Remembering Heroes and Survivors: How ‘Ang Bantayog’ Digital Monument Marks 51 Years Since Martial Law in the Philippines

Ang Bantayog Philippines Martial Law
Honor the thousands of lives lost during Martial Law through the Ang Bantayog website. Bantayog ng Mga Bayani, Ang Bantayog photos.

“In between waking, remembering, and action, can we ‘never forget’ online?” web designer Chia Amisola posits in a Facebook post.

Filipinos now have a unique way to honor the victims of Martial Law in a new website that seeks to keep their memory alive. Launched on September 21, 2023, the 51st anniversary of Martial Law’s declaration in 1972, the “Ang Bantayog” website created by Amisola functions as a digital monument. It commemorates 11,103 individuals who died due to human rights violations during the tragic period in Philippine history.

11,103 is the state-recognized headcount of human rights victims from the Martial Law era as declared by the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board, a government body established by the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. The law focused on giving reparations to the survivors of human rights atrocities during the period. There were over 75,000 claimants who were imprisoned, disappeared, tortured, and killed under the Marcos administration between 1972 and 1986.

Light A Candle for a Life

Here’s how to use the website’s features:

  • On the site, visitors can browse through 11,103 candles.
  • Upon picking one, the name of the victim appears.
  • By clicking the image, the visitor is able to light a candle for the person.
  • A description will then appear, calling the reader to remember their life.

“Once you light a candle, a name from the roll is revealed, remembered… each representing a name, a life taken,” Amisola shared.

The website keeps a record of every life commemorated by the user, encouraging individuals to log onto the site every day. Visitors can also see dates of when they lit a candle for a particular victim.

“Ang bawat kandila ay isang buhay na kinuha ng mga kalupitan ng madugong diktadura ni Ferdinand Marcos,” the site reads. (Each candle is a life taken by the atrocities of the bloody dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.)

There are two options users can choose from on the website: Isa and Buo. By clicking Isa, visitors can ignite their own candles for the victims, whereas in Buo, they can view and hear all the candles that have been lit by other users. The website terms Buo as a “collective memory”.

Remembering the Lessons

However, Amisola holds that the remembrance of Martial Law victims should not end with the website. Beyond Ang Bantayog, physical memorials honoring the victims have been established by the foundation Bantayog ng mga Bayani. “‘The monument’ is an imperfect site, by nature, it can never be a true ‘memorial’. It is transient, temporary, and tethered to the technologies it’s built upon—which falter more than man,” they continued.

Amisola said in the Facebook post that it would take 30 years for each candle on the website to be ignited. Nevertheless, they said in an interview with Rappler that the list of victims remains “inexhaustive”. “These names represent just a fraction of an incalculable loss,” Amisola recalled.

Beyond the state-declared numbers, non-governmental human rights organization Amnesty International reported that 70,000 people were arrested, 34,000 were tortured, and 3,240 were killed due to Martial Law human rights violations.

Amisola has a background in website creation, recently completing their bachelor’s degree in Computing and the Arts from Yale University in 2022. Aside from Ang Bantayog, they also run the Philippine Internet Archive website, which documents Filipino internet history and culture. They began the Ang Bantayog project in April 2023, with consultation from Bantayog ng mga Bayani.

The Martial Law period spearheaded by President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. saw the rampant oppression of those critical of the government, according to Amnesty International. During this time, thousands of church workers, human rights defenders, legal aid lawyers, labor leaders, and journalists were arrested, tortured, forcibly disappeared, and killed. Today, historical revisionism about the regime proliferates, with Marcos Sr. being buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in 2016.

Users can access the website through the link in the tweet below.

Explore the lived histories experienced by those who witnessed Martial Law. Check out the Martial Law Ekwento Mo online chat, where two generations of Filipinos shared their experience of military rule. Also read the new book Serve, which captures the stories of student journalists from 1969 to 1972 during Martial Law.

If you found this article both informative and inspiring, help spread the word about “Ang Bantayog” and the importance of honoring Philippine history. SHARE THIS ARTICLE with your friends, family, and networks. Together, let’s keep the memories of those who fought for freedom alive for future generations. Thank you for taking the time to honor our past. Your support helps keep their stories alive.

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Summer is a political science student with a twin passion for journalism. Her hobbies include watching geography documentaries, searching the metro for plant-based food, and free-falling through Wikipedia rabbit holes. Her works have previously been featured in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.