Is Martial Law still worth remembering today?

Lawyer and martial law survivor Elias Guiloreza recounts his experience 47 years ago in a forum at the UP-Visayas Iloilo City campus on Sept 20, 2019. (Photo from the University of the Philippines Visayas Facebook page)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

47 years have passed, but 68-year-old lawyer Elias Guiloreza still vividly remembers what happened after the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines on September 21, 1972.

Guiloreza, who was one of the student activists of Central Philippine University (CPU) in Iloilo City when martial law was imposed, shared his story to a group of students at the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) on Friday.

He recalled the massive mobilization throughout the country when martial law was declared.

“There was a big mobilization on Sept. 21. I was then senator of the student council of CPU and ang pag-militarize nag-abot na diri sa campuses,” he told the students.

Guiloreza was only 21 when he was captured and detained by the military more than four months after the declaration of martial law on January 28, 1973.

Pista ato sa Januiay, didto ko nila gindakop daan sa akon balay,” he shared.

For one year and seven months, Guiloreza was detained at Camp General Martin Delgado of the Police Regional Office 6 (PRO-6) in Fort San Pedro, Iloilo City.

More than the physical tortures, Guiloreza said it was the mental torment that affected him the most.

Wala labot sa physical, it is the mental torture gid. Nadumduman ko may nagkadto sa pihak room, daw ginasakit siya sa pihak, gawawaw and it left the impression ginsalvage siya. Only to find out the next day when I was brought in as they asked me for information, na it was just an act,” he said.

Although figures vary, it is believed that the martial rule resulted in 3,257 extrajudicial killings; 35,000 individual tortures; and 70,000 incarcerations.

But only than 6,000 survivor-claimants were entitled to compensation that was sourced from ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses that was recovered in the course of a US$2-billion class suit.

Guiloreza is among the many survivors of martial law who continues to tell the story of the darkest period of Philippine history.



Today marks the 47th anniversary of the martial law proclamation by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos on September 21, 1972.

Forty-seven years after, many teenagers still cannot fully grasp the whole concept of martial law and its effects on our institutions.

One college student in Iloilo, 20-year-old Christian said he has no idea regarding martial law.

“Hilaw pa ang akon idea, that is why need gid subong ang forum on martial law para ma-understand gid ang martial law,” he said.

For this reason, Guiloreza underscored the importance of spreading awareness among the younger generation not only on martial law but of current events.

Tan-aw ko importante gid man nga aware sila of what’s going on,” he stressed.

Guiloreza said what happened before is almost similar, if not “worse” than what is happening now, and these stoke the fires of activism.

“Let’s say, ang nagkalatabo before amo nga time, before sadto, may ara, amo-amo sang nagkalatabo subong. Ang cause sang aktibismo sang una, daw ga-exist gihapon subong pero at that time una nag-aware kami sang what’s happening and we wanted to change. To change those conditions nga ara man sa gihapon,” he said

“In fact, mas lala sa subong ang militarization, amo na, the more need nga mangin aware kag at least maka-act kag indi nato magliwat ang natabo sa martial law.”

Instead of using their gadgets for entertainment purposes, he emphasized that teenagers should use it as a tool for awareness.

Mangin aware lang sila, magbasa-basa, mamati kag mangin aware sa balita. Teh sin-o pa na sa sunod mahulag kundi kabataan, kay sin-o ni future bala, Ang sa amon, we felt that we have done what we have to do, we made some waves,” he stressed.

Guiloreza added that he still has high hopes for the current generation.

Unlike Christian, 19-year-old Josh Cezar sees martial law as an integral part of history that even his fellow teenagers should understand.

“Since our generation is technologically inclined, information is on the tip of our hands, this generation is not really aware of what is happening and what really happened during martial law. Relevant ang martial law, it is an integral part of history and whether we like it or not, it has been a game changer on the democracy sang country,” he said.

With the advent of technology, Josh emphasized the inherent role of teenagers educating the young as well as the old about history.

Dapat sa amo ni nga generation, dapat ara gid kita sa forefront sa pag-educate sa aton mga masses, ang mga older generation. In order for us to understand the meaning of democracy, therefore, we must really learn about this dark chapter in our Philippine history,” he stressed.