“Tyranny, we must never forget, begins with the destruction of the truth.”– Bill Clinton
This year marks the 36th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution. And sometimes I forget we share the same age. I am what boomers would call an “EDSA baby”.
As someone who was only days old during the pivotal final days of the Marcos regime, I don’t have firsthand experiences and memories of what it was like. But every time I hear the song Magkaisa, I’m overcome with goosebumps and I feel as if I was there–alongside the nuns linked arm in arm, rosaries dangling along their wrists. I was there with the soldiers who stepped out of the tanks, the activists, the high-ranking elite officials who had a change of heart at the last minute, ordinary Filipino citizens waving yellow flags and holding “Marcos Suko Na” placards. I was there in spirit and empathize with what it meant for the country, for the ordinary Filipino.
My parents didn’t talk to us much about the Martial Law years. The years preceding it were marked by economic crisis–inflation, the declining value of the Philippine Peso, and civil unrest. I know only bits and pieces like both of them being in college during The First Quarter Storm–a wave of protests against the Marcos administration during January to March of 1970, organized mostly by students calling for legislative reforms and radical social changes. The protests turned violent, leading Marcos to justify the declaration of Martial Law in 1972. My father told me that money was tight during the years that followed, that he had to queue for hours to get a sack of NFA rice. At that time, my mother was at night school and had to wait for the riots to turn into silence before heading home. I learned about how life was during Martial Law mostly through TV–documentaries and interviews with survivors. The stories about the young daughters, sons, and friends they never saw again were what struck me the most. Their stories were mired in blood–stories of unimaginable torture, mutilation, brutality, rape–an infinite list of human rights violations.
Decades later, I can see how it has become easy to lose the narrative of the people. We have become complacent as a nation, we started to deliberately forget so we could move on with our lives. In Reason in Common Sense, philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It’s one of my go-to history hugot quotes. It’s both a warning and advice, but I would like to revise it to fit these times we’re in: “Those who do not seek to understand the past and learn the lessons from it repeat the same cycles over and over again.”
You cannot move on and move forward with a better grasp of who you are, equipped with a better understanding of what to do next unless you’ve accepted and come to terms with what has happened before.
We thought that as a nation we did a great job with EDSA, that it served its purpose and that’s it. We thought we solved the problem and defeated the enemy, and we stopped there. But we never did make the big, sweeping changes needed to support the new world we ourselves opened and entered into. It’s like we built a new house for us without making sure the right foundations were in place. That is why revisionists find it a walk in the park to shake up our shared history.
We must not stand by and let them. Ask yourself–if not now, then when? If not us, then who? We all have the power and the choice to influence history as it unfolds.
*Photos aren’t mine. Thank you, Google.