Amid the current revisionist trends, the story of Eduardo “Ed” Q. Aquino must be told and retold again to disabuse the present generation of the lies purveyed about Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law. For here was a spoiled brat from a prominent family in the province who transformed into a hardcore anti-dictatorship warrior at an age when young boys of today would rather think of girls and spend most of their time playing online games.
Ed Aquino was the youngest in a brood of seven that blessed the marriage of Marcial Aquino and Victoria Quinto, both of Mapandan, Pangasinan. The Aquino family was considered then as one of the most conservative and affluent families in the town. Ed was everyone’s beloved “bunso” and they all loved to spoil him with gifts and favors when he was a student in Mapandan’s public elementary and secondary schools. He always wore the best clothes and always had the best accessories. His family wanted him to become a lawyer as this was the profession that the family sorely lacked. Thus, when Ed passed the UP entrance exam, everyone was assured that he would be getting also the best education for lawyers in the entire country.But the year he entered UP Diliman was a tumultuous year. It was the height of the Vietnam War and the anti-war protests in Manila were reaching a certain crescendo. These rallies were likewise directed at the Marcos government whose political machinations to institute Martial Law were becoming clearer on a weekly basis.
History of political involvement
Barely out of his teens, Ed was initially at a loss amid all these events. After all, he was the sheltered and spoiled “fashionista” from the province. Ed longed for the usual warmth and bonds of a family. At the same time, he was gradually being awakened to the harsh realities of the times. These developments would find answers in a new organization he would soon join – a newly-established fraternity that sought to remake the conventional fraternity image and orientation inside the UP campus: the Samahan ng Kabataang Pilipino (better known as Sigma Kappa Pi). This fraternity wanted to relive the revolutionary brotherhood of the Katipunan and sought to forge a deeper commitment among its members through its nationalistic rituals and political philosophy.It used Katipunan pedigrees such as “Supremo” and “Kartilya” to describe its leader and its newsletter.
It wasn’t long before Ed the “bunso” became one of the “kuya” of his fraternity brothers in terms of awareness, daring and commitment. He read voraciously and attended the discussion groups inside the UP campus. To top it all, he wanted to be at the center of any militant action. When the First Quarter Storm of 1970 occurred, Ed along with fraternity brothers were at the forefront of the student siege of Malacanang, acting as the so-called “DUs” (defensive units) that served as buffer between the main bulk of the rallyists and the police.
The violent encounters with the military and police units of the increasingly-violent Marcos government pushed many into deeper and deeper radicalization. But by this time, Ed had already gone far ahead. In the aftermath of the FQS, several of his fraternity brothers talked about going to the most remote parts of the country where State power was weakest. They wanted to organize the poor and the downtrodden to prepare them for the intensifying struggle against the Marcos government.They wanted to put in operation the popular slogan of the era: Serve the People. Ed enthusiastically volunteered. Thus in late May 1970, together with two of his fraternity brods, Ed sailed for Dadiangas (now General Santos City) in Mindanao.
It was purely a fraternity initiative. The fare, clothing and meager allowances they brought were solicited from the rank-and-file of the brotherhood who sold books and other items to finance the daring expedition. In Dadiangas, the three young men immersed themselves with the locals, the students, the intellectuals and professionals, and finally, the banana plantation workers of DOLE-STANFILCO (Standard Fruits Company). They even published a newsletter to raise the level of awareness of these folks in national affairs especially about the creeping martial law and increasing US intervention. And in instances when the money and supplies from the fraternity in Manila did not reach them on time or were inadequate, they worked part-time in hilly coconut farms to sustain themselves. Sometimes they only had bananas for meals. At other times, they would go fishing for mudfish in the swamps to afford themselves a decent meal. Ed’s expensive clothes were totally wasted in the foot-deep mountain mud. He was a spoiled fashionista no more but a humble servant of the people.
In 1971, however, Ed’s distraught family was able to track him down and one of his brothers went to Mindanao to fetch him. Ed was brought back to Manila and was enrolled in San Beda to keep him away from the fraternity. Ed relented but kept constantly in touch with his fraternity brothers and was always curious about the status of the work they started in Mindanao. During this brief interregnum, Ed took seriously his studies in San Beda and looked forward to becoming a lawyer for the people.
But when Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus on August 1971, Ed was completely distressed. Worried about the Dadiangas folks, he went back briefly to Mindanao and turned over the organizing work they started to the national democratic organization there. And when Marcos finally declared martial law the following year, like thousands of activists of that time, Ed was placed at a crossroads. He knew that he was likely to be arrested by the Marcos regime given his previous organizing activities in Mindanao so he chose to fight. In consideration of his parents and family who were distressed by his Mindanao work, Ed together with another fraternity brother chose an arena of struggle closer to home: Tarlac.
Circumstance of death
Tarlac was a hotbed of resistance because it was the bailiwick of Benigno“Ninoy” Aquino and was also the birthplace of the New People’s Army. Ed and his comrades organized the peasants and prepared them for the struggle against the militarization of the area. Student militants from other universities fondly remember Ed when they trooped to the area: this tall, lanky guy obviously from a well-off sheltered background but who was determining their physical and mental fitness to fight as guerrilla warriors. Ed was in his element. His previous experiences in Mindanao cut him above the rest of the numerous student militants who were just being introduced to rural life.
On April 23, 1973, however, government troopers from Camp Macabulos surrounded a nipa hut in Barangay Pag-asa where Ed and other peasant activists were conducting a meeting. Not interested at all in making an arrest, the soldiers just strafed the hut, immediately killing Ed and two others. The incident was reported in major newspapers and the Marcos government claimed it was a bloody encounter. Ed’s bullet-riddled body would be claimed days later by members of his family, some of whom were even briefly detained and interrogated by the military.
Impact on family and friends
All these years, Eduardo Quinto Aquino’s brief but heroic life was celebrated only within his fraternity’s circles whenever it gathered on important occasions because the path he chose represented the highest fraternity ideals and aspirations. Years back, he was conferred the fraternity’s highest honor, the “Gawad Nasyonalismo” award in fitting recognition of this young man who could have easily aspired for fame, fortune and power but chose instead to consecrate his life to giving hope to the faceless, the nameless and the destitute of this land.
Born January 16, 1953 in Mapandan, Pangasinan
Died April 23, 1973 in Sitio Pagasa, Tarlac, Tarlac
Parents Marcial Aquino and Victoria Quinto, both of Mapandan, Pangasinan
Siblings Seven Birth sequence of martyr: youngest
Primary Mapandan Elementary School, Pangasinan
Secondary Mapandan High School, Pangasinan
College University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City
A.B. in Political Science, 1969-1970
San Beda College, Manila, 1971
Extra-curricular Member, UP Sigma Kappa Pi Fraternity
Bantayog profile form accomplished by Dr. Rodolfo Q. Aquino, brother
Bantayog Profile form (2nd page – history of political involvement) accomplished by Rey S. Mendoza and Lito O. San Antonio and corroborated by Luzvimindo David, fraternity brothers
Narrative by Rey S. Mendoza, fraternity brother
Copies of documents submitted to the Human Rights Victims Claims Board under RA 10368:
Birth Certificate of Eduardo Q. Aquino
Death Certificate of Eduardo Q. Aquino