MANY times when sharing with students some experiences I had during my early years in journalism, I am jolted by the fact that the teens before me can barely relate to me. Perhaps their parents, who were martial law babies, can.
They’re not even what we refer to as the millennials or the Generation Y, or those who reached adulthood at the turn of the century. Some define the millennials as those born between the 80s and 2000s.
What then do we call those born one or two years before and after 2000? Most of my students are in that age bracket. They are children of those born during martial law years.
Because I started schooling at the time martial law was declared, the generation gap between me and my students is obvious.
Anyway, at the start of the second term last week, I wanted to see how they write. I thought about asking them to give a piece of their mind about two of the month’s hot topics on social media: Heneral Luna movie and the AlDub kalyeserye.
But considering that the class fell on the week of the anniversary of martial law, 43 years after 1972, I asked them instead to write briefly what they know and think about martial law and if it is something worth celebrating. Their views are interesting. Here they are (with little editing):
Lance Gabrielle Librorania
Martial law draws a thick line between Filipinos 50 years and older and teenagers who are not as educated of their history as they should be. To me, it was just as vague as a series of pictures depicting extreme oppression, with words like curfew and Cory Aquino not so far behind.
Although it may be an exaggeration to compare those years under Marcos’ dictatorship with the past centuries under foreign rule, anyone with the understanding of martial law as indefinite as that provided by books, made boring by ineffective teachers, that turn lessons so tedious that it makes you loathe history, and you simply end up putting martial law, Cory and Ninoy side by side with Lapu-Lapu, Bonifacio and Luna, as distant as text and pictures you find on history books, only to become as relevant as with the next movie starring your favorite celebrities, or as relevant as the next documentary you’re supposed to make a reaction paper from.
But do take note of why these movies and TV specials are still being produced, and why they should not cease doing this. This is less about celebrating the end of that dark era, and more on educating people about their history. The perfect quote would be: those who do not know their history tend to repeat it. Forget about how your history teacher made Marcos so unintimidating because you just slept through lessons about him, learn how terrible it was to live under oppressive rule, and look for the signs to avoid in choosing our next leader.
And it should scare us how there is still indifference in issues such as Marcos and the martial law. These people can soon cast their votes, and they are lacking awareness on how much power they can grant to an aspiring tyrant.
Today, martial law becomes nothing more than a reminder of what happens when people just sit back and let those in power do everything in their power to stay in power. But the end of martial law, or how it ended, is the reminder of what a collected consciousness can do against tyrants and threats to a nation’s liberty.
Princess Eunice Tejano
As a teenager, I did not get a chance to experience martial law. I only learned about it from stories I heard and read. I know it’s something that we shouldn’t allow to happen again. So today, I honor many Filipinos who fought for our freedom. I thank God because for some reason, I’m able to exercise the freedom that every Filipino wanted after Marcos declared martial law.
I haven’t seen or read books about how hard it was for Filipinos under martial law so I don’t really have much idea about it. I ended up asking adults who experienced it. Every time I ask my father and my grandmother about martial law, they would say that it was really difficult under a dictatorship. They couldn’t even voice out their opinions because they might be jailed or killed.
It is a good thing that my professor Dr. Bayani Santos Jr. shared his experiences to us. He said that they were not able to go outside at night because of the curfew and everyone caught outside could end up in jail.
Some were angry at Marcos because they were affected, and that they know somebody who was involved or abused under martial law. Until now, I realized that martial law is very tragic to the Philippines. I can feel the pain through the stories they were telling me, through the scars they have, and for the things and people they lost under martial law.
The end of martial law is worth celebrating because it makes us remember the end of sufferings and the pain of every Filipino during that era that will never be forgotten.
Martial law was declared in 1972 by Ferdinand Marcos. His intention was to save the Republic and to create a “New Society,” which I think was very selfish and cruel. The law was obviously not imposed for the good of the people. It was one of the biggest lies ever. When our country was under this law, the Filipinos were robbed of their freedom. Anybody who shows hatred towards the government could wind up as a prisoner or could just vanish.
Corruption was also present during this time, and poverty increased from 24 percent in 1974 to 40 percent in 1980.
Based on my observation, Marcos used his power for his own good, not for the people. As for my opinion, this part of our history should not be celebrated but should only be remembered.
For me, as a part of a millennial generation, I only have a scant knowledge about what really happened in the period of the martial law regime, given the fact that I was not born yet in those years.
During my secondary years, I thought the Marcos regime was the “Golden Era” of the Philippines because, according to our textbooks, the Marcos administration did shape the Philippine economy into a tiger economy of Asia, and that he had a great ambition for the country.
As years pass by, my curiosity grew, so I started to delve and read about the Marcos regime from some notable writers, politicians, and activists that survived and are a testament to the tyranny that they experienced during martial law. One of the books that I read was the Conjugal Dictatorship by Primitivo Mijares, Marcos’ right hand man and a press censor.
His story is fascinating and a turning point…from being a loyal friend to one of Marcos’ worst enemies. He also testified boldly about the conjugal dictatorship led by the Marcoses at the US Congress. But after his testimony, he suddenly disappeared. Until now, no one knows where he is.
After I read the book of Mijares, my view on martial law suddenly changed. Also, that did not stop me from reading. I researched from the very beginning of the Marcos administration. I learned that all of the press were controlled and dictated by Marcos and some revolutions were planned by the administration just to divert public attention.
In conclusion, from my frame of reference, I thought martial law is indeed a tyrannical form of government that only Marcos’ cronies benefited from his collected wealth from the Filipino people. It should be taught as a lesson for my generation that the Marcos framework of government is a bad practice, that it is okay for me to have a due process than a conjugal dictatorship that demoralized the mind of the individuals.
It is sad for our generation today that few people would engage on reading about how Marcos really had done to our nation. Some would rather say that Marcos was a hero that should be made as a role model for the future leaders of our country. How come? If it was not for him, our country would not have been set back for 20 years and that we would not pay for such a huge amount of debt.
Marcos did a great job being the president on his first term. All establishments that he made are still useful to our generation. It’s just that he overused his power, without thinking of the effect on society and the people. Maybe he just wanted us to be well disciplined, but sadly the Filipinos didn’t want the way he managed it.
After many years, martial law still affects us. Some Filipinos have traumatic experience from it and they don’t want it to happen again. But I wonder how we can be well disciplined if we are not following rules? Does martial law need to happen again so we can change? But at the end of the day, the decision is up to us. We need to cooperate for change.
Martial law should be commemorated because it is one of the unforgettable events that we have in history although many of its memories still haunt some people.