In Memoriam Liliosa
– Gonzalinho da Costa
the first murder victim under Marcos’ martial law regime.
not be the last casualty of political repression.
was my crime?
exercised my freedom of speech and expression.
were guaranteed under our constitution.
exercised my freedom of the press.
editor of Hasik, our university
articles like “The Vietnamization of the Philippines,” “Democracy Is Dead in
the Philippines Under Martial Law.”
year I died I was 23 years old, about to graduate with honors from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.
forced their way into my home, looking for my brother.
He was a
Communist, they claimed.
there, they ate our family’s lunch, like wolves, no fairy tale.
home with my sister, a high school student, I asked for a search warrant.
slapped me, forced me into a room, attempted gang rape.
beat my sister, damaging her hearing and eyesight.
they hauled us both off to a military camp.
pummeled me like a live chicken before it’s stewed.
all over, I resembled a ripe blackberry bush.
with “truth serum,” I turned into a tender, swollen orange punctured multiple
gun barrel points, inscribed my flesh like seals of the Antichrist.
by a bracelet of cigarette burns, my mouth hung open, a door about to shut.
bag, I collapsed in the cell I shared with my sister, middle of the night.
to prevent further abuse, handcuffed by circumstances, my brother-in-law, an
army officer, visited me.
are my last witnesses.
day, I was gang-raped in the men’s bathroom.
my testimony, they poured muriatic acid down my throat
then alleged I had committed suicide.
man, they said, attempted to save my life by stabbing my throat so that I could
my throat says otherwise.
butchered like a pig, by pigs.
excavated my internal organs to destroy any evidence of rape.
divided my body, top of skull down to pubis, same purpose.
I ask, what was my crime?
I had spoken
on behalf of freedom, using my intellectual gifts from God.
brain was returned to my family in a pail.
drawn courage from my heart, my deepest entrails, so to speak.
entrails were also returned in a pail.
I had opened
my mouth in protest.
tongue was cut in half.
I was the
poster girl for the fate of all those who dared to oppose the regime.
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.