Remembering Martial Law martyrs & heroes

Immediately after the EDSA Revolution, a well-known physician from California, who had been in the forefront of the resistance movement in the United States, arrived in the Philippines to rejoice with us over the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship and the restoration of democ­racy. He suggested to a group of friends that a memorial be established in honor of those martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom and justice but failed to witness the dawn of free­dom. Implicit in the suggestion was the fear that the martyrs might be forgotten altogether in our pre­occupation and daily struggle to rebuild the nation and its economy.

After Dr. Ruben Mallari, the author of the idea, left for the United States to resume his medical practice, a group of Filipinos decided to organize the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Memorial Founda­tion. Among them were: Dona Aurora A. Aquino, former Senator Jovito R. Salonga, Dr. Pedro L. Yap, Atty. Abraham F. Sarmiento., Ms. Josefa M.Jopson, Ms. Cecilia C. Lagman, Bishop La Verne Mercado, Bishop Tito E. Pasco, Ms. Lydia dela Paz, Rev. Cirilo A. Rigos, Sis. Christine Tan, Atty. Ramon M. Osmena, Ms. Nievelena V. Rosete, Atty. Felipe L. Gozon, Dr. Ledivina V. Carino, Ms. Pearl G. Doromal, Mr. Victor Barrios, Atty. Delilah V. Magtolis, Mr. Solomon Y. Yuyitung, Mr. Benjamin Guingona, Ms. Domini Torrevillas Suarez, Ms. Thelma Arceo, and others.

After a series of meetings, Dr. Ledivina V. Carino, former Dean of the U.P. College of Public Administration, was requested to help draft the concept paper, based on the suggestion of Dr. Mallari. The concept paper was submitted in due course and, with a few suggestions which were adopted, was indorsed for approval to the group of organizers. The concept paper stated the ratio­nale for Bantayog:

Freedom has dawned magnificently upon us­brought about by our own will, with the help of Divine Providence. We stood together with linked arms as we proclaimed our unity, our dedication to liberty and democracy, and our commitment to our country. With boundless faith, we broke the chains which enslaved us in a regime of terror, intimidation and fraud.”But as we enjoy our liberation, let us not forget those who fell during the night. Let us honor the Filipino patriots who struggled valiantly against the unjust and repressive rule of Ferdinand Marcos. Let us build a memorial to those men and women who offered their lives so that we may all see the dawn.

For as we remember those victims of au­thoritarian rule, we shall become more vigilant about preserving our freedom, defending our rights, and opposing any attempt by anyone to foist another dictatorship upon us.

In honoring other martyrs, we proclaim our determination to be free forever.

The concept paper, which was approved by the organizing group, became the- basis of the Articles of Incorporation which were filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and ap­proved on July 30, 1986.

Families of victims, members of civic organiza­tions,,ahd the general public were invited to send the names and personal circumstances of persons who should be honored, in line with the criteria stated in the Articles.

A Research and Documentation Committee was constituted, under the leadership of Ms. Thelma M. Arceo. The function of this Committee was to verify the factual bases of each nomination and to con­duct independent researches and investigations, so names of obscure, unknown martyrs in remote places may be brought to light. Recommendations of the Committee are made to the Executive Com­mittee, which screens the nominees and then en­dorses those which are approved to the final ap­proval of the Board of Trustees. In the course of time, Ms. Arceo was succeeded by Dr. Ma. Serena I. Diokno.

Meanwhile, representations were made with the Government for the acquisition of an appropriate site. The exact location of the Memorial Center is a 1.5 hectare lot in Quezon City, on Quezon Avenue near the corner of EDSA in Diliman, which was acquired through the Office of the President and in cooperation with the Land Bank of the Philippines.

The Foundation officers, who give of their time and effort without compensation”, raised from their own pockets and from the voluntary donations of civic-spirited citizens, the funds to construct a 45­foot Monument designed by noted artist-sculptor Eduardo Castrillo. The Monument depicts the self­sacrifice of a fallen figure of a man, held in one hand by the rising figure of a woman who symbol­izes the Motherland, with her other hand reaching for the glorious sun of freedom.

What is now known as the “Wall of Remem­brance” came as an inspiration to the officers of the Foundation who felt that a traversing wall on the lot could be utilized to immortalize the names of the nation’s martyrs.

After six (6) years of planning, groundwork, fundraising, research and deliberation, the Monu­ment and the Wall of Remembrance were finally unveiled in the morning of Bonifacio Day, Novem­ber 30, 1992. The names of the first 65 martyrs, some of them well-known such as Ninoy Aquino and many others not as well-known, were honored and enshrined. The names of five (5) martyrs were added in 1994.

In 1993, after long reflection, the Foundation officers decided to include as heroes those who had given their all for the sake of freedom, justice, and democracy during the Marcos years but died after the EDSA Revolution. The Articles of Incor­poration were reworded accordingly. On November 30, 1993, the Foundation and the entire nation honored, in alphabetical order, three heroes-Jose W. Diokno, Joaquin “Chino” Rotes, and Lorenzo M. Tariada. The following year, November 29, 1994, the names of three more heroes were added­former Chief *Justice Roberto Conception, former Rep. Estelita G. Juco, and Prof. Gaston Z. Ortigas.

Last year, November 29, 1995, four martyrs­namely, Renato L. Bucag, Jose B. Lingad, SofronioRoxas and Noel C. Tierra-and two more heroes, namely-former Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee and former Justice Calixto O. Zaldivar-were honored.A grant of P20 million by the Philippine Tourism Authority will now enable the Foun­dation to construct next year a 1,000-seat, open-air Amphitheater, behind the Wall of Remembrance, with symbolic statues as a centerpiece, depicting various acts of hero­ism. Also being planned for additional funding are the Office-Library Building, the Ecumeical Chapel and the Meditative Gardens.

This November, 1996, The Phil. Tourism Authority awarded the 2nd Phase construc­tion of the Memorial Center to SPJ Con­struction and the work on the site will start within the first week of December.

The present set of officers of the Foundation are:

Dons Aurora A. Aquino -Honorary Chairperson
Sen. Jovito R. Salonga – Chairman
Atty. Felipe L. Gozon – Treasurer
Ms. Nievelena V. Rosete -Corporate Secretary
Dr. Quintin S. Doromal -Executive Director

Chairpersons:
Atty. Felipe L. Gozon -Executive Committee
Mr. Deogracias N. Vistan Finance
Dr. Jose V. Abueva -Evaluation & Nomination
Dr. Ledivina V. Caririo -.Concept Development
Dr. Ma. Serena I. Diokno -Research & Documentation
Ms. Pearl G. Doromal -Memorial Design
Justice Delilah V. Magtolis – Legal
Mr. Solomon Y. Yuyitung – Printing & Publicity

To sum it up, the Foundation and our people who continue to support it honor the nation’s martyrs and heroes because in the darkness of martial law, they offered all they had to ensure that freedom, justice, and democracy would remain alive in the hearts and minds of our oppressed people. As former Senate President Jovito R. Salonga said during the Unveiling Ceremonies on November 30, 1992:

Whatever their differences in terms of social status, gender and belief, they were one in unself­ish devotion to our people. We would like to think that they are now united in this portion of God’s good earth, which we consecrate to their memory today.

When these heroes and martyrs passed away, their close relatives and friends must have prom­ised never to forget their sacrifices and, by way of honoring their memory, to carry on their valiant struggle. In a deeper sense, their separate prom­ises are now gathered together here in this Monu­ment and this Wall of Remembrance which we are about to unveil, even as all of us endeavor to forge a sacred covenant so that the light of freedom, truth, and justice may never be extinguished in this country, whose fertile soil has been drenched and enriched by the blood of our heroes and martyrs.

Beyond our ceremonies this morning, there is -a deeper, richer meaning in today’s event. A nation is measured by the quality of the men and women it honors. Ang isang bansa ay sinusukat ayon sa uri ng mga taong kanyang dinadakila. Were this Administration to honor a scoundrel, we could never lift up our heads out of a deep sense of shame. But because of these heroes and mar­tyrs, we can stand up with pride and walk to­gether, with heads unbowed, knowing that we are honoring ourselves and our nation more than we are honoring them. There is nothing we can do to add to their heroism and martyrdom. But there is much we can do to restore the good name and reputation of the nation for which they gave their all. By this act of unveiling and dedication, we are proclaiming our firm resolve to keep faith with our heroes and martyrs, and our deepest conviction that this land of the morning, the repository of our hopes and dreams, is worth living for and dying for.


Written by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation in 1996

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