3 books that every Filipino should read

EVERY FILIPINO with a sense of history should read three books about the dark days of Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship, which lasted from 1972 to 1986. The Marcos family then lived in style, especially then First Lady Imelda Marcos. Meanwhile, people who opposed the regime were subjected to torture and disappearing from the face of the earth.

The first book is published by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) in cooperation with the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation Inc. The work involved the labor of 23 researchers who worked under the guidance of Carolina S. Malay, chief editor and writer, with the assistance of Ma. Cristina V. Rodriguez, writer and
managing editor.


The materials for the book, according to the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, came from its archives and interviews with relatives, friends and colleagues of the heroes and martyrs, as well as materials from secondary sources and websites maintained by the Jose Diokno Foundation and the Lorenzo Tañada Foundation.

The NHCP under the leadership of Maria Serena I. Diokno made the publication and dissemination of this book possible. This book, the introduction asserts, hopes to keep the memory of those who “lived and died for the sake of freedom and justice in the Philippines.” The title of the book says it all: “Ang mamatay nang dahil sa ‘yo.”


The book tells the story of the heroes and martyrs of the Filipino people who struggled against the Marcos dictatorship during the terrible years of 1972-1986. These martyrs came from all walks of life—students, farmers, religious. Some came from the middle class, the well-to-do, the poor. Many of them suffered, were imprisoned and tortured by the military and the police. Some were never seen again—the so-called desaparecidos, buried in some unknown grave.

Fr. Nilo Valerio was killed together with two women, their bodies dumped in a single grave after being beheaded and their heads attached to poles and paraded around several villages.

There are 225 martyrs whose stories are told in this collection. All these crimes were committed by Marcos’ minions: the military, the police, the constabulary and the paramilitary groups.

* * *

The second must-read book is titled “Thirty Years Later: Catching up with the Marcos-Era Crimes.” It was written, according to the author Myles A. Garcia, to remind the Filipino people, especially the new young voters, of the dangers of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s candidacy and “the waste and turmoil left behind by the illegitimate twenty-year rule of Junior’s parents.”

Garcia shares with the reader the works that expose the Marcos illegitimacy. One was the work of Primitivo Mijares titled “The Conjugal Dictatorship.” Having been an insider in the Marcos administration, Mijares became “extremely dissatisfied with the wholesale corruption of the regime.” Marcos did not allow Mijares to get away with his exposé. His son was “tortured, brutally mutilated and killed.” As for Mijares himself, he was lured into going on a helicopter ride and was pushed overboard into the ocean.

There were other books, the author tells us, like “Some Are Smarter Than Others,” which is a comprehensive listing and exposé of the “wholesale rape of the Philippine corporate structure.” There is another book by Carmen Navarro Pedrosa titled “The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos.”


The author of “Thirty Years After” lists many names in the corporate world in one of his chapters, “The Oldie-garchs v. the Crony-garchs.” There are other exposés. Those of us who live in our narrow world of family and close friends would do well to read about the corruption going on in the wider world of business and finance. But the heart of the book focuses on “the more outrageous Marcos shenanigans revealed for the first time.” And about Imelda’s clandestine art, jewelry, Manhattan real estate purchase and jet setting of 20 years. In the eighth chapter of his book, the author tells us about the major players of the whole “Marcos saga” and what has become of them.

Caroline Kennedy, who read Garcia’s book, remarks that if Imelda or Bongbong were to set foot in the United States, they would be apprehended for failing to abide by a $2-billion judgment by a US Court in favor of victims of human rights violations by Marcos. Moreover, Bongbong and Imelda are incurring fines of $100,000 per day for noncompliance of the ruling and a further $353.6$ million for contempt of court. Two of Imelda’s friends,
Glecy Tantoco and Vilma Bautista, had both been sentenced to prison.

* * *

The third book is titled “Women Against Marcos: Stories of Filipino and Filipino-American Women Who Fought A Dictatorship” by Mila de Guzman.

This book is based on interviews with Mila Aguilar, Geline Avila, Aurora Javate de Jesus, Cindy Domingo, Mary John Mananzan and Aida Santos.

These personal stories are “powerful testimonies of both individual conviction and collective struggle, involvement, sacrifice and victories against the world’s most infamous late 20th century dictatorship” according to Marcia Gallo, professor of history at the University of Nevada and president of the South Oral History Association. Of greater importance, she says, was the success of the trial of the Domingo-Viernes civil rights case, which is highly significant for the social justice movement.

Estela Habal , professor emeritus of the Department of Sociology at San Jose University, comments that the book is “vivid, compelling and filled with powerful insights, women’s participation…”

Walden Bello has this to say about the role of women: Women played an important part in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship that ruled in the Philippines for 14 bloody years—1972 to 1986. The struggle of the women involved courage, sacrifice and suffering. Mila de Guzman tells us about the many unsung heroines and how they fulfilled their appointment with destiny.

Helen N. Mendoza, PhD, is a retired English professor at the University of the Philippines.

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