Deciphering Martial Law at 40


I woke up early today. Too early for a bedweathered Sunday, actually. As I do my morning ritual of checking Tweets and IGs, I noticed feeds about the Philippine Martial Law… and I learned that today is its 40th anniversary.

I was too young for Martial Law. I have no memory or recount for it. The first childhood years I remember are those with massive blackouts, eating my dinner with my yaya with a candle lit on–it was the Cory regime already.

People have portrayed the Martial Law as something scary and bad. When I was younger, I learned in school how oppressive Marcos’ regime was. Our history books in school have talked so little about Marcos and has always showed him in a bad light. Cory’s would always have a longer write up, with the famous picture of her doing the “Laban” sign or the picture of the nuns along EDSA doing the makibaka sign during the revolution.

But is this what we really want for our country? This thing we call democracy. Over time, as I talk to people who would casually mention about martial law, I have learned otherwise.

One day I was able to talk to a cab driver who casually opened the topic Martial Law. He relates how the Philippines was during those years. I remember him saying matter of factly, “noon, lahat ng tao takot gumawa ng masama!” He continues by comparing the ruthless crimes we experience nowadays–we have snatchers everywhere, hold-uppers and carnappers waiting for their next victim even during broad daylight, and so on. These rotten people have become so brave in doing their scheme–all of which were not happening during the martial law. The cab driver added, as I recall, “the Philippines was a much safer place to live in during Marcos’ regime.”

Putting all the killings aside, economically, the Philippines ranked as one of the top countries in Asia during those years. Imagine having an exchange rate of USD1 – PHP 4 (wow, imagine all the shopping we could do with that) to what we have now USD1 – PHP45. All the nice things I have learned about the Marcos regime were all outside the classroom.

While Marcos was the ironhand, his first lady was dubbed as the iron butterfly. Heck, even her shoes bagged something from the Guinness book of world records! Imelda Marcos threw a lot of extravagant social gatherings, inviting notable guests in each event, marking our country as a very lavishly cultural nation.

Imelda was the brain behind the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Nayong Pilipino; Philippine International Convention Center, Folk Arts Theater, Coconut Palace, and the Manila Film Center. Likewise, the Marcoses invested a lot of health centers which still provide affordable medical services to Filipinos to date, such as: the Philippine Heart Center, the Lung Center of the Philippines, and the Kidney Institute of the Philippines.

And what about the issue on corruption? Aren’t they all. Someone told me how the Cory regime was as corrupt or maybe even more corrupt than the rest of them all (take note: I am NOT implicating that she is corrupt herself, I am saying that her period was). Although she was good herself, the people around her made a good use of her image to facilitate this corruption. Even the religious leaders were taking a lot of the people’s money during her years. That’s democracy, all right.

Marcos was a dictator. A very smart one. Although tough, I believe he was an effective leader for this country. I believe this country needed his ironfists. I believe that the Filipino’s idea of democracy has deteriorated the country’s state further. Yes, I believed and I’m convinced with Marcos’ brilliance. Look at Singapore and China and how they are now. Look at what democracy did to the Philippines. It’s like we stepped out of the spotlight and watched our neighboring countries leave us behind.

But then again I guess his regime started to crumble when his personal interests began to cloud his dictatorship over time. Greed took over his leadership versus the people’s interest. One bad thing led to the other, thinking he could get away with it. Until the people had the guts to push back and fight against him.

I know I am in no position to have a credible say about martial law. I was not even alive during those years and I’m not even a historian to bring a conclusive essay about it. But these are just my tidbits. You can have yours.

If you have first-hand experiences during those years, or even the things you have learned from your parents about the Philippine Martial Law, please leave them as comments below. I would love to hear about them. I would love to learn more about our country.

Anyway, here are some good links for you to learn more about the Philippine martial law and brush up on your history–it’s good to have some from time to time:

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