ARCE, Merardo


From Bantayog ng mga Bayani (

Merardo Arce was the proverbial golden boy—bright, likeable, and good in sports and the arts.

Mer, as he was called, graduated salutatorian in high school and was a college scholar throughout his entire stay at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

Mer joined the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity in 1970. At a time, the fraternity was becoming involved in student activism. Weeks before his fraternity initiation, Mel joined the storming of Malacañang in the demonstration that started the upheaval later known as the First Quarter Storm.

Mer joined the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in 1971, and then helped set up the Panday Sining, a cultural group that popularized social issues through songs, poems and plays. Mer and his group often performed in rallies. Film and stage director Behn Cervantes, who was Mer’s fraternity brother, recalled seeing Mer always busy for his group’s performances.

Mer dropped out of college when martial law was declared in 1972. He went underground where he put his many talents into recruiting for the antidictatorship front. Mer got married, and in 1976, moved to Mindanao with his wife. There he continued to work underground.

Mer was an eff ective motivator and organizer. He spent nights diligently studying the conditions in the country and the history of the struggle of its people. Then he would share his insights with people in the villages he worked with. Because of his leadership skills, his commitment, and his decisiveness, Mer soon became a leader of the anti-martial law underground movement in Mindanao, helping develop the movement in that island.

Mer died in Cebu City in February 1985, with another comrade, Elym Diaz, a former instructor at the University of Mindanao.

The two friends had just hurriedly left an underground house, having learned that it was about to be raided by government troopers. But they were delayed because they had to evacuate documents and some family members. The two then tried to speed past a checkpoint, and when pursued, shoot their way out. They did not make it.

A statement issued by Mer’s friends and former associates wrote this tribute after he died: “… A terrorist, they say he was. Maybe. He was sowing terror in the hearts of evil men who plunder our land and wallow in graft and corruption and monopolize wealth and power and ride roughshod over our people. They say he was a top-ranking NPA commander in Mindanao. Maybe. The rank they attribute to Mer could easily be the equivalent to a generalship in the military. We can never be sure. But one thing we know, Mer was not receiving even a mere fraction of the P200,000 plus salary of a general in return for his services to our people. He was, in fact, giving all he had with nary a thought of self until fi nally, he gave his life. We are humbled by his death. It is a reminder of how some of us have trailed behind Mer in commitment to and faith in our people.”

May 30, 1953
February 05, 1985
Place of Death: 
Cebu City