Martial Law

Martial Law survivors in Cebu: Youth key to immortalizing our stories

Christa Escudero
Martial Law survivors in Cebu: Youth key to immortalizing our stories

Martial Law survivors based in Cebu attend the screening of the film '11,103' at the Fernan Cebu Press Center in Cebu City on September 23, 2022.

Christa Escudero/Rappler

‘We’re hopeful that you’ll answer the challenge when it comes,’ Martial Law survivor Joeyboy Holganza tells the youth at the screening of ‘11,103’ in Cebu City

Cebu-based Martial Law survivors are counting on the youth to spread the stories of hardships they experienced during the dark period of the Marcos dictatorship.

They expressed this hope during a panel discussion after the film screening of 11,103 at the Fernan Cebu Press Center in Cebu City on Friday night, September 23, as part of artist collective DAKILA’s Active Vista International Human Rights Festival.

Written and directed by Jeannette Ifurung and Mike Alcazaren, 11,103 tracks the lives of those recognized by the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, which was crafted to acknowledge human rights violations during Martial Law and to provide reparations to the victims. (READ: ‘11,103’ review: A race against erasure)

Karon mag-ingon sila nga kato nga panahuna, ‘golden years,’ pero [nagkalisod mi sa pagkaon]. Sa mga batan-on nga muadto sa amua, amua gyud isulti nga mao na among kahimtang. Mao nang tinuod namong kahimtang,” said Purificacion Viernes. 

(Today, people say that the Marcos regime were the “golden years,” but we were struggling with food then. To the youth who would go to our place, we would always tell them that that was our experience. That was our true experience.)

Viernes and her daughter, Cecil Viernez-Nuñez, were both featured in the film. They are the only survivors of a family massacre in Carmen Jimenez, Misamis Occidental, in 1984.

For such a long time, galikay gyud ko og forums ug meetings nga ing-ani gani kay…Never forget? I will never forget. Di pud ko ganahan malimot sad, [but] there are memories nga gusto ka nga imo ganing limtan,” added Ribomapil “Joeyboy” Holganza Jr.

(I was avoiding forums and meetings like this because… Never forget? I will never forget.I also don’t want to forget, but there are memories that you just want to forget.)

Holganza and his father, the late Ribomapil “Dodong” Holganza, were arrested on Christmas Day 1982, spending almost three years in jail. Dodong was a significant figure in the formation of the anti-Marcos dictatorship movement in Cebu. (READ: [The Slingshot] Martial Law@50: BBM’s latest lie)

“We’re hopeful that you’ll answer the challenge when it comes,” Holganza told the audience, composed mostly of youth.

“It’s also good that you’re bringing up our stories for this generation because people are really trying to gloss over the stories of torture and death, to the extent of propagandizing the era and calling it the renaissance,” he added in a mix of Cebuano and English.

Martial Law survivors based in Cebu join a panel discussion after the film screening of ‘11,103’ at the Fernan Cebu Press Center in Cebu City on September 23, 2022.

Fifty years have passed since Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law in the country on September 21, 1972. Another Marcos now sits in Malacañang as president, his son Ferdinand Marcos Jr., whose campaign was bolstered by a long-term disinformation machinery that aimed to cleanse their family name. (READ: Marcos Jr.’s campaign reaping benefits of years of disinformation – experts)

Natural…devastated gyud mi. Di gyud mi katuo (Naturally, we were devastated. We couldn’t believe it),” said retired judge Meinrado Paredes, reacting to Marcos’ election win. He was arrested and detained shortly after the Martial Law declaration, while he was studying for the Bar. He was a student activist in college.

Pero di pasabot nga tungod kay nidaog, muundang na lang mi. Bisa’g tiguwang na mi, mupadayon kami, asta sad ang batan-on namong mga anak…. Probably, muabot ra sad ang panahon nga mubali ra ang hangin. Hopeful mi ana. Because we will never stop telling the truth,” Paredes added.

(But that doesn’t mean that we will give up just because he won. Even when we’re old, we’ll carry on, together with our young children. Probably, the time will come when the wind finally blows in the opposite direction. We’re hopeful about that. Because we will never stop telling the truth.)

Using art to fight disinfo

In her opening message, DAKILA Cebu managing director Danielle de los Reyes advocated for art as a way to fight disinformation and historical distortion. 

“We fight against it through art for art has the ability to communicate. Through art, we are able to tell stories about our struggles and our truths. And because art can be something that transcends time and space, our stories can become immortal,” she said.

“We do not need to walk in the paths of others to know their truths. We just need to look at their art and listen to their stories to feel their emotions and their struggles,” she added.

11,103 will continue to screen throughout the duration of the Active Vista International Human Rights Festival in various locations in the Philippines and the US. Check out the festival schedule here.


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Christa Escudero

Christa Escudero is a digital communications specialist for Rappler.