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#EDSA29: A freedom fighter remembers

Kat Manapat
Victor Burns Lovely Jr was once considered a terrorist in his fight for freedom, this is his story

Lovely is awarded the Ninoy Aquino Medal of Valor during the commemoration of the 29th Death Anniversary of Ninoy Aquino in 2012. The ceremony was organized by the Ninoy Aquino Movement members in the Philippines. (L-R) Lovely, Heherson Alvarez and Raul Daza.

MANILA, Philippines – Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said that history is written by the victors. Thus, the stories that show the other side of the coin have been completely forgotten. 

To most Filipino youth, the question remains: Is President Ferdinand Marcos good or not? We often see Facebook posts that brag about the strongman who singlehandedly made the Philippines rich. We have forgotten that thousands of human rights violations were committed during his term.

Filipinos, indeed, have a very short term memory. On the occasion of the 29th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution, I revisit the story of Victor Burns Lovely Jr, to remind the Filipinos of our past.

Lovely was a Filipino-American businessman who went through hell and back during the odious Martial law era.

Lovely, whom I have met during the Ninoy Aquino Movement (NAM)’s awarding and dinner ceremony for the members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines in October 2014, told me his story about the YMCA building bombing during the 1980s and the events that lead to the ouster of president Marcos.

YMCA bombing

The YMCA bombing was one of a series of political bombings influenced by the Light-a-Fire movement; and led Marcos to suspend the writ of habeas corpus through Proclamation No. 1801 on September 21, 1972.

Lovely was a member of the April 6 Liberation Movement – an anti-Marcos group – living in the United States. While there, he had undergone military and urban guerilla warfare training. 

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He was sent to the Philippines to conduct a destabilization plot against Marcos with a specific order not to kill or get civilians involved. 

“In the 1980s, the Movement for a Free Philippines decided through Heherson Alvarez and Raul Daza to send me back to the Philippines,” said Lovely.

“We wanted him [Marcos] to know that the Filipino people did not want to have him as a president anymore.”

A student activist at that time, Lovely was able to enter the anti-dictator Movement for a Free Philippines through colleagues Raul Manglapus, Raul Daza, Charlie Avila, Steve Psinakis, Ernie Ordoñez, Manoling Marovilla, and Primo Mendoza.

He checked into the YMCA building and began his plan. Unfortunately, the bomb he was preparing accidentally exploded in his hotel room on September 6, 1980.

In an interview with the author, Lovely recounts his experience during the height of the EDSA revolution.

He lost his right arm and damaged his sense of hearing.

After the incident, Lovely, together with his brothers, Victor, Romeo and Baltazar, were arrested. “The military arrested me when I was lying unconscious at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Sta. Mesa on September 8, 1980, contrary to what has been previously reported that I was arrested at the YMCA itself on September 6. At that time, you cannot arrest a person who was dying.”

Departure

In the ICU and under the direct custody of Armed Forces chief of staff general Fabian Ver, Lovely was held incommunicado. “I only had to use a magnifying glass because I couldn’t see,” Lovely said.

Newspapers at that time reported that Lovely was tinkering with the bomb, causing him to lose his right arm. “They were wrong. If I were to tinker with a bomb, I would use my left hand. But I lost my other arm,” said the left-handed Lovely. 

An FBI officer visited Lovely in the hospital and told him they would take him to America, since he was a US citizen. 

A Col. Roman Madela accompanied Lovely on his trip to America. “But when our airplane came, the FBI agents got me immediately, and caused the government to panic,” recalled Lovely.

After the assassination of former Philippine Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr on August 21, 1983, Alvarez founded the Ninoy Aquino Movement (NAM) and lobbied to the US Congress to withdraw their support from the Marcos administration.

With the aid of Alvarez, Lovely was able to go back to the Philippines after the late President Corazon Aquino came into power on February 25, 1986.

Now 69, Lovely thanks his brother, Baltazar for risking his life for him during those trying times and his brother-in-law, Dr Victorio Chu Dongallo for helping him recover.

“Martial law taught us to be vigilant about our freedom as a nation,” Lovely said. “I have learned to love the country more because I miraculously survived.” – Rappler.com

Kat Manapat, 25, is a writer and a history buff. This article is her tribute to all the victims of human rights violations during the Marcos administration. She hopes that this story will help Filipinos remember the brutality of the infamous era so that this would not happen again in her beloved country. You may reach her at k.manapat25@gmail.com.