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Forty years hence

/ 10:50 PM August 31, 2012

SEPT. 21 marks the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, and true to form, media organizations have been calling the Eggie Apostol Foundation to request permission to use footage from our landmark video documentary “Batas Militar.” Political science and history students doing research on martial law have been reaching out to us as well.

Our reply has always been that they are welcome to use the footage they need for their own video productions, provided that they run the acknowledgement “Footage from ‘Batas Militar’ courtesy of the Eggie Apostol Foundation” preferably as a runner every time the footage appears onscreen.

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In the midst of this renewed media interest in martial law, it occurred to me that almost all of the researchers who were getting in touch with us by phone or by e-mail, particularly those from national television, were born after 1986. Were it not for the Eggie Apostol Foundation’s education reform advocacy, I would have been appalled at their very superficial appreciation of the impact of martial law on Philippine society and culture.

As it is, I am the least bit surprised because I know for a fact that history is not being taught as it should be in our schools. I recall that at one conference on the Department of Education’s Schools First Initiative with then Education Secretary Butch Abad, the late Mario Taguiwalo was outlining how DepEd would strengthen instruction in English, science and math as these were seen as critical 21st-century competencies.

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I asked why there was no equal emphasis on history, given the fact that our Constitution cites education as a primary vehicle for affirming our national culture and identity. I also pointed out that in countries with high-performing education systems, inculcating a strong sense of legacy in students was a matter of national policy. It mattered less whether the country was democratic or authoritarian. What was important was that the schools were instrumental in forming and strengthening in their young learners positive civic values such as citizenship and patriotic duty, aside from the usual competencies. The result was that their graduates became “citizens with purpose and vision,” in the words of Eggie Apostol. The only response I got back then at that meeting was that English, science and math were the priorities. Fortunately, though, the new K-to-12 curriculum as it unfolds now is an attempt to address this issue.

Of course, this by no means will be easy. Just take a look at our history books. Never mind the litany of so-called historical trivia like the national bird, costume, language, food ad nauseam, some of which are outright erroneous, and the emphasis on dates and places rather than on how events unfolded. Martial law in particular is never presented as a multifaceted social upheaval that students need to investigate on their own more deeply to be understood fully. Rather, most likely as a matter of expediency, it is simply explained away as a necessity that the Marcos dictatorship had to resort to because the country was in imminent danger. The noted historian Ma. Serena Diokno writes: “Here, then, is one difference between history and school history. Historians ordinarily take positions; textbook authors rarely do. The nature of historical knowledge is to interrogate and evaluate statements that are uttered, not to accept them at face value. Yet history textbooks, perhaps in a desire to be inoffensive, avoid the exciting (and controversial) questions in history that stimulate the intellectual appetite and develop the mind. Without the hedges that historians make through the careful use of such words as ‘might,’ ‘could,’ ‘appear,’ or ‘probably,’ textbooks heighten the perception that history is merely about knowing the facts.”

And now for a bit of good news for all researchers, students of history and politics, and anyone else who just wants to deepen their personal insight on martial law and People Power: We still produce DVDs of our video documentaries, namely “Batas Militar,” “Lakas Sambayanan” and “Beyond Conspiracy: The Ninoy Aquino Assassination,” albeit in very limited number. You may e-mail us at the address below.

However, researchers who are trying to beat a submission deadline may view the documentaries in high-quality video on YouTube on the NinoyAquinoTV channel. Again, proper attribution to the Eggie Apostol Foundation must be made for any footage used.

Meanwhile, researchers who need more in-depth analysis of both martial law and the Edsa Revolution will welcome this latest development: We will be uploading “Looking Back, Looking Forward” as an eBook. Edited by Lorna Kalaw Tirol, this book contains scholarly assessments written by some of the Philippines’ most knowledgeable social, economic and political analysts—Jose V. Abueva, Belinda Aquino, Ma. Cynthia Rose Bautista, Rev. John J. Carroll, SJ, Ma. Serena Diokno, Amando Doronila, Melinda Quintos de Jesus, Felipe B. Miranda, Joel Rocamora and Rigoberto Tiglao.

Lastly, but definitely not the least, we are almost done with converting the out-of-print but much-sought after “Dead Aim: How Marcos Ambushed Democracy” by Conrado de Quiros into an eBook. This important historical account, together with “Looking Back, Looking Forward,” will be available at our website (www.fwwpp.org) sometime next week.

Butch Hernandez ([email protected]) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: `batas militar’, Butch Hernandez, Eggie Apostol Foundation, martial law
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