In Memoriam Liliosa Hilao
– Gonzalinho da Costa
I was the first murder victim under Marcos’ martial law regime.
I will not be the last casualty of political repression.
What was my crime?
I exercised my freedom of speech and expression.
They were guaranteed under our constitution.
I exercised my freedom of the press.
Associate editor of Hasik, our university student publication,
I wrote articles like “The Vietnamization of the Philippines,” “Democracy Is Dead in the Philippines Under Martial Law.”
The year I died I was 23 years old, about to graduate with honors from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.
Soldiers forced their way into my home, looking for my brother.
He was a Communist, they claimed.
Not there, they ate our family’s lunch, like wolves, no fairy tale.
Arriving home with my sister, a high school student, I asked for a search warrant.
They slapped me, forced me into a room, attempted gang rape.
They beat my sister, damaging her hearing and eyesight.
Nighttime, they hauled us both off to a military camp.
They pummeled me like a live chicken before it’s stewed.
Bruised all over, I resembled a ripe blackberry bush.
Injected with “truth serum,” I turned into a tender, swollen orange punctured multiple times.
Indentations, gun barrel points, inscribed my flesh like seals of the Antichrist.
Ringed by a bracelet of cigarette burns, my mouth hung open, a door about to shut.
Old hempen bag, I collapsed in the cell I shared with my sister, middle of the night.
Powerless to prevent further abuse, handcuffed by circumstances, my brother-in-law, an army officer, visited me.
They are my last witnesses.
Next day, I was gang-raped in the men’s bathroom.
To destroy my testimony, they poured muriatic acid down my throat
And then alleged I had committed suicide.
Some compassionate man, they said, attempted to save my life by stabbing my throat so that I could breathe.
Hole in my throat says otherwise.
I was butchered like a pig, by pigs.
They excavated my internal organs to destroy any evidence of rape.
They divided my body, top of skull down to pubis, same purpose.
Again, I ask, what was my crime?
I had spoken on behalf of freedom, using my intellectual gifts from God.
My brain was returned to my family in a pail.
I had drawn courage from my heart, my deepest entrails, so to speak.
My entrails were also returned in a pail.
I had opened my mouth in protest.
My tongue was cut in half.
I was the poster girl for the fate of all those who dared to oppose the regime.
I am the first. I will not be the last.
Author’s note: The poem is about the torture and murder of Liliosa Hilao during the martial law regime of Marcos. Some artistic license has been used to recreate her ordeal. The poem responds to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s expressed intention to bury Marcos at the Cemetery of Heroes (Libingan ng mga Bayani) on September 11, 2016. The poem protests Duterte’s action by inciting remembrance of the heinous crimes committed under Marcos’ command responsibility. Allusion to the Holocaust is intentional.
Gonzalinho da Costa—a pen name—teaches at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business, Makati City, Philippines. He is a management research and communication consultant. A lover of world literature, he has completed three humanities degrees and writes poetry as a hobby.