Counting My Blessings

By: Ribomapil “Dodong” E. Holganza
My late uncle, Tiyo Dodong, died last  January 25. He was a proud and principled man who was incarcerated for 3 years during Marcos’ martial law era. He provided the strong leadership that helped unite the anti-Marcos forces in Cebu during those trying years.  Even during his years in jail, he refused to let his spirits down, and instead continued the fight against those he felt were the ‘true enemies of the state, the real subversives’  who had prostituted the democratic processes and pillaged the wealth of the nation. Tiyo Dodong wrote this piece on his third Christmas in jail, still unbroken and unbowed. More than ever, he is convinced that he is a man made for others, and that he must make use of his life for the good of many. Many thanks to my cousins, Joeyboy and Rosemarie, for providing me insights and pictures of my favorite freedom fighter. Farewell, Tiyo Dodong!!!
Dodong’s remains are brought to the Cebu Memorial Park. (courtesy of the
Last Christmas was my third Christmas in jail. It is such a poignant and traumatic experience. One would never know how it feels to be caged during special days. It is doubly frustrating and disgusting to be incarcerated for a crime that you did not commit, denied your right to bail, deprived of your personal liberty, and then left to languish in jail to rot without the benefit of trial.
Dodong was unfazed when Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972. (courtesy of planet philippines)

It is revolting that all around us are people who are truly the enemies of the state, the real subversives who have been subverting the faith and confidence of the Filipinos in our democratic processes, who pillage and plunder the patrimony of this nation, and yet are enjoying their loot and power very well beyond the reach of our anemic, discriminatingly inutile judicial system.

Arrested and detained without bail, he brought the fight against the dictatorship from his cell. (courtesy of

While it is true that I have my own share of melancholy inside my cell, there are also ample moments of joy. So I would rather count my blessings now, instead of belaboring my misfortune. After all, this is still a season of love and peace to people of good or even ill will.

No freedom? no worries. i can campaign from my jail cell. (courtesy of rosemarie holganza borromeo)

Now I have the blessing of a deeper insight on our people and the community, our friends and relations, our foes and detractors. I can now distinguish a true friend from an opportunist, a loving relation to one who is only plastic, a principled foe from an envious character. I never had this luxury of knowing people more until I was imprisoned.

The young handsome freedom fighter, after his arrest by police elements. (courtesy of rosemarie holganza borromeo)

Being in prison is an enriching experience. It has afforded me with the chance to test the real mettle of my capacity to sacrifice, the strength of character of the immediate members of my family, the true measure of the length and breadth of the love and devotion that only a wife and mother could show amidst our personal tragedy. I am more than assured now that I stand on the bedrock of true love, faith and devotion, and I can face adversities with more courage, vigor and resolve.

I can now appreciate better the wonders of God’s creations and His many mysterious ways, as a true Christian should, things I took for granted when I was still as free as a lark. I never knew the true meaning of freedom, until I was deprived of it. Praying then was more mechanical than real. There was always that gaping distance between me and my God. The absence of intimacy was both apparent and real. Not so anymore as I can feel His presence keeping watch over me. Despite my weaknesses, He had never deserted me. I was made to feel forlorn countless of times but never was I forsaken.
Campaigning from his cell. (courtesy of Rosemarie Holganza Borromeo)

There were moments in the past when I felt that my head was above the clouds forgetting that I have my feet of clay. I now realize that I am nothing but moulded dust created unto His likeness and image. That one’s mortal existence in the material plane is a preparation of a permanent haven for our astral body. That life is too short and it has to be used for the good of many.

While in jail, he has his share of mag covers and intrigues. (courtesy of Rosemarie Holganza Borromeo)
Self preservation and the law of the jungle is the prevailing concern of the mortal. Cowardice is bliss in the law of survival; and yet, as one searches his inner being, he will come to realize that he is not only made of flesh and bones. He also has a soul, ideals, goals, and more than that, he was also made for others. That one can never aspire to have eternity if during his mortal existence, he was only for himself.
Future Prez Cory Aquino visits Dodong. (courtesy of Rosemarie Borromeo)
 In prison, one can reflect and ponder upon the depth and relevance of spirituality as against the almost meaningless material matters that govern all our mortal endeavors. Now I understand fully why the angels in their simplicity are more beautiful than the words poets may use to describe them, or the images captured by masters in their canvass. Indeed material matters are for the flesh while the noble and the sublime, exalted as they are, are for the spirit. After taking stock of the year that is about to end, my sojourn in jail only serves to galvanize to its highest degree my resolute commitment to fight and to struggle some more for the cause of the people. It is my perception that the oppressed Filipinos have already passed their darkest night, and we are now witnessing the flickering lights of the early dawn of our salvation; that the days of tyranny are about to end; that the wounded tigers in office now roaming and wildly pillaging in the corridors of power may soon be swept away by a flood of an enraged humanity; that true democracy shall be restored from the ashes of a nation torn and shattered to pieces by a reckless and irresponsible leadership; and the Filipinos shall vow that never again shall we let another tyrant rule our beloved land.
Photos courtesy of Rosemarie Holganza Borromeo



    1. Thank you, gp! Yes, I am very proud of my fearless uncle. At a time when most everyone was cowed by the power and might of the Marcos empire, he was a david taking potshots at them. a hopeless romantic, and a stubborn taurean, he would dig in and fight even if he was down to the last toothpick! that’s my uncle!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Rest In Peace to a popular cebuano media practitioner who suffered imprisonment during the marcos regime . . . my condolences Sir Charly . . .


    1. thank you, mon! it is good to be able to honor him this way, that i and my relatives, as well as our readers, may learn to emulate the noble sacrifice and service he so willingly and unselfishly gifted us with.


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