DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 February) — They were in their 20s and 30s then, these church and social development workers of the turbulent 1970s. And they worked in different offices in the wooden, two-storey Susana Building along J.P. Laurel Avenue here that was constantly under surveillance by the Marcos dictatorship. And raided.
Now in their 60s and 70s and still activists in their respective fields, they have finally put into writing that period in history in an anthology, “O Susana! The Untold Stories of Martial Law in Davao,” so that the present and future generations “have an idea how oppressive martial rule was, and to share our reflections on how those times have greatly influenced what we have become.”
“This has taken on a greater importance with the current attempt to deodorize the Marcos dictatorship, as you very well know,” Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar said in his invitation letter on the launching of the book. Gaspar was among thousands of political detainees under the Marcos dictatorship.
The book, which also features stories across Mindanao during that period, is edited by historian and Palanca awardee Mac Tiu (also a political detainee under martial law). It will be launched on Friday, February 19 at 3 to 5 p.m. at F213, Finster Building, Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU). The book’s publisher is ADDU’s University Publication Office where Tiu is the Director.
In his letter, Gaspar recalled that “more than 30 of us writers who were part of this network of human rights activists” during martial law held office in the Susana Building along JP Laurel Avenue, among them the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference Secretariat where Gaspar served as Executive Secretary, the Mindanao-Sulu Secretariat of Social Action, the Philippine Business for Social progress, the Foundation of the Banana Planters, Inc., the Mindanao-Sulu Conference for Justice and Development, the Citizens’ Council for Justice and Peace and the Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao.
He said the building was “constantly under the surveillance of the agents of Marcos’ authoritarian rule and in fact there were a few raids that took place” there.
When the Marcos dictatorship was toppled by the People Power revolt on February 25, 1986, most of the Susana Building’s occupants “remained actively engaged in various social and ecological advocacies.”
They continued to “interact given our sustained commitment to justice, peace and the integrity of creation” and attend reunions and would often talk about this dream book project.
The decision to make that dream book a reality finally came during a reunion two years ago.
Forty-five essays written by 34 authors are featured in the book. Aside from Gaspar, the other authors Lilian Abella, Marilen Abesamis, Elvira Ang Sinco, Joey Ayala (his songs from that period), Lourdes Badelles, Amelita “Melot” Balisalisa, Leon Bolcan, Alberto Cacayan, Agnes Miclat-Cacayan, Joaquin Cadorna, Marilou B. Caharian, Orlando Carvajal, Avelina Baliong-Engen, Antonio Ll. Ferrer, Dorothy Friesen, Jeanette Birondo-Goddard, Remedios Arquiza-Guillena, Jehovenn Honculada, Rebecca Jolito, Daz Lamparas, Herminio Lavina, Cesar Ledesma, Flora S. Leocadio, Fr. Tom Marti, MM, Earl Martin, Teresa Naraval, Iluminada Ramoso, Leila Noel-Rispens, Wilfredo “Nonoy” Rodriguez, Jacquelyn Schramm, Gene Stolfus, Ma. Lourdes Tiangco and Florante Villas.
Tiangco, development worker and theatre artist, refers to “O Susana” as a “makasysayang libro” (historic book).
“Layunin ng libro na maibahagi ang aming mga karanasan at maimulat ang kilabot ng martial law at maging gabay sa ating mga Pilipino, lalong lao na sa mga kabataan at sa mga henerasyon sa susunod na panahon. na maging mapagbantay at muli’t muli, ating tutulan ang pagbabalik ng martial law!” (The book aims to share our experiences, to make the people aware about the horrors of martial law, and to guide the Filipino people, especially the youth and the generations to follow, to guard against, and oppose a return to martial law!), she said.
Tiu, the book’s editor, wrote in his introduction that while reading the stories, he “immediately saw their historical value in showing, on the one hand, the arbitrariness and brutality of the Marcos Dictatorship (1972-1986), and on the other hand, the silent courage of church and ordinary folks in Mindanao in defying Martial Law.”
“These are stories of people who chose to work aboveground when Martial Law was declared, as distinguished from those who worked underground or fought in the countryside. But as their stories demonstrate, working aboveground was no easy matter, either, as the aboveground spaces were not only suffocating but also very dangerous,” Tiu said.
He said the stories need to be told and retold and radiated throughout the country because “revisionist histories are being written that seek to glorify the Marcos Dictatorship.”
“Already we are hearing naïve views from some younger generations stating that the Marcos Dictatorship did good for the country. These alarming views are abetted no doubt by the fact that the successive elite democratic governments have been utter failures in stemming unbridled government corruption and in solving shameful poverty in our midst. Our deceived youth need to be told, though, that in the first place, Martial Law was responsible for this sorry state of the nation,” Tiu wrote.
“O Susana,” he emphasized, is “truly a powerful weapon against deception and forgetting.”
Tiangco says the book costs Php 450 but launch price is Php 350.