MANILA, Philippines – Of the hundreds that gathered to oppose the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, a sizeable number at the Luneta on Sunday, August 14, were old enough to have lived through martial law.
Members of religious groups, non-governmental organizations, as well as civilians stood in the crowd amid an on-and-off downpour, rallying against what they deemed a betrayal of history.
Away from the center of it all was Ping Martija, 76, holding up a placard that read, “Ilibing na lang sa La Loma ang diktador! Dating pangulo Ferdinand Marcos (Bury the dictator, former president Ferdinand Marcos, in La Loma instead).”
La Loma Cemetery, located in Caloocan City, is where some notable Filipino figures like Josefa Llanes Escoda and Victorino Mapa are buried.
Martija is a member of the non-violent organization Aksyon sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan (AKapKa). The group fought against the dictatorship through nonviolent means.
“Kaya nandito ako [ay dahil] buong puso kong sinusuportahan ang pagkakaisa laban sa paglibing [kay Marcos] sa Libingan ng mga Bayani. Hindi siya karapat-dapat…hindi naman siya tunay na bayani,” Martija said.
(I am here to wholeheartedly oppose the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. He is not deserving…he is no hero.)
Martija hails from San Miguel, Leyte, the home province of former first lady and now Congresswoman Imelda Marcos. Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr won big in the province in the 2016 vice presidential race, claiming 49.5% of the votes.
“[K]ababayan ko si Imelda…subali't hindi ako sumusuporta sa kanya dahil lumalaban ako [para sa] kalayaan ng mamamayan. Noong panahon na ‘yon, walang demokrasya,” Martija said.
(Imelda Marcos and I come from the same province, but I do not support her because I am fighting for the freedom of my countrymen. At the time, there was no democracy.)
He said he fears we might lose democracy again. It will start, he said, by burying the dictator and recognizing him as a hero. “Papaano naging bayani si Marcos? Noong panahon niya, walang puwedeng magsalita laban sa kanya; aakusahan ka na NPA [New People's Army] at dudukutin ka.”
(How could Marcos be a hero? In his time, no one could speak against him; you would be accused of being an NPA and would be abducted if you were.)
He also shared his dismay at how the martial law years is taught in schools. He said it is erroneous to downplay the Marcos dictatorship. The Department of Education promised in early 2016 to address this matter in the K-12 program. (READ: DepEd: K to 12 curriculum allows in-depth discussion on martial law)
“Nakakalungkot. Kailan natin makakamtan ang tunay na kalayaan (It's very sad. When will we attain true freedom)?” Martija asked.
“I was somewhere in Metro Manila, being sad because I knew that it was a false ending,” Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation trustee Carolina “Bobbie” Malay, 76, said of her whereabouts during the EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986.
Malay was part of the communist resistance during martial law, and remained underground for almost two decades until her arrest, along with husband Satur Ocampo, whom she wed in revolutionary rites.
Satur co-founded the National Democratic Front (NDF), which represented the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), while underground.
Both he and Malay were part of the NDF’s negotiating panel during peace talks with the government of Corazon Aquino. They would again be arrested in 1992 after the collapse of negotiations between the government and the Left.
While underground, Malay wrote for Taliba ng Bayan, an alternative newspaper published by the NDF from 1972 until the early 1980s, during the dictatorship. Before that, she wrote for The Manila Times and Evening News.
“What I joined the movement for was to have change in society. Marcos was a big part of what we were fighting, but it was not the entire thing. I was aware of the injustice and the poverty, the unequal distribution of privilege and power…and I wanted to be part of changing that,” Malay said.
While she thought the fall of the dictatorship at EDSA was a “job [that] was not yet done,” she said she still felt nostalgic for people power, witnessing the assembly at Luneta on Sunday.
“I think many of the people who are here (in Luneta) today were part of that (EDSA) – a very significant part of it has remained in our hearts, in our minds. [It is] very encouraging to see that the fight continues, [that the] people are ready to rise to the occasion,” Malay said.
In the dark
Rose Hidalgo remembers caring for her newborn child in the dark. “Nanganak ako noong September 19, 1972…noong 21 nag-blackout (I gave birth on September 19, 1972…on the 21st there was a blackout),” she recalled.
“Talagang dark era [noon] (It was truly a dark era),” Hidalgo said. Her child would spend the first few days of life in a dark hospital ward, at the dawn of martial law; it was a portent of things to come.
“Masama ang loob ko na maraming kabataan ang nagsasabing kalimutan na lang [ang nangyari noon] (It pains me that many young people today say that we should just forget what happened before),” she added.
She made it a point to always tell her children about the wrongs of the Marcos regime as they were growing up.
Hidalgo came to Luneta with her husband Fred to relive the two EDSAs they took part in. “[Kapag nailibing si Marcos sa Libingan ng mga Bayani], parang mababale-wala ang pagsali namin sa EDSA,” she said. (If Marcos ends up being buried a hero, EDSA will have been for naught.)
For Martija, Malay, and Hidalgo, the fight does not end at the Luneta. They are only 3 among the thousands of Filipinos who lived to tell their tales about the martial law regime. More stories remain undocumented and untold to this day. – Rappler.com
Janelle Paris is a student from the Ateneo de Manila University. She is a Rappler intern.