A Marcos brand of amnesia

Shakira Sison

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A Marcos brand of amnesia
As they say, those who don't heed the lessons of history are bound to repeat it. Or in much simpler terms: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

The new Marcos supporters, according to Bongbong Marcos, want to bring back the time of his father when everything was peaceful and in order. He says that even the older people tell him, “Buti pa noong panahon ni Marcos, maginhawa ang buhay…(It’s better during the time of Marcos, life was good…)”

He’s not lying about what they say. When I was young during the Marcos years, it wasn’t unusual to hear adults praise the Marcos administration for maintaining “peace” in the streets and the creation of a new and better republic.

Mabuti pa nung panahon ni Marcos, tahimik,” said our household help when I was growing up. I knew better than to confirm this with my parents. They were wise enough not to speak about that administration, because during those years any talk about the government could mean one’s death.

A different story

Anyone who wasn’t in denial during that time knew there was a different story unfolding at night. A far cry from the flowery songs and proclamations of this “new republic,” young people were being rounded up, tortured, raped, and killed. Abductions and disappearances where commonplace and all one needed to do was to whimper something not so positive about the administration to land a place in jail.

It’s easy to be fooled by outward appearances. Look at modern-day North Korea – filled with citizens who outwardly show a godlike worship for their leader but really fear for their lives and being imprisoned for merely looking at images of their “good leader” the wrong way. It’s the same as Manila was then, its clean streets and seemingly bustling city in the seventies and eighties, boasting rapid development and international acclaim.

The ones who were brave enough to speak up were incarcerated and killed. If you didn’t know anybody who spoke against the Marcoses in those days, it’s because silence was the only defense against that cruel dictatorship.

The price of opposition

Archimedes Trajano was a young student who questioned Imee Marcos during a Kabataan Barangay meeting. He was abducted and killed at 21 years old. He was only one example of what it was like to oppose that administration even in the most minor of ways.

Amnesty International has estimated that during Martial Law, 70,000  people were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured, and 3,240 were killed.  We are still feeling the effects of large-scale corruption and human rights violations to this day.

To the new Marcos youth who think the Marcoses are so cool, handsome, glamorous, and deserve their place in government, just ask around. Ask your parents. If you don’t get an answer, ask your friends’ parents. Unless they benefitted from the Marcos regime or were hiding under a rock, they know something horrible was happening after dark. Once you hear the stories, it will be something you will hope will never happen to our country again.

An imperfect democracy

I can say this now because we are not under martial law, and even if our democracy has faults, it isn’t a dictatorship that would get me arrested for saying the Marcoses are still the Philippines’ greatest and most shameless offenders.

But guess what will happen if they ever reach that kind of power again? If this intelligent, handsome man charms you into believing that his father did everything right?

Right now we are already the laughing stock for our collective amnesia, as evidenced by the comical cast of the recent Obama state dinner. We are fond of returning crooks to their posts and electing corrupt former presidents into mayoral positions. A minority religious sect has been able to strong arm our government by way of illegal demonstrations and political favors.

We are just the kind of country where ignorance may cause history to repeat itself, when the son of a cruel dictator has the audacity to say, “There is nothing to apologize for. Should we say sorry for the roads built?”

These are not bygones

Bongbong Marcos is like a holocaust denier. He has no choice because admitting that one’s family is vicious and merciless beyond human comprehension would make them question the ease of their own lives. It is more convenient to believe these collateral damages as necessary. “May nasagasaan (Some were stepped on),” said Bongbong, as if all those who were harmed were simply a means to an end.

These are not bygones to forgive and forget. First of all, to forgive, there must be an admission of offense. To forget, there cannot be a whitewashing of their offenses in contrast with the scars in victims’ accounts and those of their fractured families. We are still feeling the effects of the Marcoses’ corruption. His family members and cronies still hold positions in government and business. The Marcos wealth is still hidden and growing.

Fortunately, the wiser ones among us know not to listen to such fables and convenient truths. Those who survived moved on to tell their stories and became as productive as those who didn’t make it wanted to be.

Unfortunately, the impressionable ones among us might actually believe that the Marcos years were a wonderful time, if the flowery images are to be believed and the horrific stories are still absent from our children’s history books.

Find the truth

The difference is that now we have an interconnected world. Everything can be looked up, offenses can be easily unearthed. There are online accounts of murder, rape, torture, and barbecue sticks being shoved into penises as a means of interrogation.

Social media has brought me to your screen to tell you that even if I’m not that old to have been an activist during the Marcos years, I still remember a world of terror and fear. I know that my classmates’ brothers and fathers disappeared, and their mothers were raped for speaking up. That many of the people who fled to the US during those actually did so for their own lives. I’ve met them here. Their stories are not pretty. Many remain silent, just like survivors of war.

In times of doubt about whether an offense happened or not, do you ask the victim or the perpetrator? Do you ever expect a cruel person to say they are wrong?

A brief look into history will show the truth. Bongbong is right about that. And it is our study of it and our empathy with the pains of others that will keep us fighting against the possibility of that happening again.

The Marcos years were dark and evil – not bright and good as some were led to believe.

As they say, those who don’t heed the lessons of history are bound to repeat it. Or in much simpler terms:

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Let’s stop being fools, please. Let’s tell our young people the painful stories of the Marcos years before it’s too late. – Rappler.com


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