Gonzalinho da Costa

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.
Never
forget.
Never
again.
Nie vergessen.
Nie wieder.


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.

Gonzalinho da Costa

The words of a rainy day
Drift incessantly, sighing.
Clouds wander about, homeless.
Soughing water vanishes.

The earth melts, insensate.
Shiny rocks rise in assembly.
Silence bends a strong arm.
Belief sits, quiet as bread.

– Gonzalinho da Costa

Fraying at the brim,
A hat with holes
Darkens his face,
Folded and lined.
Beneath long sleeves,
Torn and shabby,
A dirty cotton layer
Shields his arms,
Dusky branches, wizened.
Swinging a pickaxe,
He hacks the ground,
Digging out dirt and rocks
To pay the debts
Of an elephant,
Animal he resembles
As it clambers out of water,
Dripping, shiny, wrinkled.
Filmy, perspiring,
Resting on the long handle
End of his standing tool,
He is almost motionless,
Inert gob of smoldering
Lava in deep time,
Blackened, steaming.
He sighs, heaving for
Ages and ages to come.
Untying his kerchief,
He mops his brow,
Tilts his head upward,
Blinks, fluttering eyelids,
Tremulous insects…
Sees nothing
But the sun.

– Gonzalinho da Costa

I am prisoner to conversation with an old man with a broken nose, mute with catarrh, sedentary and limping.
The window is squealing like a small animal, trapped.
Outside in the empty parking lot sits an abandoned car, dried out extinct turtle.

Dryness scrapes skin off the flaking season lying lifeless, electricity gone dead.
Clouds cast to the ground feeble eyes of a pallid man.
Trees written in charcoal thrust into the sky, exclaiming, “I am turned into a pillar of salt!”

Winter breaks its stony face against the hammering wind,
Dust and rocks mix with air,
Grass grinds like pebbles underfoot.

A warm room withers faster than a disconnected leaf.
Memories scatter twigs across the carpet.
Deaf to clapping, hooded thoughts wander.
Only blue sparks crackle in recognition.