Christmas day ‘82 raid

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Friday, February 28, 2014

ON opposite walls in the second floor lobby of the building where the Sun.Star Cebu office is located are hung framed black-and-white reproductions of photos depicting scenes from different periods in the history of Cebu. The photos came out at one time
or the other on Sun.Star’s pages in the past.

One photo, captioned “Dreary Christmas,” showed a man with his back to the camera standing on a road outside of a fenced house. He was brandishing an armalite rifle.

Sprawled on the pavement at the back of a parked jeepney were three bodies and on the curb near them sat three people, one of them separate from the other two. At the background, partly covered by the armed man and the jeepney, was a crowd of, obviously, usiseros.


The “Christmas” referred to in the caption was Christmas day of 1982. The scene was a raid conducted by the police on a Lopez Jaena St. house where members of the local political opposition and an armed group gathered.

The raid had turned violent, wounding three people whose bodies the raiders later carried outside of the house and dumped on the pavement. They then contacted an ambulance and additional vehicles.

The two people sitting beside each other on the curb and waiting to be transported to the police headquarters were Dr. Filemon Alberca and Constantino Loyloy. A few meters from them, also on the curb, sat Ribomapil Holganza Sr. Alberca and Holganza were prominent names in the struggle in Cebu against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

One of the wounded in that incident was Carlito Sandag, leader of an armed group that was based in the hinterlands of Asturias and Tuburan towns. Not shown in the photo was Holganza’s son, Jose Ribomapil Jr. or Joeyboy, who was among those nabbed.

That Christmas day raid exposed the level the fight against the Marcos dictatorship was threatening to reach. Sandag’s group, according to sources, was on the process of linking up with leaders of the political opposition. Talks didn’t prosper because of the arrest.

I am writing this as post script to “Cebu’s anti-Marcos movement,” a column I wrote a few days ago in response to the holding in Cebu by President Noynoy Aquino last Feb. 25 of the celebration of the 28th anniversary of the Edsa People Power uprising.

Obviously, some members of Cebu’s vibrant political opposition at that time were ready to cross the bounds of peaceful protest actions to help topple the hated dictatorship.

Holganza, nicknamed Dodong, was a prominent figure in the local anti-Marcos movement in the early ‘80s along with the likes of Nenita “Inday Nita” Cortes-Daluz and Antonio Cuenco. Alberca was co-host of popular radio commentary programs hosted by Daluz.

In 1982, those fighting the Marcos dictatorship didn’t have an inkling of how the dictator would be toppled and when.

Some of them eventually flirted with the option of armed struggle like the ones waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines through its New People’s Army and by the Moro National Liberation Front in Mindanao. Others, like the Light-A-Fire Movement, bombed selected targets.

They were believers in former US president John F. Kennedy’s argument that, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Of course, we don’t know what might have happened had that Christmas day meeting not been nipped in the bud by the arrest. What we are sure, however, is that the armed struggle option to fight the dictatorship was overtaken by the generally peaceful uprising, the highly successful Edsa 1.

Holganza, Alberca, Joeyboy and their companions would spend more than two years in detention, freed only in 1985 when they were allowed to post bail. By then, the struggle against the Marcos regime was already intensifying.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 28, 2014.


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