The Simbahayan Community Development Office held the closing forum to cap the week-long commemoration of martial law victims titled Hindi na Muli Batas Militar, last September 26, 2017 at the Benavides Auditorium.
Speakers for this event were historian Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua; award-winning playwright Bonifacio Ilagan; and educator John Thimony Romero.
Creativity as a sucker punch to repression
In his lecture, Chua said Filipinos from different sectors fought against dictatorship using their creativity. According to the historian, students were shouting “Marcos Hitler Diktador Tuta” as a way of resisting; also they would sing the national anthem en mass, prompting the soldiers and police to halt.
Student also wore black pins upon entering campus in University of the Philippines in Diliman. When asked by the guards, one would reason was that a relative passed away. But many more would enter wearing the same black pin. “You see that you are not alone,” Chua said, highlighting the importance of rallying in the streets instead of discharging sentiments on social media alone.
“Kaya nag-rarally tayo sa Luneta, kahit sabihin nilang kaunti lang tayo, malaking bagay iyon kasi nafee-feel mo na hindi ka nag-iisa,” he added.
Ferdinand Marcos signed the Presidential Decree 33 which “penalizes the printing, possession, and distribution of leaflets and other materials, and even graffiti which ‘undermine the integrity of the government’.” The state monopolized big time media outlets, both in print and in television and radio, and started circulating news approved by its media boards, especially the Media Advisory Council (MAC), Philippine Council for Print Media (PCPM), and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP).
As a result, press freedom was incapacitated.
Although just a few days before the implementation of martial law, censorship would already put a muzzle on media outlets. Journalists and writers would either remain in the state-peered outlet or work underground especially in the mosquito press. Student publications were also not spared but still continued to circulate.
Marcos used the influential power of the fourth estate to remain.
To express against the state could cost one’s life but the most notable subtle blow to the Marcos regime was Jose “Pete” Lacaba’s poem Prometheus Unbound which embedded the acronym “Marcos Hitler Diktador Tuta” in each line, published in Focus Magazine in 1973 with the nom de plume Ruben Ilagan.
Surviving the state-sponsored torture
Being accused of subversion was enough for the police to send people in detention centers and in military camps. As a young man, Ilagan experienced torture along with Pete Lacaba. Ilagan was forced to lie on the corners of two tables with his nape and feet–called the infamous San Juanico bridge. The interrogators delivered several blows to his torso while extracting information.
“Ang mga nangyari ay hindi lamang sa aming persona kundi [ito ay] laban [para] sa taong bayan,” Ilagan said. The playwright highlighted that the current generation can still make a difference. “Nasa sa inyo ang susunod na hakbang sa ikatatagumpay ng ating kilusan.”
Martial Law in Mindanao
As a volunteer educator in Lumad Schools in Mindanao, Romero narrated that the presence of the military demoralized his fellow educators. Lumad schools had been shut down. President Rodrigo Duterte said in a conference after his 2017 State of the Nation Address that he would bomb Lumad-run schools for being a niche of subversive ideas.
“Andun ang spirit of volunteerism kasi nakita namin ang pangangailangan sa community,” Romero said. “Lahat sila (volunteer educators) natakot [at] na-intimidate kasi yung effects ng martial law […] ang mga Lumad schools ay tinatawag na NPA schools.”