An artist’s illustration/s of Angelina Sayat when she was alive. Illustrated by Ray-an C. Coloma on March 11, 2022.

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Would Her Children Understand?: The Death of Angelina Sayat

Note: See below for the Filipino version of this article.

Talk of the atrocities of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law regime deals heavily with statistics. How many people were killed or tortured, how many were displaced from their homes, how many were forced into exile? While identifying accurate numbers for each is an important task, it is equally important to understand that each number embodies a life that was deeply affected, if not shaken to the core. Lost in the statistics are the vivid stories of its victims, many of whom are unheard of as well. Few know of their deaths, and even fewer know of their lives.

Angelina Sayat has one of those stories. In October 2014, her daughter Rina Cepillo filed a claim on her behalf to the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB), seeking recognition and reparations. Supporting her claim were testimonies of individuals who took part in the painful process of finding Angelina’s body to seek justice for her death.[1]

According to Rina’s father, Marcianito Sayat, in 1983, his wife Angelina was appointed in Norzagaray, Bulacan to a unit of a Barrio Organizing team to visit, care for, and organize the barrios.[2] During one of their visits to a house in Norzagaray, members of the Philippine Air Force conducted a raid and opened fire. Angelina, who was badly hit on the waist, insisted that her colleagues leave her behind so they could escape. Attempts to hide Angelina created a blood trail that only gave away her location. Seeing as she could no longer carry on in her state, they decided to heed her advice to leave her.[3] Witness reports say that when the military found Angelina, they forcibly interrogated her, shooting her again, this time in the shoulder, and striking her with the butts of their rifles when she refused to give them answers. They brought her to Villamor Air Base Hospital in Manila so they could keep trying to extract information from her, but Angelina passed away in the middle of the questioning. Not once during the interrogations did she admit that she was a fighter for the New People’s Army (NPA). She even gave them a false name.[4]

A couple of weeks later, Angelina’s sister, Engracia Roque, and sister-in-law, Ruby Zara, learned of the encounter. With a certain Sister Angie from the Task Force Detainees Metro Manila (TFD-MM), they went to Villamor Air Base to search for her body, but to no avail. The hospital staff simply told them that “Ka Lina” was no longer there. After about a month of searching camp hospitals and funeral parlors nearby, they finally found her body at a funeral home, already decomposing and embalmed. They requested the funeral home to give them her body, cleaned it, and bought a cheap coffin for her burial.[[5]] Engracia, Ruby, and Sister Angie, along with a missionary friend, were the only ones who attended Angelina’s lonely burial in Bagbag Cemetery in Novaliches, fearing the tense situation at the time. Marcianito and his two children, who were not there, might still have been under surveillance by the military. [6]

Angelina’s husband and children went to great lengths to seek justice. Marcianito pushed to have Angelina included as a plaintiff in the Human Rights Litigation against the Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos” (MDL No. 840, CA No. 88-0390). She was, however, included in the delisting group who were considered victims but did not receive reparations.[7] Rina submitted this claim to the HRVCB hoping to give her mother her overdue recognition.

Much is not known about Angelina Sayat. The bulk of what is documented about her is that she was shot in an unarmed encounter with the military while she was simply seeking to help other people in the barrios of Norzagaray, and that she died in the hospital after being forcibly questioned by her captors. Not much is known about the life she led prior to her death. It cannot be said with full clarity why “Ka Lina” joined the NPA, leaving her two young children behind to join the revolution against the Marcos regime. Clues can only be picked up from the sociopolitical context of her life.

The TFD-MM, which wrote a profile on Angelina back in 1984, posed the question  “what kind of a system pushes peasant mothers to leave their children and take to the hills?” Referring to Angelina’s children, they also asked “would they understand that their mama had fought and died for little children just like them? Would they understand that their mama sought to make a better world for them to grow up in? When the little children have understood, who can stop them from being proud of a mother who stood steadfast in her beliefs till death?”[8]

Rina may have already answered these questions. She writes that whether or not her mother is recognized, their family knows that she sacrificed and gave up her life to fight the oppressive Martial Law regime.[9]

Many Martial Law victims become simply part of the numbers as our collective memory of the period fades to time and revisionism. However, we must remember that stories, like that of Angelina, exist. Many victims were Filipinos who suffered, who were pushed to the brink and were compelled to take up arms, and who ultimately died for their ideals. Though few of us know of their lives, they lived these lives nonetheless and played a part in the Filipinos’ struggles. Angelina’s memories live on through her family. May their memories live on through us as well.

An artist’s illustration of Angelina Sayat during her physical torment and interrogation in Norzagaray in 1983. Illustrated by Ray-an C. Coloma on March 9, 2022.
A photo of Angelina Sayat in her casket. Photo from Filipino Women in Struggle (Task Force Detainees Metro Manila, 1984), p. 27.
A photo of Engracia Porto (left) and Ruby Sayat (right) during the burial of Angelina Sayat in Bagbag Cemetery in Novaliches in 1983. Photo submitted by Rina Cepillo as part of her claim on behalf of her mother. Taken from the archives of the Human Rights Violations’ Victims Memorial Commission.

Maiintindihan Kaya ng mga Anak Niya?: Ang Pagkamatay ni Angelina Sayat

Note: Nasa itaas ang bersyon ng artikulo sa wikang Ingles.

Malaki ang papel ng mga estatistika sa pag-uusap tungkol sa mga pang-aabuso ng rehimeng batas militar ni Ferdinand Marcos. Ilang tao ang pinatay o tinortyur, ilan ang pinaalis sa kanilang mga tahanan, ilan ang napilitang lumikas mula sa paghihirap at kapahamakan? Habang mahalaga na matukoy ang tamang estatistiko para sa bawat isa sa mga ito, mahalaga ring maunawaan na ang bawat isang numero ay sumisimbolo sa isang buhay na lubhang naapektuhan ng mga pangyayari. Hindi naibabahagi sa mga numerong ito ang mismong kuwento ng mga naging biktima ng rehimen. Marami sa mga ito ay hindi pa naririnig ng nakararami. Kaunti ang nakakaalam sa kanilang kamatayan, at mas kaunti pa sa kanilang naging buhay.

Isang halimbawa rito ay si Angelina Sayat. Noong Oktubre 2014, nagpasa ng aplikasyon ang kaniyang anak na si Rina Cepillo sa Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB), at humihingi ng pagkilala at bayad-pinsala para sa kaniyang ina. Kasama sa kaniyang isinumite ang mga salaysay ng mga taong nakibahagi sa proseso ng paghahanap sa bangkay ni Angelina upang mabigyan ng hustisya ang kaniyang pagkamatay.[10]

Ayon sa ama ni Rina na si Marcianito Sayat, noong 1983, naitalaga si Angelina bilang miyembro ng isang Barrio Organizing team sa Norzagaray, Bulacan para bumisita, mangumusta at mag-organisa sa mga barriong kanilang nasasakupan.[11] Isang araw, nagsagawa ng raid ang  Philippine Air Force sa isang bahay na binibisita ng grupo ni Angelina. Nang mauwi sa pagpapaputok ang raid na ito, si Angelina ay lubhang natamaan sa baywang. Iginiit niya sa kaniyang mga kasama na kailangan nila siyang iwan upang sila ay makalikás. Sinubukan nilang itago si Angelina sa isang ligtas na lugar, ngunit natagpuan pa rin siya dahil sa bakas ng kaniyang dugo. Sinundan ng kaniyang mga kasama ang utos ni Angelina na siya’y iwan nang makita nilang hindi rin niya kayang magpatuloy.[12] Ayon sa mga saksi, isinalang siya sa matinding interogasyon at muling binaril, ngayon sa kanyang balikat, at hinampas ng upos ng riple matapos niyang tumangging sumagot sa kanilang mga tanong. Kalaunan ay dinala siya sa Villamor Air Base Hospital sa Maynila upang ipagpatuloy ang interogasyon. Sa gitna nito ay binawian ng buhay si Angelina. Mula sa simula ng interogasyon hanggang sa kaniyang pagkamatay, hindi niya inamin sa militar na siya ay isang miyembro ng New People’s Army (NPA). Pekeng pangalan din ang kaniyang ibinigay sa kanila.[13]

Makalipas ang ilang linggo, natuklasan ng kaniyang kapatid na si Engracia Roque at biyenan na si Ruby Zara ang nangyaring engkuwentro. Kasama ng isang madre, si Sister Angie ng Task Force Detainees Metro Manila (TFD-MM), nagpunta sila sa Villamor Air Base upang hanapin ang kaniyang katawan, ngunit sila ay nabigo, at sinabihan lamang ng mga kawani ng ospital na wala na ang pasyenteng si “Ka Lina”. Matapos ang halos isang buwan ng paghahanap sa mga malalapit na ospital at punerarya, natagpuan nila ang kaniyang bangkay sa isang morge na na-embalsamo na. Nabigyan sila ng pahintulot upang maiuwi ang bangkay, na kanilang nilinis at inilagay sa murang kabaong para sa kaniyang libing.[14] Sina Engracia, Ruby at Sister Angie, kasama ang isang kaibigang misyonero, ang tanging nakasama sa burol ni Angelina sa Bagbag Cemetery sa Novaliches, dahil nangangamba sila sa mainit pang sitwasyon noon. Maging si Marcianito at ang dalawa nitong anak ay hindi nakadalo sa libing, maaaring dahil sa pagmamanman ng militar.[15]

 Nagsumikap ang asawa at mga anak ni Angelina upang makamit ang hustisya para sa kaniyang pagkamatay. Hinimok ni Marcianito na isama si Angelina bilang isa sa mga taga-sakdal sa Human Rights Litigation against the Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos” (MDL No. 840, CA No. 88-0390). Sa kasawiang palad, siya ay kasama sa grupong para sa delisting, o ang mga binigyang pagpapakilala bilang biktima ng rehimen, ngunit hindi nakatanggap ng mga reparasyon o bayad-pinsala.[16] Isinumite ni Rina ang aplikasyon sa HRVCB sa kagustuhang maibigay sa kaniyang ina ang karampatang pagkilala.

Maraming bagay ang hindi natin batid tungkol kay Angelina Sayat. Ang maikukuwento lamang sa ngayon ay ang pagbabaril sa kaniya sa isang hindi armadong engkuwentro ng militar habang siya ay nagpapaabot lamang ng tulong sa mga tao sa mga baryo ng Norzagaray; na siya ay namatay sa ospital pagkatapos na sapilitang kuwestiyunin ng mga bumihag sa kanya. Hindi natin alam ang tungkol sa buhay na kaniyang pinagdaanan bago siya ay mamatay. Hindi natin alam kung bakit sumali si “Ka Lina” sa NPA, at iniwan ang kaniyang dalawang maliliit na anak upang sumama sa rebolusyon laban sa rehimen ni Marcos. Ilang bahagi lamang ng kaniyang kuwento ay mahihinuha sa sosyopulitikal na konteksto ng kaniyang buhay.

“Anong uri ng sistema ang nagtutulak sa mga pesanteng ina na iwan ang kanilang mga anak at magtungo sa kabundukan?” ang tanong ng TFD-MM, na nagsulat ng isang profile kay Angelina noong 1984. Tanong din nila, ukol sa mga anak ni Angelina, kung “maiintindihan kaya nila na ang ina nila ay nakipaglaban at namatay para sa maliliit na batang katulad nila? Mauunawaan kaya nila na ang kanilang ina ay naghangad na lumikha ng isang mas magandang mundo para sa kanilang paglaki? Kapag naunawaan nila ito, sino ang makakapigil sa kanila na ipagmalaki ang kanilang inang nanindigan sa kaniyang paniniwala hanggang kamatayan?”[17]

Maaaring nasagot na ni Rina ang mga tanong na ito. Isinulat niya na “kilalanin man [ang kanilang ina] o hindi, alam [nila] na nagsakripisyo at nagbuwis ng buhay ang [kanilang] ina sa paglaban sa mapanupil na Batas Militar ni Marcos noong 1972-1986.”[18]

Maraming mga biktima ng Batas Militar ang nagiging bahagi na lamang ng istatistika habang nabibihag ang ating kolektibang alaala ng kapanahunang ito dahil sa rebisyunismo at sa paglipas ng panahon. Gayunpaman, dapat nating tandaan na mayroon pa ring mga kuwentong tulad ng kay Angelina. Marami sa mga biktima ay mga Pilipinong nagdusa, naitulak sa bingit at napilitang humawak ng armas, at sa huli ay namatay para sa kanilang mga mithiin. Bagama’t kakaunti sa atin ang nakakaalam ng kanilang naging buhay, ito ang naging buhay nila gayunpaman, na siyang naging bahagi ng pakikibaka ng mga Pilipino. Ang mga alaala ni Angelina ay nabubuhay sa kaniyang pamilya. Nawa’y mabuhay din ang kanilang mga alaala sa atin.

[1] “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-4A-00288, Quezon City: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[2] Marcianito might be referring to the barrio organizing committees established by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in various areas in the country. Barrio organizing committees are formed after the CPP-NPA has conducted thorough social investigations, assessing grievances and problems, and has grouped elements from the masses for potential membership. This committee is a preparatory committee in setting up the barrio revolutionary committee, which actively seeks to eliminate the aforementioned grievances and problems. See: Amado Guerrero, “Summing Up Our Experience After Three Years,” Ang Bayan, March 3, 1972, accessed March 13, 2022, https://www.bannedthought.net/Philippines/CPP/1970s/SummingUpExperienceAfter3Years-720303.pdf, 11.

[3] Marcianito Sayat, “Affidavit” (Case No. 2014-4A-00288, Quezon City: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission. One other was also injured, and she opted to remain to allow her colleagues to escape.

[4] Ibid.; Rina Cepillo, “Affidavit” (Case No. 2014-4A-00288, Quezon City: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission; Filipino Women in Struggle (Task Force Detainees Metro Manila, 1984), 25. Villamor Air Base is referred to as Nichols Air Base in the latter source. The name she gave was Lucille Cea, a combination of one of her best friends’ name and a relative’s name.

[5] Filipino Women in Struggle, 26; Sayat, “Affidavit;” Ruby Sayat Zara & Engracia Porto Roque, “Affidavit” (Case No. 2014-4A-00288, Quezon City: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission. They also learned from a certain Major Laserna that an NPA woman by the name of Lucille Cea did die of blood loss in Villamor Air Base, but suggested they look elsewhere.

[6] Filipino Women in Struggle, 26-27; Zara & Roque, “Affidavit.” Rina also shares that their father is a living memory of how they fought back then, suggesting that Marcianito may have also taken up arms alongside his wife during Martial Law. Perhaps this was partly the reason why they did not attend the burial. Afterwards, Marcianito and his children Rina and Malaya continued visiting her grave for five years until they decided to have her cremated in December 1988 so her ashes can be kept in an urn closer to her family.

[7] Rina S. Cepillo to Lina Sarmiento, October 28, 2014 (Case No. 2014-4A-00288, Quezon City: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[8] Filipino Women in Struggle, 26-27.

[9] Rina S. Cepillo to Lina Sarmiento, October 28, 2014. Original in Filipino: “Kilalanin man po siya o hindi, alam namin na nagsakripisyo at nagbuwis ng buhay ang aming ina sa paglaban sa mapanupil na Martial Law ni Marcos noong 1972-1986.”

[10] “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-4A-00288, Quezon City: 2014), nakuha mula sa arkibo ng Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[11] Maaring tinutukoy ni Marcianito rito ang mga barrio organizing committees na binubuo ng Communist Party of the Philippines at ng New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) sa iba’t ibang lugar sa bansa. Itinatatag ang mga barrio organizing committees pagkatapos makapagsagawa ng CPP-NPA ng imbestigasyon patungkol sa mga hinanaing at problema ng mga mamamayan sa isang partikular na lugar, at makapagtipon ng mga puwedeng maging miyembro. Preparasyon ito sa pagbubuo ng barrio revolutionary committee, na aktibong sinusubukang puksain ang mga nabanggit na mga hinanaing at problema. Tingnan ang: Amado Guerrero, “Summing Up Our Experience After Three Years,” Ang Bayan, March 3, 1972, accessed March 13, 2022, https://www.bannedthought.net/Philippines/CPP/1970s/SummingUpExperienceAfter3Years-720303.pdf.

[12] Marcianito Sayat, “Affidavit” (Case No. 2014-4A-00288, Quezon City: 2014), nakuha mula sa arkibo ng Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[13] Ibid.; Rina Cepillo, “Affidavit” (Case No. 2014-4A-00288, Quezon City: 2014), nakuha mula sa arkibo ng Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission; Filipino Women in Struggle (Task Force Detainees Metro Manila, 1984), 25. Ang Villamor Air Base ay tinukoy bilang Nichols Air Base sa ikalawang sanggunian. Ang ibinigay niyang pangalan ay Lucille Cea, na kombinasyon ng pangalan ng isa niyang matalik na kaibigan at ng isang kamag-anak.

[14] Filipino Women in Struggle, 26; Sayat, “Affidavit;” Ruby Sayat Zara & Engracia Porto Roque, “Affidavit” (Case No. 2014-4A-00288, Quezon City: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission. Nalaman nila sa isang Major Laserna na isang babaeng taga-NPA na nagngangalang Lucille Cea ang namatay sa kawalan ng dugo sa Villamor Air Base, ngunit itinuro sila upang maghanap na lang sa ibang lugar.

[15] Filipino Women in Struggle, 26-27; Zara & Roque, “Affidavit.”  Ibinahagi rin ni Rina na ang kanyang ama ay isang buhay na alaala kung paano sila nakipaglaban noon, pahiwatig na maaaring humawak din ng armas si Marcianito kasama ang kanyang ina noong panahon ng Batas Militar. Marahil ito ang dahilan kung bakit hindi sila nakasama sa burol. Pagkatapos nito, karaniwang binibisita ni Marcianito at ng kanyang mga anak na sina Rina at Malaya ang puntod ni Angelina sa loob ng limang taon hanggang napagdesisyunan nilang sunugin ang kanyang bangkay noong Disyembre 1988 upang mailagay ang kanyang abo na mas malapit sa pamilya.

[16] Rina S. Cepillo kay Lina Sarmiento, Oktubre 28, 2014 (Case No. 2014-4A-00288, Quezon City: 2014), nakuha mula sa arkibo ng Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[17] Filipino Women in Struggle, 26-27. Hango mula sa Ingles: “What kind of a system pushes peasant mothers to leave their children and take to the hills?” and “Would they understand that their mama had fought and died for little children just like them? Would they understand that their mama sought to make a better world for them to grow up in? When the little children have understood, who can stop them from being proud of a mother who stood steadfast in her beliefs till death?”

[18] Rina S. Cepillo kay Lina Sarmiento, Oktubre 28, 2014.

 

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