But what we need to know is that in the latter years of the Marcos regime, the family’s systemic plundering of the economy [of which there are thousands of evidences, each one more glaring and flabbergasting than the last], alongside that of the greed of their cronies, eventually weakened the economy country. People forget that the dire effects of corruption are not immediate, but is felt in the cumulative. By the early 1980s, the country plunged into its worst postwar economic downturn, with the GDP shrinking by 7.3% for two consecutive years, 1984 and 1985. And this downturn was so large that it took the country more than two decades to recover to the level of GDP per person in 1982. In other words, the glamorous parties that were being thrown in the early days to signal a flimsy success finally gave way for the stark reality to bite everyone’s ass when corruption and systemic economic instability could no longer be denied. [Source]
Point 5: As for the increase in “infrastructure,” many books and articles have been written about the Marcosian edifice complex, which had a hefty price. Economist Emmanuel de Dios wrote in 1984 that the bulk of the construction projects made during the Martial Law “were not very productive and many were outrightly wasteful,” and that while some have cultural value, other projects consisted of “overdesigned bridges, highways, public buildings or large energy projects designed to secure a political constituency, to get a commission, or to corner a contract.” And which required the country to borrow money, which according to expert estimates, will take the country up to 2025 to fully pay the debt incurred during the Martial Law. [Source]
Point 6: Was it all really good, was it for the people, was it for the country? Or was it about a family wanting to extend its powers beyond the limits given to them by the constitution of the country, and amass untold wealth in the process—which has resibo, which has been proven in various court, which has been historically affirmed as true. It was not good at all for the country. [Sources: There are too many, but here’s one that gives a good summary]
And finally, that dismissive acknowledgment of the abuses, dear sir, makes me wonder what kind of morality you have. As if the souls of all those who died, and the troubled memories of all those who suffered but lived to become witnesses, are mere “footnotes” in your insistence of Marcosian glory. The dismissal reminds me of another bloody dictator, Joseph Stalin, who once said: “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic.”
But here are some statistics, anyway, which I’m sure you will dismiss. The Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board currently recognizes 11,103 victims of the Marcos regime. Out of over 75,000 claimants of martial law victims, 11,103 were processed by the board as eligible persons for financial assistance. [Source]
The numbers for each approved claim are as follows:
Killing and enforced disappearances: 2,326
Torture (rape and forcible abduction): 238
Torture (mutilation, sexual abuse, involving children and minors): 217
Torture (psychological, emotional, and mental harm): 1,467
Cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment: 182
Detained (more than 6 months): 699
Detention (15 days to 6 months): 1,417
Involuntary exile (violence and illegal takeover of business): 579
Involuntary exile (intimidation and physical injuries): 2,739
Last September 21, to commemorate the 51st anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, we honored those 11,103.
I helped DAKILA Dumaguete screen the documentary 11,103, directed by Mike Alcazaren and Jeannette Ifurong, for the Dumaguete community, and we showed the film at the Luce Auditorium. The filmmakers included my family’s story in a separate but powerful segment they’ve titled “Negros Martial Law Stories,” which included the stories of Joel Abong [the boy who died from malnourishment, and became the grim poster boy for the Martial Law shenanigans regarding Negros sugar], the Negros 9, and the Escalanate Massacre. The film itself unspools with the stories and faces of various victims of Martial Law, just a few of the 11,103 or even more that suffered tremendously during those times. They told us stories of torture and hardships and persecutions and massacres by the military. Who knew about the massacres in Mindanao? In Mindoro? In Samar?
I think of these people in the film—and how they readily gave their unwavering witness with their voices undistorted and their faces clearly seen. While you, dear anonymous man in the shadows, prefer to hide your face in shadows and your voice distorted. Which is telling. If you think you have the handle on the “truth,” why hide?
Truth to tell, I’m still overwhelmed by the response to the screening of the 11,103 documentary at the Luce. That Mike and Jeannette were able to beautifully tell the story of my family and the loss of our land during Martial Law is something priceless, and my family is indebted to them for telling our story in a very sensitive way. The Negros Stories portion was all of a piece, and all four stories really managed to paint our island as one of the worst hit in terms of abuse. All the other stories were also compelling, and made me teary-eyed. Who knew?
I’ve written so much already about this subject, so I’m just going to make the remainder of this article about thanksgiving and acknowledgments. A huge thank you, of course, to the filmmakers, and to producers Kara Magsanoc Alikpala and Zonia Bandoy for persevering! Thank you to all friends and students who carved out a portion of their work/school day to commemorate September 21 with this film! [I know it wasn’t easy, and I know that many of them were also denied the chance to see the film because of the authorities immediately above them. Binawalan!] Thank you to Dakila Dumaguete for organizing this, and for making sure everything ran smoothly. And thank you to Diomar Abrio for the graciousness of helping us screen this film at Silliman.
The talkback portion of the program essentially consisted of people wanting to tell their own Martial Law story, and students responding emotionally to the stories on screen—which was all very moving. Mike said something in the end about the film urging all of us to “start small” in our own projects of remembrance, and to “find our own stories” about what happened in our country decades ago, which still divides us all until today.
“Ask your family for their Martial Law stories, like what Ian did,” he said. That is important, I think, because right now, what we face is really a battle of narratives—but the truth of history is in our side. Merong resibo.
But it’s important to find and tell the stories.
Because the stories are what will reach people. People like you, dear anonymous man in the shadows, do not care anymore about facts and statistics—all readily available for you to study, but will probably ignore. But you might care for stories, and you might be moved by them.
Many of the subjects on the film [as well as some of the people who gave their stories during the Q and A] were united by one thing: their Martial Law story was something they never talked about for years and years, until now. [In the documentary, a son tearfully confronted his father on camera: “Why did you never tell us that they put a sack over your head when the military picked you up?” His father's response: “I didn’t say anything because it was too painful to tell.”] And in our audience that day, Atty. Whelma Flores Siton-Yap felt compelled to tell the story of her father [which I won’t repeat here because it is her story to tell]. She said in a rejoinder: “I’ve never told anyone this story before, until now.”
It was the same with my family: kay “family writer” man ko and I was a baby when all these happened, I asked endless questions about the painful chapters of my family’s past to overly reticent members of it, and I dug deeper, and out of that came the viral essay, “Raping Sugarland.” When the documentary crew came over two years ago to film us, I was even surprised to find that my brother Dennis, normally a very quiet and non-political dude, had a lot of things to say about my family’s experience. I saw that as him grabbing the chance to talk about dark things in his past he had long since suppressed.
But there are so many Martial Law stories left untold, and that generation of witnesses are becoming old and dying. For that alone, I’m glad I said yes to taking part of this documentary project.
This is for history, this is for remembrance.