This place in Metro Manila takes you on a gripping Martial Law tour

At first glance, the place appears to be a park, with rows of bodhi trees providing generous shade even under the hottest noonday sun. To the right of the trees is a wide carpet of grass that looks perfect for weekend picnics.  It is a welcome green space at Quezon Avenue, especially near the corner of an often traffic-choked EDSA.

There are signs that this is no ordinary park, though: near the entrance stands a 14-meter-tall monument of a woman stretching her left hand up to the sky and her right hand holding a fallen man.

On a tarp amid the tree branches runs the words “Never Again, Never Forget.” And, at the end of the grassy expanse in the interior grounds is a long granite wall bearing hundreds of names. 

The place is Bantayog ng mga Bayani, or Monument to the Heroes, a memorial to the heroes and martyrs who rose up during then-President Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship, especially during Martial Law.

The 14-meter monument out front is called “Inang Bayan” (Mother Philippines). The woman symbolizes the Motherland reaching out to the sky for freedom, while the fallen man symbolizes self-sacrifice, alluding to heroism and martyrhood. 

INANG BAYAN. The landmark monument symbolizing freedom and sacrifice at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani

INANG BAYAN.

The landmark monument symbolizing freedom and sacrifice at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani

 

The words on the tarp among the trees are a protest against Martial Law being declared ever again in the country. 

PROTEST. These words are visible among the trees as you walk deeper into Bantayog'u0080u0099s compound.

PROTEST. These words are visible among the trees as you walk deeper into Bantayog'u0080u0099s compound.

As you walk under the bodhi trees, turn right to the grassy expanse and at the end you will find the “Wall of Remembrance,” inscribed with the over 200 names of the heroes and martyrs “who offered their lives for freedom, justice, and truth” as written on the wall. A few or some of them might be familiar: Aquino, Benigno Jr.  Diokno, Jose. Hilao, Liliosa. Dulag, Macliing. Over half of the names on this wall are from the youth. 

WALL OF REMEMBRANCE. At the end of a grassy expanse is a granite wall bearing the names of Marcos era heroes and martyrs.

WALL OF REMEMBRANCE. At the end of a grassy expanse is a granite wall bearing the names of Marcos era heroes and martyrs.

HEROESu00e2u0080u0099 AND MARTYRSu00e2u0080u0099 NAMES. Some of the names up close. Occasionally you may find flowers offered in the heroes' and martyrs'u0080u0099 memory.

HEROESu00e2u0080u0099 AND MARTYRSu00e2u0080u0099 NAMES. Some of the names up close. Occasionally you may find flowers offered in the heroes' and martyrs'u0080u0099 memory.

PEACE AND JUSTICE. One of the trees near the Wall of Remembrance has stone tablets with the words of what the heroes and martyrs fought for.

PEACE AND JUSTICE. One of the trees near the Wall of Remembrance has stone tablets with the words of what the heroes and martyrs fought for.

And, if you are not familiar with them, you will be later on, as you enter the Bantayog’s main building with Martial Law exhibits and memorabilia, and, if you go an a one-and-a-half-hour guided tour of the Bantayog grounds and museum. The names on the wall represent people from different sectors: students and youth, teachers, artists, journalists, laborers, farmers, indigenous people, church workers, politicians, businessmen and women. 

When you enter the main building, the Jovito Salonga building, named after the lawyer, senator and opposition leader during Marcos’ dictatorship, your eye may naturally be drawn to your left. This is where life-sized wooden sculptures of bodies pierced with nails and paintings depicting different social realities during Marcos’ time can be found.

The wooden sculpture, titled “Utang na Labas,” shows how “pako sa utang” (nailed by debts) the Filipinos are due to the debt incurred by the country during Marcos’ rule, according to a Bantayog tour guide. Filipino taxpayers will continue paying up to year 2025

NAILED BY DEBTS. A Bantayog tour guide points out the wooden sculpture representing Filipinos nailed by debts incurred during the Marcos regime.

NAILED BY DEBTS. A Bantayog tour guide points out the wooden sculpture representing Filipinos nailed by debts incurred during the Marcos regime.

PROTEST MURAL. On the way up to the second floor is a mural on the protest actions by students, workers and other sectors.

PROTEST MURAL. On the way up to the second floor is a mural on the protest actions by students, workers and other sectors.

On the second floor is the “Hall of Remembrance.” Here you will find the stories of the heroes and martyrs listed at the “Wall of Remembrance” outside. They are grouped according to the sector they belong to – students, church workers, indigenous peoples, among others.   There are also photos and memorabilia of some of them. 

ALL SECTORS. The heroes'u0080u0099 and martyrs'u0080u0099 stories at the Hall of Remembrance are grouped according to sectors. This one is among the religious, as pointed out by the tour guide.

ALL SECTORS. The heroes'u0080u0099 and martyrs'u0080u0099 stories at the Hall of Remembrance are grouped according to sectors. This one is among the religious, as pointed out by the tour guide.

Liliosa Hilao, who was the first to die under detention during Martial Law, is arguably among the most unforgettable names at the Hall of Remembrance. Hilao wrote articles critical of the Marcos regime for her school paper at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. She was arrested, tortured, and even possibly sexually abused.

LILIOSA HILAO. Her photos can be found at the Bantayog'u0080u0099s Hall of Remembrance. She was tortured and abused after she wrote articles critical of the Marcos regime.

LILIOSA HILAO. Her photos can be found at the Bantayog'u0080u0099s Hall of Remembrance. She was tortured and abused after she wrote articles critical of the Marcos regime.

In an academic paper by historian Michael Charleston Chua, he writes how Hilao was tortured. While the military claimed Hilao had committed suicide by drinking muriatic acid, her body bore marks of torture, and her mouth an ashtray of cigarette wounds. Her mother recounted the brutal treatment of Hilao’s body: her head was cut, and her lower body up to her vagina was sawed up. Her brain and her stomach were taken out and torn to pieces, placed in a pail with muriatic acid, and were later brought to her wake.

The Hall of Remembrance also tells the stories of heroes and martyrs all over the Philippines, from Luzon to Mindanao. 

ZAMBOANGA HERO. Ester Paredes-Jimenez, whose story is shown here, offered her home as a place of refuge to the anti-Martial Law movement.

ZAMBOANGA HERO. Ester Paredes-Jimenez, whose story is shown here, offered her home as a place of refuge to the anti-Martial Law movement.

Even the Ilocos region, which is arguably Marcos country, had its own share of heroes. 

ILOCANO HEROES. Fellow Ilocanos rose up against Marcos' rule, too. Purificacion Pedro and Soledad Salvador are just a few of them. They fought for indigenous people'u0080u0099s rights to their land.

ILOCANO HEROES. Fellow Ilocanos rose up against Marcos' rule, too. Purificacion Pedro and Soledad Salvador are just a few of them. They fought for indigenous people'u0080u0099s rights to their land.

Indigenous leaders like Macliing Dulag made an impassioned case for their people’s right to their land, which would have been flooded had the Marcos regime’s Chico Dam construction project pushed through that time. 

THAT WHICH WILL OUTLIVE YOU. Aside from being at the Hall of Remembrance, indigenous leader Macliing Dulag'u0080u0099s words making a case for his people'u0080u0099s rights to their land can also be found in Bantayog'u0080u0099s souvenirs for sale, particularly this bookmark.

THAT WHICH WILL OUTLIVE YOU. Aside from being at the Hall of Remembrance, indigenous leader Macliing Dulag'u0080u0099s words making a case for his people'u0080u0099s rights to their land can also be found in Bantayog'u0080u0099s souvenirs for sale, particularly this bookmark.

These are only some examples of heroes’ stories at the Hall of Remembrance. You can easily take around 20 minutes or so reading all the narratives here. 

 WOMEN FIGHTING. Around the Hall of Remembrance are paintings depicting heroes and life under Marcos'€™ rule. This is a painting of women heroes Liliosa Hilao, Purificacion Pedro, Soledad Salvador, and more.

On the same floor as the Hall of Remembrance is the Bantayog museum. 

MUSEUM ENTRANCE. The door to the museum has images of struggle and peace during the Marcos regime.

MUSEUM ENTRANCE. The door to the museum has images of struggle and peace during the Marcos regime.

FREEDOM. You cannot miss the very obvious door handles, which are hands broken free from chains, symbolizing freedom.

FREEDOM. You cannot miss the very obvious door handles, which are hands broken free from chains, symbolizing freedom.

The museum displays photos, clippings from old newspapers, mounted information, and memorabilia of the Marcos regime, though it also includes photos prior to that period, to give more context and perspective on Martial Law.

PRE-MARCOS. The Bantayog Museum also has photos showing heroes and events prior to Marcosu00e2u0080u0099 presidency to give better context to the Marcos era.

PRE-MARCOS. The Bantayog Museum also has photos showing heroes and events prior to Marcosu00e2u0080u0099 presidency to give better context to the Marcos era.

There are also scale models and life-sized depictions, like that of then-senator Jose Diokno speaking before the crowd of Plaza Miranda when the writ of habeas corpus was suspended. Upon its suspension, Diokno resigned in protest from Marcos’ Nacionalista party. 

STATESMAN AND HERO. Then-senator Jose Diokno speaking before the crowd at Plaza Miranda,Quiapo, when the writ of habeas corpus was suspended.

STATESMAN AND HERO. Then-senator Jose Diokno speaking before the crowd at Plaza Miranda,Quiapo, when the writ of habeas corpus was suspended.

Instead of regular curtains, lyrics of nationalistic and protest songs on cheesecloth drape over windows.

 BAYAN KO. This was a protest song usually sang by those who stood up against the Marcos regime. Back then, just singing protest songs like this can get the singer arrested.

Other materials considered subversive by the Marcos government then are also displayed. 

SUBVERSIVE BOOKS. Mere possession of any of these books could get people arrested and detained back then.

SUBVERSIVE BOOKS. Mere possession of any of these books could get people arrested and detained back then.

The museum also displays photos and mounted information of not-so-well-known events like different student protests and massacres the Marcos government is reported to be involved in, including the 1968 Jabidah Massacre, the killing of Moros from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi who were then being forced to fight against Sabah (which the government was trying to conquer), home of their relatives and fellow Moros.  

One year after the massacre, the Moro National Liberation Front (the origins of Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or the MILF, now), was founded to wage an armed struggle for Moro independence. 

STREET MARCH. Photos and details of various street marches and protests can be found at the Bantayog museum.

STREET MARCH. Photos and details of various street marches and protests can be found at the Bantayog museum.

MASSACRES. Listed here are just among some of the massacres that took place around the country during the Marcos regime.

MASSACRES. Listed here are just among some of the massacres that took place around the country during the Marcos regime.

There are also newspapers back then with reports on important events, including the Martial Law declaration. 

MARTIAL LAW. The front page of a newspaper reporting Martial Law declaration. Newspapers and other media outlets became state-controlled during Martial Law.

MARTIAL LAW. The front page of a newspaper reporting Martial Law declaration. Newspapers and other media outlets became state-controlled during Martial Law.

Farther down the museum, after the newspaper of the declaration on Martial Law, are illustrations of some of the different torture methods used on those arrested and detained. There were electrocution (usually of the genitals), wet submarine (submerging victim’s head in the water or toilet), Russian roulette (letting victims fire a gun usually loaded with blanks to their heads), among others. (READ: Worse than death: Torture methods during martial law)

TORTURE METHODS. Here are just some of the torture methods used during the Marcos regime.

TORTURE METHODS. Here are just some of the torture methods used during the Marcos regime.

Perhaps most jarring among the museum displays is the re-creation of a jail cell where those arrested were kept during Marcos’ rule.

JAIL CELL. Re-created to faithfully look like the actual jail cells of detainees and torture survivors during the Marcos regime

JAIL CELL.

Re-created to faithfully look like the actual jail cells of detainees and torture survivors during the Marcos regime

There are objects of hope, too. Among them are artworks by detainees, and collages of movements by different sectors like artists, teachers, and students.  

PRISON ART. The museum displays different artworks by political prisoners during Marcos'u0080u0099 rule too.

PRISON ART. The museum displays different artworks by political prisoners during Marcos'u0080u0099 rule too.

DIFFERENT MOVEMENTS. Collages of movements from different sectors, like this of artists and cultural workers, are also displayed at the museum.

DIFFERENT MOVEMENTS. Collages of movements from different sectors, like this of artists and cultural workers, are also displayed at the museum.

Towards the end of the museum exhibits, stands, as though a mere culmination or climax of all the events portrayed at Bantayog, the scale model of a tank during the 1986 People Power Revolution, and behind it, nuns and common Filipinos who marched along EDSA.    

PEOPLE POWER. This is the close-up of the scale model tank at Bantayog museum.

PEOPLE POWER. This is the close-up of the scale model tank at Bantayog museum.

NEVER AGAIN. The fierce declaration of those who marched along EDSA.

NEVER AGAIN. The fierce declaration of those who marched along EDSA.

TIMELINE. Also at the end of the museum displays is a text timeline of events leading up to People Power starting from 1965.

TIMELINE. Also at the end of the museum displays is a text timeline of events leading up to People Power starting from 1965.

As you step outside Bantayog’s main building, you will again be greeted by the sight and shade of bodhi trees. Perhaps their presence is not coincidental; the bodhi tree is regarded sacred in another religious tradition – Buddhism – as it was under such a tree that the Buddha was said to have been enlightened.

Indeed, the Bantayog ng mga Bayani can be said to be a place for enlightenment on Martial Law matters, and those who come might learn a thing or more about that period in the country’s history.

THE TREES AGAIN. After your Martial Law tour there is again the soothing view of the bodhi trees when you step outside.

THE TREES AGAIN. After your Martial Law tour there is again the soothing view of the bodhi trees when you step outside.

Come and see for yourself. 

– Rappler.com 


Bantayog ng mga Bayani is open Mondays to Fridays, 8 am to 5 pm. Museum is open Mondays and Thursdays, with last guided tour at 3 pm.Weekends are available by appointment. Museum entrance is P50, including guided tour.  You can also just enter the grounds and see the Wall of Remembrance during the weekend, but with prior advice to Bantayog staff.

For inquiries, appointments, and group tours, e-mail bantayogbayani@gmail.com or call   (632) 434-8343 or (632) 985-1126. You can find more information, including profiles of Martial Law heroes and martyrs, on their website