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The North must remember

My sister was born on Feb. 25, 1989. Our relatives in Manila often called her “Edsa,” after the celebrated avenue in Metro Manila that hosted the People Power revolution in February 1986. But my mother, a public school teacher, would vehemently lecture me and my sister against using the name, saying it’s a reminder of a grim past, of a “useless” Manila revolution. So my sister was called “Edsa” in Manila and by her real name in our native Isabela.

People from our province call themselves Ilocano despite a variety of languages used in Isabela. The same goes with the people from the provinces of Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan and Tarlac. An attachment to the “supreme” language is necessary. Despite being an Ibanag with roots in Gamu, Isabela, my mom loved to be called Ilocano. We take pride in being Ilocano, as we take pride in calling Ferdinand Marcos “Apo,” an Ilocano term of endearment for the elderly.

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The animosity toward Marcos was new to me when I began studying at the University of the Philippines Baguio. After all, I was trained to be a public speaker with a dream of becoming an eloquent politician like Apo Marcos. My teachers often claimed that he was the only president whose speeches were all impromptu. Back at home, he was a superhero, an Ilocano pride.

When I became an activist, the organizations I joined introduced me to the plight of the indigenous peoples—the issues of land grabbing, military harassment, and cultural prejudice, among many others.

I read about Macli-ing Dulag, a Kalinga leader who was killed after staunchly opposing the Marcos administration’s construction of the Chico River Dam. On Facebook, I posted Dulag’s photo and commended the Igorot people for fighting for their ancestral domain against the dictator and his forces. My father responded to my post, claiming that Marcos’ only intention was to improve agricultural lands and consequently to increase farm yield. For him, the project’s loss was a loss for his fellow Isabela farmers. He recited a litany of the infrastructure projects of the dictator—the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Philippine International Convention Center, the San Juanico Bridge, etc. Little did my father know that these extravagant projects were built from debts that his son down to his great-great-grandsons would have to pay.

I’ve noticed that some kind of anesthesia makes the Ilocano people numb to the atrocities under the Marcos regime. The killing, torture, rape and disappearances during martial law are still being justified for the imagined kinship with the late dictator. They believe that Ilocano blood is thicker than the blood spilled for democracy.

I tested the so-called Ilocano bond while doing community work in Mindanao. A number of families have migrated to the southernmost region of the country because of the difficult life in Ilocandia. The land they tilled in the North was arid and could only support limited life. I found that aside from the commonality of language, there was nothing to bind us. The same goes with the Kapampangan, Bicolano, Bisaya and other ethnolinguistic groups in the country. You might initially find comfort when you see Filipinos overseas, but this does not make all of them trustworthy.

Today, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is running for vice president. There is a clamor from the Ilocano people in the North to support him. To my great disappointment, the man is even leading in the surveys. I’m constantly postponing my visit home because of the fear that my schoolmates might turn into enemies, friendly debates into hostile arguments, and dining tables into cockpit arenas.

Nevertheless, I have vowed to change the paradigm in Isabela, starting with my family. I will present to them a new perspective in understanding the country’s grim history.

I do not believe in the claim of a Solid North. For one, Isabela, Kalinga, Abra, Cagayan, Quirino and Nueva Ecija have been home to many hideouts of the New People’s Army. While political dynasties thrive in our land, we have extreme leftists waging war. No one can monopolize power.

I do not believe in the claim of a Solid North. The Ilocano people do not condone homogeneity. From our land hail heroes representing all colors of the political spectrum— Jose Maria Sison, Conrad Balweg, Raul Manglapus, Sonny Alvarez, Grace Padaca, Bishop Francisco Claver, Fidel V. Ramos, and many others. We never run out of opinion leaders who can topple power-addicted rulers.

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I do not believe in the claim of a Solid North. I strongly deny that the beautiful and intelligent people of Northern Luzon can be reduced to one authoritarian principle. Back there, we face extreme conditions. The scorching heat of the sun and the raging winds of typhoons have required us to be smart, diligent and resilient. We are more than a vestigial limb of the iron fist. We are a people who are required by the harsh conditions of our environment to discern our actions first before opening our mouths.

To our fellow Filipinos, help us realize that our region is on the wrong side of history. As Northerners in “Game of Thrones” constantly remind others of the betrayal that destroyed their land, we say: The North must remember.

Heinrich Domingo, 22, critiques movies on www.cinetactic.com. He is a communication graduate and a student leader at the University of the Philippines Baguio.

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TAGS: Bongbong Marcos, Edsa People Power Revolution, Elections 2016, Ferdinand Marcos, martial law, Solid North
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