Edgar “Egai” Fernandez lost sleep making banners for the Malayang Pagkakaisa ng Kabataang Pilipino (MPKP or PKP), a moderate group, which joined the violent post-State of the Nation rally against Ferdinand Marcos on January 26, 1970.
Then a vocational arts student of Araullo High School, Fernandez recalls that his school was closed ahead of the ralliers. “I was with the MPKP because my neighbor on Trabajo Street, Albert Miranda, was a socialist and friend of Francisco “Dodong” Nemenzo of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation (BRPF) and MPKP,” shares Fernandez, who became a social realist painter in 1977.
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That day started a chain of seven deadly rallies of students belonging to 21 radical and conservative groups who tried to unseat Marcos from January to March 1970. Dubbed as the First Quarter Storm (FQS), the protests were held several months after the dictator’s election in November 1969, and prompted him to declare Martial Law in 1972. The FQS led the way for a right wing mutiny and the middle-class triggered peaceful revolution 16 years later, finally ousting Marcos in February 1986.
Here are the seven deadly protests against Marcos during the First Quarter Storm:
January 26, 1970
Where a cardboard coffin, which symbolized the death of freedom, was thrown at Marcos and his convoy as he left Congress after his SONA at past five in the afternoon of January 26. It was made by the group of Roger Arienda, a 37-year old anti-Marcos broadcaster during the FQS, says artist Baens Santos. A symbol of greed, a crocodile made of papier mache was also thrown at Marcos. Placards depicted the president and First Lady Imelda Marcos as “Bonnie and Clyde.” After the effigy of Marcos was burned, students chanted, “Makibaka, huwag matakot,” and threw stones and papers as truncheon-toting policemen came near, reports say.
Tear-gas, water cannons, and sounds of gunfire hissed around the students at the rally. Senator Emmanuel Pelaez stepped out, stopped the policemen, and called on Manila Police District head Gerardo Tamayo. Held up on the shoulders of jubilant students, Pelaez endured cross-throwing of stones up in the air. With stones, students wrecked the Mercedes Benz of Senator Jose Roy, recalls Pete Lacaba in his 1982 book Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage, The First Quarter Storm.
Policemen drew out activists who were inside a jeepney. Many of them were women in mini-skirts, including Judy Taguiwalo of the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK). It is a faction of KM, and established on January 30, 1968. “Almost all of us in that jeepney were rushed to UP Infirmary in Diliman. We were black and blue and missed the important January 30 rally,” recalls Taguiwalo. A photo which showed her legs while getting out of the jeepney became an iconic FQS image.
Two were killed and many were injured after a scrimmage at Manila’s Burgos Drive up to nearby golf link in Intramuros and Luneta Park. The injured were brought to the Philippine General Hospital on Taft Avenue.
Prior to the confrontation between students and policemen, Ed Jopson of Ateneo and the conservative National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) chose radio commentator Arienda as a rally speaker over firebrand Gary Olivar of UP and SDK. It was dubbed as the “microphone battle” of the radical and conservative protesters in the 70s.
Since Marcos wanted constitutional change after his election, the NUSP demanded for a non-partisan constitutional convention. The radical groups brought up larger issues: they accused Marcos of sustaining US Imperialism, feudalism, fascist dictatorship, economic crisis, and overspending during his campaign.
The January 26 rally was jointly organized by the NUSP and the UP Student Council, which was then led by radical leader Jerry Barican. He became a lawyer and spokesman of President Joseph Estrada in 1998. The protest prompted UP President Salvador Lopez and several professors to say that the incident was “part of an emerging pattern of repression of the democratic rights of the people.”
January 30, 1970
Some 100,000 protesters took over a fire truck, used by policemen to douse rallyists, and rammed it through Gate 4 of Malacañang at six in the afternoon of January 30, 1970.
When asked who drove the firetruck, Olivar says it was Tony Tayco, adding that “matatapang ang mga KM sa Lyceum.”
Tayco, now a priest of the Philippine Independent Church, was a legendary student leader. His girlfriend Babeth Estrada turned out to be an intelligence officer of the military. “That made him quite batty with comrades who were imprisoned with him,” recalls Olivar to ANCX.
With the opening of Gate 4, a sea of protesters on Mendiola Street rushed to JP Laurel, in front of Malacañang. “Romulo Jallores, with beret and outstretched right hand, was on top of the firetruck. He was known as Kumander Tangkad (because of his height) in the underground in Bicol,” recalls Taguiwalo. Jallores was then 22, and was politicalized during discussion groups at University of the East. He became a mechanic and a construction worker after he dropped out from high school and left his five siblings and single mother in Camarines Sur in the late 1960s. After Mendiola, he went home, organized abaca workers and peasants in Bicol with his brother Benjie. He died in a military encounter in 1971.
The activists also burned another car in front of Malacañang, prompting the Presidential Security Guard to augment police force. Gunfire, stones, and tear-gas pursued thousands of demonstrators who escaped through the streets of Quiapo and Sampaloc. Angry and emboldened with Molotov cocktails, sticks, and stones, the activists came back to Mendiola, where they retaliated, and retreated on instantly built barricades. Hundreds of sleepless students on Manila’s university belt joined the activists. At nine in the evening, the military and the police regained control of Mendiola.
Killed were Ricardo Alcantara of the University of the Philippines, Fernando Catabay of Manuel L. Quezon University, Feliciano Roldan of the Far Eastern University, and Bernardo Tausa of Mapa High School. Thousands of injured were treated at nearby hospitals.
Before they marched to Malacañang, students, workers, and members of urban poor communities were in an earlier rally in front of Congress, which lasted until six in the evening. At the same time, student leaders led by Jopson of NUSP and Portia Ilagan of the conservative National Students League met with Marcos in the palace from three to six in the afternoon. They demanded for non-partisan Constitutional Convention. Jopson asked Marcos to put in writing his claim not to seek a third term, but Marcos belittled Jopson as a grocer’s son.
Capturing the fiery rally, poet Rogelio Mangahas wrote “Mga Duguang Placard.”
Tara kung gayon/ Magdala ng placard na may duguang liryo/ Itayo sa kanto…/Itaas ang bandilang pula/ Iwagayway and kartelon, mga placard/ Kurdunin ang tulay, sa dilim, ng Mendiyola/ Ay, kumpas ng pagtutol, ng pagsumpa/ Ng hinaing, mga kumpas ng mga aninong/ Nabubuwal sa dilim, sa Tulay ng Mendiyola.
Later, Jopson became more militant, joined the CPP in 1972, and was killed by the military in his house in 1982.
February 12, 1970
The Movement for a Democratic Philippines (MDP) organized a protest rally of 50,000 at Manila’s Plaza Miranda on February 12, 1970. Marcos invited some MDP leaders and offered 13 concessions, and lured conservative student leaders to call off the rally. But KM leaders wanted to push through with the rally, and gave assurance to weed out provocateurs. Speakers talked about US imperialism, feudalism and fascism, and the need to struggle for national liberation and democracy.
February 18, 1970
Some 5,000 protesters attended the first “People’s Congress” at Plaza Miranda on February 18, 1970. Organized by the MDP, the protesters also marched to nearby Roxas Boulevard and threw stones at the gates of the US Embassy.
February 26, 1970
The MDP held a second “Peoples’ Congress” without a permit at Plaza Miranda on February 26, 1970. Protesters re-assembled at the Sunken Garden, outside the Walls of Intramuros before policemen and members of the Philippine Constabulary came. Some protesters marched to the US Embassy on Roxas Boulevard, while others rushed to Mendiola, near Malacanang, where they re-enacted the violent January 30 rally.
The police raided the Philippine College of Commerce, beat up teachers and students, and looted offices, the school authorities complained.
March 3, 1970
Students and urban youth groups joined jeepney drivers who held a citywide strike on March 3, 1970. Organized by the MDP as “Peoples’ March,” protesters went to Plaza Moriones in Tondo, Plaza Lawton, and in front of the US embassy.
Enrique Sta. Brigida, a Lyceum student was tortured to death. Poet Amado V. Hernandez wrote a poem entitled, “Enrique Sta. Brigida: Paghahatid sa Imortalidad.”
March 17, 1970
The MDP organized a protest march to several urban poor communities for one day to tackle the issue of poverty on March 17, 1970. They tried and sentenced those who were responsible for the country’s poverty in a “People´s Tribunal” at Plaza Moriones. They also went to the US Embassy, and later to Mendiola, a battle-scarred street. During the time of President Corazon Aquino, one end of Mendiola was called the Chino Roces Bridge, in honor of a Martial Law fighter.
Photographs courtesy of Bantayog ng mga Bayani Museum