It has been a cliche to refer to departed friends and loved ones as having lived a “full life”. Yet, one cannot think of any easy way to describe the lives of beloved icons who are also freedom fighters: the three from the media sector namely Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, Chit Estella-Simbulan, and Tony Zumel; the actor-director Behn Cervantes, feminist-teacher Maita Gomez, and a soldier of the people Dan Vizmanos. They have contributed in no small way to this country’s history in its struggle against dictatorship and tyranny.
Martial law brought out the worst in the Filipino that inflicted great suffering, cowardice, and fear as we would never forget. But it also brought out the best in us, Filipinos.
When many journalists during martial law became its cheerleaders, others showed phenomenal courage and bedrock devotion to truth. It is the storms, and contrary winds that bring out the strengths of individual character that has made the difference. Even in the “praise release” newspapers and magazines controlled by the martial law regime to the “mosquito press” and revolutionary press of the Underground, they took great risks and became the voices of truth in exposing the Marcos dictatorship where the only thing that made it look good was the absence of a free press. They were among the best mold of journalists to confront martial law repression during those dark years.
They showed us with their writing and their example the kind of integrity journalism is all about: a commitment to human rights, exposing injustices and manipulation, digging, ferreting, carefully researched writing that gets at the hard facts.
The media honorees Letty Magsanoc, Chit Estella and Tony Zumel personified the fierce independence of journalism from the unquestioning acceptance of government spin. During those times when limitations to civil liberties were justified and arguments for their suppression were made, these journalists and editors took a stand. As Chit (Estella-Simbulan) once told me, “It was the only right thing to do.” For these media icons, repression of dissent is repression of press freedom. They fervently loved our country, viewing freedom of the press as crucial for keeping it true to its ideals. They taught their colleagues that real objectivity is when reporters dig into documents, find a credible whistle-blower source in the bowels of government where the real good sources are, or learn things on their own and verify them.
In the case of the other professional honorees- Maita Gomez, Behn Cervantes and Dan Vizmanos- one would expect that their idealism and militance during their youth would evaporate as the realities of adult life and raising a family set in. These professionals chose the road less travelled under trying times, and with their courage and brilliance, resisted the Marcos dictatorship. Their torches have inspired others.
They have now passed the torch to us the living, and the young generation of millennials. Rest assured that we will not allow the flame to be extinguished. We will hold it high to our last breath. To the honorees whose spirit I am sure are with us today I have this to say: your names will be etched not only in granite stone, but in our hearts and will always remain a symbol of commitment to achieve a better life for our people and nation.
I would like to speak of our heroes and martyrs as part of a wider family, both at the personal and political level. We, as family, especially those nameless among our people they have touched with their lives and example, stand here together to say to all of you people of this beautiful land. Thank you.
On behalf of the families, comrades and friends of the media and professional honorees, we thank Bantayog ng mga Bayani for this honor they have given to our loved ones who braved the storms and whose lives have made a difference. Their spirit will never die, even more so in contemporary conditions which show ominous signs of resurgent fascism. Their memory hold a steady course in all seasons, and we now know that there are many-millions of kindred souls-who will be the keepers of the flame.
And we, are so grateful for this honor.
Retrieved from Roland Simbulan’s Facebook account, Dec. 1, 2016