In Memoriam Liliosa Hilao
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.
Originally published in Turk's Head Review (July 30, 2016)
|At the Memorial to the Unknown Prisoner, Dachau Concentration Camp, Germany|