Book on Martial Law launched: 'It is happening again'
MANILA, Philippines – Seeing similarities between the present and the Philippines' dark days under military rule, Martial Law survivors launched a book documenting their experiences to remind Filipinos about their past.
The book To Be in History: Dark Days of Authoritarianism was unveiled on Thursday, May 2. It features contributing authors with different political ideologies and backgrounds, giving another layer to the written history of Martial Law.
The book is told through the perspectives and experiences of Adrian Helleman, Mary Racelis, Melba Maggay, Elizabeth Lolarga, Fe Mangahas, Mario Miclat, Alma Miclat, Willie Villarama, and Rolando Villacorte.
"We came together and we tried to understand what was happening in our country. Inevitably, the despairing question surfaced: How is it possible that this is happening again? We have worked so hard against it, yet it is happening again," said Racelis.
The book is divided into 3 parts that tackle the years of authoritarian rule, the days of the People Power Revolution, and the contributors' experiences after the Marcos regime. It is anthology on the Martial Law era with reflections from the authors on the current state of affairs in the Philippines.
Through the book, the authors hope not only to preserve and document the events that unfolded during Martial Law, but also to remind the youth about what the Philippines has gone through to fight for democracy and freedom.
"Many young people knew little about the realities of what it was like during the Martial Law dictatorship," Racelis said. (READ: #NeverAgain: Martial Law stories young people need to hear)
Though there are several books that have been published about Martial Law, To Be in History: Dark Days of Authoritarianism comes at a time when revisionists try to warp the history of Martial Law and the Marcoses run for seats in government. (READ: FALSE: 'No massacres' during Martial Law)
Relevance of the book
Jayeel Cornelio, director of the Development Studies Program at Ateneo de Manila University, pointed out in the launch how people still hold the belief that authoritarian rule can solve issues in society, despite the events that transpired during Martial Law.
"Today, popular rhetoric, prevails – that the country needs someone who can restore order. This in effect resurrects the adage of the past: Discipline is necessary for our society to progress.... In the name of order, many have now become indifferent to the virtues of democracy and community-building," he said.
He added how similar to what happened in Martial Law, critics of the government now are being attacked and targeted, and extrajudicial killings from the drug war are tagged as collateral damage.
"Its permutations are unyielding, human rights activists have been recast as enemies of the state, critiques in the media are either biased or bought or both. To question the administration has become an unpatriotic act," he said.
Cornelio cautioned how this pattern of targeting critics may later affect academic institutions in the long run.
"The morality of Philippine politics is now black and white, or yellow or otherwise. Maybe tomorrow, it will be academics. And for many of us in this room it can only get worse," he warned.
National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose explained how important it is to learn from pivotal events in Philippine history such as Martial Law.
"We should always remember that periods like Martial Law do something to us as a people. When anarchy prevails, when all ethics and standards are thrown out of the window, it’s almost a necessity that civic ethics also goes down," he said.
"It's almost impossible to regain the same morality that we used to have or we hoped to have. This explains why there is so much corruption in our country today because of these serious events that have come. We are not united enough to combat all these negative things that have happened. At the bottom of it, we really don't love this country enough," Sionil Jose said.
Cornelio mentioned how the book is relevant at a time when historical revisionism is on the rise.
"All this goes to show that the memory of the emancipatory past has been hijacked, which is why the book is important. It upholds the merits of the day and paints the future on a canvas of imagined hope and brutal change," said Cornelio.
Filomeno Aguilar, chair of the Ateneo de Manila University Research Council, tackled how people play a role in understanding and learning from history to avoid making the same mistakes again. (READ: [OPINION] Why should young Filipinos in the diaspora care about Martial Law?)
"History is not just a succession of events running on a chain of mere cause and effect, but of choices we make, big and small, that turned the (tide) and make us aware that human agency matters," he said.
The book is available on select book-selling sites including Amazon, Waterstones, and Barnes & Noble. – with reports from Maria Gabriela Aquino/Rappler.com