“I continue to be a human rights activist up to now. This probably shows that terror may initially scare a people but, in the end, the spirit of freedom and democracy cannot be extinguished by repression. ” – Neri Colmenares

“I continue to be a human rights activist up to now. This probably shows that terror may initially scare a people but, in the end, the spirit of freedom and democracy cannot be extinguished by repression. ” – Neri Colmenares

Source: Humans of Pinas

“It happened 40 years ago, but some details of my torture still burn in my memory. I was 12 years old when Pres. Marcos imposed martial law, promising to free the people from poverty and eliminate corruption. After 4 years, his promises remained unfulfilled and the people became further impoverished.

Stealing of public funds became rampant. Foreign loans to fund Marcos’ overpriced projects buried the Philippines in debt. His cronies took over businesses and the country’s economy suffered from being second in Asia before Marcos, to one of the poorest countries in the region.

Life was very difficult, and I remember lining up to buy a “ganta” of rice which was rationed due to scarcity. The opposition and activists critical of Marcos were labelled as NPAs and killed or imprisoned without charges in prisons all over the country.

"I continue to be a human rights activist up to now. This probably shows that terror may initially scare a people but, in the end, the spirit of freedom and democracy cannot be extinguished by repression. " - Neri Colmenares 1

All the injustice and corruption bothered my young mind, and I decided that young people like me must push for social reforms to ensure a better future for our generation and the people.

At 17, I became Chairman of the Student Catholic Action-Visayas under Bishop Antonio Fortich and campaigned for the return of student councils and papers, then banned by Marcos.

In 1978, when I was elected to the SCAs National Council at the age of 18, I was suddenly arrested without warrant by the military while walking towards the Bacolod Cathedral. I was heavily tortured for days in a military camp.

The military forced me to eat paper when I refused to admit that I committed any crime. They would beat me up and electrocute me at night by pounding my nape with an “electric cattle prod”. They inserted M-16 bullets between my fingers which caused excruciating pain every time they squeezed my hands.

"I continue to be a human rights activist up to now. This probably shows that terror may initially scare a people but, in the end, the spirit of freedom and democracy cannot be extinguished by repression. " - Neri Colmenares 2

I also underwent the terrifying “Russian Roulette”. A military man brought me to a room one evening, emptied his revolver of bullets, placed one bullet in the chamber, and put the barrel of the gun inside my mouth.

I realized that the barrel of a gun when inserted into the mouth, accompanied by an overwhelming fear of death, felt very cold.

If a gun was forced into your throat, the sound of its trigger being pulled felt so loud as if the gun exploded. It was a horrible sound. He did it twice, leaving me completely drained as I could feel my brain splattered in the wall.

I was also brought to a room and made to watch them insert what looked like a thin wire into the penis of a man and electrocuted him. I was next, they threatened, but they got tired of the torture and told me “bukas ka na”. Which only filled me with dread.

One night, I was taken to a room and repeatedly beaten. The interrogator strangled me so hard that I nearly lost consciousness.

The next day, the warden was forced to take me to the hospital as I was continuously vomiting due to a damaged throat. That was the time when my parents knew of my arrest, after almost a week of torture.

Our brave FLAG lawyer, Atty. Francisco Cruz, managed to force the military to show the warrant of arrest called ASSO signed by Marcos and Enrile to justify our arrest.

Since the court charges were false, the military did not even bother to attend court hearings. The judge was forced to dismiss the case after eight months of detention. Despite the acquittal, however, I remained in prison until Marcos ordered my release after a year.

My young mind was so traumatized that I initially felt afraid of continuing my activism, fearful that I might not survive another arrest. A government which tortures 18 year olds is certainly a cruel government.

However, martial law became so unbearable to many Filipinos that I later decided to continue the fight for people’s rights against tyranny. After all, it was my future that was at stake too.

"I continue to be a human rights activist up to now. This probably shows that terror may initially scare a people but, in the end, the spirit of freedom and democracy cannot be extinguished by repression. " - Neri Colmenares 3

While organizing student councils in 1983, I was again arrested through an arrest warrant called PCO issued by Marcos. I spent a total of 4 years in prison merely because I was a student activist. When Marcos was deposed in 1986, our case was dismissed upon the pressing of Sen. Jose Diokno, Atty. William Claver and our other FLAG lawyers.

I continue to be a human rights activist up to now. This probably shows that terror may initially scare a people but, in the end, the spirit of freedom and democracy cannot be extinguished by repression. Tuloy ang laban.”

“We who are overcomers shall someday win this battle against rank evil, side by side with the Lord our God.” – Mila D. Aguilar

“We who are overcomers shall someday win this battle against rank evil, side by side with the Lord our God.” – Mila D. Aguilar

Source: Humans of Pinas

“Since I was underground almost all of my twenties till my early thirties, you can imagine how many unforgettable adventures I chalked up. But at this moment, I recall the simplest — one most relevant to our times.

Sometime in 1982, I was in a waiting shed with a young doctor, at that time my assigned head to our underground medical bureau. If I recall correctly, that was on EDSA just before Pasong Tamo going south, because I could remember the high wall at my back that stretched at least a kilometer.

I don’t think the complicated overpasses existed then. Traffic wasn’t terrible yet, so buses didn’t pass by too often.

"We who are overcomers shall someday win this battle against rank evil, side by side with the Lord our God." - Mila D. Aguilar 4

Since I was the “wanted” personality — as in, P150,000 on my head dead or alive — my accommodating bureau chief hailed our needed vehicle while I stayed in the background, by the side of the waiting shed almost against the wall.

She stood some meters before me for sometime without success. Suddenly, she looked around, walked back to the waiting shed, finally finding me beside it, in plain sight.

“Oh,” she said, “I didn’t see you! You had melded into the background.”

That surprised me. How had I melded into the background, I wondered? She was right in front of me all that time, only the two of us there — for it was early morning —looking at my direction every so often. I wasn’t hiding behind the waiting shed because its posts were made of steel, not concrete. I was just there.

She too kept wondering how I could meld into the background. Was it a special gift, she asked?

That incident has been a marvel to me till now. I was underground, an atheist, a communist, a dialectical materialist, incapable of any magic. I had no capacity at all to disappear in broad daylight.

It would take me eight more years after that to discover God and surrender to Him with all my heart, mind, soul and strength, in a sudden awakening in 1990 at the ripe old age of 40.

I did not know the Bible in 1982. I would learn only later the words “But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3 NIV)

Guard you by making you invisible? That is why I cite this experience in our times.

Though I did not believe it then, I know now that God already had a plan for me. He knew exactly when I would awaken to Him, and He knew then that He would have to protect me again now.

"We who are overcomers shall someday win this battle against rank evil, side by side with the Lord our God." - Mila D. Aguilar 5

Not only me, but the majority of our countrymen who believe in Him and fight the evil one consistently, with a fervor and passion unsurpassed even by the 1898 Revolution.

For the time is coming, soon if I have any feel of the situation, when the Lord will hide us in plain sight, clothed in His full armor: His helmet of salvation on our heads, on our bodies a tough shell of righteousness held up by His belt of truth, for our shoes the good news of peace, even as our right hands wield the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, and our left hands clutch tightly the shield of faith “to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.”

"We who are overcomers shall someday win this battle against rank evil, side by side with the Lord our God." - Mila D. Aguilar 6

We shall be rendered invisible as needed, and we shall be seen from mountaintops by those in need, as the Lord sees fit.

We who are overcomers shall someday win this battle against rank evil, side by side with the Lord our God — invisible to the marauding enemy even when in plain sight, but visible to all those who call out to Him for help.

No one, not even the Dragon possessed by Satan, will be able to stop us.”

“Our Tagline was – To seek and live the truth and share a vision.” – Peachy Burgos

“Our Tagline was – To seek and live the truth and share a vision.” – Peachy Burgos

Source: Humans of Pinas

““Take off your shirts and pants,” was all I can remember of the woman soldier’s words inside the small room after the gate. I was 16. Demeaning as it was, we obliged because we were a few minutes away from seeing my father, Joe Burgos.

It was more than a week since the military closed down our WE Forum newspaper and Dads, together with other columnists and staffers were jailed at Fort Bonifacio. With me was my mother, Edita, while my brothers were “searched” in a separate room.

That was no place for children but we had to be there. Aside from wanting to see our father, our parents had a reason. We had to divert the attention of the listening soldiers. (Of course, the room was tapped. Luckily, there were no CCTVs yet at the time.)

“Our Tagline was - To seek and live the truth and share a vision.” - Peachy Burgos 7

We were ushered to a room, somewhat like a receiving room, and left alone by the soldiers. After the hugs, kisses and “we’re proud of you, Dads”, we had to do our thing.

My brothers started chasing each other, jumping up and down the sofa while we all loudly laughed and shouted. Dads and Moms started to talk in hushed voices. Dads had written an important note that we had to deliver to his lawyers. Since we only had a few minutes,

Moms hurriedly tucked the note inside her shoe after we noticed that the soldiers did not ask us to take off our shoes in the screening room.

On our way out, we had to hold our breaths as we stripped again while the soldiers searched us. True enough, we had our shoes intact. I believe it was a combination of prayers and luck that we were able to slip that note out.

Looking back, it seemed such a brave thing to do for children aged 12-16. But then again, we always did things as a family.

Because of the situation, all the members of our family had to do our share in publishing WE Forum. As kids, we had to help sell newspapers on the streets of Luneta Park.

“Our Tagline was - To seek and live the truth and share a vision.” - Peachy Burgos 8

As a teen, I had to help in proofreading and typesetting, while my brother had to help deliver the newspapers to the more receptive news boys before dawn. My mother had to take care of the finances and the administrative side of publishing.

While many of those resisting the Martial Law of Marcos were forced to go underground, we were in the foreground putting up an opposition paper. Dads and Moms openly discussed issues to us at dinner or family time.

“Our Tagline was - To seek and live the truth and share a vision.” - Peachy Burgos 9

They believed that the public had to know the truth. And we, as their children, had to know. It was not a time to be cowed into silence because we were on the side of truth and justice. After all, our tagline was “to seek and live the truth and share a vision.””

Photos by JL Burgos, from the film Portraits of Mosquito Press

“Today, I am at that period in my life where I look forward to enjoying the simple and finer things in life. And I will always mean well.”- Philip Suzara

“Today, I am at that period in my life where I look forward to enjoying the simple and finer things in life. And I will always mean well.”- Philip Suzara

Source: Humans of Pinas

“As a young boy, I came to read and romanticize about this White Stallion from a DC classic comics who chose freedom, and death, over a life in captivity. It was a very poignant scene with an insight and value that I have since embraced … that there is no price for Freedom.

In 1970, I experienced my first protest rally in support of the jeepney drivers” strike/mobilization against the oil price hike.

From 1971 until my father unexpectedly passed away in 1973, I lived in Bacolod and Iloilo while my father worked in Bacolod, then went into the farming business in Capiz. It was during this time that I had a glimpse of the great divide between the hacienderos and the struggling sacadas.

During summer, I had my first taste of farm work, living and working with the farmers in the fields.

While studying in San Agustin, Iloilo, I got involved in lighting rallies and teach-ins with foremost leftist leaders.

When Martial Law was declared, as a graduating student, I was fearful of my present and my future.

After my father passed away, we had to relocate to Manila, at the advent of Martial Law. I enrolled in Adamson University while working to help support myself. It was during this period that the country hosted a lot of international events. I found myself joining protest rallies by leftist organizations, even as I was not affiliated with any of them.

"Today, I am at that period in my life where I look forward to enjoying the simple and finer things in life. And I will always mean well."- Philip Suzara 10

In April 7, 1978, the country held its Interim Batasang Pambansa elections. Benigno Aquino was the opposition’s stalwart leader, and the team was largely supported by the Social Democrats.

I was the Laban elections area coordinator for San Juan. On the eve of the elections, the first noise barrage happened, and the country’s public protest against Marcos was awakened.

Elections was marred with massive cheating and terror by the Marcos government. A lot of indignation protest actions and rallies occurred with many marchers arrested and detained.

The political terrain would be uneventful for a long while; it seemed Marcos had a good grasp of the Filipino psyche.

In 1979, exhausting all possible peaceful means of dissent, progressive SD elements and their allies mobilized and escalated their protest against the oppressive Marcos government.

One of these groups was the Light a Fire Movement which mounted urban guerrilla warfare as part of their destabilization plan.

I was glad that there were already forces moving against the dictatorship. I wanted to be one of those freedom fighters, feeling a sense of duty for my country.

In December 1979, after several successful missions, the operation of the LFM was stopped with the arrest of their leaders.

In the 2nd quarter of 1980, after Marcos released Aquino for his heart operation, the bombing of government installations and private establishments commenced as a continuation of the destabilization.

This time, the April 6 Liberation Movement claimed responsibility.

The US government took notice, and this pressured Marcos to forge a moratorium on the bombings in exchange for the lifting of ML.

On January 17, 1981, Marcos declared the lifting of ML. A victory, even if it was only a paper lifting of the dreaded decree.

On October 27, 1980, I was arrested and implicated with the A6 LM.

I was set up in a trap, literally kidnapped and tortured in the course of their tactical interrogation.

"Today, I am at that period in my life where I look forward to enjoying the simple and finer things in life. And I will always mean well."- Philip Suzara 11

The A6LM case was the last one handled by the military tribunal and the first one under the new civilian courts on account of the ML’s lifting.

Representing us were lawyers affiliated with FLAG and MABINI, pro bono publico, namely: Pepe Diokno, Lorenzo Tanada, Juan David, Sedfrey Ordonez, Rene Saguisag, Jojo Binay, Ding Tanjuatco, Efren Moncupa, Joey Lina and Jun Simon, and many others of kindred spirit.

We were all agents of change, burning with fire in our hearts, in our desire to make a difference in our country.

Then, in August 21, 1983, Ninoy was assassinated and that caused nationwide outrage. Marcos was going to ride this wave and let it pass.

After 3 years, Marcos committed his biggest blunder. Amidst political pressure, he agreed to a snap election.

By February 22, 1986 , the defection of Marcos’ staunch officials, Enrile and Ramos, coupled with the call of Cardinal Sin, the historic EDSA People Power Revolution caused the end of Marcos’ long reign of dictatorship.

As I was still in detention, I felt helpless, but victorious, seeing all these events unfolding.

On February 25, 1986, Corazon C. Aquino was installed President of the Philippines.

One of her first official acts was the release of all Political Detainees. After 6 years, I became a free man.

"Today, I am at that period in my life where I look forward to enjoying the simple and finer things in life. And I will always mean well."- Philip Suzara 12

Today, I am at that period in my life where I look forward to enjoying the simple and finer things in life. And I will always mean well.

But, when awakened from blissful slumber, when the dragon rears its ugly head from dark, you just move and slay that dragon – no second thoughts about it. We will all kick the bucket one day.

My prayer is to skip that line with a smile on my lips, and that it be a meaningful one, or a fun one. Or both.”

“I, too, learned mine: the youth are the children of the struggles of their forebears and will carry them on.” – Liza Maza

“I, too, learned mine: the youth are the children of the struggles of their forebears and will carry them on.” – Liza Maza

Source: Humans of Pinas

“Among activists, we are called “Martial Law babies” because we became activists during martial law. We did not participate in the First Quarter Storm nor were we in the Diliman Commune, but these two events that shaped student radicalism in the early 70’s were our inspiration during the resurgence of the student movement in 1977.

I just turned 15 and was in my second year in an all-girls high school in San Pablo, Laguna when Martial Law was declared. Our regular subscriptions of the Free Press and other newspapers suddenly stopped and there was nothing to watch on TV since most of the TV stations were shut down by Marcos.

We had no source of information except for what was fed through government-controlled media. At a young age, I realized how it was to be denied one’s right to freedom of information and speech for in my early teens,

I developed a keen interest in current events and student activism and would follow news on student demonstrations, read opinion pieces and analyses on political events, and occasionally attend rallies held in our city plaza organized by students from our city colleges and nearby UP Los Baños.

I was hungry for knowledge and would attend these rallies on my own.

"I, too, learned mine: the youth are the children of the struggles of their forebears and will carry them on." - Liza Maza 13

When I entered UP in 1974, everything seemed quiet. But after the arrest of Philippine Collegian editor Ditto Sarmiento and other student leaders in 1976, marches were held on campus calling for their release and condemning political represssison.

The first march that I attended was violently dispersed by the police in front of the UP Main Library. There, I learned my lesson on police violence and state fascism but since I did not belong to any organization then, I was unable to sustain my activism.

Only when I was elected to the Sampaguita Dormitory Council in 1977 and became a member of the University Alliance that my involvement deepened.

I was determined to get my education from the streets, factories, urban poor communities and anywhere outside the walls of the classroom. I attended classes only to take my exams and would be outside the classroom to organize, visit Tondo for immersion and participate in protest actions.

We staged lightning rallies in Manila shouting the slogan “Marcos, Hitler, Diktador, Tuta!” and by the time we repeated the slogan for maybe 10 times, the rally was over.

Two of the significant rallies that I attended in 1977 were the August 25 rally in front of St. Theresa’s College and the September 21 rally in Avenida Rizal. The August 25 rally of about 5,000 participants was organized to denounce the human rights violations of Marcos in time for the World Congress of Jurists that was to be held on that month.

"I, too, learned mine: the youth are the children of the struggles of their forebears and will carry them on." - Liza Maza 14

The rally was violently dispersed by truncheon-wielding policemen. They also used water cannons with colored water to mark activists for arrest. I narrowly escaped arrest by going inside the San Marcelino church where a sympathetic church goer handed me a t-shirt so I can change my marked blouse.

The Avenida rally held on September 21 was the first big multi-sectoral rally of more than 10,000 that openly called for the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship. We were with the other women, nuns and religious people at the back of the composite team of rallyists assigned to defend the ranks.

But the police used water cannons with even greater pressure that dispersed the composite and exposed us directly to the water cannons. We initially held the lines but later had to scamper to safety when the pressure of the water cannons with colored water laced with chemicals became unbearably painful to our skin and eyes.

"I, too, learned mine: the youth are the children of the struggles of their forebears and will carry them on." - Liza Maza 15

The revival of student activism gave birth to the National League of Filipino Students on September 11, 1977 — a fitting birthday gift to the dictator who turned out to be the best recruiter of activists.

Copycat dictators and would-be tyrants should learn this lesson from our history: tyrants fall and dictatorships end. I, too, learned mine: the youth are the children of the struggles of their forebears and will carry them on.”