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See you at Rizal Park

/ 12:12 AM August 14, 2016

I always knew we were poor at remembering, but never realized how bereft we were of memory until many of us conceded to the planned burial of Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. It surprises me that many people are agreeing so readily to this arrangement on account of the lowest common denominators: He was a president and a soldier. Never mind his falsified service records, the debt he incurred that we ALL have had to pay, and the institutions he broke to his advantage. Never mind also that there is evidence, actual proof, to back these claims.

The die is cast. The administration will see to it that he is buried at the Libingan. Our gracious President Duterte has even offered a monthlong permit for dissenters to organize and mount mass actions. Imagine? How sweet of you, Sir. Thank you for the opportunity, but I don’t recall needing your permission to protest this. Neither did it occur to me that burying Marcos at the Libingan was a decision you alone could make.

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I recognize the power vested in your office to orchestrate this burial, but I must say that you have cheapened your moral authority by agreeing to this burial on account of political concessions you have chosen to afford the Marcos family. Granted, you are being true to a promise you made to the dictator’s son. But let the record show that your actions clearly indicate your choice to serve only a few, and not the interests of the Filipino people who all had to endure martial law. I wonder what moves like this mean in light of your fight against the oligarchs who have pillaged our nation?

I came to know the term, “oligarch,” in fifth grade, and it was Ferdinand Marcos and his family whom we studied to gain an understanding of what it meant. After all, didn’t they lay waste to this land by empowering other oligarchs, weakening the political class, and making the military a private army? As if he were not content with that, Marcos also deprived Filipinos of their rights to life and liberty. I wish I were making this up but I am not, and I would gladly furnish you with a copy of the books and documents where these items are cited and argued ad nauseam. Those close to you, whom I know, say that you know your history and that you read a lot. I want to believe them. If your inaugural address is anything to go by, it heartened me to know that you have read and taken cues from F. Sionil José. But now I must ask: Have you really? Have you read enough to know by heart that which Manong Frankie always says, “Justice is the measure”?

Is this the “revolution” you wrote recently about, Manong Frankie? If it is, I hope you are at peace with the reality that you may spend eternity in the same hallowed ground as Marcos. I cannot help but think of Pepe Samson, and your friends, Eman Lacaba, Alejo and Irwin Nicanor, and all the youth who sacrificed their lives during those dark times. The burial of Marcos at the Libingan is another feather in our cap of failed revolutions, Manong. I find it unacceptable that we allow this kind of treason to flourish just because we are so desperate for change. I believe in the spirit that won this President his election, but unless he taps into that and rallies people toward a freer nation where every citizen has rights and contributes more than follows his every whim and fancy, then I don’t buy that he is a revolutionary. He may as yet betray us, and that would be a shame.

Today, Aug. 14, a citizens’ assembly will take place at Rizal Park from 8 a.m. to 12 noon, to peacefully express collective dismay over the planned burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Join us if you believe, as we do, that this man does not deserve a hero’s burial for the following reasons:

´ He is no hero because his medals are fake and his war records are fabricated.

´ He plundered the nation’s coffers and left us in debt.

´ He ordered the torture, detention, disappearance and death of thousands who questioned his rule.

If you are not in Manila but would like to participate in this protest action, gather your community, no matter how small. Signify your dissent. Spend some moments remembering families, friends, and acquaintances whom we lost during those years.

I am told that there is no strategic purpose any more to this gathering. I am told: “There is nothing you can do. This is what the President wants. He is paying debts accrued during the election campaign. There are more pressing matters worth our attention.” I am told that coming together will be futile, and so why bother?

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I do not want to argue anymore. Instead, I just want to appeal to those willing and able to please come.

Personally, I want to use the time in Rizal Park as an opportunity to connect with survivors of martial law. I want to be present to them, to protest by way of remembering. I want to look them in the eye, smile, and say, “Don’t worry. I see you. I have not forgotten, and I never will.” I want to offer some silence for the disappeared, who did not get the honor of being buried with markers in place for their families to remember them by. I want to extend my gratitude for their lives that were snuffed out so I could taste freedom and not know fear.

What do I know about martial law? I’m a millennial. I was not there. I did not have the privilege of winning our freedom by resisting the dictatorship. I have only my youth and the burden of memory.

But you know, in the course of my interaction with martial law survivors and families, I have been thinking. Some of these people who fought Marcos so deliberately could not have been older than I am today. In fact, many were much younger. When I think about them and read up on their lives, I feel the energy that compelled them to fight course through my being. I forget that this is a burden and I’m encouraged by their commitment and by their example. They had a willingness to imagine this nation beyond the politics of fear, and they chose to speak and act in those times when it was more convenient not to.

Perhaps this is where I am? Perhaps this is where I will always choose to be for as long as I live and for as long as I love this sad republic of ours? Perhaps this is also why I will see you today, this morning, at Rizal Park, close to Lapu-Lapu?

A friend put it best: We have a date with history. I intend to show up, and I hope you will, too.

Nash Tysmans, 28, is a teacher and community worker.

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TAGS: F. Sionil Jose, Ferdinand Marcos, Libingan ng mga Bayani, Protest, Rizal Park
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