An Edsa education
Feb. 25, which marked the 30th anniversary of Edsa I, has come and gone. Yet the big issue to come out of that milestone is made up of haunting questions: Do young Filipinos understand what Edsa I toppled three decades ago? Has the post-Edsa generation been educated on the horrors of martial law and why restitution is imperative?
The children and grandchildren of those who lived through martial law are now of age or about to be, yet they know Edsa only as a traffic-choked thoroughfare marked by malls. Much criticism has been leveled at the educational system for the ignorance of young people about the depredations of Ferdinand Marcos’ one-man rule, so that the cheek of his son and namesake in refusing to acknowledge those evils is largely lost among them, and history is being easily revised to benefit the dictator’s heirs.
“If only the foundation had been instilled for 30 years, then it would be very difficult for social media to change it, as what has happened in the last two or three years,” noted Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, who was among those arrested and tortured during martial law. “Revisionism succeeded because there was a vacuum.”
Touching base with the post-Edsa generation was the goal of the People Power Experiential Museum, which was briefly mounted for free and in time for the 30th Edsa anniversary commemoration. Through cutting-edge audiovisual technology and live actors, the organizers created an immersive platform that had the visitors—most of whom were students—scrambling to record the experience on their smartphones.
“We just wanted to talk to the young and we realized we can’t do this anymore by pictures, texts or lectures, because they don’t like being talked to. They like being talked with,” said Edsa People Power Commission (EPPC) spokesperson Celso Santiago Jr. Open only for two days, the Experiential Museum received such a powerful response that plans are afoot to temporarily remount it at the Quezon City Experience interactive museum before moving it permanently to a planned People Power Museum.
The EPPC also partnered with children’s book publisher Adarna House to release “12:01,” a graphic novel about the martial law curfew.
In the effort to continuously educate the young, the play “Hindi na Muli (Never Again)” was shown last week, with planned reruns. Symbolically staged at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City, the play featured a cast led by National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera; it complemented textbooks, Lumbera said, with its “very graphic set of images” to depict the “atrocities, deception and theft” carried out during the dictatorship.
A private-sector project, “Hindi na Muli” was borne out of its director Bonifacio Ilagan’s “enraged” reaction to Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s run for the vice presidency. “When Marcos Jr. started his campaign, he began spreading lies, and that really enraged me,” said Ilagan, who was detained together with Lumbera during those dark years.
The play deliberately reached out to the young members of the audience. “They appreciated that we were brave and articulate in presenting the issues,” Ilagan said. “They even felt guilty. It’s because they know and they have read about these human rights violations, but they never thought it could be this emotional.”
The efforts of activists and of the group Carmma (Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang) are apparently working. “I value my freedom more now, knowing how hard the situation was before,” said a 15-year-old who took part in the Experiential Museum tour. This is the envisioned result of the many projects aimed at keeping the spirit of Edsa I alive.
Organizers need all the help they can get to keep these projects going. History in action for a generation that needs novelty in learning—it’s a challenge that requires guts, imagination, perseverance, a rage against tyranny and injustice—but also deep pockets. An Edsa education is a challenge for everyone who, on this Easter Sunday, needs to ensure retribution for the injustice of martial law, and that the horrors of the dictatorship will never be resurrected.
“This is a situation where truth has to catch up with lies,” said Colmenares. “Had we been able to establish truth, then it would have been very difficult to perpetuate lies. But the reverse happened; it’s now truth that’s catching up with the lies. That’s one of the worst things that can happen to a country.”
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