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An urgency to save martial law books

With Ferdinand Marcos Jr. poised to win the presidential election, a possible purge of books on martial law may happen, a history professor at the University of the Philippines said on Wednesday.

“I think that is very possible … for them to devise a systemic way [of purging books], especially since Marcos Jr. will be very aggressive in cleansing the name of his family in existing textbooks,” said Francisco Guiang, who is also the lead convener of the group Akademya at Bayan Laban sa Disimpormasyon at Dayaan.

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Guiang pointed out that as early as 2021, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) started removing “subversive” books from the libraries of state universities and colleges. Thus, he said, the next administration could potentially tap the Department of Education in purging learning materials deemed “unhealthy for the kids and subversive.”

On Wednesday, Adarna House, publisher of local literature for children, announced a 20-percent discount on its “#NeverAgain bundle,” which consists of books on martial law.

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“Never again” is the battle cry of Filipinos opposing the Marcos return to power and their expression of disapproval of policies reminiscent of Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s dictatorship.

Where truth rests

Adarna House could not be interviewed on its offer. But it said on its website: “Revisit one of the most memorable moments in our history and teach kids that truth rests with the people…”

The book bundle includes:

• “Si Jhun Jhun, Noong Bago Ideklara Ang Batas Militar,” a story of a boy who lived in the pre-martial law period.

• “Edsa,” a counting book featuring photographs of the historic People Power Revolution in February 1986.

• “The Magic Arrow,” a picture book on the people’s fight against authoritarianism.

• “Isang Harding Papel,” a story of a girl who regularly visits her mother, a political prisoner during martial law.

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• “Ito Ang Diktadura,” a glimpse of what life was like under the dictatorship.

Preserve and protect

In a Facebook post, Vicente Rafael, a professor of Southeast Asian history at the University of Washington, underscored the significant task of protecting the archives on martial law.

According to Rafael, first-hand accounts of martial law victims, military personnel and records of plunder are accessible abroad, such as in the National Security Archives in the United States and in most US university libraries.

Locally, records are available at the Commission on Human Rights, from the victims of extrajudicial killings, “tokhang” records, and files on the compensation to rights abuse victims, he said, adding: “These have to be protected and preserved asap.”

“We need a map and detailed lists of archival materials and their locations, not just the usual list of secondary sources and published accounts (though of course these are helpful),” Rafael said.

He urged librarians and archivists to be at the forefront of the fight against historical revisionism, saying the struggle “will have to be waged in the archives, not simply on social media.”

“Who knows what they will do to the archives … The danger is real. The work needs to start now,” he said.

Wide dissemination

Geraldine Po, general manager of Popular Bookstore, said books on the dark years of the Marcos dictatorship should not only be preserved but also disseminated to as many people as possible, especially the youth.

Popular Bookstore carries Myles Garcia’s “Thirty Years Later…Catching Up with the Marcos-Era Crimes”; the “Women Against Marcos” by Mila De Guzman; “Martial Law Diary and Other Papers” by Danilo P. Vizmanos; and the four-volume “Highlights of Philippine History” by Maria Felisa Syjuco Tan (the third volume discusses the period 1968-1986, when Marcos Sr. was president).

“Apart from preserving these, the books should be distributed because from what we observed, many are interested,” Po said in a phone interview. “It would be for the best if we disseminate these books to all people because these document the horrors of martial law.”

The incoming administration under Marcos Jr. will likely be an “alarming” one for Po and others managing bookstores that carry titles on the dictatorship.

“We in the bookstores would want the widest understanding from the people, right? When it comes to history, we cannot just twist the facts,” Po said.

She acknowledged the need for bookstores and publishers to race against time in distributing the books, and called for vigilance in the face of possible revision of history especially during the next administration.

“We want the youth to be enlightened, that this period [under Marcos] should never happen again,” Po said.

She cited the remarks of Marcos Jr.’s camp on the strengthening of the NTF-Elcac, which, she said, could lead to a crackdown on books considered “subversive.”

Red-sprayed

In March, the entrance to Popular Bookstore in Barangay South Triangle, Quezon City, was sprayed with red paint.

Po suspected that it was the handiwork of the NTF-Elcac or its supporters. Its spokesperson Lorraine Badoy denied this, saying she didn’t even know the bookstore existed.

Without categorically saying a revision of history was looming, the Ateneo University Press issued a list of 16 books that could help Filipinos learn about martial law.

The books are: “Memory, Truth-telling, and the Pursuit of Justice: A Conference on the Legacies of the Marcos Dictatorship” by the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute; “Living and Dying: In Memory of 11 Ateneo de Manila Martial Law Activists” by Cristina Jayme Montiel; “In the Name of Civil Society: From Free Election Movements to People Power in the Philippines” by Eva-Lotta E. Hedman; “Some Are Smarter than Others: The History of Marcos’ Crony Capitalism” by Ricardo Manapat; “The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos” by Primitivo Mijares; “Down from the Hill: Ateneo de Manila in the First Ten Years Under Martial Law, 1972-1982” edited by Montiel and Susan Evangelista;

“Musika at Bagong Lipunan: Pagbuo ng Lipunang Filipino, 1972-1986” by Raul C. Navarro; “Philippine Politics and the Marcos Technocrats: The Emergence and Evolution of a Power Elite” by Teresa S. Tadem; “Ascending the Fourth Mountain: A Personal Account of the Marcos Years” by Maria Virginia Yap Morales; “A Capital City at the Margins: Quezon City and Urbanization in the Twentieth-Century Philippines” by Michael D. Pante; “Dream Eden: A Novel” by Linda Ty-Casper; “Canal de la Reina: Isang Nobela” by Liwayway A. Arceo, and its English translation by Soledad S. Reyes; “Kung Wala na ang Tag-araw/Ano Ngayon, Ricky?” by Rosario de Guzman-Lingat; “Two Women as Specters of History: Lakambini and Indigo Child” by Rody Vera; and “The Betrayed: A Novel” by Reine Arcache Melvin.

Most of the books are available on online shopping platforms Shopee and Lazada, and the Ateneo Press website, according to the publisher.

READ: Marcos’ martial law: Golden age for corruption, abuses

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TAGS: Abuses, Human rights, Marcos, Martial law, Martial law books
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