Forbidden Memory: “the greatest Marcos horror story never told” wins Best Documentary

DAVAO CITY (MindNews/21 November) –  “Forbidden Memory,” a film on the 1974 Malisbong Massacre which has been dubbed by multi-awarded Moro filmmaker Gutierrez “Teng” Mangansakan as “the greatest Marcos horror story never told,” won Sunday the Best Documentary at the Cinema  One Originals Film Festival, the film cited for delivering “the powerful and inescapable truth that Ferdinand Marcos was not a hero.”

“At a time in this nation when the very real horrors of our history are being ignored and disregarded by even those in the highest reaches of the government, the jury awards the best documentary prize to an unadorned portrait of one of the most horrific, yet overlooked tragedies that took place during Marial Law,” the citation reads.

“In giving voice to the survivors of the Malisbong Massacre, in documenting their pain and their anger for future generations to hear and experience, Gutierrez Mangansakan’s Forbidden Memory transcends aesthetics to plainly deliver the powerful and inescapable truth that Ferdinand Marcos was not a hero.”

21teng11Mangansakan told MindaNews he did not expect to win the award. “When I set out to make the film, I told myself that my artist’s ego must take a backseat to give the stories of the survivors their moment. So that film is a simple unembellished telling of the dark years of Martial Law. But I guess its rawness is its strength. The power of the film lies in the storytelling.”

On November 19, Mangansakan invited President Rodrigo Duterte through a short letter posted on his Facebook wall, to watch his movie, in response to the President’s statement in Lima, Peru that he was “just being literally strict” about following the law to allow the burial of the remains of the deposed dictator Ferdinand Edralin Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery), and that “whether or not (Marcos) performed worse or better” as President, “there is no study, there is no movie about it. It’s just the challenges and allegations of the other side which is not enough.”

“I made a film on the Martial Law and how it resulted to the genocide of more than 1,500 men, women and children in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat province. It’s called Forbidden Memory and it premiered last night in Cinema One Originals Film Festival,” Mangansakan wrote Duterte. (Read: 1974 Malisbong Massacre memorialized in  “Forbidden Memory” film. Nov. 16)

He also listed the screening times of the film: November 20 at Cinematheque Manila at 11 a.m. and at Trinoma at 2:30 p.m; November 21, at the Gateway Cinema I at 9 p.m. and November 22 at the Glorietta Cinema 1 at 5 p.m.

“I am inviting you to come and watch,” Mangansakan said, adding a postscript:  “Bring Bongbong, Imee, Irene and the rest of the Marcos clan.”


Marcos was elected President in 1965. At that time, the Constitution provided for a four-year term with only one reelection. Marcos was reelected in 1969 and was supposed to end his second and last term in 1973 but he declared martial law in September 1972, acted as dictator and was ousted in February 1986.

Within the 14-year dictatorship, human rights violations were rampant, poverty was widespread but the Marcoses and their cronies lived lavish lifestyles.  

17forbidden11The September 1974 “Malisbong Massacre” has been memorialized in Mangansakan’s film. It took government 40 years — in September 2014 – to  officially acknowledge the atrocity happened. Then Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Etta Rosales visited the area and CHR personnel assisted relatives of the victims and survivors to file their claims before the Human Rights Victims Claims Board.  (Read: Moro filmmaker invites Duterte to watch film on “the greatest Marcos horror story never told”. Nov. 19)

That violations of human rights and corruption were rampant under Marcos were acknowledged in a law passed in February 2013 — RA 10368 — providing for “reparation and recognition of victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime” and “documentation of said violations,” among others.

The law also provides that the principal source of funds to implement the law  – ten billion pesos plus accrued interest – will be from funds “transferred to the government of the Republic of the Philippines by virtue of the December 10, 1997 Order of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, adjudged by the Supreme Court of the Philippines as final and executory in Republic vs. Sandiganbayan on July 15, 2003 (G.R. No. 152154) as Marcos ill-gotten wealth and forfeited in favor of the Republic of the Philippines.”  

Let us not forget

In his acceptance speech, Mangansakan thanked the people of Malisbong “for entrusting me their stories, entrusting me heir lives, entrusting me the pains, sufferings of their ancestors and loved ones.

He dedicated the award “to the memory of my mother, a strong woman, a strong leader who led her people during the darkest years of martial law. Mom, this is for you.”

From Teng Mangansakan's FB, courtesy of Alemberg Ang
Teng Mangansakan accepts the award  for Best Documentary Sunday night at the Dolphy Theater in Quezon City.  Photo posted on Teng Mangansakan’s FB wall by Alemberg Ang

Mangansakan shared the award “to the memory of all those who perished in the dark years of martial law. Sa lahat nang naghirap, nag suffer, this award is for you,” he said, adding “let this award be a beacon of light for these very dark times and I hope that all of us here tonight will bear witness to our history and I hope that we continue patiently to teach our children about the horrors of martial law so that the horrors of martial law will not be repeated again.”

“Let us bear witness let us not forget,” Mangansakan said.

On Monday, Mangsakan wrote on his FB wall: “Woke up to an email from Lav Diaz congratulating me for my #C1Originals win. My day is complete.”

“I wept and I wept and I wept” 

Mangansakan also posted on his wall reactions to his film.

Dodo Dayao said it was “gut wrenching and disturbingly timely.” Temperamental brat said it was “too real, too painful” and that people “were crying until the credits. Please watch.”

“I wept and I wept and I wept . Thank you Teng Mangansakan for telling this dark history,” wrote Abdul.

Phil Dy said “Forbidden Memory” is “a  movie our President should see. An unadorned portrait of the evils of martial law.”

Bianca Balbuena said “The president should watch Teng Mangansakan’s Forbidden Memory,” describing it as “one of the most powerful last ten minutes in Philippine cinema.”

Tet Rivera described it as “heartbreaking beautiful film with honest, powerful story telling. I can’t help but cry now even as I think about it.”

Virj said the film is “a great piece of journalism. I’m still in a daze right now.”

Jay Rosas recalled that towards the end of the film, one of the survivors “couldn’t be stopped form the immensity of the memory that flashed by him. I was moved to tears by the profoundness of that grief. And the film is an urgent call to stop the madness sof historical revisionism.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)