What’s in Bantayog

Published February 25, 2021, 5:53 PM

by Joseph Pedrajas

  • This monument built after the Edsa People Power Revolution was designed to honor those who lost their lives, campaigned for freedom, justice, and democracy during the Marcos dictatorship. 
  • The Wall of Remembrance ‘humanizes the idea of heroism, and love for country –  May Rodriguez, executive director of Bantayog ng mga Bayani

The Wall of Remembrance at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Heroes Monument) on Quezon Avenue in Diliman, Quezon City was built not only to honor those who fought for freedom during martial law under former President Marcos from 1972 to 1986.

(Photo from Bantayog.org)

The names of more than 300 “heroes” that are inscribed on it is to remind the present and future generations of the “very difficult struggle” that many people went through to regain democracy, May Rodriguez, the executive director of Bantayog, said.

“In the beginning, the idea was only to create a monument. But eventually, it was realized that they needed a human face through identifying them,” she said.

The initial intent had been to honor victims were martyred during the martial law period. But after extensive deliberations, the foundation decided to also honor people who campaigned for freedom, justice, and democracy during the Marcos dictatorship and who lived after the People Power Revolution.

Therefore, the Bantayog foundation built a wall made of black granite marble to remember the names of the martial law heroes. When it was unveiled to the public in 1992, only 62 names were inscribed, including those of Kalinga tribal leader Macli-ing Dulag; publisher Chino Roces; former Supreme Court chief justices Roberto Concepcion and Claudio Teehankee; and political leaders and senators Lorenzo Tañada, Benigno Aquino, Jr., and Sen. Jose W. Diokno.

 “Because it wouldn’t be realistic for new generations to remember them only by monuments,” Rodriguez added.

As the country commemorates today, Feb. 25, the People’s Power Revolution’s 35th anniversary, Rodriguez said, the Wall of Remembrance, which “humanizes the idea of heroism, and love for country, and love for what is just,” should inspire the youth of today’s generation.

Bantayog ng mga Bayani

The Wall of Remembrance is part of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, which “is a landscaped memorial center honoring those individuals who lived and died in defiance of the repressive regime that ruled over the Philippines from 1972 to 1986,” the Bantayog.org website stated.

Like the People’s Power Monument and EDSA Shrine, Bantayog ng mga Bayani was constructed in memory of the People’s Power Revolution and the events that precipitated it, although it is less talked about.

Aside from honoring the heroes that fought the Marcos’ dictatorship, Bantayog ng mga Bayani provides “safe space” for those who have progressive and “independent ideas,” Rodriguez said.

“We welcome the idea that people want to go there feeling safe. They feel that they have a place to express what they want to express,” she added.

Prominent activist and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary General Renato Reyes agreed. “To a great extent, Bantayog provides a safe space for dissenters and human rights defenders,” he said.

For him, it “is an emotional place because it honors the martyrs and fighters of the dictatorship,” including some of those he knows and considers as his “heroes.”

“I personally knew Crispin Beltran, Capt. Dan Vizmanos, Fr. Joe Dizon and Antonio Zumel as people who dedicated their entire lives for the cause of freedom and democracy,” he said.

Rodriguez said the monument also gives closure to the friends and relatives of those who disappeared during the Martial Law.

“The families of those who disappeared did not know if they would grieve or would just keep on hoping that somehow, in the corner of a military camp, their loved ones were still alive,” she said. “At least, through the monument, they would have closure with them.”

“Meanwhile, students who are visiting the Bantayog are able to associate themselves with the heroes through knowing their lives and sharing some of their experiences,” she added.

“Their visits also serve as jumping points where they can discuss the past,” added Rodriguez, who found it important.

The message of the monument to the children is actually “to embrace their history,” Rodriguez said.  That way, they “would no longer commit” the same mistakes of the past.