It is utterly depressing that for such recent history, and with so many of Martial Law’s victims and survivors still alive and well, speaking up and screaming at the top of their lungs, that here we are divided about the burial of one Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Worse, that the Supreme Court would be so divided as well, right down the middle if we are to believe the grapevine, with seven-for and seven-against the burial of the dictator at the heroes’ cemetery.
The President and history
Ironically, this is all happening under one President Duterte, who invokes history all the time.
With him as President, we have had a history lesson on the purported “discovery” of the Philippines by Magellan. Instead the President champions Lapu-Lapu, the first native to fight a colonizer.
“I will raise to level, to the stature of a hero si Lapu-Lapu. He was the first native who fought and even killed the imperialists, si Magellan. To honor his feat <…> Lapu-Lapu should be given the highest honor. Siya ang unang nakipagbakbakan eh kasi ginawa lang nila si Lapu-Lapu na isda and I do not like it.” (GMANewsOnline, 16 May)
When the President invoked the 1906 massacre at Bud Dajo of 600 to 800 Moros (depending on which account you’re looking at), women and children included, it was to remind us all of a forgotten, often silenced historical fact: that America subjugated the Philippines, not just through “benevolent assimilation” but also through outright violence, as with Mindanao.
And no, the declarations of President Duterte against America are not just about this one event, as it is rooted in a very clear sense of how this relationship we’ve kept with America has been unjust and unfair all these years. It is not to endanger the lives of our family and friends who live and work in America, as it is to point out a historical injustice wrought by one country over another.
I’ve said it before and I say it again: there is value in having a President who actually takes this stance about America at this point in time. What a great opportunity this is to discuss nation better and deal more honestly with why we think the way we do about America, and freedom, and nation.
The Marcoses and history
Like President Duterte, the Marcoses were also preoccupied with history.
Unlike President Duterte, the Marcoses did not seek to articulate what has been silenced by history, neither did they want to use history to build our nation’s identity.
Instead the Marcoses manipulated history. They wanted to ensure that it would be a narrative of how Ferdinand and Imelda were the saviors of nation, if not the representation of our roots in Malakas and Maganda. They wanted Ferdinand to go down in history as a war hero, so they pretended he had earned all those war medals – all debunked by the officers he served under. They tried – and failed – to erase Imelda’s past, whatever was there that she found embarrassing or shameful.
And even as we now know about how Marcosian history was but propaganda to justify the dictatorship, we also know that the corruption and patronage politics that the Marcoses practically institutionalized ensured that the history in our textbooks and school curricula would be kind to the conjugal dictatorship regardless.
Regardless of the thousands who were victims of Martial Law. Regardless of the voices of the survivors of torture and rape and abuse during the dictatorship. Regardless of the films and documentaries, the historical accounts and testimonials about the oppressive and repressive, violent and abusive Marcos years.
To the Marcoses, history was a way of painting a pretty picture of their dark reign over the nation. With their cronies maintaining a stronghold over government all these years, it was easy to keep this bogus narrative alive and well.
It’s really no different from the colonial narratives that keep us believing that Magellan “discovered” the Philippines, and that the US has always treated us as equals.
Which is why it’s ironic that President Duterte would stand for this kind of historical revisionism that the Marcoses have stood for all these years, which is to culminate in this burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
It is ironic because this is in fact no different from the kind of revised history that the US colonial enterprise made us believe, so that we might forget the massacre of Moros in Bud Dajo, and so we might turn a blind eye to America’s unfair treatment of us all these years.
In a little over 100 days, President Duterte has shown us how important history is, how critical he is of the way it is told, what it silences, what we are being made to forget. He has reminded us that history in fact is about stories being told in favor of one narrative, one narrator. He is teaching us that there are many forces that work toward the telling of the same histories over and over again, until we actually believe one story to be true.
This is what the Marcoses have been doing, and it is beyond me why President Duterte does not stand squarely against this telling of history that erases and silences the experience of thousands of the Marcos dictatorship’s victims.
They are no different from the Moros massacred by Americans in Bud Dajo. And as the President stands for those lives lost in the hands of Americans, it behooves him to stand as well for those lives lost in the hands of one Ferdinand Marcos, dictator.
First published in the Radikal Chick column at The Manila Times, 19 Oct 2016.