This is an entry of the 50 Before 50 Martial Law Commemoration Series.  To see the full list of entries, press this link: 50 Before 50 Project Page




The Martial Law regime – others say it is all positive and golden, but every moment has another side to its coin: the heaviness, struggles, and the bloody encounters, where so many Filipinos were oppressed, tortured, and even worse, killed. With a rough estimation, around 70,000 people were imprisoned, around 34,000 were tortured, and around 3,300 people were killed during the regime.[1] These numbers just prove that tens of thousands of Filipinos experienced injustices, hardships, and obstacles under Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. Why did so many people suffer during his term?

Maya has her own living testimony on how she endured the atrocities of the era. With no gift of luxury and leisure, she was just living a simple life in Negros Occidental with her family. She, along with her husband, Agapito, worked as community development workers and engaged with local churches as volunteer parish workers.[2] In 1979, a military group, led by a commanding officer of the Philippine Constabulary (P.C.) Headquarters in Negros Occidental, ransacked and searched their home.[3] The soldiers said that they were searching Maya’s house for subversive documents and guns, but did not find any.

However, this was just the beginning of Maya’s rough journey. Maya and her husband were arrested for no reasons specified. Despite their pleas to bring their young children along, the military men did not permit this, and the children had to be left with their neighbors. Maya, together with her husband, was brought to the PC headquarters where they were detained separately.[4] On the first night, Maya was placed in solitary confinement and not given any food to eat. She was prohibited from seeing her children and other family members in Negros Occidental, and despite her warrantless arrest, was not given the right to an attorney.[5]

Because of the nature of her work as a volunteer parish worker, Maya was suspected of being connected to a priest who was allegedly involved in the underground movement, and was forced to identify him.[6] She was deprived of sleep, as she was kept blindfolded and interrogated for five days. Maya recalls that she observed other people during her detainment, but could not identify them, as she was kept blindfolded. The perpetrators threatened her by saying that they would kill her children if she refused to cooperate. They also made her watch her husband and other detainees being tortured. After a week of interrogation, Maya and her husband were released.

Unfortunately, they were arrested again a year later. She and her entire family were even detained together for three years. Being reunited still proved to be difficult, as her children suffered from various illnesses such as bronchopneumonia, fever, asthma, and malnutrition.[7]

Jacinto and Karlo, two of the witnesses of Maya and her husband’s detainment, observed that Maya was often crying and restless, and became more sickly as they passed the months in prison.[8] Maya’s husband, Agapito, himself said that he was punched in the body, whipped in the head using a pistol, and choked. His torturers also told him they will rape his wife. Indeed, it was a terrible ordeal for both Maya and Agapito. But the friendship they developed with Jacinto and Karlo during their detainment, helped provide solid proof when, decades later, they filed for reparations and recognition as victims of martial law.[9]

Almost two years passed until, in late 1982, Maya and her family were finally presented with release papers and were set free.[10]

The difficulties still continued even though Maya was released, as they still encountered so many obstacles even after their detainment. Maya and her husband quit their old jobs in the development sector and struggled to find new work. The effects of their ordeal took a toll on the family. Agapito’s health suffered due to the physical torture he had undergone. He was later on diagnosed with lung cancer and died in the early 2000s, leaving Maya as a widow. In her own words, life became “miserable.” Despite all the setbacks she had gone through, Maya remained determined to find justice for her and her family.[11]

As she carried her bitter memories, she joined the thousands of plaintiffs in the Hawaii Class Action Suit against the Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr. and received reparations as such. She also personally filed a claim for Torture and Illegal Detention to the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board in 2014. Her claims were strengthened with many supporting documents, such as her affidavit, the witness affidavits, the order for her temporary release, et cetera. Seeing that Maya’s arrests were unlawful, the Board recognized Maya as a human rights violations victim under Section 17 of Republic Act 10368, “Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.”

Although it happened over 40 years ago, stories like Maya’s should never be forgotten. The gap between the privileged and the unprivileged during the Marcos era is wide, and this is something people should become more aware of. We should all try to remember that victims like Maya, her husband, and many others have struggled so much even though they were completely innocent, while Ferdinand E. Marcos, his family, and his cronies all enjoy the wealth and power that they stole from the Filipinos. May her story be an ode to injustice – never again.


[1] Hapal, Don Kevin. “Worst than death: Torture methods during martial law.” Rappler. 2016. Accessed May 04, 2022,

[2] Victim’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-06-00468, Negros Occidental: 2014), 1; , “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-06-00468, Quezon City: 2014), 1. Both files accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[3] Victim’s affidavit,1.

[4] Ibid, 1.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Affidavit, 1.

[7] Ibid, 4.

[8] Joint affidavit of two witnesses, (Case No. 2014-06-00468, Negros Occidental: 2014), 1. Accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[9] Ibid, 1.

[10] Victim’s Affidavit, 2.