Reginald Reginaldo and Renato Redentor Constantino 

Nemesio Prudente remains a towering figure in Philippine education despite his passing  in 2008. Friends and colleagues called him Doc, and so great has been his contribution  to nation-building that he was inducted in the Bantayog ng mga Bayani [Pantheon of  Heroes] on the very year of his death. 

The memorial to Doc extolled the qualities of Prudente as teacher, mentor, patriot and  humble Filipino; he “was that rare brand of educator and administrator who was able to  combine order with change, establishment and activism, and reform and revolution. He  was as tireless as the freshest activist in fighting for democracy in his country, even as  he led what would eventually become, under his administration, the country’s largest state  university.” 

Prudente was a tireless university president who “hounded Congress for a bigger PCC  budget… built structures for the PCC Main Library, and for the engineering and mass  communication colleges. He found space to hold the graduate school and the college of  hotel and restaurant management.

Prudente, an educator, nationalist, and revolutionist stamp design by Ara Alejo


Prudente was appointed president of the Philippine College of Commerce (PCC) in 1962,  a post he held up to 1972, when Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law and Prudente  went into hiding. Doc was imprisoned when Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus 

in 1971. He was eventually released, then went into hiding when Marcos instituted martial  law in 1972. From the underground, Prudente “helped build the resistance network  against the dictatorship.” He was eventually captured and detained in a number of military  camps and safehouses. 

Doc was behind bars when the Marcos government collapsed. In 1986, after Prudente’s  release in the aftermath of the EDSA uprising, he was immediately reappointed by the  new government to head the PCC, which would be renamed the Polytechnic University  of the Philippines or PUP.  

Nemesio Prudente portrait. Source: Bantayog ng mga Bayani


The fall of the dictatorship meant new possibilities. Doc believed the new democratic  government would continue to support human rights and Prudente became active once  again in the public arena, leading, for instance, the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban  sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (SELDA) while serving as president of PUP. 

However, the country would swiftly realize the extrajudicial habits of the country’s armed  forces would prove to be among the most difficult to alter despite the fall of Marcos in  February 1986. Labor leader Rolando Olalia was slain by military elements in November  1986, and several human rights lawyers were killed in July 1987, just two months before  the murder of student leader Lean Alejandro.

A broad coalition of civil liberty advocates condemned the killings while raising concerns  that police and military were behind the attacks. This was the exact same period when  Prudente survived two attempts on his life.  

Newspaper photo captions  Dr. Nemesio Prudente and Fr. Edicio de la Tore leaves the Ipil Political Detention camp, where they had been detained under Marcos Sr.’s regime. Source: Bantayog ng mga Bayani


On 10 November 1987, Prudente had called for a meeting with Manila’s then police chief,  Brig. Gen. Alfredo Lim in the Sta. Ana home of Manila 6th District Rep. Pablo Ocampo, Jr on Lamayan Street. Accompanied by a driver and two associates, including PUP lawyer  Atty. Alex Marteja, Prudente wanted to discuss armed raids conducted illegally in PUP  after police stormed the university’s Mabini campus and arrested 39 peasants who had  sought refuge in the school from rightwing vigilante groups. Doc wished to directly discuss  with Gen. Lim the importance of academic freedom and the sanctity of the university,  which Prudente was prepared to uphold come what may. 

When Lim failed to appear in Lamayan, Doc and his companions left the Lamayan  residence to return to PUP. Around two minutes after leaving Ocampo’s house, they were  met by gunmen on Lambingan Bridge. The ambush killed Atty. Marteja. Prudente was  wounded in the arms and thigh but survived the attack. His driver, Ramon Tacda, was  seriously injured and, paralyzed, would die years later. 

A second assassination attempt on Prudente took place in the underpass along Manila’s  railway track, below Magsaysay Bridge (since demolished) in Sta. Mesa, Manila on 30 June 1988. This time the ambush claimed more lives but Doc, severely wounded, survived the slay try yet again. Among those killed were Prudente’s driver and bodyguard, 

Filoteo Salazar and Alfredo de Guzman, and Emmanuel ‘Butch’ Guevarra, the brother of  Dante Guevarra who would become PUP presiden from 2005-2011. Prudente’s other  bodyguards – Manuel Decena, Romulo Ranin, and Ernesto Gobres, also survived but his  driver, Remegio Buenaflor, lost his right arm (Guevarra, 2019). 

Three days later, Emmanuel Mendoza, a PUP professor, human rights advocate, and  lawyer was also killedin the same area where Prudente was ambushed. In 1999, or 11  years later, five policemen were convicted for the second ambush.  

The Bantayog ng mga Bayani memorial recounts succintly the kind of person Prudente  was: “Doc’s courage, passion and ideals were no secret to PUP students, and many of  those who were students during his administration vow that these qualities are “forever  embedded” in them because of his sterling example. 

“Doc’s writings include “The Revolutionists” and the “Quest for Justice,” sharp  commentaries that help raise awareness and give insights about the gravity of the  problems besetting the Philippines. 

“Even as he grew older and sicker, Doc Prudente kept his life simple and his needs basic.  Knowing he was sick, he had left instructions on how he wanted to go. There was to be  no pomp, no ceremony, not even a wake. He wanted to be cremated wrapped in a mat, not confined in a coffin. Honoring his request in spirit if not in form, when he died from  complications arising from [an] operation, his family had him cremated, wrapped in a shroud and [placed] in a cardboard box the day after he died. No wake was ever held.  Doc was 81.

Sintang Lakbay is a historical walk and bike ride to promote inclusive mobility by facilitating active interaction with urban landscapes, restoring working-class memory in national history, and mobilizing public contributions to remembering through art and research. It is a collaborative project by The Polytechnic University of the Philippines, 350 Pilipinas, and the Constantino Foundation