Category: memory

why sept 21 #MartialLaw

manolo quezon rightly points out that martial law did not begin on the 21st.  in the explainer The big lie manolo tells us how things unfolded over the 21st and the 22nd to the 23rd of september 1972.  as a matter of fact we were still a free people on the 21st.  in fact marcos gave the GO signal only after enrile was ambushed kuno, that is, on the evening of the 22nd.  and yes we only found out on the 23rd when we awoke to a multimedia blackout that lasted almost all day, and we went to sleep with tv images of marcos declaring that martial law was in place, like it or not.

… martial law was announced with silence: people woke up to discover that TV and radio stations were off the air. Later in the day, some stations started playing easy listening music and some stations aired cartoons. But Marcos’ speechwriters were slow, then the teleprompter broke down, and the speech had to be hand-written on kartolina. So it wasn’t until dinnertime that Marcos finally appeared on TV and the country found out martial law was in place.

So, why do so many people who actually lived through martial law, misremember when it was proclaimed?

Marcos once said that the people would accept anything so long as it was legal. Marcos said he’d imposed martial law on September 21. We know this wasn’t true, because the document itself was co-signed, not by Alejandro Melchor, his executive secretary, but by a presidential assistant. This was because Melchor had left for abroad before Marcos actually signed the martial law proclamation sometime between the evening and early morning of September 22 to 23.

marcos was known to believe in the occult, and in the magic of the number 7 and its multiples such as the lucky 21, which could be why proclamation 1081 is dated sept  21 even if it was not signed until sept 22, or maybe 23.

Marcos went further to wipe the public’s memory clean. He later proclaimed September 21 as Thanksgiving Day. And in every speech, every documentary, every poster, September 21 was the date enshrined as the birth of the New Society. So much so that the public forgot what it had actually lived through. This is the power of propaganda. By altering the date, Marcos helped erase not only September 21 as the last day of freedom, but also how that freedom was lost between September 22 and 23. His lawyerly piece of paper, his Proclamation 1081, became the ultimate instrument for national amnesia.

So, remember September 21 by all means. Not as the fake news date Marcos wanted you to remember, but for the things he wanted you to forget: a still-independent Senate, freedom of assembly, and a free press. But remember what he wanted you to forget: that it was on September 23 that the nation woke up to discover all these things were suddenly gone. And that the next day, the last institution standing, the Supreme Court, received the warning: play ball, or be abolished. They played ball.

indeed 21 worked for marcos but only in the early years of martial law.  parang 22’s vibe kicked in towards the end, but that’s another story.  anyway, 21’s vibe is good for people getting together, rising above self-interests, reconciling differences for the good of the whole.

and it’s not all that inappropriate, marking the 21st as a day of infamy, the day that marcos marked as thanksgiving day, the day marking the birth of “the new society” — THAT was the big lie.  the promise of “bagong lipunan” didn’t pan out, except for the crooks.


Nov. 4-Friday from 9am to 1pm. Padre Faura, SUPREME COURT Gates.  If you have not engaged in any public protest against the proposed Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, this is our LAST CHANCE to be heard. On November 8, Tuesday, the Supreme Court Justices are deciding on whether to allow the Marcos burial at LnmBayani. If they vote yes, then the SC will bury Truth and Justice with the Dictator. Join us for this last push, a last plea to the SC Justices to vote against the burial. The last time a crowd was at the SC gates, it was a throng of Marcos loyalists there in full force. The SC justices do not engage in social media, they do not see our memes, our online protests. They need to see us, in the flesh at their gates, pleading our cause. Please come. Huling Hirit na ito!

There is also a concert-prayer rally at Lapu-lapu monument at Luneta on Sunday, Nov 6 from 4-8pm
(Facebook message via Susan Quimpo.  Huling Hirit sponsored by Duyan ng Magiting Coalition, Akbayan Youth, SCAPS, Ateneo Sanggunian, QC Unite, Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan)

MY STORY | Surviving Yolanda and the city of the dead

By Lottie Salarda

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines — Let me do away with bragging rights first. I can proudly say I am one of the toughest persons on earth after surviving the strongest storm ever to make landfall.

Having said that, I will never forget the glass windows of our station exploding in front of us, as if a bomb had gone off, and then the seawater rushing in, flooding the building as it was then the city around us.

Everyone was in a panic not knowing what to do as we tried to save ourselves.

We swam, held on to anything we could, trying to evade flying debris and crashing waves, painfully pounded by the needle-like rain.

Read on…

Communities of memory

By Randy David

A few days ago, I participated in a forum to explore the purpose and methodology of establishing a “museum of memory” that would contain and preserve memories from the dark period of martial law. The concept behind this is prompted by the strong feeling that today’s young people hardly have an idea of what happened during the 14 years of the Marcos dictatorship. The premise, of course, is that the memory of this period must not be allowed to fade because, if Santayana is correct, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

On the initiative of the Edsa People Power Commission and the National Historical Commission, three specialists from Latin America were invited to share their insights and experiences on the establishment of museums, parks, and monuments commemorating the struggle against dictatorship and state violence in their respective countries. The three guests—Eugenia Ulfe of Peru, Patricia Tappata of Argentina, and Lelia Perez of Chile—spoke with great wisdom about the complex struggle to recover the voices of the countless victims of repression and their sometimes frustrating quest for justice when the dictatorship ended.

The exercise of memory, they said, is but one of the four essential tasks of a post-authoritarian government if it is concerned with healing and reconciling the national community. The other three are: truth, justice, and reparation. Listening to them, one realizes that the main reason we have been poor at remembering is because, in the first place, we failed to document in a sustained and systematic way what happened during that period, particularly in the remote towns and among the less prominent sectors of our society. That failure has left an empty space in our own consciousness.

The idea of setting up a process to hear the victims and to confront the perpetrators of state violence was from the outset rejected as divisive. The successive coup attempts launched against Cory Aquino’s presidency served as stern warnings that the government would be making a big mistake if it started digging up inconvenient truths about martial law.

Without anything approximating a truth commission, the most that could be produced was a list of the victims, and even this was incomplete. Because some of the central figures of martial law were part of the new government, it was difficult to bring any of the military leaders responsible for the tortures, disappearances, and illegal detentions to trial. Later, a general amnesty formalized the self-induced amnesia that set in almost as a precondition to the survival of the new government.

Reparation was one area where something valuable could have been accomplished. Yet even this was denied the victims. When the latter sued the Marcoses before American courts demanding compensation for the victims of human rights violations, judgments in their favor could not be enforced without the consent of the Philippine government that had claimed prior rights over all Marcos properties. To this day, the government has refused to compensate the victims of human rights violations during martial law. Yet, it did not think twice about paying the debts owed to financial institutions that were incurred by the Marcos regime.

The three Latin American guests said that symbolic reparation is often more important to achieving closure than material reparation. This entails giving the victims and their kin the chance to recover their dignity and validate their experiences. This can only be done if their stories are allowed to be freely told, collected, and preserved. These stories must be situated in the broader context of the events that marked that period. Someone’s imprisonment or torture or rape in the hands of military captors must not be treated as a cause for stigma or shame, to be buried as a family secret. Only in this sense can truth be redemptive.

From all this, wrote the Jewish philosopher Avishai Margalit in his thought-provoking work, “The ethics of memory,” we may glean an ethics of remembering that must be distinguished from the politics of memory or the psychology of memory. An ethics of memory implies an obligation to remember and also to forget. It involves complex attitudes and sentiments that come with what he terms “thick” relations—relations that are “moored in shared memory.”

“Thick relations are grounded in attributes such as parent, friend, lover, fellow-countryman.” The operative themes that mark such relationships are those of loyalty and betrayal, gratitude and love. “Thin relations, on the other hand, are backed by the attribute of being human.” These are our relationships to the “stranger and remote.” Here, the operative themes are usually those of respect and humiliation. Margalit says that ethics refers to how we should live with those who are bound to us by shared memory. Morality refers to the rules that govern our relationships to the rest of humanity.

Read in this context, it becomes clear that the project of a museum of memory has to confront the tricky issues posed by the ethics of remembering. This cannot be done by a committee working separately from the communities of memory that alone must decide what to remember and what to forget. The purpose must be neither merely to exhibit the trauma of the past nor to demonize the perpetrators. If it is to succeed, a memory museum cannot have any other purpose than to reawaken the values of loyalty, forgiveness, gratitude, and solidarity that hold us together as a people bound by thick relations.