Martial law killed them in their youth
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
—from “Dirge Without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
For lack of space, I could not write about each of the 19 new heroes/martyrs honored on Nov. 30 at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in last week’s banner story of the Inquirer (“19 heroes to be honored at Bantayog,” 11/29/16). The lives of the six young men who were slain in their prime during the Marcos dictatorship are worth knowing about.
Eduardo Aquino (1953-1973) was 20 when he was killed. Born in Pangasinan, he was the youngest of eight children, the family’s doted-on, boy-next-door type, what one would now call a fashionista. He became an activist when he was studying political science at the University of the Philippines. When martial law was declared in 1972, Aquino left school and got involved in political work among farmers in Tarlac. He died when soldiers from Camp Macabulos in Sitio Pagasa, Tarlac, fired at the hut where he was meeting with farmers. He and his companions were unarmed.
Marciano “Chuck” Anastacio (1955-1982) was 27 when he was killed. Baguio-born, he went through a difficult adolescence. He studied at the University of the East for a while. He figured in brawls and was into drugs and alcohol until he met a female activist who opened his eyes to the ills of society. His life found direction and because organizing was second nature to him, he got involved in labor issues.
In 1980 a military agent shot Anastacio in the face and left him for dead in an isolated garbage dump. He spent a month in intensive care where he was put under surveillance. When he was well enough, he headed to the Sierra Madre to join the armed resistance. He and a companion were seen captured alive on Dec. 18, 1982. But the following day their bullet-riddled bodies were paraded in front of the San Jose Panganiban town hall in Camarines Norte. Two months later, his family, with the help of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines and the Paracale parish, was able to claim his remains, which were found wrapped in plastic and left in a dumpsite near the town cemetery.
Fortunato Camus (1949-1976) was killed at 26. Born in Cebu, he became a youth organizer of the Consolidation of Reforms for the Youth in the University of the Visayas where he studied law for two years. He later joined the armed resistance in Luzon against the Marcos dictatorship. He was killed in an encounter with the military in Nueva Ecija.
Hernando Cortez (1954-1983) was 29 when he was killed reportedly during an encounter with the military. His family believes otherwise. Cortez attended the Gregorio Araneta University in Caloocan City. A trade union organizer, he was with labor leaders when the military raided their meeting place. The Task Force Detainees reported that he was tortured before he was killed.
Edgardo Dojillo (1948-1972) was 24 when he was killed. A popular figure in the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos where he studied accountancy, he led consciousness-raising events against the exploitation of the sacada in Sugarlandia.
A few weeks into the Marcos dictatorship, Dojillo and a friend were on a motorcycle when they were ambushed by members of the Philippine Constabulary. Badly wounded, the two were tied up and hung like animal carcasses on the side of a cargo truck, then transferred to a weapons carrier where they bled to death.
Ricardo Filio (1953-1976) was 22 when he was killed by friendly fire while government military operations were going on in Laac (now part of Compostela Valley). Filio was a student in Ateneo de Davao when he joined the Left-leaning Kabataang Makabayan. Because of his activities, his family’s house was raided and he had to seek sanctuary in the hills. He was among the first recruits of the New People’s Army in Davao.
They are the unang alay (first offerings), as the song goes.
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