RememberBy Isabel baccay
Cebu Daily News
It has been 40 years since Martial Law and there is a flurry of activities to remember. Michael L. Tan (Pinoy Kasi, Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 13, 2012) enumerates the University of the Philippines’ (Diliman) busy schedule : weeklong exhibits, literary events, symposiums, film showing and concerts. I am heartened that the UP academe is drumming up this much attention and energy into something that is more than worth remembering. Ninotchka Roska tells us why: “What is the point of this recollection? It is to stress that martial law was personal… PERSONAL. Everyone felt it, was affected by it, had an opinion, a thought, a feeling, about it.”
It doesn’t get any more personal for Ron de Vera, the son of martial law victims Adora Faye and Manuel de Vera. His mother, was just 16 years old when she was arrested along with two other companions. They were taken to a “safehouse”, and accused of being communists. Her companions were repeatedly abused in front of her and subsequently murdered. She was repeatedly raped by her captors as well. Eventually, one of her captors took a liking for her, and spared her life. She was tasked to do paperwork for them, and thus had access to the ordered liquidations and disappearances of the Martial Law era. When she had the opportunity, she escaped and fled to the hills. She was recaptured in the nearby village and shot in the leg, and left to languish without medical treatment for days before being detained again. Her husband, a movement supporter, had also been forced to flee to the countryside. He is still missing to this day. Their son, Ron was born in between their captures and was sent as a child to live with relatives in California.
Ron de Vera is now in his 30s and he has left his lucrative job as a senior call center executive and works as a Program Coordinator for Amnesty International Philippines. He is one of the faces and voices who share their pathos in a series of videos gathered in Interaksyon.com. It is difficult to listen to him, but you cannot look away.
I too am a child of the Martial Law era, having been just a year old when it was imposed on the country. I recall having government propaganda books around the house that made me believe that Marcos was the Messiah, the Selfless Father who would save the country from the ruin of the communists. The books drew upon his illustrious northern roots, bemedalled war service, his congressional streak and wooing a beautiful Visayan, scion to the Romualdezes. They were always pictured standing tall, looking forward, and eyes glinting with hope and ambition. But truth had a way of finding out.
Randy David writes in his Public Lives column (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 13 September 2012), that Marcos was “particularly impressed by the progress attained by South Korea under the stern rule of Park Chung-hee. He wanted Park’s Asian model replicated in the Philippine setting. This was the same plan that Lee Kuan Yew had put in place in Singapore to compensate for that country’s smallness in size and lack of natural resources.” I live in Singapore now, and the knowledge that then President Marcos looked to this country as a benchmark for the country’s own transformation, both baffles and appals me.
I was too young to realize what the Martial Law era did to my country, and in a way, I was extremely fortunate to have had parents who could protect me from the horrors of that dark time. But now that I know, and now that I know, then I must write about them.
We must remember them, and we must keep asking about them. The Martial Law victims are martyrs that were sacrificed for our freedom right now. This is the same freedom that allows us to whine about social networking, budget airlines and the crush of people at the mall.
It has been 40 years since Martial Law. It is still personal.