21 September 2008

Remembering Martial Law

Today, the Philippines marked the 36th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. This ushered in the darkest period of my country's modern history. I was nearly two years old when martial law was declared in 21 September 1972.

The only thing I remembered martial law affected us was when my mother gave birth to our youngest brothers, who are twins, in 1975. At that time, a midnight curfew was in effect. When mother delivered the twins, she lost a lot of blood. She needed blood transfusion quickly or she will die. Father rang for his nephews to proceed to the hospital for blood typing and eventually, blood donation.

On their way to the hospital my cousins ran into a military curfew. Obviously, they were interrogated. Fortunately, the military personnel believed their explanation and they were allowed to proceed to the hospital just in time.

Although martial law's most famous victim was the late Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr (assassinated post-martial law in 1983), there were hundeds more little known martyrs (those who disappeared and died before 1986) of this draconian rule. I am glad to know that there is now a museum that puts a face on little known martial law martyrs.

There are more than 170 of them - youth, educators, farmers, activists, artists and public servants, and many, if not most, of them are little known. I am particularly struck that many of them were young. As the museum director puts it, "It's clear many of the martyrs were the young ones. In Philippine revolutions, many of our heroes were in their teens."

On this very important day, I pay my respects to the martyrs and heroes (those who survived beyond 1986) of martial law. If not for their sacrifices and struggle, the Philippines we now know today would not have been as free and democratic. I and the millions of fellow Filipinos in the country and outside are the better because of them. Remember the past!

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