DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 Sep) – Maybe we should ask ourselves that question too: What lesson did we learn from Marcos?
Besides, I’m a Martial Law baby, born two years after it was declared. Many of us grew up within those years of Bagong Lipunan. We are remembering Martial Law’s 49th anniversary on September 21. Why do we want to remember it?
For that, I realize I remember Marcos differently in every stage of my life.
As a Martial Law baby, I remember Marcos shut down every kid’s favorite cartoon, Voltes V. I was puzzled one afternoon when that show didn’t air on TV. I think it was mom who said Marcos stopped that show because it showed violence. It was weird considering other cartoon shows had a coyote falling off the cliff or getting squashed by rocks, or a cat getting smacked while catching a mouse. Besides, what is violent about five siblings powering a robot to beat evil robots made by an evil ruler who imprisoned their scientist dad? That was my first lesson about censorship. You can explain you have the right to watch your show, but someone holds the TV plug.
Fast forward to 1986, I was in Grade 5 when snap elections happened. Marcos vs Ninoy’s widow Cory. I had been shielded from seeing rallies in Davao except for one Yellow Friday rally that we passed by after attending a function. But that election year was an eye-opener.
Adults around said they will vote for Marcos. So when we kids get together we would echo that same sentiment. One schoolmate even said Cory is dumb because she reads her speeches blandly in her sorties, while Marcos was oratorical and spontaneous. One classmate said her father will vote for Cory, we ask why. That time, we thought we should go with the bandwagon.
But there were things that struck me watching both Marcos and Cory on TV. Marcos belittled Cory, saying women are only good in bed. Cory admitted she had no experience… in stealing people’s money, in cheating, and in murdering people. So this is politics. But who’s telling the truth?
Even though truth and politics don’t mix, truth was decided out on the streets. When Comelec and NAMFREL declared different winners, EDSA happened. On TV, General Ver asked Marcos to give him orders to shoot at people in EDSA and Marcos refused. The Marcos inauguration went off air as soldiers took over the TV station. And that was the last image I saw of Marcos that year. The Marcoses fled. Then people went into Malacañang cheering, tearing off portraits of Marcos and Imelda. Then the next few months everyone seemed elated with a Cory presidency. You cannot hear Marcos Pa Rin chants that were popular. You hear Bayan Ko and Handog ng Pilipino.
Maybe what the adults said around me before the election was wrong. And maybe, truth is when people decide what is best for them.
I learned more about our Marcos and our history during college. Beyond watching those documentaries, news and movies about Marcos’s hidden wealth and clinging to power, I met people who were thrown to jail during Martial Law, including three of my teachers. I read poems from writers who were martyred. I learned of Lumad and Moro people losing their ancestral land and people because of land grabbing and military abuses. If history is to be told, let it be told by those who survived it. But despite all this remembering, I still wonder why people still seem to believe Marcos was the best. Some have memories of Marcos feeding the poor through Nutribun, not knowing those pieces of bread were actually donations from the American government to help us fight child malnutrition. Marcos invented credit grabbing, which is still happening now. Some say Marcos was able to build hospitals, power plants, cultural institutions, bridges and roads. But where did he get all that money to build and build? The International Monetary Fund showed that Marcos borrowed as much as $28 billion for these infrastructure projects. This “edifice complex” as one writer calls it, was just made to beautify his 20-year rule. And that buildings and power plants had to be constantly repaired.
Some say that things have gone worse for the country after Cory. And that is sad, because much of the bad things in governance reflects on the legacy that Marcos left. We have governance that is less about competence and is all about smooth talking, pocketing people’s money, covering up wrongs, even silencing questions and buying their own mouthpiece. Can we ever learn? Not when the government scrapped history and Filipino subjects, stuffed curriculum with Korean language, drove citizens crazy trying to survive through lockdowns, unemployment, inflation and red-scare. We couldn’t think of asserting our rights, and we are stuck with Tik-tok and fake news.
And in all this, I remember a friend working with NGOs asked, why do we believe in strongman rule, when a republic is all about strong citizenship?
And one of my teachers detained in Martial Law remembers that he was told being in jail means getting “rehabbed.” But he said until now, many things are wrong with the government, no wonder he doesn’t feel he has rehabbed.
Neither do we. And that’s the lesson I think we need to learn. Marcos still leaves an imprint on our distorted sense of politics that we need to correct.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Tyrone A. Velez is a freelance journalist and writer.)