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While some danced to remember maybe more danced to forget

MANILA (SE): The Filipino malaise of the Great Forgetting got a jolt this year with a much bigger than usual attendance at the ceremonies marking the anniversary of People Power on February 25, but it may not translate into the Great Remembering.

However, a combination of the 30th anniversary, a non-working holiday and the Liberal Party marshalling its forces in a bid to harness the nostalgia of history in the run up to this year’s presidential election did generate a lot of energy at the People Power Monument in EDSA Boulevard.

Thirty years ago to the day over two million people stood on EDSA Boulevard to oust the martial law president, Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, and bring the People Power Movement that had been building momentum for three years to its glorious crescendo.

The president, Noynoy Aquino, whose mother was sworn in as president on the historic day that Marcos and his first lady were lifted out of Malacañang, was at the People Power Monument early to welcome the symbolic reenactment of the salubungan (coming together of the people).

Sisters holding the weapon of EDSA—rosary beads—arrived at the same time as the Philippine military commemorating the refusal of their forbears to drive tanks through the masses of people, and former president, Fidel Ramos, did a repeat of the epic leap he performed 30 years ago when the day had been won.

Aquino lambasted those who remember the Marcos days as a golden era in Philippine history, saying that is a distortion of the true facts.

His anointed ones were also out in force, sporting yellow shirts and spruiking the evils of martial law—as well they might, because in this election year the well-oiled Marcos crony machine is glorifying the discipline, stable prices and plentiful food of the early days of one-man rule.

In Not on Our Watch, published in 2012, Conrado de Quiros recalls that while in the early days the beer was indeed cheap, food plentiful and prices stable, martial law was nothing more than a lie that is revealed in the truth of the massive foreign debt run up by Marcos that is still being paid for today by the nation’s millions of migrant workers and every Filipino living in servitude.

The fight to remove the shackles remains. Aquino’s anointed successor, Mar Roxas, said that in 1986 the struggle was for democracy and freedom, in 2010 it was against corruption and lies, cheating and theft.

But the fight is not over, as the lie of martial law has been replaced by the lie of democracy, where Filipinos have the right to vote, but not to be free from the tyranny of political dynasties and laws that favour the privileged.

The shackles that bind still stalk the election platform with promises that cannot or will never be fulfilled.

De Quiros notes that the hallmark of the Marcos regime was vicious and cruel repression, but people are still being liquidated and still disappear into the dungeons of police and military barracks to face the horrors of interrogation, some to never be seen again.

The lie of martial law is not dead, but lives on in the lie of economic progress, the lie of equality before the law and the lie of justice.

De Quiros maintains that the real fight today is to remember, as the sacred ground of EDSA has been almost vacated on recent February 25s.

But this year, did those who came hear the truth of the struggle of yesteryear, or listen to a repeat of the lie of democracy, justice and economic progress?

While classrooms have been built across the country, they have failed to teach history, allowing the propaganda machine of the old guard to wash from the collective memory the stories of those who lived in fear, spent long nights in filthy prison cells, screamed in torture chambers, were exiled or paid with their lives to expose the truth of the hollow years of the Marcos regime.

One of them was Father Rudy Romano. He was last seen in Cebu on 11 July 1985. Armed men in a white government car and two motor cycles blocked his way.

He was stripped of his helmet, bag and sunglasses before being bundled into the car. He was never seen again.

Father Romano was but one of thousands who were arrested and tortured. Some retuned to tell the tale, others did not.

Not on Our Watch is a collection of memoires of 15 of them who did survive to tell their stories.

Two years ago, Archbishop Socrates Villegas pleaded with the faithful remnant to never forget the rosaries that were prayed; the image of Our Lady of the Immaculate Heart that was placed on the top of the tanks; or the concrete that the people knelt on from midnight to morning.

Speaking harsh words, the archbishop questioned whether the Filipino of today would have the moral fibre to repeat EDSA, while pointing out that the greater tragedy would be the need for another EDSA, as it would be the ultimate failure of a nation that cannot remember.

De Quiros asks why Filipinos question Japan’s attitude to the Rape of Nanking, but never question martial law, which is compared with the Japanese occupation during which the puppet president, José Laurel, gave the country its first taste of martial law on 22 September 1944.

But who remembers? An education void has left the way clear for a different story to be told and the naïvety and ignorance of today’s disaffected reignites the lie.

Otherwise, why the nostalgia for martial law, even among migrant workers in Hong Kong, who are too young to have experienced it. A tribute to propaganda.

De Quiros points to the problem. “We have not produced a great body of work that deals with the war… and we have not produced a great body of literature about the more than eight years of martial law.”

The prayer of Archbishop Villegas is timeless, “Let EDSA make us wiser.” His request, “Please take care of this hallowed shrine” is sage. His advice, “Stand on this ground with pride” is truly patriotic.

His question, “Are we with God or have we strayed” is for all ages.

But most of all, his commission, “Tell your children and your children’s children that EDSA is holy and it is the people that will keep it holy” is of the essence of the salvation of a suppressed people.

But People Power is much more than Philippine history. It is a witness to the whole world that a tyrant can be removed without violence and that peaceful resistance is possible.

Both The Philippines and the world must also remember that more than changing the actors in government is required for a revolution in people’s lives.

In 1986 there was dancing in the streets; but while some danced to remember, maybe more danced to forget.

De Quiros dubs remembering the virtue, but forgetting the sin.


Lest we forget.

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