Jenena T. Solmayor
The Mindanao State University General Santos City Faculty Union in partnership with MSU-GSC College of Education, Department of Sociology and the Department of History hosted a forum The Truth About Martial Law: Real Stories, Real People #NeverAgain, Don’t Forget held last 21-22 March.
Susan F. Quimpo, author of the book Subversive Lives: A Family Memoir of the Marcos Years, shared her family’s traumatic experience during the Marcos administration. Marcos, she argues, was the best recruiter of protest movement, in the sense that 7 out of 10 members of her family were encouraged to join anti-dictatorship movements due to the regime’s cruelty.
Quimpo makes a strong argument about remembering the impact of the dictatorship to the country. She challenges the increasingly popular view that Marcos was a good leader by narrating her family’s experience with human rights violations during the regime.
Here’s a glimpse of Quimpo’s personal account, based on her social media post entitled “Life Under Martial Law- Personal Account #01”
Martial Law had such an impact on my life. I lived in a street called Concepcion Aguila, a fifteen-minute walk from Malacañang. With the onset of martial law, our neighborhood turned into garrison. First came the 24-hour shift of palace guards manning wooden road blocks. Soon the roadblocks were replaced with heavy iron barricades densely warped with barbed wire. Then the rickety wooden police outpost at our street corner was torn down, and solid concrete stations, complete with toilets and telephones, were built. During curfew hours, the army trucks would often come and empty their hulls of soldiers. Police cars with squawk boxes joined the party. Residents needed special car passes to enter the area. Soldiers randomly checked pedestrians for the IDs certifying they lived in the district. Like prisoners, we needed the military’s permission to enter to our own homes. Then the military raids began, at first to ensure that the homes around the palace were stripped of civilian-owned firearms. But as years passed, our apartment was singled out, and this time the raiding teams were bent on making arrests. Even though these events happened, Ferdinand Marcos adamantly denied the existence of detention camps. Martial law forced to open the opposition movement underground. When military repression ensued, the call for rebellion was justified. Almost overnight, the members of the underground movement with new names: subversives, communist insurgents, terrorists, guerillas, rebels. Yet, my personal lexicon remained unchanged; in my mind, they were simply family.
She also stated that the effects of martial law to her family were separation and torture. Her brothers Jan, Nathan, and Norman were arrested and maltreated by the military captors. Jan’s head was repeatedly immersed in commode filled with urine, water was injected into his testicles, his feet were doused, then jabbed with live wire. Nathan was stripped naked and clubbed until he was nearly unconscious. Her sister Lillian was missing for more than two weeks and her dad made the rounds of prisons in search for her sister.
Quimpo poses a confronting question: How can you move on? How can you forgive and call for reconciliation when there is no justice?
More than 600 students attended the forum—a large number that left audiences standing along the stairs and the hallway.
One possible reason for the huge interest among the student relates to the way in which Quimpo explained atrocities that happened during the Martial Law. Because her lecture was based on personal experience, the audience was able to visualize what happened and learn lessons from it. One valuable lesson I personally got from the event is the importance of choosing the right leader for the country, the kind who will commit to fight for freedom and human rights.
I also realized the value of remembering, especially now that EDSA happened 30 years ago, which may make it difficult for current generations to make connections about what happened in the past. Truly, I find the forum inspiring because the Filipinos showed their love towards their country by literally investing blood, sweat and tears in order to gain the freedom, justice and democracy for the country.
Jenena T. Solmayor is a second year sociology student at the Mindanao State University-General Santos City. She is also the Treasurer of the Sociology Club.