Landmarks of Martial Law: Metro Manila's reminder of the dark days

Izzy Lee, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 21 2023 12:51 PM | Updated as of Sep 21 2023 01:48 PM

Fifty-one years have passed since the Philippines was placed under Martial Law, but there are several places in Metro Manila that still bear the heavy weight of that period, serving as constant reminders of one of the darkest chapters in Philippine history.

In Manila, before former President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Sr declared Martial Law, the area around Mendiola was home to several universities. It was a gathering place for student rallies, often leading directly to Mendiola's gates, right in front of Malacañang Palace.

The Mendiola Bridge and the Mendiola Peace Arch in Manils, both significant landmarks during the Martial Law years, are seen in this photo taken on September 19, 2023. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
The Mendiola Bridge and the Mendiola Peace Arch in Manils, both significant landmarks during the Martial Law years, are seen in this photo taken on September 19, 2023. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

During the Marcos regime, Mendiola became heavily fortified with barbed wire, symbolizing the separation between the President and the people. 

Xiao Chua, a public historian, shared, "Nagkaroon ng malalaking rally diyan after the Ninoy Aquino assassination laban sa diktadura....lalo na nung mga last years ni president marcos from 1983 to 1986."

Plaza Miranda stands in the heart of Quiapo, Manila - a public square that has witnessed many historic events. Today, it serves as a gathering place for those attending mass at the Quiapo Church. However, in 1971, Plaza Miranda played a pivotal role in the declaration of Martial Law. 

A general view of Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila, on September 21, 2023. Maria Tan, ABS-CBN News
A general view of Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila, on September 21, 2023. Maria Tan, ABS-CBN News

"Doon nagkaroon ng rally ang Liberal Party, yung opposition party noong panahon ni Marcos. Unfortunately, dalawang granada ang pinasabog doon, may ilang patay at napakaraming sugatan," Chua said.

According to Chua, these bombings prompted President Marcos Sr. to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, giving authorities the power to arrest individuals without a warrant. 

Just a short jeepney ride away from Plaza Miranda lies Liwasang Bonifacio in Lawton, Manila. This bustling square serves as a transportation hub for students, hospital-goers, and other commuters. However, during the 1980s, Liwasang Bonifacio became a popular gathering spot for protests against the Marcos regime. 

The Andres Bonifacio Monument at Liwasang Bonifacio in this photo taken on September 19, 2023. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
The Andres Bonifacio Monument at Liwasang Bonifacio in this photo taken on September 19, 2023. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

"Diyan nagkaroon ng malalaking kilos protesta lalong lalo na pagtapos ang pagpaslang kay Senator Ninoy Aquino. Dun din nagkaroon ng mga convergence ng pwersa ang iba’t ibang sektor...pero isa ang pinaglalaban, demokrasya," Chua explains. 

Approximately four kilometers from Liwasang Bonifacio is the Welcome Rotonda, now known as Mabuhay Rotunda, situated on the border of Manila and Quezon City. This roundabout welcomes those entering Quezon City from Manila but it has also witnessed intense clashes between protesters and the Marcos regime during the tumultuous 1980s. 

A view of the Welcome Rotonda as seen from a footbridge in this photo taken on September 19, 2023. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
A view of the Welcome Rotonda as seen from a footbridge in this photo taken on September 19, 2023. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

"After mapaslang si Senator Aquino, nagkaroon ng malalaking protesta diyan ng mga aktibista at very violent ang dispersal diyan gumagamit sila ng baril at mga water cannons," Chua said. 

In Quezon City, along Edsa, is the current headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP). 

Camp Crame was where the rebel forces, led by former president Fidel Ramos, who was then Marcos'es Constabulary chief and former Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, were holed up during the 1986 Edsa Revolution.

The entrance to Camp Crame or the Philippine National Police headquarters in Quezon City. Photo taken on September 19, 2023. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
The entrance to Camp Crame or the Philippine National Police headquarters in Quezon City. Photo taken on September 19, 2023. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

But the camp also had a dark history during Martial Law. From 1970s to 1980s, this was the base of the Philippine Constabulary, where allegedly various forms of torture and abuse were inflicted upon those who opposed the Marcos regime.

"Sabi nga nila opisina sa umaga pero tinatabi yung table pag gabi tapos dun nangyayari 'yung mga human rights violation," said Chua.

"May water torture na tinatawag tayo pinapainom ka ng maraming tubig tapos bubugbugin ka para iluwa mo 'yun. May tinatawag tayong electrocution. 'Yung iba pinapaupo sa bloke ng yelo na full blast 'yung aircon. Of course 'yung pinakamalalang torture yung sa mga kakabaihan 'yung panggagahasa," he added.

Another significant landmark in Quezon City is the Bantayog ng mga Bayani. This monument stands as a solemn tribute to all the heroes who suffered under the Marcos dictatorship. The Bantayog houses a Wall of Remembrance, where the names of those who fell victim to abuses during Martial Law are inscribed. 

Human rights advocates visits the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City on September 19, 2023, to commemorate the imposition of martial law 51 years ago. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Human rights advocates visits the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City on September 19, 2023, to commemorate the imposition of martial law 51 years ago. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

"Ginawa at itinayo 'yan ng mga pamilya ng namatay noong Martial Law upang di makalimutan ng mamamayan 'yung panahon ng Martial Law. Inilagay nila ang mga pangalan nung mga nabiktima para di na maulit 'yung mga pang aabuso," according to Chua.

A short walk from the memorial is the Inang Bayan Monument along Quezon Avenue. This striking statue depicts a mother reaching towards the heavens while cradling the lifeless body of a male figure. The monument serves as a powerful symbol, representing the martyrs who sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of freedom for the Filipino people. 

The Inang Bayan Monument along Quezon Avenue in this photo taken on September 19, 2023. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
The Inang Bayan Monument along Quezon Avenue in this photo taken on September 19, 2023. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

These landmarks stand as reminders of an era that tested democracy to its core, in the hopes that Filipinos will never forget the lessons learned from Martial Law.

In the words of Xiao Chua, "Sa pagkatuto natin sa pagkakamali ng nakaraan at sa pang aabuso na nangyari sa panahon na 'yun ang pamahalaan at ang bayan ay pwedeng matuto kung paano gumawa ng mas makatwirang bukas."