Lest we forget
Thankfully, many events are highlighting the month of history that February is and ought to be for every Filipino. Who can think of February without thinking of Edsa and People Power? Despite the disappointments about the nonrevolution that did not alter the structure of Philippine society, the events leading to Feb. 25 cannot be ignored.
Was it not a feat that we got a dictator who meant to rule for life finally out of our lives? Were it not for a widowed housewife in yellow and the protests and defections she inspired, how much longer would the dictatorship have prevailed? If not Cory Aquino, who else could have led the opposition? Others obsessed with politics and their egos would have wasted considerable time debating on the pros and cons of every move. (What was the message in that joke, “If the Three Kings were women”? They would have brought more practical presents.)
The initial and auspicious signal for me and many others fortunate to have watched it was the powerful play, “Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major” written by Chris Millado and directed by Andoy Ranay. First written and staged in 1984, it just ended a successful run last week at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Center. The playwright, now the vice president and artistic director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, was overcome with mixed emotions at the restaging, especially when a theater critic said his work had become “necessary” once more. Not an uplifting thought, and more like a harsh jolt back into that dark past, and the continuing need to preserve our freedom and safeguard our human rights.
But I do not do justice to the play when I write this way, because it was hardly didactic or grim and determined. It was neither a chronology of events nor a history lecture, but human interest portraits of individuals living through the years of martial law: a farmer, a laborer, a daughter who lost her father and was herself tortured, a priest, a socialite, a widow, a student and a policeman. All they needed was to narrate their personal experiences and one was moved to tears or to laughter or to anger. Yes, martial law honestly and truly happened—and harshly altered lives.
Most poignant was the scene between the priest played by current heartthrob JC Santos and the celebrated Angeli Bayani. All she spoke was Itawes, the mother tongue of the earliest inhabitants of the Cagayan Valley—and yet, she was eloquent in her grief. The priest translated a few statements and nothing more. Mayen Estañero’s unspeakable loss of a spouse was something she did not know how to explain to a young son. Jackie Lou Blanco provided the light moments as the demonstrator-socialite. She was so endearing I forgot that I had wanted to thank her for the fact that the village bearing her name is my shortcut from my residence.
How apt that the theater venue was in the Bantayog, which honors and remembers human rights victims of martial law. With the simple props and the lean cast, the play with the striking alliterative title is ready to do the school circuit. (Eb major is known to musicians as the saddest key.)
Other events also for the youth are the staging of the children’s play by Augie Rivera, “Isang Harding Papel”; the forthcoming release of a new annotated edition of the Ateneo University Press’ “The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos” by Primitivo Mijares on Feb. 21, 4 p.m., at the Bantayog Auditorium; and the citizens’ commemoration of the 31st anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolt led by the Feb. 25 Coalition. (For details, contact: bantayogbayani@ gmail.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com.)
The words of the nationalist Jose W. Diokno goad and inspire as we pursue the dream: “that our children may have a better life than we had; to make this country, our country, a nation for our children.”
Neni Sta. Romana Cruz (nenisrcruz@ gmail.com) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.