. It inspired the youth and working people in the provincial capitals and cities to rise up and carry out protest actions against US imperialism and the local reactionaries and demand national liberation and democracy.

Youth activists of martial law years share tales of courage

In 1974, Bonifacio Ilagan was arrested, tortured and detained for two years. Upon his release from prison, he wrote a play entitled “Pagsambang Bayan,” which was later directed by Behn Cervantes. “It was a full-length play staged in UP. It was a liturgy articulating martial law sentiments.”

The play ran in UP for two weeks. It was also staged in different schools and communities. By word of mouth, Ilagan’s play became well-known among protesters.

First Quarter Storm, Voltes V generations pass the torch 

Martial law veterans — although far from retiring — feel assured of a future where the once-called “smartphone zombie” millennials are out on the streets, fighting the good fight they never stopped waging.


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