Source: Humans of Pinas

“Among activists, we are called “Martial Law babies” because we became activists during martial law. We did not participate in the First Quarter Storm nor were we in the Diliman Commune, but these two events that shaped student radicalism in the early 70’s were our inspiration during the resurgence of the student movement in 1977.

I just turned 15 and was in my second year in an all-girls high school in San Pablo, Laguna when Martial Law was declared. Our regular subscriptions of the Free Press and other newspapers suddenly stopped and there was nothing to watch on TV since most of the TV stations were shut down by Marcos.

We had no source of information except for what was fed through government-controlled media. At a young age, I realized how it was to be denied one’s right to freedom of information and speech for in my early teens,

I developed a keen interest in current events and student activism and would follow news on student demonstrations, read opinion pieces and analyses on political events, and occasionally attend rallies held in our city plaza organized by students from our city colleges and nearby UP Los Baños.

I was hungry for knowledge and would attend these rallies on my own.

When I entered UP in 1974, everything seemed quiet. But after the arrest of Philippine Collegian editor Ditto Sarmiento and other student leaders in 1976, marches were held on campus calling for their release and condemning political represssison.

The first march that I attended was violently dispersed by the police in front of the UP Main Library. There, I learned my lesson on police violence and state fascism but since I did not belong to any organization then, I was unable to sustain my activism.

Only when I was elected to the Sampaguita Dormitory Council in 1977 and became a member of the University Alliance that my involvement deepened.

I was determined to get my education from the streets, factories, urban poor communities and anywhere outside the walls of the classroom. I attended classes only to take my exams and would be outside the classroom to organize, visit Tondo for immersion and participate in protest actions.

We staged lightning rallies in Manila shouting the slogan “Marcos, Hitler, Diktador, Tuta!” and by the time we repeated the slogan for maybe 10 times, the rally was over.

Two of the significant rallies that I attended in 1977 were the August 25 rally in front of St. Theresa’s College and the September 21 rally in Avenida Rizal. The August 25 rally of about 5,000 participants was organized to denounce the human rights violations of Marcos in time for the World Congress of Jurists that was to be held on that month.

The rally was violently dispersed by truncheon-wielding policemen. They also used water cannons with colored water to mark activists for arrest. I narrowly escaped arrest by going inside the San Marcelino church where a sympathetic church goer handed me a t-shirt so I can change my marked blouse.

The Avenida rally held on September 21 was the first big multi-sectoral rally of more than 10,000 that openly called for the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship. We were with the other women, nuns and religious people at the back of the composite team of rallyists assigned to defend the ranks.

But the police used water cannons with even greater pressure that dispersed the composite and exposed us directly to the water cannons. We initially held the lines but later had to scamper to safety when the pressure of the water cannons with colored water laced with chemicals became unbearably painful to our skin and eyes.

The revival of student activism gave birth to the National League of Filipino Students on September 11, 1977 — a fitting birthday gift to the dictator who turned out to be the best recruiter of activists.

Copycat dictators and would-be tyrants should learn this lesson from our history: tyrants fall and dictatorships end. I, too, learned mine: the youth are the children of the struggles of their forebears and will carry them on.”