Ellecer Cortes lived a brief 22 years but he left behind a legacy of commitment to his principles. Ellecer was the eldest of seven children of a fairly ordinary middle-class couple in Quezon City.
In college, Ellecer, called Boyong by friends, started out as a student activist at the University of the Philippines. He joined the Movement for Nationalism, the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and the Student Cultural Association of UP (SCAUP), where he met his future wife Mariquit Rivera.
He was one of the founding members of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM), and was active in its cultural bureau. He was also one of the founders of the Samahang Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK), another militant youth organization.
Even as a student he became interested in the cultural and educational enlightenment of rural people in Central Luzon. This brought him starting 1967 to faraway places such as San Miguel in Bulacan, Bongabong and Talayan Nueva Ecija, Laguna and Iloilo.
He wrote skits and staged plays highlighting rural issues. Some of his skits spoke of the evils of martial law long before martial law became a possibility. He held these plays in town plazas, public markets, churches and even under the shade of trees. He became a fulltime rural organizer.
Local folk in Central Luzon were soon treating him as a local hero. They felt that he articulated in his writings and organizational work their dreams and goals. Student activists in Manila campuses also made him out as a hero, for his pioneering involvement as a student activist working among rural people, preaching about nationalism and democracy.
Boyong’s work was not without danger. On one occasion, he and his group was stopped by the armed men of a local politician. The unarmed activists identified themselves as traders but the goons refused to believe them and ordered them to kneel on the riverbed. Luckily, the goons found a business card and a P1,000 bill inside the pocket of one of Boyong’s companions, which made their claim credible and allowed them to escape.
In another incident in Nueva Ecija, Boyong and his friends again barely escaped a military operation sent to hunt down then New People’s Army leader Bernabe Buscayno, otherwise known as Kumander Dante. Farmers hid Boyong and his friends in the sugarcane fields.
With his growing popularity/notoriety, Boyong was refused treatment in several hospitals when he contracted malaria. He was finally brought to Manila where he was taken to San Lazaro Hospital.
Boyong’s last place of operation was in Zambales province. Soldiers found the hut that he and his activist companions were sleeping in, and believing them to be insurgents, shot them down. Boyong sustained a minor stomach wound, but without medical treatment, he bled to death. Another student, Jose Ramirez, from Feati University in Manila and a farmer, Ernesto Miranda, also died in the incident.
Grief poured at the UP Diliman campus and other Manila schools, as soon as the news of his death spread. When President Marcos declared martial law in 1972, he cited the Zambales incident as proof that students and farmers were conspiring against the government. Together with the bombing of Plaza Miranda in August 1971, Marcos used the Cabangan incident to justify his dictatorship.
Boyong left behind his wife Mariquit and only child Jenny Lin, barely 11 months old he died. Mariquit herself was imprisoned twice during martial law.
Born 15 April 1949 in Manila
Killed 1 October 1971 in Cabangan, Zambales
Parents : Rosendo Cortes and Rosalina Eugenio
Spouse : Mariquit Cortes
Child : 1 (Jenny Lin)
Elementary – Ponciano Bernardo Elementary School, Cubao, 1961
High School – Ramon Magsaysay High School, Cubao, 1965
College – BA in history, University of the Philippines Diliman, 1969