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MANILA, Philippines – Do you remember the Martial Law years?
On Saturday, September 19, Martial Law victims, human rights activists, and students of the University of the Philippines (UP) participated in the Great Lean Run, a fun run that relives the abuses done during the Martial Law and honors the life of the late iconic UP student leader Lean Alejandro.
This year marks the 43rd anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law.
David Lozada reports.
Students are chased by policemen with batons. Some are hit with water cannons while some go through rough barricades.
For some alumni of the University of the Philippines, these scenes are all too familiar.
This is the Great Lean Run, organized by the Sandigan para sa Mag-aaral at Sambayanan Party or SAMASA to pay tribute to the late iconic UP student leader Lean Alejandro, who fought the Martial Law alongside legendary nationalists Senators Jose Diokno and Lorenzo Tanada.
But 18 months after Cory Aquino assumed power, the leftist leader was assassinated in front of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan office.
The participants get to experience the hardships that activists like Lean went through to commemorate the declaration of Martial Law.
According to Liddy Alejandro, the run brings fond memories of her late husband.
LIDDY ALEJANDRO, WIFE OF LEAN ALEJANDRO: Nakakaantig din ng puso kasi siyempre lalong nagiging vivid yung memories ko nung panahon namin ni Lean kaya lalong nakaka-miss kasi wala siya dito ngayon. Marami sa aking memories ay yung magkasama kami sa kilusan laban sa diktadura.
(It’s heartwarming to be in this event because it brings back the memories in Lean. I miss his presence. Most of my memories of him were those times when we were fighting the dictatorship.)
More and more netizens have been expressing pro-Martial Law sentiments in recent years.
Some even call the dictatorship the best years of the country, despite the glaring number of human rights violations and corruption cases.
Alejandro says this is why the youth should be reminded of the harsh realities during the Marcos dictatorship.
LIDDY ALEJANDRO: Mahalagang ibunyag kung ano ang katotohanan noong mga panahon na yon kasi ayaw nating maulit ulit. Kailangan magkaroon ng ganung pang-unawa ang kabataan natin para alam nila yung mga hindi dapat nang maulit at dapat pigilan, anong klaseng lider ang kailangan ng bansa at hindi kailangan ng bansa.
(It’s important that we show the truth of what really happened during those times so they won’t be repeated. Our youth today need to have that knowledge of history so they know what mistakes not to repeat and avoid, what kind of leader the country needs and doesn’t need.)
For UP journalism student Dulfo Dulfo, the run’s difficulty is nothing compared to the real-life struggles of activists like Lean Alejandro.
DULFO DULFO: Nakita naman natin kanina sa run na maraming struggles, maraming hurdles sa pagiging aktibista. Isasakripisyo mo ang iyong buhay mismo bago marating ang finish line which is democracy.
(There are many struggles in being an activist. You really have to sacrifice your life before you reach the finish line, which is democracy.)
But not all UP students share the same sentiment.
VICKY DELDIO, UP STUDENT: About sa Martial Law, hindi ako against sa Martial Law dahil sa pagkakaalam ko, naging maganda yung ekonomiya and kahit naging dictadurial siya, napabuti yung bansa.
(I’m not against the Martial Law period because, from what I know, the country’s economy became better than. Although Marcos was dictatorial, the country fluorished.)
Organizers of the great lean run emphasize the importance of educating younger generation of Filipinos about the abuses done during the Martial Law period. As the Philippines commemorates the 43rd anniversary of one of the worst events in Philippine history, human rights advocates say we need to remember martyrs like Lean Alejandro to never let another dictatorship come into power.