19 real heroes enshrined at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani

Vice President Leni Robredo and former Sen. Wigberto Tañada are joined by Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, daughter of the late Inquirer editor in chief Leticia Jimenez Magsanoc, and other guests during Wednesday’s ceremony to honor Magsanoc and 18 other people who fought against the Marcos dictatorship.

MANILA — Nineteen Filipinos, led by journalists Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc and Antonio Zumel, former Sen. Jovito Salonga, movie director Benjamin Cervantes and Bishop Julio Labayen, yesterday officially joined the ranks of 268 other “real heroes” who fought the dictator Ferdinand Marcos—their names etched in stone at Bantayog ng mga Bayani’s Wall of Remembrance.

“The message we want to convey is that we need to spread the truth about history, because if not, this will keep on happening. We saw what happened this month, the one who had committed a sin against our nation was buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani,” former Sen. Wigberto Tañada, said referring to Marcos.

The rites at the Wall of Remembrance were among key events held in commemoration of National Heroes’ Day, marked by protests in various parts of the country amid a groundswell of indignation against Marcos’ Nov. 18 burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani.
The crowd sang “Bayan Ko” as the wall bearing names of the 19 honorees was unveiled past 7 p.m.

Tañada, head of the Bantayog foundation, said in an interview that he hoped that honoring those who fought Marcos would show “the youth, the millennials we call today, that we should not disregard their heroism.”

The names of the 19 honorees were inscribed in gold against the black granite memorial wall, a silent yet stark reminder of their steadfast opposition to Marcos’ violent and plunderous rule.

Other honorees were journalist Lourdes Estella-Simbulan, labor leader Simplicio Villados, soldier Danilo Vizmanos, professionals Manuel Dorotan and Ma. Margarita F. Gomez, Romulo Peralta and Jose Tangente from the clergy, and youth leaders Marciano Anastacio Jr., Eduardo Aquino, Fortunato Camus, Hernando Cortez, Edgardo Dojillo, Ricardo Filio, and Joel Jose.

Vice President Leni Robredo, assisted by Tañada and Magsanoc’s daughter Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, laid a wreath at the memorial wall during the ceremonies punctuated by cries of “Marcos, Hitler, dictador, tuta” to cheers from the crowd.

In his opening remarks, Tañada reiterated his protest to the Marcos’ burial: “Marcos is no hero. He does not deserve to be buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani.”

He drew roaring applause from the audience, which included Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, former lawmakers, families of the honorees, activists and others bound together by a continuing protest against the honor that Duterte’s administration granted Marcos at Libingan.

Mr. Duterte had allowed Marcos’ burial at the hallowed grounds for soldiers and other Philippine dignitaries, a decision affirmed by the Supreme Court last month.

Former Sen. Rene Saguisag, who came to honor Salonga, his uncle, cited the urgency of looking back at history in the wake of Marcos’ secrecy-shrouded burial.

“To me, this gives greater importance to remembering the real heroes who are here. What I fear is if someone suggests to list Marcos (on the Wall of Remembrance), the Supreme Court will again say there is no law against it. Don’t we have common sense anymore?” he asked.

“We all want forgiveness and reconciliation,” he said, referring to Mr. Duterte’s rationale for allowing the burial. “But the right thing must be done the right way at the right time.”

Former National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni said Marcos’ burial violated the government-NDFP’s agreement on international humanitarian law.

“[He was a] fascist dictator and fascist monster against the Filipino people. That’s why it is good that the youth now and other sectors of our country are holding demonstrations against the portrayal of the fascist monster as a hero and model,” Jalandoni said.

First to be honored was Salonga, who died just in March. He was cited “for leading and inspiring generations of Filipino patriots in the relentless campaign to assert Philippine sovereignty and independence.”

Magsanoc, the Inquirer editor in chief for 24 years until her passing on Christmas Eve last year, was honored:

“For unleashing the power of the written word for the common good, for justice freedom and democracy, for challenging and exposing the excesses of the Marcos dictatorship through the media even at great personal risk.

“For testing the limits of press freedom as writer and editor, for defying media restrictions and censorship under martial rule, and for facing up to the wrath of the dictatorship.

“For encouraging and giving space for bold and daring writers, despite threats from the powers that be, and for speaking truth to power without fear, for her faith in her fellow Filipinos, for placing above herself God, family and country.”