Martial Law and Marcos’ dictatorial governance is a common topic being discussed by the family during gatherings while the parents try to recall their teenage years. Since it was also part of Philippine History, I wasn’t able to shun it during my secondary and college education. However, I can’t remember a part where Aquino, during his detention, was transferred to Fort Magsaysay from Fort Bonifacio. Gladly, a shrine in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija was built to commemorate this remarkable event.
30 minutes away from Cabanatuan City is Fort Magsaysay. It is considered as the largest military reservation and training area of the Philippine Army. Right before the Aquino-Diokno Shrine is a memorial that was dedicated to the heroes within the Command’s Area of Responsibility and of the 7th Infantry Division as a fitting tribute and recognition of their gallantry and invaluable contribution to freedom.
Aquino – Diokno Memorial was the exact place where the Senators Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino (codename Alpha) and Jose W. Diokno (codename Delta) were brought for solitary confinement. They endured uncertainty and isolation from their families, friends, and followers for about a month.
A simple documentary was shown to us by the members of the army managing the center. The documentary entails some snippets on how the senators were brought to the military base and on how their families reacted with their transfer from Fort Bonifacio. An adjacent hall from the audiovisual room was committed to human rights. Some subjects discussed on the walls of the hall include the The AFP: Facing up to the Human Rights Challenge, Champion of Human Rights, and the Philippines as a Humane World.
We proceeded to the exact place of confinement where the original rooms of the two senators are still maintained. Dummy of the senators, which literally brought us horror, were placed inside the rooms to dramatize their daily routine during their imprisonment.
Ninoy was able to track and record the number of days they were imprisoned by observing the changing of prison guards every four hours. On the ledge of the window facing east, Ninoy marked the passing of each day. Delta (Diokno), on the other hand, managed to keep his body, mind, and spirit together by doing yoga exercises, composing poems in his mind and even training a colony of ants.
Throughout our stay in the detention area, the song White Christmas continuously played in the background. It was a fulfilling experience to visit the imprisonment used to confine the significant people who played a pivotal role in the reinstatement of democracy in the Philippines. The Fort Magsaysay tour was ended by a visit to Pahingahan, a rest and recreation facility located near a man-made lake.
Visit to Aquino – Diokno Memorial Shrine and Fort Magsaysay tour was part of the Byaheng Nueva Ecija 2014 organized by Microtel Cabanatuan and Nueva Ecija Conventions and Visitors Association happened last March 27-29, 2014.