Never forget

Never forget
The Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation Inc. honors the “martyrs and heroes in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship” in walls bearing their names. —BANTAYOGNGMGABAYANI.ORG PHOTO

Editor’s Note: To mark the 38th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolt that toppled the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and brought the Philippines back to the league of democratic nations, human rights activist Ed Garcia remembers three friends whose lives were snuffed out in their youth and who continue to serve as inspiration.   

We belonged to the generation of the “First Quarter Storm” or FQS, and our intertwined lives were disrupted or cut short during martial law. Both as friend and companion in shared dreams, I remember and honor their memory.  

Manny Yap 

Among the young who I knew and who participated in the prolonged protests of the 1970s, Manny Yap stood out as one of the brightest and most committed to the cause of pushing back against an encroaching dictatorship. 

Manny joined Lakasdiwa, a militant nonviolent organization, and was tasked with helping in the political formation of its new members. He was then just beginning college, and demonstrated maturity beyond his years.

The declaration of martial law in September 1972 radicalized Manny, who combined further studies at the University of the Philippines School of Economics with underground work in efforts to broaden the antidictatorship network.  

On Valentine’s Day 1976, Manny shared a meal with his family and asked his parents to get him a bouquet of red roses for a friend with whom he had dined the night before. He never got to hold the roses in his hands, for soon after his father left him at a street corner near their home, he was abducted by a military contingent led by a colonel of the Philippine Constabulary.  

Two days later, his father received a call that Manny had been detained by the military.  Devastated, his mother searched for him in military camps, to no avail.  Years later, a note sent from prison to his family described the torture including the electrocution inflicted on Manny, which caused his death, after which his remains were thrown into a water well in an undisclosed location.  

We will never forget!


In January 1970, National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) president Edgardo “Edjop” Jopson led the rally in front of Congress where then President Ferdinand Marcos was delivering his State of the Nation Address.  

The rally was held to call for a nonpartisan constituent assembly insulated from the influence of traditional politicians, and had broad support. Tension arose as Marcos left Congress and protesters and police clashed. Truncheons wielded by the police resulted in bloodied heads, which catalyzed the beginning of the First Quarter Storm.

Within days Edjop was summoned by the President to the Palace. Edjop asked him to sign a pledge not to seek another term. The demand angered Marcos, who responded to the perceived insolence of the interlocutor across the table by calling him a “mere grocer’s son.”

On Feb. 17, 1970, the anniversary of the execution of the priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora that triggered the 1896 Philippine Revolution against the Spanish colonizers, a discussion was held on the formation of an organization dedicated to civil disobedience and nonviolent struggle. The meeting was held in one of the classrooms of the Ateneo de Manila’s Loyola House of Studies.

I asked Edjop to lead the organization. But he demurred, saying he was too occupied with the tasks required by the NUSP.  It thus fell on me to take on Lakasdiwa by default though I felt ill-prepared because I was just then beginning my studies in theology.   

Soon after his graduation from Ateneo with a degree in management engineering, cum laude, Edjop worked with labor unions and was involved in the first ever workers’ strike during the early years of martial law.  

He had decided to go underground, but he was arrested, detained, and tortured. He managed to escape in 1979; he wrote an account of his ordeal and identified his torturers.  

With a bounty on his head, Edjop was captured alive in Davao on Sept. 20, 1982.  He suffered eight gunshot wounds, and was interrogated.  Because he refused to cooperate with his military captors, he was killed and is now forever remembered as one of the heroes of our people’s struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.

Evelio Javier

How can I not remember Evelio Javier?  

Starting from my grade school years I knew his first cousins Ramon and Expedito, who were my classmates.  Then studying in San Jose, Antique, Evelio transferred to Ateneo and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and government, after which he went to law school and passed the bar in 1968.  He went back to teach law at his alma mater.

In 1971, with no experience at all in electoral politics, Evelio decided to run for governor of Antique.  He invited me to campaign with him throughout his home province, focusing on the young people, particularly the youth in schools.  I cannot forget those sorties for they were joyous occasions where he spoke and laughed with his people, and truly connected with his constituents.  

He was an attractive political figure, representing a different brand of politics and articulating a message of hope for his faraway province that had always remained forgotten and poor. (I have experienced two absolutely joyous political campaigns—that of Evelio and, 50 years later, that of presidential candidate Leni Robredo.)  

Elected governor at the age of 28 with the widest winning margin in the history of Antique, Evelio became the Philippines’ youngest governor in 1971.  After serving for two terms, he pursued studies in public administration at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

When Marcos called for a “snap” presidential election early in 1986, Evelio decided to join Cory Aquino’s campaign and took on the responsibility of watching the conduct of the polls in Antique. On. Feb. 11, 1986, while he was talking with voters in the public square, men wearing ski masks and carrying long guns arrived and began shooting. He tried to run to safety but the men riddled his body with bullets, killing him. He sustained 28 gunshot wounds.  

Evelio’s remains were brought to the Ateneo football grounds. During a requiem Mass offered in his honor, a message from Cardinal Jaime Sin was read, urging the people to join a nonviolent struggle for justice.  I recall that day vividly on the football grounds called the “Erenchum Field,” where I played varsity football years before.  

A few days later, on Feb. 22, 1986, people from all walks of life started to assemble on a stretch of highway that separated two military camps, signaling the beginning of the end of the Marcos dictatorship.  

Today we remember Feb. 25, 1986, as the triumph of people power.

Our duty as citizens

But we cannot forget this truth: The young people killed by the dictatorship were never fully buried; they are seeds that give life and hope as they continue to inspire our young to stand on their shoulders. 

As we give thanks for the sacrifice of their lives, we can draw strength from their courage.  Our duty as citizens is to remember, to never forget.  

Ed Garcia is one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution.

Read more: ‘Relive Edsa, Junk Cha-cha’ is the rallying cry

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