Remembering The Three Martyrs Of Bulan

(Taken from Bantayog ng mga Bayani website: “Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation honors those who fought, died and were martyred during the repressive rule of Ferdinand Marcos. It keeps a roster of 207 heroes and martyrs, adding more to the list as new persons are nominated and their specific contributions established. The names of these heroes and martyrs are etched on the Bantayog’s Wall of Remembrance, a granite structure that serves as the centerpiece of the whole Bantayog complex”)

VytiacoVYTIACO, Ma. Antonia Teresa V.

Ma. Antonia Teresa Vytiaco, who was Nanette to family, spent her growing up years in Bulan, Sorsogon and later in Metro Manila. She was the eldest of seven children. Her mother worked as a high school teacher and college instructor. Her father was of a landowning family in Bulan.

Nanette loved animals, played the guitar, and in high school, discovered that she loved to dance. She won a government scholarship in college and started on a degree in veterinary medicine, following after her grandfather’s footsteps. During the July-August fl oods of 1970, Nanette was among the hundreds of UP students who volunteered for fl ood relief operations. The experience politicalized her. She started joining rallies and attending workers’ pickets. Later she joined the UP chapter of the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK) and became more deeply involved in activism. She spent several weeks in Central Luzon learning about community organizing. She met her future husband Nicanor Vergara who was a member of the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB), an armed group that traced its roots to the anti-Japanese resistance.

In 1971, Nanette and her husband left Manila and moved to Bicol as fulltime members of the Kabataang Makabayan, traveling around the region organizing KM chapters.

Nanette is remembered by fellow activists in Gubat, Sorsogon, as a dedicated worker, thoughtful with comrades, humble and patient. Although urban-bred, Nanette did not spare herself the diffi cult working and living conditions that her comrades also had to suffer.

Nanette and fellow KM activists in Bicol hatched many plans, primarily for education of the local people, using mostly cultural activities, such as skits, jamming sessions, dance-and-mime, and poetry reading. Nanette acted in the plays and sometimes directed them as well. Her interpretation of the Amado Hernandez poem Kung Tuyo na ang Luha Mo, Aking Bayan always moved her audience to tears, comrades remembered.

When martial law was imposed by Ferdinand Marcos, Nanette and her comrades continued with their consciousness-building activities clandestinely. Just days after the declaration of martial law, Nanette and her group were distributing handwritten fl iers reporting about a fi refi ght that erupted between a unit of the New People’s Army and government soldiers. To avoid detection, Nanette left the fl iers inside the churches for the church-goers to read.

On 10 November 1972, Nanette was visited by her mother in a village just outside of their town. Nanette was four months’ pregnant, in high spirits, and ate heartily of her mother’s adobo. Her parents wanted her to surrender to the military authorities because of the growing danger to her safety but Nanette said: “I have chosen my path. I would rather die than surrender.”

Nanette did not survive the day. Later in the early afternoon, Nanette’s group was pursued by a group of constabulary soldiers and Nanette was killed in the exchange of fire.

A street in her town has since been named after her, just as another has been named after townmate Liliosa Hilao, another Bantayog martyr. The municipal resolution that authorized the naming of the two streets cited the two women as “examples of determination and spirit that the coming generations, young and old alike, can emulate.”

Death:November 10, 1972.

Place of Death: Bulan, Sorsogon


HILAO, Liliosa, R.

Hilao,%20Liliosa%20R_Liliosa Hilao was a sickly student whose frail body was wracked by regular asthma attacks.

However, she was strong of mind and convictions. In 1970, she joined the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK). She could hardly join rallies due to her poor health but she expressed her convictions in her writings as associate editor of the Hasik, the student paper at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, where she was a student in communication arts.

Despite her weaknesses, Liliosa (“Lilli”) was active in school. She graduated with honors in elementary and high school. She was features editor of her high school organ. In college, besides writing for Hasik, she was twice elected as student president of the communication arts department. She was a representative to the Pamantasan students’ central government. She served as secretary of the Women’s Club of Pamantasan, and organized the Communication Arts Club also in Pamantasan. She was also a member of the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines.

Lilli was abducted in 1973 by drunk soldiers who raided her family’s house. She was found dead the following day.

The soldiers, members of the Constabulary Anti‑Narcotics Unit (CANU), had come looking for her brother. Lilli had demanded a search warrant, and was slapped and her body mashed by the soldiers. Then she was handcuffed and taken in for questioning. A brother‑in‑law came to see her at the camp and found her face swollen. Lilli said she was tortured. The following day, Lilli’s sister Alice was called to the Camp Crame Station Hospital where she was told Lilli was in serious condition. Alice found Lilli dead.

The official CANU report was that Lilli committed suicide by drinking muriatic acid. But post‑mortem findings confirmed her torture. Her face was severely swollen. Her lips bore burns from cigarette butts. She had 11 injection marks in her arms and deep handcuff marks on her wrists. Her torso was badly bruised with finger marks and gun‑barrel marks. It is possible she was repeatedly abused sexually. Her brains and other internal organs were cut to pieces, soaked with muriatic acid.

Lilli died before she could graduate, but because she was a consistent scholar, Lilli was given posthumous honors (cum laude) and her seat kept vacant for her during the graduation ceremonies. Lilli’s was the first reported case of death under detention during martial law.

Birth: March 14, 1950.

Place of Birth: Bulan, Sorsogon.

Death: April 6, 1973.

Place of Death: Camp Crame, Quezon City


ARIADO, Antonio G.  

The boy Antonio was born to a landed and well-to-do family in Sorsogon province and he grew in the midst of plenty. He excelled in academics and had a variety of interests such as acting, performing, and sports, particularly basketball, volleyball and table tennis. He also liked reading poems and giving orations. He would memorize long poems and recite them before his audience, usually spellbound playmates. His parents’ tenants called him “escribiente.”

Antonio, or Tony to friends, moved to Manila for college and became involved in the 1970s peace movement. His boarding house in Manila’s Sampaloc district saw long hours of impassioned discussions among students that included Tony and several of his provincemates.

The Vietnam War was escalating and the Marcos government had sent a contingent of soldiers called the Philippine Civic Action Group, or Philcag, to that country. The move drew strong criticism from Filipino peace groups and student groups. The National Union of Students of the Philippines called on students to protest the Philcag.

Tony was in his first semester in college when he joined a rally at the Manila Hotel where a Vietnam conference was being held. The rally was violently dispersed, resulting in street fighting between police and students, and giving Tony his first taste of teargas and truncheon.

Far from getting discouraged, Tony joined more rallies in front of Malacañang, the Congress building and the US Embassy, and in Plaza Miranda, mostly in protest of the Vietnam war. He joined more discussion groups involving students and laborers from Manila’s factories.

Tony became a member of the moderate NUSP and the more militant Kabataang Makabayan. His experience of the First Quarter Storm of 1970 sharpened his political awareness. School became second priority. He took a few units only to allow him access into the campus of the Araneta Univesity for his organizing work. By 1971, he had stopped going to school altogether.

Later, he went home to Sorsogon, more for political than sentimental reasons. Relieved at first to see their son back, Tony’s parents soon realized he had come home with his activism. He favored the company of his parents’ farmer-tenants, spending very little time at home. When he did, his talk focused on the farmers’ poverty and in convincing his parents “to share more” with them.

Tony helped organize a KM chapter in Sorsogon and undertook its propaganda and education section, while also helping in organizational work. Eventually he became local KM chair, the KM headquarters becoming more like home to him than his own. He gave fiery speeches during rallies and earned a local reputation as an activist leader and speaker.

Under his leadership, Sorsogon’s activists joined a historic “long march,” that took almost four days. The marchers were sometimes harassed by politicians’ goons, but more often they received warm greetings from local people.

By 1971, Tony and his fellow Bicolano activist leaders were in the government “wanted” list. When Marcos instituted martial law in 1972, Tony went underground and, not long after, joined a small group of armed activists living clandestinely in the villages far from the towns.

As his name became a military byword in Sorsogon, his family suffered for it. Many of his relatives were harassed by soldiers. His father was taken to prison for a week. His brother Norberto, a policeman, was mauled by soldiers for refusing to join a military operation.

Tony and 12 others died in a military ambush less than a year after he had gone underground. When his family brought his body for viewing at the townhall, some of the family’s tenants and villagemates wiped the activist’s battered face clean of blood and grime, a final gesture that showed their love, respect and affection for this young “escribiente” who had given up his short life for their cause. Tony was 24.

Birth: January 15, 1949
Place of Birth: Isidro, Bulan, Sorsogon
Death: July 24, 1973
Place of Death: Sorsogon

5 thoughts on “Remembering The Three Martyrs Of Bulan

  1. Hello there! I’m a college student recently tasked to do research about women martyrs during martial law. I would just like to ask where you got the information for Antonia Teresa Vytiaco. Are these from secondhand or primary sources? I was surprised by the amount of information that isn’t found at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani website. Thank you and I hope to hear from you soon!

  2. Hello Mitzi!
    Thank you for visiting Bulan Oberver. The article about these three Bulan martyrs was truly taken from the Bantayog Ng Mga Bayani Website some years back, a copy – and- paste method, without any editing. If the Bantayog Website has now another version in their website, then it’s them who changed it. I am from Bulan and have witnessed the martial law events in my town. I was then 12 years old when Martial law was declared and also the year when Nannette Vytiaco was killed. I was a close friend of the Vytiaco family. The year that came next was a big ambush event where Tony and his comrades fell. I saw Tony’s lifeless bullet- ridden body lying in front our old Municipio one afternoon. Their life stories were known to the people of Bulan.

    • The Bantayog did change it! So I’m really grateful that you were able to record these old versions of their life’s story; the old information I got from you shed more light into their current stories in the Bantayog website so I was able to create a more meaningful analysis. And wow, I’m sorry to hear about that. Know that their stories and what you’ve shared with me in this blog will be remembered. It’s actually for my Philippine History class but I learned a whole lot more. Thank you and I hope you all take care during this trying times!

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