Some 39 years ago today, I was awakened by a sharp blow delivered to my chest with the butt of an M16 assault rifle. When I came to, I was blinded by flashlights and poked by gun barrels to get up. That marked the start of the most horrifying three weeks of my life. Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law became so real to me.

I was captured in Barrio Magsaysay, Tondo, Manila on September 16, 1973. I was 19 at the time. The term “captured” is, I believe, more appropriate than “arrested” since no warrant of arrest was presented. I was captured by a composite team of police and military officers. They dragged me out of the shanty where I was staying temporarily and manhandled me on the sidewalk. Apparently they received intelligence reports that I brought an arms cache to Magsaysay to fight government’s plans to demolish the huge community of shanties. They kept on asking me where the weapons were while boxing and kicking me. Notwithstanding the pain, it was an easy question since there were no arms. I will later learn that I, together with a dozen others, was betrayed by a comrade who inflated my standing in the underground movement against Marcos authoritarianism.

Among my betrayed comrades was a town mate, who like me was assigned to Barrio Magsaysay. His cover was that of a vinegar vendor. Mine was probably not too strong. I was supposed to be a relative of the old couple I was living with looking for work in the big city. A residence certificate supported my cover which was why I got captured under the name Roel Malaya y Benitez.  In retrospect, a cover story collapses when one gets betrayed.

Let’s call my betrayed town mate Mauro (since he also had a false residence certificate like me). Mauro is younger (I think he was 15 or 16 at the time) and shorter than me; I was a 6-footer while Mauro was about 5’5. Try imagining this. I was handcuffed to him through my left wrist with the cuffs passing under my testicles and connecting to Mauro’s left (or was it right?) wrist.

All the betrayed will be brought to Precinct 1 of the Manila Police Department in Balut, Tondo together with the squealer–Eddie Babon. Separate office rooms were used for interrogation and temporary detention. Babon was kept separate from us and I guess he was questioned carefully ahead of us–to provide the basis for our own questioning later.  However, he knew that Mauro and I were not from Barrio Magsaysay and thus the conclusion–we were there on a mission.

The head of the composite grab team is a Lt. Nacu of the Metropolitan Police and Investigation Service (MPIS), with its headquarters in Camp Crame. While questioning Babon, I overheard Nacu shout: “Balikan ninyo yung babae!” (Go back for the woman!).  I feared for my wife Rosalie, who was also assigned to Barrio Magsaysay. I will learn later than she evaded capture for two reasons: Babon hesitated in identifying her, and her hosts strongly supported her cover story. Mabuhay ka Ka Flor sampu ng iyong pamilya!  After the grab team left, Rosalie also sought refuge elsewhere.

The rest of the day was spent on humdrum activities: finger printing, taking of photos (front, left, and right) with the obligatory identifying sign, and additional paperwork.  We were then led into the regular detention cell of Precinct 1–a 4 x 5 meter cell that can comfortably accommodate 30 persons.  At the time, it was standing room only (SRO with about 80 detainees.  Most of the 80 were charged with criminal offenses and heavily tattooed according to their gang affiliations.  It was a cause for worry and the new gang–“The Betrayed”–decided to close ranks and maintain vigilance.  It turned out that our fears did not materialize.  They kept a safe distance from us (even under SRO conditions).  A few of them expressed admiration for our cojones–for fighting the biggest gang of all–the Marcos government.

In subsequent posts, I will explain the events and decisions I made that led to September 16, 1973.  Of course, I will also write on what happened after this day.

  1. katz1119 says:

    Makakarating po. Sa kasalukuyan, siya ay nasa Aklan, Nililinang ang maliit na sakahang naiwanan ng aming lolo’t lola. Matutuwa po yung makatanggap ng balita mula sa inyo. Sana po ay lagi rin kayong nasa mabuting kalagayan sampu ng inyong mga mahal sa buhay.

  2. mauro tria y corpuz says:

    bong, i was working in the newsroom when i suddenly remembered what happened 39 years ago. i remember how scared i was of torture, especially when i saw your bloodied by a drunk PC doctor at the MPIS. i also remember two young lieutenants asking us not only about the guns but also about the beautiful missing maita gomez.
    but the one thing i’ll never forget is when the PA announced our real names, and how i really scared i was when they said…yung matangakd at maliit na bagong pasok…ilabas.
    of course the other memories are still as vivid as they were 39 years ago…like the time they said….akala ko ba matatapang sila… ang dali naman palang umamin. i was hurting all over because of the blows, but i was secretly laughing inside because all the names we gave them were made up at the spur of the moment. i had to sign my name using my left hand in order to be consistent about my story that i was a grade six dropout.
    wasn’t that a time!!!!!

    • katz1119 says:

      I am the daughter of Rafael “Toto” or Totsky Braulio, a cellmate of yours at the ipil reception center now called ipil detention center. Also from barrio magsaysay and captured same day, september 16, 1973, as you did. He was also a victim of makapili eddie babon. By the way, ka flor died many years ago of a recurring lung disease. Poor woman, she never had a closure as to the fate of her husband, a desparecido from the lumang partido. She too, is my mom’s nanay-nanayan when she worked as community organizer for share and care apostolate for poor settlers in the last quarter of 1974.

      • bongmendoza says:

        Dear Katz, thanks so much for your comment. Hindi ko makalimutan ang tatay mo (si Toto), si Eddie Babon, at si Ka Flor. Kay Ka Flor tumira ang aking asawa at tumulong si Ka Flor para huwag siyang ituro ni Eddie Babon sa mga pulis at Metrocom. Dasal ko na kayo ng tatay at nanay mo ay nasa mabuting kalagayan. Ikamusta mo ako sa iyong tatay.

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