Martial Law memories: Jail art and garden committee at Fort Boni


In April 1973, on my fourth month of detention, the IRC Camp Commander (whom one fellow detainee remembers as one Lt. Voltaire Gazmin, now the Defense Secretary) brought in a photographer to take portrait photos of each detainee for their records. We were brought out, one by one, for the picture-taking near the main gate, beside the perimeter fence.

An aunt knew a second cousins who was a male nurse at the Fort Bonifacio military hospital who was able to secure a copy of my photo. That is why, I have this photo after a passage of almost 40 years. I do not know if my fellow detainees were able to get copies of their portraits.

Included in the pictures is a sketch I drew, showing the layout of the detention center as I recall them, with the male quarters of Room 1 and Room 2, the mess hall, and at the other side, the female quarter. We called the CR tacco beach.

Mon Ramirez while at the Ipil Detention Center at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig and artwork by fellow detainee Jun Verzola during the Martial Law years. Photos from Mon Ramirez

Mon Ramirez while at the Ipil Detention Center at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig and artwork by fellow detainee Jun Verzola during the Martial Law years. Photos from Mon Ramirez

We made the open space at the back our garden, which we planted to okra, camote, tomatoes, etc. I volunteered to head the garden committee, the reason I was called a Mang (Kiko, yata, I do not remember now).

The sketches included here are from the baul of fellow detainee, then a young 17-year-old Chemistry or Chemical Engineering student at the University of the Philippines, Jun Verzola, fresh from the Philippine Science High School. You can view more of his memorabilia items and get more views of detention life in this link.

(Thanks, Jun, for reviving some faint memories. already in sepia, of my nine-month stay in Ipil)

I was not into eating vegetables at that time, except the Bicolano’s ginataang lanka, malunggay, kalabasa and lubilubi. At Ipil I learned for the first time to eat the produce of our gardens: okra, talbos ng kamote/kalabasa/sitao, alugbati and saluyot (which my father called rikot, weeds and dismissed them as such). In our home in Albay we did not have those vegetables on our table; in Ipil I found out they were good and fine to eat.

At Ipil there was not much to do during our waking ours but to eat 3X a day at the mess hall, read books and discuss with fellow detainees, do exercises in the morning (usually jogging, etc), engage in sports, chess, clean our quarters/mess hall/takobeach, wash our clothes….. But everyday we looked forward to getting out, either by self-release (or escaping) or via the release papers signed by Gen. Fidel V. Ramos and noted by Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile.

Twenty years later in late 1992 I was arrested again and detained at Fort Bonifacio, but in another facility, the detention center of the Army’s ISG (Intelligence Service Group) where my fellow detainees were mostly RAM officers who led the various coups in the late 80s. But that is another story.

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