The Struggle and Hindsight

by Bong Wenceslao

-from SunStar’s ‘Candid Thoughts’ dated January 27, 2015  

My uncle, Ribomapil ‘Dodong’ Holganza, passed away last Sunday, 25 January 2015. He will be remembered with fondness and love. This article below is a tribute to Dodong Holganza, whose determined defiance against the Marcos dictatorship during the Martial Law years defined him. Bong Wenceslao, himself a former detainee during his younger days, writes with pride about those difficult days; in the hope that we may remember, appreciate, and learn to thank the nameless people who – like Dodong – risked life and limb for this thing they called freedom. This is Bong’s salute to our Martial Law heroes, as embodied by my Tio Dodong.  

The anti-Marcos watchdog.

THERE is a difference between living in the moment and looking back at that moment. In my experience, the difference is in the degree of certainty in assessing the moment and projecting its direction.

Remember the truism that hindsight is always 20/20? It means that people usually have a perfect understanding of an event “after” it happened. Before that event happened?

Uncertainty. Meaning that the vision is blurred.

I once lived inside the camp while undergoing “rehabilitation.” I swept the yard and, when somebody decided to fund the re-operation of the camp canteen, washed the dishes. Those were uncertain times, leading me to ask often: what will my future be?

One of my captors assured me that I do have a future still. I wasn’t sure then. But when I look back at that moment, I can now say that I shouldn’t have worried because I still had many years to live and many chances to grab ahead of me. Then again at that time, how can I really be sure of what my future would be?

Which brings me to my point. Years before the 1986 Edsa People Power uprising toppled the Marcos dictatorship, nobody actually knew for certain how to end the rule of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, or whether it would end at all. Those who lived and struggled during those “dark days” asked often: what would this country’s future be?

I recall that uncertainty when I remember Ribomapil “Dodong” Holganza Sr. and that fateful day on Christmas Day in 1982 when he and a few others were arrested in a house along Lopez Jaena St. for allegedly plotting to oust the Marcos dictatorship by armed means.

Tio Dodong’s signature photo: defiant, unbowed, even in jail…

I didn’t know Holganza personally, unlike his son, Jose Ribomapil “Joeyboy” Holganza Jr., whom I know during our activist days. In fact, our group of militants viewed Holganza and the other local political leaders who fought the dictator in a collective sense: as merely anti-Marcos, as opposed to social, reformers.

But I personally considered him the more “progressive” of the anti-Marcos political leaders in Cebu. That showed in the manner he delivered his message. He wasn’t bombastic or loud but I admired the way he strung Cebuano words together. I can only identify one other leader with that style of speaking, the former rebel soldier and senator Gregorio Honasan.

Later generations who were either too young to appreciate the events leading to the toppling of the dictatorship or were not yet born at that time seem to consider the 1986 Edsa uprising like it followed the normal course of events—-meaning they think it was that easy. But there was uncertainty in the outcome of the anti-Marcos struggle–which should make them appreciate those who persevered in it and even died for it.

A pleasant surprise: recognition is given from across the seas.

Many pushed for a peaceful, or parliamentary, struggle to end the dictatorship, but others used guns and battled Marcos’s minions in the mountains and in the urban areas.

Other thought sowing chaos was the way, and detonated bombs. One thing these groups and individuals could not be faulted for was refusing to act. Instead, they risked everything.

Recognition for fighting the good fight.

That struggle was waged only a few decades ago but it seemed eons now. Its participants and leaders—or to put it in another way–those who survived, have gotten old or, like the older Holganza and Nenita “Inday” Cortes-Daluz before him, have moved to the great beyond.

I hope the succeeding generations wouldn’t forget that episode in our nation’s history when Filipinos, including Cebuanos, stood up for what is right. I hope that when they look back at the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship, they wouldn’t use the benefit of hindsight.

That struggle was never easy and was fraught with uncertainties, thus the need to pay homage to those who either participated in it or led it—like Holganza, who died last Sunday. He will be remembered.



  1. An excellent tribute Charly. However, as a frequent visitor to the Philippines I find it utterly depressing how many Filipinos hark back to ‘the Marcos days’ as if they were something to be celebrated!
    Unbelievable also that his family in politics still have such large support having stolen a vast fortune for which the country are still paying, it makes it difficult to take Philippine politics seriously.


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