The Day Manila Fell Silent

By Ninotchka Rosca

Ironically, the most quiet day in Manila of contemporary times began with noise: a loud pounding on the glass door of a penthouse apartment I was using at the time. The friend who was hollering and shouting and bruising his knuckles on the glass, blurted out, as soon I slid the door open, “martial law na…[martial law already]” A split second of silence; then I pivoted and clicked on the radio. Nothing but white noise. Turned on the TV. Nothing but a white screen and static. Distraught friend said, “no TV, no radio station… everything’s closed down.” We eyeballed each other. The previous night’s last news item on TV flashed into my mind: a still photo of a car, its roof collapsed, windshield shattered; a male voice saying that the car of the Secretary of National Defense had been attacked but he had not been in it… It was truncated news; I thought, “what? An empty car was bombed?” As I was going to bed, I noticed that the government building behind our apartment building was all lit up: floor after floor, from top to bottom, blazing with lights. I said then, “something’s happening; and it’s happening all over the city.”

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