By: Mario Alvaro Limos

In a pushback against perceived memory loss and historical revisionism, several institutions are reminding us of the truths about Martial Law.

Forty-five years ago, the Philippines was put under martial law by Ferdinand Marcos. From 1972 to 1981, Marcos’ military rule resulted in 3,257 extrajudicial killings, 35,000 individual tortures, and 70,000 were incarcerations, and at least 737 Filipino Desaparecidos or the Disappeared Ones. After the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, Filipinos took back their freedom in what was largely seen as the world’s first bloodless revolution.

To mark the 45th Anniversary of Martial Law in the Philippines, several institutions are spearheading activities and opening museums to remember that decade in Philippine history. The following are some of the most interesting things you should know about.

Ateneo Opens a Martial Law Museum

Among the private higher educational institutions, Ateneo has always been one of the few very vocal institutions when it comes to threats to democratic values and perceived attempts at historical revisionism about Martial Law. In March 2016, over 400 members of the Ateneo faculty protested historical revisionism on Martial Law.

This year, the Jesuit institution has opened an online museum “that aims to counter historical revisionism by having an online presence that will feature works of art, lectures, essays, teaching resources, among others, curated from artists, experts, scholars, researchers, teachers and students,” according to their school’s website.

Despite the suspension of classes declared by Quezon City mayor, the institution has encouraged its students to participate in organized events within the campus on September 21.

The following are also some of the Ateneo’s activities lined up for the week:

September 18 to 22: Awareness-raising campaign: Malikhaing Protesta: Banner-making Contest

September 20: Organizing Dissent: A Workshop on Activism and the Specter of Martial Law (Faber Hall, 4  to 6 p.m.)

September 21: Sala sa Sala: Sifting through the Sins (Leong Hall Auditorium, 5 to 6:30 p.m.)

September 22:

  • Discussion on Political Detainees’ Experiences during Martial (Leong Hall Auditorium, 5 to 7 p.m.);
  • Special School Forum: Remembering Martial Law, Renouncing Extrajudicial Killings: Voice from Ateneo and Beyond (Escaler Hall, 5 to 6:30 p.m.)
  • Community Mass (Church of the Gesu, 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.)

GMA 7 Airs Alaala: A Martial Law Special

An original production by GMA News and Public Affairs, this biopic stars Alden Richards, who plays the role of Bonifacio Ilagan, who was arrested, incarcerated, and tortured for two years while he was a student at the University of the Philippines during Martial Law. Bonifacio “Boni” Ilagan is a recipient of multiple Palanca awards for film.

This gripping drama also stars Rocco Nacino, Bianca Umali, and seasoned actress Gina Alajar. You can watch this much-anticipated special on September 23 and 24. Running for an hour and a half, the film tackles human rights abuses during the period of Martial Law under Ferdinand Marcos. The film is directed by Adolf Alix.

According to Alix, millennials are one of the audiences he hopes to capture with this film. “What Sir Boni has gone through is very difficult, to be tortured, to lose a sibling, and to have a mother who always worries about you even if you want to fight for your rights,” said Alix. “Millennials will surely learn a lesson from this.”

The Department of Education Implements Teaching of Martial Law Years

It is not only private institutions that promote awareness and guard against forgetfulness about Martial Law under Ferdinand Marcos. In line with the K to 12 Curriculum, in 2016, the Department of Education started implementing the teaching of the problems and challenges that Filipinos faced during Martial Law Years.

According to their Curriculum Guide for Grade 6 Araling Panlipunan, students must be able to analyze the problems and challenges that Filipinos faced during Martial Law. They must also be able to come up with a conclusion about the effects of Martial Law on politics, economy and livelihood, and life of Filipinos.

Likewise, the Department of Education requires schools under its control to teach the students about the individual experiences of victims of Martial Law, such as Jovito Salonga, Lino Brocka, Jose “Pepe” Diokno, and Benjamin “Behn” Cervantes.

On its website, the education body reiterates its commitment to guard history against revisionism. “DepEd remains committed to highlighting the importance of learning the lessons of history and preserving the gains of democracy. We shall continue to enable our learners to remember and understand the country’s history and the impact of Martial Law to the lives of Filipinos today.”

With the DepEd at the forefront of educating the youth about Martial Law, it ensures that the following generations will always know about the mistakes of the past hopeful that they may not be repeated.

Things You Can Do on This Year’s Anniversary of Martial Law under Ferdinand Marcos

On September 21, Luneta and other places around the country will be sites of massive demonstrations in protest and remembrance of the 45th Anniversary of Martial Law. A list of nationwide demonstrations and their schedules have been posted online as a guide for people who want to participate, or otherwise, avoid to stay away from traffic jams. For people who plan to stay at home, the following are things you can do: 

Visit the Digital Museum of Martial Law in the Philippines

Apart from the one launched by Ateneo days ago, offers you an artful look at the realities of Martial Law through independent films produced by young Filipinos.

A statement on its website reads, “A virtual space serving as a living memorial to a pivotal period in Philippine history, the Digital Museum of Martial Law in the Philippines serves as a platform to provoke critical reflection, inclusive learning, and vigilant remembrance through the multi-faceted lens of artistic expression.”

Digital Museum of Martial Law in the Philippines was founded last year, on the 44th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law.

Watch Classic and Modern Filipino Films about Martial Law

Among the staple films about that period include Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag (1975) directed by Lino Brocka, which has earned its reputation of being one of the best Filipino films of all time. The film is ripe with symbolisms, down to the names of the main characters, like Ligaya Paraiso, who represents Inang Bayan, and Julio Madiaga, a symbol for the Filipino common man, his surname playing on the word matiyaga or industrious. The film displays oppressive undertones, reflective of the milieu in which it was produced.

Dekada ’70 (2002) directed by Chito Roño, is a more direct narration of events that took place in the Philippines during the seventies. It follows the struggles of the Bartolome family, a middle-class family who finds itself torn apart by Martial Law. Its star-studded cast includes Vilma Santos, Christopher De Leon, and Piolo Pascual.

Respeto (2017) is an independent film directed by Treb Monteras II, and features the Filipino subculture of underground hip-hop. Against this backdrop, the protagonist, Hendrix struggles to live his dream of becoming a great hip-hop artist, until he meets Doc, troubled poet who can’t forget his dark past about Martial Law. The film won multiple awards at the recently concluded 2017 Cinemalaya Film Festival.