14 martyrs for freedom honored today
A writer, a medical doctor, a professor, student activists, US-born Filipino-Americans, and organizers of students, the youth, workers, peasants and communities will be among the honorees at the 25th anniversary celebration of Bantayog ng Mga Bayani (Monument of Heroes) to be held November 30 in Quezon City.
Several of the honorees were killed either arbitrarily or died in bloody battles. Three are women. Most died young, while a number of them died of natural causes. Several are missing until today. All were activists opposed to the martial law regime of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The way they lived and died varied, but they all had a heroic streak that made them worthy of emulation and special remembrance.
This year’s 14 honorees bring to 207 the names etched on the black granite Wall of Remembrance near the 45-foot bronze monument, created by renowned sculptor Eduardo Castrillo, that depicts a defiant mother holding a fallen son.
The monument, the wall and other structures at the Bantayog complex are dedicated to the nation’s modern-day martyrs and heroes who fought against all odds to help regain freedom, peace, justice, truth and democracy in the country.
The Bantayog recognition is conferred only after close examination of a nominee’s life and manner of death. This year’s 14 honorees are:
Norberto Acebedo Jr. (1958-1985), Amada Alvarez (1950-1989), Marsman Alvarez (1947-1974), Monico Atienza (1947-2008), Silme Domingo (1952- 1981), Rolando Federis (1953-1976), Ceferino Flores Jr. (1939-1983), Edwin Laguerder (1961-1987), Ruben Lunas (1950-1975), Wright Molintas Jr. (1963-1987), Joji Paduano (1961-1984), Ros Galang-Reyes (1949-1998), Arturo Taca (1945-1997) and Gene Viernes (1951-1981).
Acebedo was a student activist when he was arrested and detained in 1985. He died in a military encounter in Compostela Valley.
Amada Alvarez finished cum laude with a degree in Philosophy at the University of Santo Tomas. For a time she was involved in work with Basic Christian Communities. She died in a firefight with the military.
For his activism and being a brother of former Senator Heherson Alvarez, Marsman Alvarez was abducted and killed. His mutilated body would later be found and used to serve as warning to those who defied the Marcos dictatorship.
Atienza was a professor at the University of the Philippines. He suffered six years of imprisonment.
Both born in America, Domingo and Viernes were summarily killed because they exposed the true face of the Marcos dictatorship. Both were militant union organizers. The manner of their deaths shocked many and became a landmark legal case.
Federis was abducted and remains missing to this day. So was hotel worker Flores whose body was never found.
When Laguerder’s body was fished out of the water, it bore signs of torture and gunshot wounds. Molintas joined the armed resistance. He was seized by the police and militiamen, and shot. Paduano died during a military raid in Aklan province.
Reyes was a student editor and later a writer for the underground press. She died of natural causes.
Lunas was a UP engineering student who organized the poor youth and later joined the underground. He died in a military raid.
Taca was a medical doctor who sought asylum in the United States and joined the anti-Marcos movement. He helped Boni Gillego (who later became a congressman and, after his death, a Bantayog hero) expose Marcos’ fake war medals.
The anniversary rites and conferment of honors will be held at 4 p.m. today at the Bantayog Memorial Center located near the intersection of Edsa and Quezon Avenue. Human rights lawyer and Election Commissioner Rene Sarmiento will be the guest of honor and speaker.
The Bantayog complex now includes a P16-million building which houses a small auditorium, library, archives and a museum. Bantayog’s 1.5 hectare property was donated by the administration of Corazon Aquino, through Landbank, the year after the Marcos dictatorship was toppled and Aquino was swept to the presidency in 1986.
Every year, names are added to the Wall of the Remembrance. The first 65 names were engraved on the wall in 1992. The Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation is chaired by Alfonso T. Yuchengco. Former Senate President Jovito R. Salonga is chairman emeritus.