Source: Humans of Pinas

“I was one year away from college graduation when Martial Law was declared. That morning before school, we woke up and there was nothing to listen to on the radio as we dressed up for school. Neither was there anything on TV.

In a corridor at the Ateneo, I saw some classmates had gathered. We were all wondering what was happening. It seemed like everyone was in a daze or in a state of fear.

Soon enough, some priests and administration officers told us that Martial Law had most likely been declared. Even if there was no media announcements yet, we were all sent home.

That evening, I watched Kit Tatad announce on TV that the Philippines was already under Martial Law. I felt that a long darkness had descended upon the country.

The weeks that followed are still vivid in my mind.

I saw with my own eyes how the military controlled everything. As a student, I saw soldiers stop buses and order people with long hair to come down.They were given instant haircuts. Why? Because they looked like hippies and subversives.

Some were picked up and put in military vehicles and brought to camps or safe houses for ‘questioning’. Some were tortured. Some were killed. Some disappeared without a trace.

Social life was heavily curtailed with curfews, checkpoints, and the presence of military and police everywhere. We had to be home by 12 midnight every night.

If you were caught on the road during curfew hours, you would be brought to Camp Crame and you had to cut grass the next morning.

If you were well-connected, however, you could get curfew passes which allowed you to be out in the streets at night. People were afraid.

Every hour on radio, you could hear the gravelly voice of actor Vic Silayan saying, “Sa ika-uunlad ng Bayan, disiplina ang kailangan.” It was brainwashing.

I remember APO performing at St Mary’s College a few months after Martial Law. Everyone was having a good time. All of a sudden, the police came and ordered the concert closed.

Everyone in the auditorium was asked to join one of the two lines. Those with long hair were told to join the line on the left side.

Those with regular length hair, lined up on the right side. As we walked out of the concert hall, police and a few agents dressed as civilians looked at each one of us in the eye. They decided right then and there who they branded as drug addicts, pushers, and ‘dangerous’.

Danny was unfortunately told to get out of line and join the ‘criminals.’ He explained that he was there as a singer and, somehow, they decided to let him go. The rest were brought to Camp Crame.

The next few weeks and months, we heard that some classmates and people we knew had gone missing and joined the underground. Some were tortured and/or jailed just because they were activists.

Many were killed. I had at least 3 classmates who died or disappeared, and a few more jailed and tortured under the custody of the military.

I spent almost two decades of my life under the Marcos dictatorship. During those times, very few stood up against the regime. People mostly gave the Marcos dictatorship a chance in the beginning.

For a young man like me, I knew many wrong things were going on. People were being killed or kidnapped by the authorities. Human rights were violated. There was a climate of fear.

Within 2 years, people in power were already blatantly lording it over businessmen and stealing their companies, or extorting them.

New owners of media became little ‘gods’ who made sure that media promoted the ‘New Society’ that Marcos’ martial law was being touted as. Media was full of sycophants and traitors. People would not say anything critical to the government on air.

Despite the strict control of media, and the absence of social media and cellphones back then, word got out about how abusive the regime was becoming. People were slowly but surely becoming more and more informed and courageous.

Soon, there were small rallies despite the ban on assemblies and protests. Dangerous as rallies were, the crowds grew bigger and bigger with every scandal and abomination the dictatorship foisted on us.

It was, however, the assassination of Ninoy that eventually became the catalyst that forced Marcos to call for snap elections. The rest, as all of us know, is history.The day we won in EDSA, I promised myself that I would never again allow a dictator to rule over me.

I know many other people made that promise, too. It has been a number of decades since. And here we are, once again, being challenged by another dictatorship.

But a promise is a promise. And through hell or high water, I know many of us intend to keep it. Push is more and more coming to shove. Sorry na lang sa dictator!”