I was born in 1988, a good two years after the People Power Revolution that ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his rather profligate family. I learned about martial law and its main characters the way I learned about heroes of centuries past: through the collective stories of teachers, family members, and the media. In my young mind the martial law was told like a fairy tale: there was an evil king named Marcos who wanted to control the country and spend all its money on shoes but evil was overcome by a petite woman, the united outcry of the nation, and oddly enough, the color yellow.
It was one of those things that you heard about but didn’t quite grasp simply because you weren’t there to experience its effects. At 26, I may experience its long standing effects but my mind couldn’t seem to comprehend what it’s like to have a curfew other than what my parents have set and as a writer, what it’s like to have your voice silenced.
A few months ago, the trends #NeverAgain and #NeverForget roamed in my social media timelines as a result of youngsters who never went through martial law crying for the government to reconsider it. In the mark of the 29th year of the People Power Revolution, I decided to go beyond what was taught in the classroom to take a full grasp of what really transpired.
Truth is, information about is readily available, a quick Google search will lead you to numerous articles, images, photos, and commentary not unlike this one. There’s an economic look at it that I rather enjoyed (read it here), a controversial one from humanitarian aid worker Caroline Kennedy (read it here), and of course, the ever reliable Wikipedia.
Numerous articles have discussed the violence that happened after dark and most importantly, the silencing of one’s freedom of speech. As I browsed through pages and pages of what transpired back then, it made me shiver. Coming from a generation who can’t help but post their “opinions” on their social media sites every hour of every day, the thought of being banned to do so can be quite alarming.
And while I initially wanted this to be an understanding of what went on during the dark days of the country, the real question echoes louder, how has the country changed since then? How has it changed the way we view things? Do charming leaders and their partners still easily sway us without really studying what they have to show for? Are we simply repeating history and passing today’s government as better simply because we’re not told to go home at a certain hour?
Have we romanticized martial law and its effects to the point of wanting to go back to it?
Have we made better choices in terms of our leaders or are we simply choosing the best thief amidst the candidates? Have we simply accepted graft and corruption as a way of life? Have we lost all hope? Have we stopped believing that change can happen?
And most importantly, do we still continue to blame past administrations for what is currently happening in the country or are we proactively acting towards positive change? We can continue to blame the Marcoses all we want and yes, our reasons are legit, but has our blaming stopped us from moving forward?
May we all think of these thoughts as we celebrate our 29th year of freedom and at the same time, ask ourselves, have we been using that freedom well?