By Marivir R. Montebon
I had sketchy memories of Martial Law in the Philippines. When Pres. Marcos declared it on September 21, 1972 to usher in a dictatorship that lasted for 20 years, I was in kindergarten, one of those referred to as Martial Law Babe. I faintly remembered there was chaos on the streets that day. I saw people marching and shouting and all my aunts and uncles who were in college and living with us at that time were home early, with curfew set at 6 o’clock in the evening.
They simply told me that the police will put people in jail if they were not home by 6 pm that day. That made me anxious, waiting for my parents to be home before 6 or they would be in jail! I cried during Martial Law for that.
In no time, my parents were home from the college where they work as teachers and we had dinner together. I wasn’t afraid anymore. End of memory for Martial Law.
Living in a shielded childhood, I never saw what political repression was, until I entered university and became a journalist. I realized that all hasn’t been well in my country and life wasn’t entirely a bed of roses. I began to write about it. The rest is history.
Freedom is precious and it has to be protected. No one has the right to control anybody, even if it had a well-meaning intention. Nothing could be worse, of course, if and when that control was meant for selfish ends.
There was no doubt about the greed for power that motivated Pres. Marcos to declare Martial Law. Strengthening him was the might of the military and the bunch of power sharers who had both economic and political stakes.
The repression seemed only controllable in many years. Then burst. Nothing lasts forever.
But the remnants of Martial Law became more chaotic and complex. It wisened up almost all power brokers, and the people were much more deep into fear and poverty. The immediate aftermath of Martial Law was worse.
To this date, there is still political repression in my country, in a much different degree, and poverty continues to dwell in majority of families. The fundamental problems on economic poverty and lack of appropriate education and ethics for development are still there. The continued diaspora of Filipinos to other lands is an outright proof of these long-standing problems.
I believe it doesn’t only take a clear visionary leadership to put forward a development agenda for the Philippines, it also takes a mature people to demand for it and work on it.
The Philippines’ rebirthing process is painfully slow. But I believe that as I write, many share my thoughts that genuine development is from the bottom up.