Source: Humans of Pinas

I woke up being shaken by Pete. “Raid! Raid!” he was saying, and rushed out of the room. Men, furiously pounding the door, were shouting for us to open up. It was between three and four in the morning.

The door had flung open. Pete, the poet and journalist Jose F. Lacaba, was pinned to the floor. He was being mauled by armed men in civilian clothes swarming over our tiny rented bungalow in Novaliches, Quezon City.

"I saw fists and the barrel of a gun coming at me as shouts of “Dapa! Dapa!” rang in my ears." - Bonifacio "Ka Boni" Ilagan 1

They were operatives of the 5th Constabulary Security Unit. I saw fists and the barrel of a gun coming at me as shouts of “Dapa! Dapa!” rang in my ears.

They forced open another room. I caught sight of Prof. Dolores Stephens Feria, who taught English in the University of the Philippines until she fled the Diliman campus to join us in the underground press and cultural unit of the anti-Marcos dictatorship movement.

The soldiers aimed their rifles and ordered her to raise her hands, but she just sat there. The law enforcers ransacked our house, taking money and valuables they could lay their hands on. Lieutenant RA raised a woman’s underwear and, in mocking disdain, shouted obscenities.

Sonja had luckily left the house on an errand a day or two earlier. As the skies brightened that day of April 25, 1974, Col. MA, the commanding officer of the 5th CSU, arrived and asked if our identities had been confirmed.

“Yes, sir,” replied our arresting officer who would be Rizal provincial commander of the Philippine National Police in the 1980s. Now in the company of our captors, the stories of horror heard from comrades previously arrested flashed in my mind.

My time had come, I dreaded the thought. I was relieved that Sonja, who was pregnant, was spared. For more than an hour before being brought to Camp Crame, we were already beaten black and blue.“Welcome to Camp Crame,” the sergeant beside me mumbled as the convoy entered the military compound.

I think, he purposely tightened my handcuffs to inflict pain. Camp Crame will forever be a reminder of the fascist inhumanity of martial law.

"I saw fists and the barrel of a gun coming at me as shouts of “Dapa! Dapa!” rang in my ears." - Bonifacio "Ka Boni" Ilagan 2

The beatings continued in the camp that is today the headquarters of those who have sworn “to serve and protect” whatever. At times, the torture was methodical, particularly when the senior intelligence officers took turns interrogating me about what they assumed I knew of the resistance movement.

At times, it was because the soldiers didn’t like my face or because I was a “subversive,” which today translates to “terrorist.” And then, again, there was this lieutenant who made life miserable for me more than it already was because he had decided that I, being a UP student, was arrogant.

I wondered how his valuation of UP students could even remotely endanger state and national security – and why a 22-year old had to be tortured for it.The gruesome physical and psychological torture continued. Among the methods used by my interrogators on me that I will never forget are the San Juanico Bridge, wherein I would be made to lie between two cots and if my body would fall or sag, I would be heavily beaten; burning of my feet with a flat iron; and inserting a thin reed or stick into my penis.I was never transferred to a regular detention center.

And so were Pete and Prof. Feria, in whose memory I named a character in a martial law film that I wrote in 2011. Our dehumanization in the intelligence headquarters persisted beyond the usual weeks.My mother was my first visitor. She never missed a visitation day, came hell or high water. She would insist that the food she carried all the way from Laguna be given to me even if the camp was off-limits for some reason.

I had just been released from prison when my younger sister, Rizalina, disappeared in 1977, together with nine other comrades — Gerry Faustino, Jessica Sales, Modesto Sison, Cristina Catalla, Ramon Jasul, Emmanuel Salvacruz, Salvador Panganiban, Virgilio Silva, and Erwin de la Torre.

"I saw fists and the barrel of a gun coming at me as shouts of “Dapa! Dapa!” rang in my ears." - Bonifacio "Ka Boni" Ilagan 3

My mother prepared to embark on another mission to have a second child in prison comforted, and hopefully, saved. But it was not to be.Modesto’s corpse was dug up in a common grave in Lucena City, Quezon, while those of Salvador and Virgilio were retrieved in a ravine in Tagaytay. The fate of the rest remains uncertain up to this day.

What’s certain, though, is that they all fell prey to a composite intelligence unit of the armed forces in Southern Tagalog, called Ground Team 205, headed by a Col. AG.Today, martial law comes to me as a hideous diorama of a tyrannical government wielding the power of life and death over citizens who dare raise a fist against the evils of society.

But if there be just one image, it will have to be my mother, my mater dolorosa, sorrowful yet bravely insisting on human rights for the sake of a prodigal son, and, too, storming military camps and graveyards in search of an activist daughter who was abducted by state security forces and never returned home.