The tickets for the UAAP semifinal basketball game between FEU and Ateneo on Nov. 30 are still on my table.
In the morning of that day I was calling friends who had reason to watch the game, but they all said thanks, but they would be at the rallies.
Sure, there’s bias in my “sample” here because my friends share my sentiments about The Burial. But I was still encouraged to see there were diehard UAAP basketball fans who were giving up an important game and choosing to be at the People Power Monument or the Bantayog ng mga Bayani to mark Bonifacio Day.
I was in a dilemma myself, having planned to spend the day with my father, who has not been well—but he jumped the gun on me and asked if I was going to be in the streets. What a change from my early years in college, 1970 into 1972, when he would sternly warn me not to attend rallies. (My mother, like other mothers, was more understanding, saying she preferred I didn’t go but if I did, to be careful.)
After martial law was declared, my parents didn’t have to worry about rallies because of a ban on all forms of protest actions. But on Oct. 24, 1975, La Tondeña workers and their sympathizers, mostly religious and students, made history by defying the ban with a strike and rally.
Even activists of that era probably don’t remember that historic action that dared to challenge martial law. After La Tondeña, there was a slow crescendo of protest actions that peaked through the years, culminating in the outpouring of grief and anger after Ninoy Aquino’s assassination in 1983, and the Edsa revolt of 1986.
I thought about all those years as I made my way to Edsa on Nov. 30. On the stage with Ateneo de Manila president Fr. Jett Villarin and De La Salle Philippines president Br. Jose Mari Jimenez, I scanned the crowd and the flags of different schools (La Salle and Ateneo side by side!) and also the rainbow flag of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community. There were young and slightly older people present, and if any of you know any older demonstrator than anthropologist-professor Mary Racelis, who is 84, please let me know.
Many of the protest placards had a bit of humor, including the now famous “Hukayin!” I’ll translate with a little story. Two weeks earlier, on Katipunan, the protesters’ class differences were reflected in their placards: Some read “Hukayin” and others, “Dig him up.”
Actually, I’m not too keen on exhuming Marcos’ remains. Let the poor dictator be. It’s bad enough that his supposed corpse had to be put on refrigerated display for some two decades, less to be venerated than to be gawked at like some figure in a wax museum. Now that his remains have gate-crashed a cemetery for heroes, the authorities will have to put 24-hour guards—think of them as bouncers—around his grave.
We’re a nation obsessed with digging—for Yamashita’s lost treasure, for Marcos’ lost treasure (part of it stolen, the stories say, from Yamashita), and now, for the remains of Marcos himself. The necropolitics will die down; let’s move on and dig for truth instead.
There’s been much talk about historical revisionism, meaning historical facts being twisted, and history books being rewritten. My take on this, being based in a university, is that the threat of revisionism is more serious because we do not even have adequate documentation of what happened during the Marcos era.
This digging for the truth is not a task for historians alone. After an alliance of educators was launched last week—“No Erasures” is the tentative name—I began to think about what needed to be done in getting the many untold stories especially from marginalized sectors. A few weeks earlier, some 3,000 national minorities camped out in UP Diliman and told their stories, including those going back to the 1970s. I had heard stories of brutalities perpetrated by the martial law regime in Muslim areas, but did not know the scale of these assaults, from the butchering of pigs in mosques and burning of communities to plunder and rape.
Collecting these accounts will not be easy. There are ethical rules to be observed when one interviews people who went through the traumas of war. Psychologists have to be on hand to provide support, and training for communities to handle psychosocial needs after the researchers leave.
We have to dig up stories of not just atrocities but also of resistance. In 1975, I was sent out together with student volunteers to Mountain Province, and on the first day I met the mayor, who I had imagined was some stern warlord. Instead I met an elderly farmer, a man of few words.
But there was more to this quiet farmer. I learned that on the first day when I had to use the toilet, and discovered that for toilet paper the mayor had kindly stocked up on propaganda materials of the KBL (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan), Marcos’ political party.
Truth-digging will need anthropologists, psychologists and other social scientists, as well as people from the arts and humanities. I did talk as well to faculty from the arts, challenging them to do an evaluation of the martial law edifices: the Cultural Center, Folk Arts Theater, Film Center. Likewise, my fellow health professionals need to take a step back and look at the Heart Center, Lung Center and other specialist centers, all products of Imelda Marcos’ edifice complex.
History will remain dry and irrelevant for our students if we do not bring in the human element. In this age of social media, the young will want more than text-heavy books. They need to see the photographs, hear the sounds, and come close to feeling what had happened, captured in narratives from those who went through martial law. Talk about the atrocities, the resistance, but set these as well in the everyday life of ordinary people, including how they survived the economic crisis of 1983-86. The UP School of Economics issued a “white paper” documenting the economic disaster that martial law had caused; I would like students to see that “white paper” reissued with more annotations from today’s economists.
We lost many opportunities to document World War II and the Japanese Occupation; let’s not allow that to happen with martial law.
And to my young readers, thank you for joining the lolos and lolas in the streets. You have assured us that truth will prevail because you will write, you will make our history.
Dig, man, dig! Hukayin!
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