I unearthed this reflection paper which I wrote 4 years ago for my history class.
How I miss my dear Ateneo, and the woman it shaped and pushed me to be.
Although this paper focuses on key events of Philippine history and the reaction (or non-reaction) it has wrought, I find that the whole idea of each and everyone’s history combined with how we handle (or suppress it) is a universal thread no matter the subject: love, family, politics, and so on.
Two weeks from now, we will be commemorating for the 23rd time the memory of EDSA, dubbed as the People Power Revolution. For that particular moment, the Filipinos were looked upon by other nations. We had served as a model; the impossible dream had taken place. An oppressed nation which chose to fought peacefully against tyranny succeeded in ousting a dictator who relentlessly caved in to the ephemeral glory of fame, money, and power. For that particular moment, the Filipinos were filled with hope. For that particular moment, Filipinos from all walks of life came together with one goal in mind and were victorious in accomplishing it.
Yet it seems that the effects of this public outcry are as ephemeral as the rewards that once consumed a dictator. After two attempts to repeat this feat of people uniting for one cause, what now? Do we really understand the convictions posed by the People Power Revolution? Can we proudly say that we have continued to live as a nation concerned with the good of not just a select few, but of everyone? Can we honestly say that the death of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. has not come to nothing but a convenient means for us Filipinos to replace what we do not like?
How do we make sense of a nation that claims to be living democratically when all around us is the widening gap of the poor and the privileged? Are we merely bystanders in this continuing power struggle? How do I make myself believe that I live in a country where freedom and respect for the human dignity is much valued when I witness entirely the opposite even at the upper echelons of society?
Bombarded with such questions, I wonder if we are willing to admit the mistakes that we have committed and to accept responsibility for the consequences of our actions and inactions or…as we have expertly done over the years, do we fold once again and cover our eyes and ears, refusing to live with the truth? It is even more interesting to know if we even try to ask ourselves: are we living with the truth or has it become a programmed reflex for us to skirt away any painful or shameful incident into the deepest recesses of our minds, never to be scrutinized again? Some do not care anymore because the harrowing reality of survival on a day-to-day basis is more important than dealing with issues that are so deeply entrenched. Some prefer to stay silent, resign to the status quo and just endure, having decided that he or she is incapable of creating a ripple of change. Some, on the other hand, join in this sordid game seeing that one can only gain a lot and never get to be blamed or punished.
Upon the death of Ninoy Aquino in August 21, 1983, the nation grieved. It had suffered the loss of a figure that signified change and hope. That night in a public telecast, Ex-President Marcos proclaimed that the official Government stand was that Rolando Galman was tasked to shoot Ninoy as commanded by the communists However, the identity of Rolando Galman, the alleged assassin of Senator Aquino, was made to appear to be unknown for several days and a reward of P500,000.00 was offered to anybody who could identify him. Star police reporter and columnist Ruther Batuigas was able to establish the identity of Galman. Contrary to the public announcement however, Batuigas received no reward. It turned out later on that Galman was known all along to the military, being a long time acquaintance of Col. Arturo Custodio of the Aviation Security Command (AVSECOM).
The anger of the people pushed Ex-President Marcos to organize a commission tasked to find out the man behind the brutal murder of Aquino. Chief Justice Enrique Fernando was appointed as Chairman of the Commission. Public clamour demanded an impartial body to carry out the important task, thus Fernando resigned. An independent fact-finding body was formed and headed by Justice Corazon J. Agrava. They conducted marathon investigative work for almost one year. 193 civilian and military witnesses were heard and 480 documentary and physical exhibits were received. The Fact Finding Board came up with 2 reports, the Majority Report and the Minority Report or Dissenting Opinion of the Chairman. Both reports established the existence of a military plot or conspiracy to murder ex-Senator Aquino and Rolando Galman. And yet, the Sandiganbayan, an institution created to thwart pillage and advocate social equality that which our country boasts of, decided to acquit all the accused. Manuel Herrera even pointed that Marcos had tried (and apparently, succeeded) in influencing the verdict of Sandiganbayan.
In the end, only 16 military officers were imprisoned, 20 were acquitted – including General Ver. Up until today they still claim that Galman had killed Ninoy despite evidences pointing to a military conspiracy
Can the killers of today be the leaders of tomorrow?
How then do we reconcile the supposedly ideals that the Philippines is to be upholding with the reality that is truly present in every Filipino? How have our institutions been used to help or oppress people? Only the names of those in position had changed, but a radical transformation of the political system did not take place. Up until now, an inner conversion—which Ninoy had strongly expressed—is missing. Political backlash is still done to remain in power while obtaining a seat persists to be a popularity contest. This has reduced the Philippine government to an instrument of perpetuating violence and self-preservation.
Luis Teodoro writes in Forgetting, or not Knowing: Media and Martial Law, “…too many Filipinos still don’t know what happened from 1972-1986, let alone why it happened…they have nothing to remember, and they won’t know it when they see it.”
It is only natural to suppress that which causes us great pain. In doing so, we refuse to ask the right questions; we opt to live comfortably without really knowing and living with the truth. It has been customary for us to shun these dreaded memories into the deepest and darkest corners of our minds. We are so concerned with maintaining the illusory stability that we have gained throughout the years; only to find out that we have never escaped the things which we have been continuously running away. We forget who we are and where we came from. We live on a culture that cultivates the destruction of our moral identity as a nation, thus preventing us from progressing.
There are no clear-cut values that are guarded by our nation. If there are any, they are made up by the deception, the lies, the unceasing desire to have and to be powerful, to be influential. Power and existing institutions are used to legitimize and propagate the wrong values as opposed to the morals and principles that should determine the institution. The fact that Marcos’ cronies are still running around unpunished and even controlling positions of authority tell us that there’s nothing immoral about their ill-gotten wealth and spoils systems. Add to it that there are motions being undertaken so that the Ex-President Marcos’ body be moved to the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Maybe what our country needs is a kind of anger that will sustain the moral principles which have been so blatantly called for by the thousands who have sacrificed their lives during the dictatorial era. A deep anguish and cry for justice that should be voiced out loud not only once, not only twice—but shall be ever present in the day-to-day activities that we engage ourselves into—and hopefully will pierce through the numbness that we, Filipinos, have perfected.
Indeed, we cannot escape the past. On the contrary, we are the products of the past. We face the future with our past. History stretches from the part to the present and unto the future. The slightest action or inaction affects us, and that is the challenge posed by history. We, as human beings who make history are bound in this interconnectedness. Our stories are hinged unto others and others’ hinged unto us. We must understand however that this does not mean that the future is already mapped out for us. There are no inevitabilities, only possibilities. What could and what should are two different things Thus, the need to study history…our history.
To truly remember is more than memorizing timelines and statistics: it is to take a hold of the why and the significance of each event to that of the previous or the next. And through that understanding, be able to know what should be done in the now so as to avoid the blunders of our predecessors.
It is a continuing discourse. We constantly weave our stories into this intricate pattern of coincidences, analogies, opportunities, chances, missed chances, and so on. There exist no limitations, only the concept of consequential actions. Each individual is bursting with capabilities and potentials.
Nothing that ever exists is completely obliterated. We may hush it, but ultimately, it comes to visit us in our every movement. We ceaselessly find ourselves flirting with the past.