RAGE AND COURAGE: Mindanao under martial law (4)

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 September) — On September 21, 2001, exactly 30 years after then President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos issued the Proclamation that changed everyone’s lives, MindaNews launched “Turning Rage into Courage: Mindanao under martial law,” a book of essays written by Mindanawons from different generations, on their experiences under martial law. The book also included poems and songs of the period.

This year, on the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, we asked several Mindanawons to answer six questions to help us tell the story of Mindanao and the Mindanawons under martial law. Here are their answers.

DANIEL ONG, 50
Cotabato City
Civil Peace Service (CPS) personnel at Kadtuntaya Foundation, Inc. (KFI)

1.Where were you when martial was declared in 1972?
I was in our village in Cr. Simuay, Municipality of Sultan Kudarat (formerly Nuling).

2. What were you doing then?
As I can still remember, I was fetching water in a deep well (bomba) located at the center of our barrio that morning. And what serendipity: the long, heavy handle of the well (which I think was installed during Pres. Magsaysay’s administration), fell on Marcial, the village blacksmith, thus severely paralyzing his body.

3. From whom did you learn that martial law had been declared?
From what the villagers call “radio puwak:” That Macoy declared Martial Law, that it’s now “huez de cuchillo.”

4. What was the most dangerous thing you did under martial law?
Many: As a 10-year-old boy then, I experimented making fancy necklaces out of live bullets and even ignored the danger of getting hit by snipers or land mines in joining friends in harvesting corns, peanuts and other crops abandoned by our poor Moro villagers. As a young professional and former NGO worker later, I decided to join the “underground” and “above ground” forces as my contribution in opposing the dictatorship.

5. What was the funniest thing you did under martial law?
As a boy going into the stage of puberty, it was stealthily listening with my playmates (usually under the house when the adults were listening to the program or doing something along with it) to the strictly-for-adults radio program “Verboten!” aired over the local radio program.

6. How did martial law change your life?
Looking back, I think martial law and the violence which accompanied it stole a big and best part of my childhood. But it also taught me the value of being critical, impassioned (on what you believe in), and the importance of remembering so that the long-sought justice would still be rendered to those who suffered and sacrificed most during those dark years. 

FR. AMADO L. PICARDAL, CSsR, 58
Redemptorist Baclaran, Paranaque, Metro Manila
Executive Secretary, CBCP-BEC Committee

1.Where were you when martial was declared in 1972?
In Cebu City

2. What were you doing then?
I will never forget that Saturday morning of Sept 23, 1972. I was a 17-year-old 2nd year college seminarian of St. Alphonsus’ Seminary studying at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City. I was a non-commissioned officer of the ROTC Scout Ranger Company and on that day I was on my way to Camp Lapulapu for our weekend training in counter-insurgency operations. I wore the black Ranger uniform. When I arrived at the camp I noticed that there was a red alert and Army trucks filled with troops were leaving the camp.

3. From whom did you learn that martial law had been declared?
The guard told me to go home – there won’t be any formation. President Marcos had declared martial law. Proclamation 1081 was signed two days earlier. I immediately rushed back to the seminary and hid the reading material and documents considered subversive by the dictatorial regime.

4. What was the most dangerous thing you did under martial law?
More than a year later I was back in Camp Lapulapu as a political prisoner (or detainee- as we were referred to). I was actually arrested on the first anniversary of Martial Law, tortured for a week in Camp Sergio Osmena and after a month in the Lahug Detention Center I was transferred to Camp Lapulapu Detention and Rehabilitation Center. This was to be my home for the next six months. How did I end up here? Well, after the declaration of martial law I became secretly involved with a group struggling against the dictatorial regime. I formed a cell within the seminary and made use of the mimeographing machine to produce anti-martial law leaflets and newsletters. I was involved in writing, producing and distributing these materials. I knew what we were doing was dangerous and I got caught on the first anniversary of martial law.

My experience of torture and detention during martial law was a defining moment in my life. It was a rite of passage – an ordeal. When I went out of prison I was no longer a young boy or adolescent but a man. I became fearless and more committed to the struggle for freedom, justice and human rights. After going through a crisis of faith I became a true believer. And I decided to continue to respond to the call to the priesthood. It also broadened and deepened my understanding of what it means to be a priest – not just leading the Christian community in worship but in denouncing evil in society, proclaiming the Gospel of liberation and working for justice, peace and freedom

This also means living a simple lifestyle and being close to the people – especially the poor. This was exactly how I lived after my ordination several years later.

The tattoo on my left shoulder with the image of a clenched fist with the numbers 1081 is a constant reminder of martial law and how it shaped my life.

GAIL ILAGAN, 45
Davao City
Psychologist

1. Where were you when martial was declared in 1972?
In the sleepy town of San Jose, Antique

2. What were you doing then?
I was in prep and wanting to be an actress. My siblings and cousins took turns standing on the sturdy dining table to sing, dance, declaim, whatever. I was invariably announced as “the sixth number in the program…”

3. From whom did you learn that martial law had been declared?
We had a garrulous neighbor named Marcial. My 9-year-old brother – he was “the fourth number in the program…” – went on top of the table to do an extemporaneous speech. In his best Marcos voice, he boomed: “Therefore I declare that Marcial will not quarrel with our family!”

4. What was the most dangerous thing you did under martial law?
March down the streets of San Jose, Antique with my beloved Religious of the Assumption mentors. We actually brandished placards. Sedately, gracefully, no shouting, no shoving. I don’t remember what my placard said.

5. What was the funniest thing you did under martial law?
I was starting high school at UP Visayas in Iloilo where nobody knew me. There was a pro-Marcos rally. Imelda was going to sing “Kapantay ay Langit” at the PNB courtyard. Soldiers littered the road gutters with KBL (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, Marcos’ political party) stickers. Some of them shouted at me when I started ripping some off in front of the UP gate. Turned out they knew who I was because they served at my dad’s office. He was then R1 (personnel and admin) at RECOM (Regional Command) 6! They backed off. I waved the stickers cheerfully at them. I was like super sikat in campus that day for facing down a squad of armed soldiers. By the end of the day, it sounded like I faced off a hundred.

6. How did martial law change your life?
My dad brought home detained students every now and then for my mom to feed. Or their parents would come to our house to ask about them. I got to talk to the detainees and their family. No one should suffer that way. The state should not do that to its citizens. Anyway, I did get a leg up learning the ropes of processing trauma and helping families recover. (More tomorrow. Those who wish to share their own answers, please email editor@mindanews.com.)

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