‘Dark Memories’

Faces. Their stories. They are just a handful of the tens of thousands who had suffered, witnessed, fought, and survived the tyranny that gripped a nation. Rick Rocamora, veteran documentary photographer, has once again used his roving eye, camera, and busy hands to put together faces and stories in his book “Dark Memories” with the subtitle: “Of torture, incarceration, disappearance, and death under Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr.’s martial law.” On the cover are 20 mugshots in black and white (mine among them) of the 64 featured in the book. Rocamora’s camera does not hide traces of the pain and horror on some of the faces, not to mention the years that have passed since the tyrant fled.

Wrote Julian Christopher Fuchs of the Goethe Institut Philippines (the book’s publisher): “Remembering plays an essential part in constructing the future. Only through a critical treatise of the past can a society move on from past mistakes and build more just and inclusive structures, giving space to everybody to be heard.”

The book’s contents have been part of Rocamora’s roving photo exhibit and the subject of his talks in several educational institutions. If you could not be at the physical exhibit, the book in your hands will suffice and should have a long shelf life that can be a reminder for future generations.

The book opens with multi-awarded poet and scriptwriter Jose F. Lacaba’s 1973 poem “Prometheus Unbound,” the lines beginning with the letters M, A, R, C, O, S, H, I, T, L, E, R, D, I, K, T, A, D, O, R, T, U, T, and A. “Mars shall glow tonight/Artemis is out of sight/Rust is in the twilight sky/Colors a bloodshot eye … “

Here are snippets from accounts that could give a glimpse of what it was like for each of those in the book:

José “Butch” Dalisay Jr.: “When martial law was declared, at age [18], I found myself in prison in Bicutan where I spent more than seven months—the subject of my first novel [20] years later, ‘Killing Time in a Warm Place’ … This veneer of normalcy is what we are continuing to have to unmask and to fight all over again. The disinformation we are battling now began [50] years ago, with the very excuse employed by the State to justify martial law.”

Jo-Ann Q. Maglipon: “Two years later I would be arrested with five other writers, including Bienvenido Lumbera and Ricardo Lee, who would be declared National Artist decades later. At the time, however, there was no recognizing our skill or value, there were only interrogation, humiliation, and torture in Camp Aguinaldo … even family did not know if we were alive or dead … This time, it was not only the day that stood still—the madness would not be over for 14 years. Our lives had been interrupted. We had been taken. A dictator was running the show.”

Rafael Baylosis: “… my penis was squeezed and burned using alternately lighted cigarette butts, and electric wire. My head was drowned in a drum of water. I was also sexually abused and beaten with wood on my chest, arms, hands, and legs.”

Philip Suzara: “On [Oct.] 27, 1980, I was arrested and implicated [as part of] the April 6 Liberation Movement. I was set up in a trap and was tortured in the course of their tactical interrogation.”

Rolando Simbulan: “I was arrested, tortured, and detained for over a year … Early one evening in March 1976, while waiting for a ride at the jeepney stop on the side of Vinzons Hall at [University of the Philippines] Diliman, I was abducted by armed agents of the military who were in civilian clothes, blindfolded at gunpoint at the back seat of an owner-type jeep with a foot pressed on my head to keep me down.”

Carolina S. Malay: “This is what life and the struggle have taught me: That we are all together engaged in a long, continuing journey [toward] building a country, a new world even! That it’s a journey full of sorrows, achievements big and small, joys, enduring friendships, self-realization. And the horizon keeps receding. It keeps beckoning to us to do what it means to be better Filipinos, to be better human beings.”

Oliver Teves: “I took part in the student movement in college and later worked with others outside school against the Marcos dictatorship. In January 1976, I was seized and taken to a military intelligence safehouse where I was beaten black and blue. One of my sadistic tormentors was a muscular, milk-drinking lieutenant in the Philippine Constabulary. He took bizarre pleasure in punching my head repeatedly. In all, I was about a month in two separate safehouses. My family did not know where I was until I was transferred to the stockade for political detainees in Camp Crame.”

Fr. Ben Alforque, MSC: “I was held incommunicado for two weeks, and placed in a dungeon, a room with double rows of iron bars without any electric light … I was forced to witness the torture and sexual harassment of seven farmers from Samar province …The farmers were blindfolded. They were made to face one another and the wall and to throw punches with all their might. They were hitting each other and the wall.”


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