8 things to do before martial law in PH

When President Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law, he said: “It would not be any different from what President Marcos did. I’d be harsh.” He further declared: “If I think that the Isis has already taken foothold also in Luzon, and terrorism is not really far behind, I might declare martial law throughout the country to protect the people.”

The President’s statements brought back dreadful memories among Filipinos who either lived through or who have read up on the Marcos regime’s martial rule. They were moved to think of making preparations in case Mr. Duterte makes good on his warning to expand martial law throughout the entire Philippines.


One unique Filipino trait that serves as a coping mechanism against distressing news is to find humor in, and engage in satirical commentaries on, our troubled state of affairs. In the spirit of this tradition, I made a list of eight things to do before martial law is declared nationwide.

Get a “white sidewall” haircut. If you’re male, immediately go to your barber and get the sides of your head shaved clean at a space of two fingers from your ears and three fingers from your nape. This was the “maximum tolerable” haircut during the Marcos years, and anyone sporting long hair would instantly get a mutilated haircut from the police, which forces you to altogether shave your head a la Gen. Bato dela Rosa.


Stock up on camote. There will be panic-buying on food items, especially rice. To beat the inevitable rice shortage, go to the wet market and hoard on camote instead. A friend recently lost a lot of weight when he substituted rice with camote, so martial law may yet prove to be the answer to your long-held wish to for a shapely body or 6-pack abs.

Discard all your yellow clothing.

If you don’t, you may be mistaken for a defiant protester if you’re outdoors wearing a screaming yellow shirt. Perish the peril by throwing away all clothes in “opposition” color.

Reconcile or reconnect with relatives and friends. Start repairing severed relationships with relatives and rekindle old ties with friends living in the provinces. They can provide you a “safe house” if you’re in trouble, or after you outrun potbellied policemen trying to accost you because of your long hair or your yellow shirt.

Download a DIY on lambanog or basi. Alcohol may either be prohibited or hard to come by. It will come in handy if you have a do-it-yourself kit on how to distill lambanog or basi at home.

Stock up on food, bedding, and toiletries in your car. Martial law brings nightly curfews. Like the game of musical chairs, cars must stop and be off the road when the clock strikes 11 p.m. When traffic prevents you from reaching home before curfew time, park on the road and sleep the night away. If policemen accost you, tell them your wife threw you out of the house. Chances are they also have marital problems, and they will be amply sympathetic.

Throw away “I love New York” T-shirts and wear clothes emblazoned with “I love Moscow” or “I heart Beijing.”


Delete all your Facebook rants against Mocha Uson and send her a “friend” request instead. Live with the
reality that you will lose your freedom to freely express your sentiments against government officials or make sarcastic commentaries like this one.

While the list is infused with satire, it is animated with our parents’ experiences during the Marcos regime, thereby giving the young generation a historical perspective of Mr. Duterte’s remarks that his version of martial law will be “as harsh” as martial law during the dictatorship.

Stripped of parody, the list should give our leaders a glimpse of the impact of a “harsh” martial law on the everyday lives of our people. It should serve as a cautionary tale for our leaders not to unsheathe and wield the fearsome powers of martial law to a scale and intensity that brings about pointless suffering by, and unnecessary violence against, our people.

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