Jose Aquilino T. Tangente, or Super Boy as he was familiarly known to family and close friends, grew up in a religious environment. His mother, a teacher, convinced Boy to become a priest. He spent his secondary and tertiary studies at St. Vincent Ferrer Seminary in Iloilo City and became an active member of the Student Catholic Action. As in Manila and in most cities in the country, the student ferment and general dissatisfaction with the authoritarian government of Mr. Marcos was raging in Iloilo. In 1970, in college then at the seminary, Boy joined the Kilusang Kristiyano ng Kabataang Pilipino (KKKP) whose slogan of “Love your neighbour, Serve the people!” resonated with his principles. Bright and talented, he also served as personal secretary to Iloilo Archbishop Jose Ma. Cuenco (+) but still found time to join street demonstrations organized by militant student organizations, bringing along fellow seminary students.
As a member of KKKP, Boy together with his fellow seminarians visited the poor families living in nearby communities. From talking with them and seeing their deplorable conditions, he helped in the development of local social action centers to promote their welfare and interests. As he became more exposed to the gross inequalities in Philippine society, he also became more vocal in expressing his outrage. He spoke at rallies and demonstrations condemning the profligacy of the Marcos government. In one mobilization in 1971, he led a group of protesting seminarians up the stage where they took off their cassocks, signifying their readiness to fight the looming Marcos dictatorship beyond the pulpits.
Boy also became a member of the Federation of Free Farmers, and spent time with the sacadas and peasants in the rural areas. He saw how the exploitation of farm workers was perpetuated by landowners. Their suffering further ignited Boy’s desire to help them achieve social reforms.
After finishing college, the Archdiocese of Jaro sent Boy for further studies at the Loyola School of Theology in Quezon City. He was in the second year of his Theology course, two years prior to ordination, when martial law was declared on September 21, 1972. Boy returned to Iloilo to continue his social action work in the city.
Sensing a government crackdown, Boy, a known activist, considered moving to the countryside to continue the resistance against the dictatorship. However, on the way to his destination, he was arrested in Dumangas town by elements of the Philippine Constabulary. He was immediately transported to a detention center in Lahug, Cebu where he was heavily tortured. He was later transferred to the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center at Camp Martin Delgado in Iloilo City on orders of then-Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile.
He was among the detainees who self-released themselves sometime later. Determined now to dedicate his life to serve the people, Boy took refuge in the hills of Calinog and Tapaz and organized the peasants in nearby villages. The extreme physical demands of living in the countryside did not prevent Boy, now known as Ka Baran, from bringing the message of freedom and justice to the people. Meticulous and industrious in his ways, comrades remember him as a “brilliant leader”, a deep and critical thinker who can merge theory and practice in making and carrying out of plans and projects to help the locals.
An adept communicator, Boy engaged the villagers in empowering discussions that helped them understand the political and social problems of the country. He taught them literacy and numeracy, as well as their rights as citizens. This curbed some of the abusive practices heaped on the indigenous people, the Tumandok, living in the area. Army men used to make them pay two sacks of rice for tilling public lands. By arming them with knowledge, Boy was able to help them stop further encroachments into their ancestral lands. Boy also took the risky task of ensuring that communication lines among the different resistance groups flowed smoothly.
In the hills of Panay Island, he met Elma Villaron or Ka Randa, with whom he had a relationship. Locally known as Dalama, Elma was the daughter of a Tumandok tribal leader. They were blessed with two children, Easter Grace and Hasmin Roja. Elma died in 1987, a few months before Boy’s own death.
Circumstances of death
In the democratic space opened by the ceasefire talks between the democratic government of Pres. Corazon Aquino and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, Boy was meeting and consulting with some people in a peasant village in Nauring, Sitio Mad-adyos, Pandan, Antique, when his group was spotted by soldiers belonging to the 47th IB Philippine Army. The soldiers opened fire, and Boy, the team leader, provided cover to his three women companions, enabling them to escape. Boy died immediately after he was hit by an M203 grenade launcher fired by the military. His body was buried in Nauring. Later the family took his remains and had it buried in their hometown of Tigbauan, Iloilo.
Impact of death on the family and community
Admiring his unselfish dedication towards the cause of the poor, Jose Aquilino Tronco Tangente’s death made him a martyr and a hero in the eyes of his fellow seminarians, comrades, friends, families and townmates. Thousands attended his funeral. His name was carved as among Panay martyrs during a 2007 dedication in the monument of heroes resisting Marcos dictatorship in Plaza Libertad, Iloilo City.
BORN October 9, 1949 in Tigbauan, Iloilo
DIED August 28, 1987 in Pandan, Antique
Parents Urbano T. Tangente Sr., and Paz Tronco, both public school teachers
Siblings Seven Birth order of hero: 6th
Spouse Elma Villaron
Children 2 (Easter Grace, Hasmin Roja)
Elementary Tigbauan Elementary Scahool, Tigbauan, Iloilo
High School St. Vincent Ferrer Seminary, Jaro, Iloilo City
College St. Vincent Ferrer Seminary
Nomination write-up submitted by Eduardo Carilimdiliman, friend, August 18, 2016
Narrative submitted by Orvillo T. Tangente, brother, received through email, September 2, 2016
Narrative submitted by Pitong Meliza, friend, received through email, August 19, 2016
“Jose Aquilino Tronco Tangente’s Martyrdom,” testimony of Vicente Estandarte, Sr., received through e-mail September 2, 2016
“Some gleams on the life of Joe Tangente,” by Nilo G. Prieto, friend, received through email, September 2, 2016
Eduardo Carilimdiliman, friend, September 18, 2016, Bantayog Center, Quezon City
Concha Araneta, friend, August 2016, Quezon City