32 short years since we toppled a dictator, we seem to live yet again under the martial rule. It is now, more than ever, that we must take further actions in assuring that the blessing of democracy will always be celebrated and the lives of those who gave it will always be remembered.
Thus, this year, the Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC), Ateneo Law School (ALS) Student Council and The Palladium hosted “Tagpuan: Tinig ng Taumbayan” a week-long commemoration and celebration of the spirit of Filipino strength and patriotism.
As part of the event, an exhibit entitled “Martial Law Noon. Ano na Ngayon?” was launched at the B1 auditorium from February 26 to March 1, 2019. The exhibit highlighted the atrocities during martial law and our country’s situation at present.
Actual statistics during the martial law era were highlighted in the exhibit. The propaganda of being the leading economy during those years is belied by the fact that our poverty incidence, according to World Bank, showed 42% lived below the poverty line by 1980. No amount of infrastructures built can likewise justify that 5,531 suffered torture, 2, 537 were summarily executed, and 92, 607 were arbitrarily arrested and detained.
In the exhibit, messages of hope from some of our esteemed faculty were flashed. Dean Jose Hofileña of Ateneo Law School said, “Much has been said about the resiliency of the Filipino people in the face of even the most overwhelming oppression and suffering and about how this characteristic endurance stems from our innate belief in the interminability of liberating hope. I do not disagree one bit. For my part, my hope is that our hopes lead to action and action lead to change and change lead to peace, justice and a true spirit of community in our country so that the day may come that we find no reason to have to hope as much.”
On the other hand, Dean Mel Sta. Maria of Far Eastern University Institute of Law reminded us that, “Our duty to make our country good again did not end when People Power happened 32 years ago in EDSA.”
As part of the commemoration, there was also a free screening of the movie, Liway, at B1 Auditorium of the Ateneo Professional Schools Building. Liway showcases, among others, the lives of Commander Liway, whose life changed from being a teacher of revolutionary catechism to becoming a political prisoner, and her son, Dakip, who was born and raised in a prison camp together with the other political prisoners and criminals, during martial law. The movie is directed by Dakip, who is now known as Kip Oebanda.
Together with us during the film showing were Commander Liway herself, Mrs. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, and Kenken Nuyad, the actor who played the role of “Dakip”. After the movie, Mrs. Cecil and Kenken, together with Ryan Pelongco as host, answered and shared with the audience their personal experiences and realizations.
When asked about her life during martial law, Mrs. Cecil shared that she was about 20 years old when she had to leave her home to live in the mountain. She recalled that she was still playing back then as she was still a part of the youth. She even spilled about the unfortunate event that happened to her friend, Fiel, and about how hard it is to live in a prison camp.
Right after martial law, Mrs. Cecil pursued on helping other people. She shared about the efforts she, together with the AHRC and Dean Sedfrey Candelaria, had exerted to lobby the passing of the law against child labor. At present, Mrs. Cecil is heading a non-government organization, which helps rescue victims of human trafficking. Their work may be likened to an action movie, as they really chase and get chased, whether in transport or in a base, just to save the victims from being sold.
On the issue of the recent martial law that happened in Mindanao and of the present government, Mrs. Cecil commented that there really are red flags that are similar to what happened during the Marcos regime. She advised the students to not be indifferent on the present issues that are happening in the country.
She shared, “Kahapon noong nasa Gateway ako, ang tanong ng mga bata ‘Sino po ang aming tatakbuhan kung may problema kami? Vini-violate ang aming mga karapatan.’” “Takbuhan mo ang sarili mo kasi karapatan mo ‘yon eh,” she responded. She elaborated how we, in general, are used to other people helping us. She encouraged us to fight for our own rights, then the others, and then our country. To answer the question “how”, she said that there are a lot of avenue to do it. Back in her time, there are people who used their writing and public speaking skills to fight for their rights. As to the spouses Oebanda, they really had to face the government and use arms to fight. For the present youth, Mrs. Cecil advised to find in our hearts and in ourselves on what we can do to contribute to fight for the country.
Kenken Nuyad, on the other hand, also shared with the audience on how he prepared and how Direk Kip guided him throughout the making of the film. He also shared how this film made him love the country and his mother even more. Kenken Nuyad is also among the actors in the movie “School Service”, an indie film showcasing the lives of children exploited to beg in the streets.
Indeed, the fight of democracy and the promise to make ours a better country to live in are far from over. Badges of oppression and dictatorship, once in a while, appear before us. It is then our duty, in the words of former Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, “to never again allow ourselves to go back to those dark and terrible times.” 32 years ago, many have struggled. Today, we continue their fight.