‘Suppressed by forgetfulness’? Which narrative? | Inquirer Opinion

‘Suppressed by forgetfulness’? Which narrative?

/ 04:03 AM October 07, 2020

Fr. Ranhilio Aquino’s Manila Times article titled “Mr. Nery should read” (09/16/20) would have resonated with someone who was wrestling with an intriguing comprehensive exam question in contemporary philosophy. To wit: What is the common thread that runs through the insights of Paul Ricoeur on historical knowledge, Thomas Kuhn on paradigm shifts, Jacques Derrida and Jean-Francois Lyotard on deconstruction, and Stephen Hawking on model-dependent realism? According to Fr. Aquino, “…everything we understand, we do so as mediated by models, paradigms, constructs.”

I think nobody will disagree with his assertion. This is precisely the context within which you are reading this article now. You have your own model, paradigm, and construct. I have my own. Yet despite our differing models, paradigms, and constructs, along with our different sociological, historical, and psychological backgrounds, we may come to an agreement on some points. We may also come to a disagreement on others. We can reach such points of agreement and disagreement because we can reason. And this reason is governed by what Juergen Habermas calls “the unforced force of the better argument.”


An age-old fable from the Indian subcontinent has been teaching the same thing: A group of blind men in the dark touched one part of an elephant in a room. As they huddled outside the room, they completely disagreed about what it was they touched, because each of them felt only one part of the animal. In one version of the story, they sort out the disagreement when they realize that combining their individual constructs can complete the picture. In another version, they eventually suspect each other of bad faith and storm off.

Fr. Aquino’s position is that the deconstructionist promotes justice to the extent that he/she calls attention to the so-called “petit narratives” and “alternate readings” of the past. He asks: “How many can freely express their admiration of Marcos, or their support for Duterte without being shamed, slurred, tarred, and feathered by bigots who think that their story is the only story?”


This brings us to his main defense against being called a Marcos apologist by John Nery: “But what I have campaigned for is the recognition of alternate narratives that may have been suppressed by forgetfulness or forcibly silenced by the bullying of bigots.”

But are pro-Marcos narratives petit narratives in the first place? Are they really “alternative narratives suppressed by forgetfulness or forcibly silenced by the bullying of bigots”?

Let’s see. Over 14 million Filipinos voted for Bongbong Marcos in 2016. His YouTube Channel has 263,000 subscribers to date. Episode 1 of “Enrile: A Witness to History” has received 18,000 likes so far. Closer to home, from the 1970s to date, most of my uncles and aunties on both sides of the family still believe

Marcos was a great president. It was his cronies who committed those abuses, they insist. As I wrote in another article, my students last year shared how some of their high school teachers had taught them that the martial law years were the golden age of the Philippines. Despite “the 3,257 killed, the 35,000 tortured and some 70,000 arrested,” despite the legal vindication of the 9,539 martial law victims in 1995, despite the November 2018 Sandiganbayan guilty verdict on Imelda Marcos’ seven counts of graft, no one has gone to jail. Not one. Instead, Marcos was given a hero’s burial on Nov. 18, 2016. A few weeks ago, our sitting Congress passed House Bill No. 7137, declaring Sept. 11 as President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Day in Ilocos Norte.

Could it be that the anti-Marcos narratives are the alternative narratives? Could it be that it is these narratives that are being “suppressed by forgetfulness and forcibly silenced by the bullying of bigots”?

An even more pertinent question to ask is: Why are we, as a country, still torn by such divisiveness when we look at the Marcos past 48 years after?

I’m afraid it is because, as Prof. Randy David has written before, we have yet to complete what the South Africans and the Germans have done. We have yet to finish confronting this dark chapter of our history. For as long as we do not complete this existential act, the ghosts of those who were deprived of justice and remembrance will not let up.


May their ghosts continue to haunt all Filipinos. And may we have more John Nerys and Fr. Aquinos arguing about clashing constructs of the Marcos past, so that someday we may finally master our unmasterable past.

* * *

Von Katindoy teaches and volunteers at Ateneo de Manila University.

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TAGS: Commentary, Ferdinand Marcos, historical revisionism, John Nery, Marcos martial law, Ranhilio Aquino, Von Katindoy
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