CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – On the national day of protest on Thursday, September 21, members of the Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan community gathered in solidarity for a mass and a prayer vigil inside the campus.
Held at the university’s Immaculate Concepcion of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, victims of atrocities under martial law were honored for their heroic stand against authoritarian rule, 45 years to the day it was declared by former president Ferdinand Marcos. (LOOK: Schools put up symbols of indignation on Martial Law anniversary)
The XU community conducted a more solemn approach compared to other protest events in other parts of the country, but with the same message that called for the recognition of human rights, the strengthening of justice, and the aim for peace. (READ: Martial Law anniversary protests: Millennials own the fight)
Aligning his homily’s message to the Gospel about responding to God’s call, Fr. Mars Tan SJ, the Xavier Ateneo Jesuit Community rector, challenged the university’s students, alumni, faculty and staff, and guests to stand firm in their faith amidst the nation’s tumultuous times and take their part in valuing its democracy. (READ: Nuns and priests to Duterte: ‘Magpo-protesta kami hangga’t kailangan’)
“We must protect the values that Jesus Christ has taught us,” he said. “These are the sanctity of life, the right of anyone to live, to be free.”
“These values will guide our nation according to God’s plan,” he added. “Therefore we must uphold and defend them.”
6 victims at 6 o’clock
In front of the church, the congregation that attended the mass paid tribute to the victims by lighting candles under the darkening sky.
Six stories among the thousands of testimonies from victims who died or survived were shared. The stories were of:
- Liliosa Hilao, the first recorded female casualty whose remains contained bruises marked by gun barrels
- Archimedes Trajano, the 21-year- old student who was thrown out of a building after questioning Imee Marcos for being the National Chairman of the Kabataang Barangay while her father was president
- UP Journalism student Maria Elena Ang, who was sexually violated during her detention.
- Dr Juan Escandor, whose skull was stuffed with crumpled plastic bags, rags and underwear after he was killed by the Philippine Constabulary
- Boyet Mijares, who, at 16 years old, was mutilated and dumped outside Manila after he was tricked into seeing his father again (the author of The Conjugal Dictatorship, Primitivo Mijares)
- Tondo community leader Trinidad Herrera who was repeatedly electrocuted on her private parts upon interrogation.
On the steps outside the church, black-and- white photographs of the victims were posted on standees, alongside an image of the iconic “FM Declares Martial Law” newspaper headline, and posters callng on Filipinos to “never forget.”
Irene Guitarte, the university’s Mission and Ministry Vice President, reflected on human rights before the crowd, echoing both the United United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Bible.
“As we rejoice in the gift of our own lives and give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy, we
remember all those who are not free,” Guitarte said. “Through our commitment in prayer, may we
be open to commitment in practice.
The prayer vigil concluded with a prayer composed by Cardinal Luis Anotnio Tagle, DD, and read by a student.
“Iligtas Mo po kami sa lahat ng kasamaan at paghahangad ng masama. Bigyan Mo kami
ng kapayapaang bunga ng mabuting kalooban (May You save us from evil and from causing
harm, and grant us peace and goodwill.),” the prayer read.
“The prayer vigil is our way of commemorating the victims,” Xavier Ateneo’s National Service Training Program (NSTP) Director Dennise Edwina Gonzalez said. Gonzalez hopes that the stories and testimonies will educate the students and the residents of the city about the extent of abuse an authoritarian government could do. – Rappler.com
Angelo Lorenzo is one of Rappler’s Lead Movers in Cagayan de Oro City. Besides writing
features, he works in the city’s local government unit.