Heroes, martyrs of Southern Tagalog honored by progressives


SANTA CRUZ, Laguna – “We remember the foundations of our mass movement so that they may inspire us to continue in our struggle for national democracy.”

This was how Karapatan Southern Tagalog Coordinator Isabel Pangilinan opened the Gawad Eden Marcellana and Eduardo Gumanoy ceremonies, held April 21 at the Union Theological Seminary in Dasmariñas City, Cavite province. At least 130 progressives belonging to mass organizations and alliances all over the region attended the even, with others attending online through Zoom.

The awards were meant to recognize “peasants and human rights workers who have important contributions in serving the people,” according to peasant rights organization Tanggol Magsasaka Timog Katagalugan, while also remembering their namesakes; themselves stalwarts of the peasant and human rights movement in the Southern Tagalog region before they were killed by state forces under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration.

Read: UN Castigates Philippine Gov’t on Marcellana-Gumanoy Case

“Twenty years have passed but progressive people like Ka Eddie and Eden continue to fight for land to the tillers and for human rights,” said Orly Marcellana, Tanggol Magsasaka TK spokesperson. “It is a living proof that the resistance of the people will never be killed.”

The Gawad Eduardo Gumanoy was given to peasant organizers and martyrs, while the Gawad Eden Marcellana was awarded to human rights defenders who “offered their skills, strength, time, and lives for the people of Southern Tagalog.”

Recipients, mostly “stalwarts of the peasant movement and the movement for the advancement of human rights,” expressed their thanks and shared their stories of struggle, while also leaving messages to younger generations in the audience.

“We won’t always be here,” said BAYAN Rizal Coordinator Arnulfo Zilmar, one of the recipients of the Gawad Eden Marcellana. “Eventually we’ll have to rest for good. So it’s important for those who come next to continue what we’ve started.”

Honors were also given to those who passed away due to sickness or old age. The list included Marilyn Pajalla, former coordinator of Tanggol Quezon; Marilyn Quierrez, Dumagat leader who opposed the construction of the Kaliwa Dam; Elvie Lusa, former coordinator of Kadamay Cavite; and Helen Asdolo, former coordinator of Gabriela Southern Tagalog.

Revolutionary and former NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison was also honored with both a Gawad Eduardo Gumanoy and a Gawad Eden Marcella for his “years of dedication to the national democratic struggle and in paving the way for generations of activists and revolutionaries in Southern Tagalog.”

Martyrs and mass leaders who were killed by state forces were also given tributes and honors, including Manny Asuncion, former BAYAN Cavite coordinator. Asuncion was one of the nine victims of the Bloody Sunday killings in Southern Tagalog last March 7, 2021.
The program ended with a candle lighting ceremony to pay tribute to all martyrs of the Southern Tagalog region.

Who were Eden Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy?

Eden Marcellana was the former Secretary-General of Karapatan ST. Born from a peasant family in Barangay Malaya, General Luna, Quezon province, she was exposed at an early age to the “suffering and struggle of the peasant class.” At the age of 20, Ka Eden became a full-time staff of Kongreso ng Magbubukid para sa Repormang Agraryo.
In 1998, at the height of the Estrada administration, Ka Eden became an administrative officer for BAYAN Timog Katagalugan. She was elected Karapatan ST Secretary-General shortly after EDSA II.

Eduardo Gumanoy was a long-time peasant organizer. In 1994, he became the Chairperson of Tulay ng Ugnayan ng Maliit na Magbubukid sa Hilagang Quezon and was key in the struggle against Atty. Romeo Roxas’ attempts to claim 81,000 hectares of land in General Nakar, Quezon. Five years later, Ka Eddie decided to organize as a staff member of KASAMA-TK, eventually becoming its spokesperson and eventual Chairperson in 2002.
Both Gumanoy and Marcellana were part of a fact-finding mission in Oriental Mindoro in 2003. According to reports, the AFP’s 204th Infantry Brigade under then-Colonel Jovito Palparan committed acts of arson, kidnapping, and torture against civilians in the town of Pinamalayan.

They themselves would be abducted and killed by elements of the 204th IB during the course of the fact-finding mission, on April 21, 2003. It would be until August 2014 before Jovito Palparan was arrested on different charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention, over the disappearance of activists Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño.

For Eden Marcellana’s husband Orly, justice still remains elusive after twenty years.

“There can be no justice so long as we have a state that terrorizes its own people and commits crimes against humanity,” he said in his message during the program.

“Who are Ka Eden and Ka Eddie? They are good Christians, good Samaritans, and good revolutionaries,” he added. “They followed the Christian example and dedicated their lives to solving inequality in our society.”

He emphasized the need for others to take up and “continue the struggle that Ka Eden and Ka Eddie started.”

“The best way to honor their memory is for us to continue moving forward, until final victory,” Ka Orly concluded. (RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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