Monique Wilson on growing up privileged: 'You have to cultivate your own convictions'

MANILA, Philippines – Monique Wilson may have grown up in privilege during the Martial Law years, but that didn't stop the veteran theater actress from seeing the injustices the country experienced under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

Monique, daughter of former Makati vice mayor Johnny Wilson, said that while her father was "a Marcos man," and while her privileged upbringing protected her from experiencing the horrors of Martial Law, she eventually took her own stand, leading to a rift between her and her father for many years.

"I really grew up with privilege. Hindi ko nga namalayan ang Martial Law eh, kasi tatay ko si Johnny Wilson (I didn't even realize it was Martial Law because my father was Johnny Wilson)," she said in a video that appears to be taken at a press conference for her upcoming play, Mabining Mandirigma.

In the video, Monique was asked about artists being separated from politics. The question referenced comments made by Monique's friend and fellow theater artist Lea Salonga in 2016, where Lea was called a Marcos apologist for saying that the Marcoses "have always been kind to me and my family."

For Monique, the privilege she grew up with under the Marcos dictatorship didn't sit right with her. This awakened her activism.

"There's a part of me that feels guilt, of course, guilt that I was able to have that privilege, that kind of life na hindi ako naghirap (that I didn't suffer)," she said.

"Tapos nung lumaki na ako, sumali ako sa Gabriela, lahat ng mga naging kaibigan ko dun, lahat nakulong, mga kwento nila sakin na I never knew that growing up (Then when I got older, I joined Gabriela, all of the friends I made there, all of them were jailed. Their stories, I never knew that growing up)," she added.

She shared that her background led some of her friends in the progressive movement to ask if she was only there to atone for her father's views, and that for years she harbored resentment towards her father, and only reconciled with him when he was dying.

"Hindi ko talaga ma-reconcile or ma-take na (I couldn't reconcile or take) how could you work with somebody like Marcos and Imelda? How could you just turn a blind eye to what they're doing? Hindi p'wedeng hindi mo alam kung anong ginagawa nila (It's impossible that you didn't know what they were doing)," she shared.

"Siyempre (of course) we're not our parents' children anymore. At the same time you also have to cultivate your own convictions kung ano ang mali at kung ano 'yung tama (on what's wrong and what's right) and I think there's no doubt that Marcos plundered this country."

For Monique, the Marcos family's alliance with President Rodrigo Duterte is worrying.

"The current state we're in is still a consequence of that massive plundering and the massive human rights violations and nakakatakot 'yung alliance ni Duterte with the Marcoses na binigyan pa siya ng burial with honors sa Libingan ng mga Bayani (it's worrying, Duterte's alliance with the Marcoses, that he even gave Marcos a burial with honors at the Heroes' Cemetery)."

"That is revisionism. That's like saying hindi nangyari 'yung mga nangyari nung Martial Law years at napakasakit nun at napaka-unjust 'yun sa lahat ng nag-suffer sa Martial Law era (That's like saying that what happened during the Martial Law years didn't happen, and that's painful and unjust for all those who suffered)," she said.

Monique said that people need to rise up against the "intrusion" of the Marcoses into politics, as most recently evidenced by Marcos' daughter Imee being elected to the Senate. (READ: Marcos says she didn't want to be senator at first: 'Parang hindi ako bagay')

"My father was a Marcos man, but to me, as Monique, I say we need to still rise against the now intrusion of the Marcoses into our political system. There's not been justice yet, and I think when we continue to not have justice, iikot lang tayo ng iikot (we'll just keep going around in circles), the problems of this country. Kailangan may historical justice rin na mangyayari (there has to be historical justice)," she said.

Returning to the Philippines

In the same video, Monique said she decided to return to the Philippines after living in London for many years precisely because times are hard and more and more people need to speak out against what she says has become a "fascist state."

"May brain drain din tayo dito kasi siyempre mahirap ang buhay dito eh, mahirap talaga ang buhay. Tas ngayon pa under Duterte, ang daming political repression. Diba, kung activist ka, journalist ka, kung artist ka, kung Lumad ka, kung writer ka, journalist, pwede kang kunin eh. P'wede kang kunin, pwede magsampa ng false accusations against you, trumped-up charges. P'wede kang maging political prisoner, p'wedeng mawala ka nalang, or p'wedeng ma EJK ka," she said.

(We experience brain drain here because of course life is hard, life is really hard. And now under Duterte, there's a lot of political repression. If you're an activist, a journalist, an artist, a Lumad, a writer, you can be taken. They can make false accusations against you, trumped-up charges. You can be a political prisoner, or simply disappear, or be a victim of extrajudicial killings.)

"'Yung ating state machinations, 'yung ating fascist state ngayon nagrerely na matakot tayo at wala na tayong gagawin, we'll just keep quiet na lang. Hindi. Kailangan natin maging mas lalo pang matapang."

(Our state machinations, our fascist state now relies on us being so afraid that we don't do anything and we'll just stay quiet. No. We need to be even braver.)

She said she was inspired by revolutionary leader Apolinario Mabini, who she is portraying in Mabining Mandirigma. Mabini, she noted, was captured by the Americans, arrested, exiled to Guam, and then died soon after he returned to the country.

"Pero ginawa niya 'yun to the very end, to the very end nag-organize pa rin sila (he did that to the very end, to the very end they were still rallying) because you have to love more than yourself eh, diba? You really have to look at your nation and have a bigger love," Monique said. –