In Commemoration of the Bulacan Martyrs of 1982
This article on the 1982 Bulacan Martyrs is an edited version of the original article published on June 21, 2021. All revisions were made to improve readability, without changes to the data and the amount of information in the original.
This article also contains stories of Human Rights Violations Victims of the Martial Law era. To view the rest of the Roll of Victims see this link: Roll of Victims
This article is Part 1 of a series of articles on the 1982 Bulacan Martyrs . To read part 2, press this link: Bulacan Martyrs Part 2
June 21 marks the anniversary of the Bulacan Massacre. Five peasant organizers, all in their twenties, were abducted during a meeting by government forces and subsequently found dead. Today, we remember these five, collectively known as the Bulacan Martyrs. They sacrificed their time, comfort, and ultimately their lives to promote the interests and rights of farmers in Central Luzon.
Flames of Activism
With the 1972 declaration of Martial Law, President Ferdinand Marcos exercised unbridled control over the country. This left little room for localized mass movements. Within days of the declaration, Marcos ordered the imprisonment of political rivals, critics, and activists challenging his authority. Resistance was almost always met with violent suppression, coloring the submission of most people for much of the decade. Many Filipinos chose to remain silent, fearing the repressive dictatorship. As the decade progressed, some began to fight for their rights. Students, graduates, and young workers possessed the youthful vigor and optimism needed to spark the flame of activism. In Bulacan, five notable individuals resisted. They fought not only for themselves but also for the cause of farmers in their province.
In 1970s Meycauayan, Teresita Llorente was helping her parents operate a small restaurant. She was business-savvy, astute, and hardworking. However, her true passion lay in social justice work. She was part of the local parish choir and a member of the Pamparokyang Kilusan ng Kabataang Kristiyano (PKKK). Though a teenager at the time, her involvement in the parish’s activities enlightened her about the problems in their community. Her understanding deepened when she immersed herself with protesting textile factory workers.
Also participating in parish-based activities in the same city was Danilo Aguirre, a high school graduate. He helped host educational discussions for people to know their rights amid repression. When not busy with church work, he helped his family as a market vendor. He also found time to participate in rallies on the streets. In 1981, he even volunteered as a watcher for the elections.
Some ways north in Malolos, Edwin Borlongan was also with fellow catechists of the Pamparokyang Samahan ng mga Katekista (PASKA). Borlongan finished elementary and high school as a working student, helping his parents make ends meet. He finished a course in automotive servicing at Samson Technical School in Manila. He eventually became a driver-mechanic in Tondo. He barely dabbled in politics. However, he was exposed in 1978 when he joined a Metro Manila-wide noise barrage. This was conducted in opposition to the Interim Batasang Pambansa elections. From then on, he started helping in campaigns, especially for students fighting for their rights.
Heading westward to Hagonoy, a progressive artist group Galian sa Arte at Tula (GAT) often brought the community together. They would watch politically charged plays by the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA). The political underpinnings of these performances woke the consciousness of young fisherman Constantino Medina. Though he spent most of his time working, he allotted time to read and learn. He educated himself on the realities of Philippine society. He was a learned high school graduate. His friends even believed that he was well-equipped to become a lawyer.
Education was also the strong suit of Renato Manimbo, a graduating mechanical engineering student from Far Eastern Air Transport Incorporated (FEATI) University in Manila. He became active in the FEATI student council scene in the late 1970s. He became its president for two terms. He led the council during a time of escalating protests on students’ rights and tuition fee increases. He spoke in rallies and held educational discussions. He even became a founding member of the League of Filipino Students (LFS). He was also among the students who condemned Marcos in 1981 during the visit of Pope John Paul II. They brought protest banners during a mass held by the Pope.
The “Lifting” of Martial Law
The Pope’s arrival in Manila on February 17 received worldwide media coverage. Exactly a month prior, Marcos issued Proclamation No.2045, declaring the lifting of Martial Law. Marcos cited that “anarchy has been successfully checked,” and that “leftist-rightist rebellion has been substantially contained.” For the Filipinos, he believed that “the time has come to consolidate the gains attained by the nation under a state of martial law by assuming their normal political roles and shaping the national destiny within the framework of civil government and popular democracy.”
Many received this with apprehension. They viewed it as an act for Marcos to legitimize his administration. This would maintain the facade of democracy before setting up an audience with the Pope. There was little confidence that the lifting of Martial Law would bring about tangible changes. The 1973 Constitution allowed Marcos to continue enacting and promulgating laws, orders, and decrees. He would also be able to enforce those he enacted and promulgated before the lifting. The military continued to operate virtually untethered on the same basis of suppressing subversion. Marcos also reiterated that “public safety continues to require a degree of capability to deal adequately with elements who persist in endeavoring to overthrow the government by violent means.” Once the cosmetic lifting of Martial Law had served its purpose, reports of atrocities once again painted the daily lives of the Filipino people.
Protests and Violence
The likes of Manimbo took to the streets during Pope John Paul II’s speech to manifest their grievances in front of a wider audience. They hoped that doing so could pressure the government. It may have been one of the safest avenues for protest. Under the watchful eyes of international media, it would be difficult for them to be dispersed violently. More and more people were becoming open to the idea of participating in demonstrations. This was due to the worsening human rights situation in the country. However, without media coverage, they remained susceptible to attacks and abuses.
On February 1, coconut farmers of Quezon were marching to Guinayangan to protest the usurious coconut levy collection. They were blocked by government troopers and shot at. Two were killed and many were injured. Despite this, the incident received little coverage and was even dismissed by officials as a New People’s Army (NPA) encounter. Just a few months later, on June 14, Camarines Norte coconut farmers marched to Daet to protest the same. On the way, they were also stopped and shot at by Philippine Constabulary (PC) troopers. Four were killed and some forty to fifty were injured. Again, official news reports on the incident pinned it on the NPA. Later that year, on December 19, residents of Culasi in Antique rallied against a newly deployed PC company and exorbitant taxes on their farm products. They were stopped by soldiers crossing the Bacong Bridge. When they refused to yield, they were also shot. Five were killed and many were injured.
Read more on the Daet Massacre of 1981 here: Daet Massacre Par 1 (EN) | Daet Massacre Part 2 (EN)
To read this article in Filipino, press these links: Daet Massacre Part 1 (FIL) | Daet Massacre Part 2 (FIL)
Read more on the Culasi/Bacong Bridge Massacre of 1981 here: Honoring the Martyrs of the Culasi/Bacong Bridge Massacre of 1981
Optimism amid Terror
These were just some of the incidents reported in 1981. All of these were perpetrated by government forces against mostly farmers and their sympathizers. These would have been enough to dissuade people from organizing or protesting. However, there were still those who remained resolute. They believed that the cause they were fighting for was for life or death all the same. With their livelihood and their community under constant threat from crony capitalists and military elements, there was no choice.
Among such people were the aforementioned Llorente, Aguirre, Borlongan, Medina, and Manimbo of Bulacan. They came from different walks of life and circumstances. However, they were brought together and became friends through their common goal. This was to fight for the rights of Bulacan farmers. In 1981, the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) was looking to extend its reach. Despite being a nascent organization, it was able to demand a genuine agrarian reform program to be implemented for farmers in Central Luzon. In Bulacan, farmers were reportedly being subjugated and harassed by landowners and their private armies. To establish a base and mitigate maltreatment, the AMGL put up a call for volunteer organizers in Bulacan. All five, without hesitation, enlisted for the volunteer program.
The group led the AMGL’s activities in Bulacan. They assisted farmers in addressing grievances against heavy-handed and iron-fisted landowners. They were making headway in actualizing agrarian reform through much of 1982. They were aware, though, that there was still much to do. Along with another colleague, the group planned to meet on June 21 at a farmer’s house in Brgy. Balatong in Pulilan to assess their work and draft a program of action for their next activities. They decided to spend the night there since the meeting would take some time.
During the meeting, they took turns peering out the windows to see if unwelcome elements were in the vicinity. Other than dogs barking, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The group’s meeting was, however, cut short when one of the windows was repeatedly struck with the nozzle of a gun and forced open. They immediately heard sharp orders from outside not to move. Within seconds, some thirty to forty soldiers had surrounded them. Their other colleague managed to escape through a window and hide on the rooftop to evade capture. The soldiers were later identified as members of the 175th Philippine Constabulary Company, led by Capt. Danilo Mangila and Maj. Bartolome Baluyot, the latter of whom was the chief intelligence officer for the whole province. Aiming their guns at the unarmed peasant organizers, the soldiers ordered them to submit. The five did so without protest. They were then loaded onto the military vehicles and taken to Pulo in San Rafael. The sixth member of the group, unaware of the fate of his friends, managed to tell people and their relatives what happened.
The Morning After
Early morning the next day, five bodies were found displayed on the side of the Municipal Hall of San Rafael, Bulacan, some twenty kilometers away from Pulilan. These were the lifeless bodies of Llorente, Aguirre, Borlongan, Medina, and Manimbo. Their bodies were riddled with bullets and left in the open for the residents to see. Employees of the Municipal Hall refused to leave the bodies there and pooled personal money to purchase caskets. The Mayor himself bought a pair of jeans for Llorente, who was still in her pajamas. In the afternoon, the bodies were taken away and buried in shallow graves in the nearby San Rafael Municipal Cemetery.
The witnesses who asked the military men who brought the bodies; those who questioned the policeman who logged Mangila and Baluyot’s company’s arrival around midnight; and the headlines carried by dailies for the next two days. All communicated the same narrative. Five members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed in an encounter at Pulo in San Rafael by the 175th PC company. The latter subsequently retrieved two carbines, a pistol, four grenades, some ammunition, and subversive documents from the dissidents. This was immediately rebuked by the victims’ lone surviving companion, as well as by their family members. They already assumed that the five were killed, but were not aware that they were also being branded as subversives.
This article is Part 1 of a series of articles on the 1982 Bulacan Martyrs. To read part 2, press this link: Bulacan Martyrs Part 2
 “Profiles and Citations of Martyrs 2012,” Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, November 29, 2012, 8, selected pages accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission. This write-up was eventually uploaded by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation to their website in 2015.
 Ibid., 7. Aguirre is known to have completed one year of an engineering course at a school in Manila. However, it is not known if he was still enrolled at the time of his death or if he had stopped.
 Ibid., 9. FEATI (Far East Air Transport Incorporated) University in Manila. Manimbo was supposed to graduate in 1979, but school authorities withheld his diploma precisely because of his activism.
 “Proclamation No. 2045, s. 1981,” Official Gazette of the Philippines, January 17, 1981, accessed June 17, 2021.
 “1973 Constitution,” Official Gazette of the Philippines, 1973, accessed June 17, 2021.
 Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, “Martial law massacres,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 22, 2016, accessed June 10, 2021; Pumipiglas: Detention and Military Atrocities in the Philippines, 1981-1982 (Quezon City: Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, 1986), 94, selected pages accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 “Martyrs of the 1981 Daet Massacre,” Bantayog ng mga Bayani, July 9, 2015, accessed June 17, 2021.
 “The Bacong Bridge Massacre of 1981,” Bantayog ng mga Bayani, December 19, 2019, accessed June 17, 2021. For a more detailed write-up produced by the HRVVMC, see our article on the Culasi-Bacong bridge massacre.
 Pumipiglas, 90. Alex Magno, “A Feast for Worms in Bulacan,” Who Magazine 4, no. 65 (1982): 12, selected pages accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 “Profiles and Citations of Martyrs 2012,” 24; “Bulacan Massacre,” 4. This was according to residents and a former station commander of San Rafael, who were spoken to by the family members during their retrieval of their loved ones’ bodies. The amount shelled out by the employees supposedly totaled about ₱3,200.
 “Bulacan Massacre,” 4; Magno, “A Feast for Worms in Bulacan,” 12. One such headline was published in Bulletin Today on June 24, 1981. Bulletin Today was one of the three newspapers allowed to continue publication by Marcos at the end of 1972, along with Philippine Daily Express and The Times Journal. Thus, content for these was heavily censored and curated. For more detail on press freedom during Martial Law, see “Civil Liberties and the Mass Media under Martial Law in the Philippines” by David Rosenberg.