ANG SINCO, Edgar Catacutan

Edgar Ang Sinco was born in San Fernando in Pampanga but the family moved in 1961, when Edgar was 9 years old, to Mati in Davao Oriental , his father’s hometown. He completed his elementary and secondary education there.

Edgar enrolled at the University of the East in Manila for college and took up Business Administration. The year was 1969, and the nationalist ferment was sweeping through the universities. Downtown Manila was the scene of many a protest action over simmering issues – price hikes, US intervention in the Vietnam War, inefficiency and corruption in government, among others. Disenchantment over the Marcos government was also widespread.

Edgar joined the Samahang Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK) and one summer in an SDK living-with-the-masses program, spent a month in Central Luzon, living in a farmers’ community. That summer, he returned home to Mati and enrolled at the University of Mindanao.

“Bugoy nga adunahan” – was how Edgar was endearingly referred as in his younger years, roughly translated as a fun-loving, devil-may-care yet down-to-earth guy. When he returned from Manila, his hometown friends found him much more serious, and preoccupied with the many problems besetting Philippine society.

At the University of Mindanao, Edgar became one of well-known student leaders. He continued to recruit for the SDK. A friend recalled how he would invite his friends for a stroll and bring them to places to see where poor people lived. He tried to tell his friends of the people’s dire circumstances, and engaged them in political discussions.

Later that year, UM students under the leadership of Saf Respicio, then Supreme Student Council president, launched a strike over academic issues – tuition and miscellaneous fee increases and improvement of school facilities that dragged on for three months.

On February 16, 1971, Edgar was a speaker at a student rally. A huge crowd of young people had massed in front of the UM building, listening to him speak. Suddenly shots rang out and Edgar fell, microphone still in his hand. Fellow students rushed him to the hospital where he died of gunshot wounds. Witnesses identified a policeman as having made the shot.

In Manila, protesting students were also being killed in rallies — four in the previous year during the First Quarter Storm of 1970, high school student Francis Sontillano in December 1970, and UP’s Pastor Mesina, just days before on February 4.

All these deaths, and Edgar’s in particular, sparked widespread outrage in the city of Davao. The night of Edgar’s shooting and for the next two days, in what is now called the “Battle of Claro M. Recto,” students went on a rampage in Bolton street, where the UM is located, up to Bangkerohan, and on to C.M. Recto street (where the United States Information Service library, deemed a symbol of US imperialism, was located and was a particular target of protest).  Military checkpoints were set-up all over the city, and establishments closed in support of the students’ protest.

Davao-based professor Macario Tiu describes the atmosphere in Davao during those days: “Practically all the student governments and student papers in the city and in major towns became very active. They did not only voice the concerns of the students; they also became vehicles to expose the ills of Philippine society and to demand reforms. There were frequent marches and rallies in 1971 and in the early part of 1972.” (Mac Tiu, Pre martial law student activism in Davao, situationer given to Bantayog research, 2015.)

Edgar Ang Sinco was 19 years old when he was killed. He is regarded not only as Davao City’s martyr but its first in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.