(previous Blogger post, September 21, 2006, Thursday)

Today is the “paper” anniversary of Martial Law. It was actually declared at midnight of September 22, 1972, but the proclamation was dated September 21 because of Marcos’ numerology belief. Now, 34 years hence, I have this niggling feeling – and I hope that I’m wrong – that things will eventually come full circle. I am alarmed by increasing reports of disappearances and killings of anti-government activists. This is an issue close to my heart because of our family’s close brush with the teeth of Martial Law. I was born in 1976, and was too young to fully understand its horrors, but I knew the feeling of fear. Our family’s experience in no way compares to the families of those who were killed or disappeared, but we could have easily been one of them. This is our story:

All of my older male cousins (on my mother’s side) were student activists who were right in the thick of the First Quarter Storm and the struggle against Martial Law. Every now and then, my mom would get a phone call from an aunt and an uncle, tearfully asking if we have heard from or seen their sons. There were times when my cousins would disappear for days or weeks, sometimes even a month. We would also hear of things happening to their friends. Those were tense periods for us because we never knew if they were just hiding, or if they were already taken. Then there were times when a cousin would just show up at our house in the dead of the night – and never through our front door. He would always use the window. He would come to us when he needed a safe place because he felt that “they” knew where he really lives. My parents’ protective instincts sometimes come into play and they would be a bit hesitant to take him in because they had a little girl (me) at home – but still, my mom loved my cousin and her sister (his mom) so they would take him in. Those were lightning visits anyway. Sometimes he would be gone even before I woke up. That was the thing I remember most – my cousins were always on the move.

Postscript to the story: My cousins eventually married women who fought alongside them during the Martial Law years. They now have different careers, but still maintain contact with their old buddies and at least one is still actively involved in his causes. One time, just after the 1986 People Power Revolution, one of them stayed at our house for a few days. He was one of my favorite cousins so I was really happy about it, but there was still an underlying fear. He wasn’t staying at our house because he wanted to bond with me. My parents didn’t fully explain why he was with us, but my 10-year-old mind understood. I could see the alarm in my cousin’s eyes each time the phone rings or a car passes our house. Even though Marcos was gone, a residue of his rule and his allies still remained – perhaps wanting retribution.

It’s now 2006, yet recent events – the disappearances, killings, increasing crackdown on the opposition – seem to hark back to the early 70s. Some may say that I’m paranoid. Maybe, but I never want to experience that fear again. That is why I value freedom so much – even the smallest freedoms, like being able to say anything I want and being able to read, watch and listen to anything I wish.

What’s bothering me most lately is the disappearance of two female students in Bulacan. I hate it when students are assaulted. It’s almost tantamount to hurting a child. These are STUDENTS, they are still learning. Forgive them, for they know not what they do – sometimes. There are instances when they get the clearer picture because they are not yet blinded and bound by vested interests. They fight for their causes the only way they can – through street protests and through the media. Let them be. What kind of a government is one that is afraid of its youth?

Today, we have a tandem of a “pikon” President and Justice Secretary. Oh, my. What really got my goat was when the Justice Secretary said that UP is just a school where men run naked and is a breeding ground of infidels. I may be biased because I came from UP, yet I do admit that some UP activists are over-zealous sometimes. But the Justice Secretary’s claim is totally unfounded! I couldn’t help but burst out to my dad when I heard that comment, “Patulan ba ang mga estudyante! Sira pala siya, pumapatol sa bata.

The two greatest character flaws of the President are pride and quickness to anger. I’m choosing the lesser evil. I hope the pride – as well as the economist in her – wins out. I hope she realizes how the international community will come to regard, or I should say revile, her if she turns into a dictator. She’s making a half-hearted gesture to investigate those disappearances and killings, but the international community is no fool. They know what’s true and what’s not. I hope she focuses more on keeping the economy going – and let up on silencing her opponents, which I believe is such a futile effort. She will be praised more if she manages to make the Philippines a more progressive country – and the only true democracy in Southeast Asia. I hope her hunger for praise will be greater than her hunger for power.

Let us all pray that true democracy will reign, that the sacrifices of the previous generation will not be in vain. Mabuhay ang tunay na malayang Pilipinas!

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(painting by Papo de Asis)

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