MARCOS HORCRUX. A piece of furniture at the Malacanang Museum screams a dark history. It is a chair where Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared Proclamation 1081 on the 21st of September 1972. Two days prior to that national broadcast, Marcos has already placed the Philippines under Martial Law. This granted him the authoritarian powers that he claimed necessary to eliminate the violent overthrow of the republic and to initiate reforms under what he would call the New Society.
As the dictator, Marcos closed down Congress, sequestered big businesses and mass media, centralized the police and army, arrested his critics without due process and silenced those he considered enemies of his administration.
WALL OF REMEMBRANCE. I belong to a generation that can only learn about this dark episode in our history from reading books and making pilgrimages to places where the violence and the heroism are remembered. The Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City is our version of the many holocaust museums around the world. But instead of Hitler and the Nazi regime, Bantayog ng mga Bayani tells about the heroes and events during Martial Law and the Marcos regime.
Standing on the beautifully landscaped park designed by National Artist for Architecture Ildefonso P. Santos is the Inang Bayan Monument. The 45-foot bronze sculpture by Eduardo Castrillo is like Michelangelo’s La Pieta depicting Inang Bayan lifting a fallen martyr. A portion of Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios is inscribed at the base of the monument. A black granite wall with the names of those who fought the repressive regime that ruled the country from 1965 to 1986 are immortalized in the Wall of Remembrance.
BANTAYOG MUSEUM. Aside from materials that are available today, the things I knew about Martial Law, its key players and history were based from stories narrated to me by my parents. I remember a story told to me by my mother about an uncle and how he managed to slipped out of the country to escape mass arrest and avoided torture from military men. Looking at the exhibits at the Bantayog Museum made me realize that not everyone is as fortunate as my uncle.
It has been observed that Filipinos are too forgiving and too forgetful. The museum’s objective is to help people remember one of the darkest moments of our past, learn from its lessons and make sure that it never happens again.
THE MARCOS DICTATORSHIP. Ascending the stairs from the museum lobby, leads to the main gallery. The first thing that greeted me was an enlarged picture of President Ferdinand Marcos with Imelda and the first family during 1965 oath taking ceremonies. Surrounding the enlarged picture are images with captions that illustrate poverty, torture and violence inflicted on protesters, and another one that explains why Marcos and Hitler are alike.
Marcos became president in 1965. During his term, the national debt grew and this was left to the Filipino people after his dictatorship. Martial Law destroyed the balance of freedom and established a culture of fear. The Marcos dictatorship was intended to rule for life to enrich its leaders and the cronies through ill-gotten wealth at the expense of the Filipino people.
BOMBING THE OPPOSITION. At one corner stands a life-size cut out of the eloquent opposition leader Jose Diokno speaking before a mammoth crowd during the 1971 political campaign rally at Plaza Miranda, which ended in tragedy after two grenades were tossed onstage wiping out the senatorial line-up of the opposition party.
Marcos proclaimed Martial Law thirteen months after the gruesome carnage at Plaza Miranda. Opposition leaders that survived the Plaza Miranda bombing were arrested in the first hours of the dictatorship.
ARRESTS HERE AND THERE AND EVERYWHERE. A dimly lit corner leads to a replica of a prison cell of activist Father Jerry Aquino. He was detained in Camp Bagong Diwa for speaking up against the Marcos regime’s excesses and for opposing the building of Chico Dam in the Cordilleras. The prison cell was cramped with a small bunk bed and toilet bowl.
Marcos kept his political enemies under tightest security in military camps nationwide because of the fear that they gain public sympathy.
THE ROAD TO EDSA. With increasing civil unrest, failing economy, uncontrolled corruption of cronies, a hostile international media, the murder of popular Senator Ninoy Aquino, the fraudulent snap election and the mutiny in the military, the tide turns against the 20-year rule of Marcos.
The historic narration of events at Bantayog Museum culminates with the exhibit depicting the triumphal 1986 EDSA Revolution with the image of Our Lady of Fatima sitting atop a replica of a military tank set against the backdrop of mass protesters.
HALL OF REMEMBRANCE. From the main gallery, I was led to a room that shows morbid images of dead people and the description of how they met their violent deaths. The Hall of Remembrance gives tribute to those who who died because they revealed the evils and truths of the Marcos dictatorship and fought for the restoration of freedom.
Under Martial Law, there were about 75,000 +++ human rights abuses that were documented and proven.
DESAPARECIDOS. Among those who met their violent death were Emmanuel Lacaba who was shot in his mouth, Liliosa Hilao who was poisoned with acid, Antonio Hilario was buried alive, Soledad Salvador, Resteta Fernandez and Fr. Nilo Valerio were beheaded. A series of pictures showing Jun Quimpo Jr. singing with a guitar, with a toy gun and a photo after being shot.
Carlos Bernardo del Rosario, a political science instructor at PCC (Philippine College of Commerce now PUP), has held different positions in various movements in opposition to the excesses of the Marcos regime. He was last seen putting up campaign posters inside the PCC campus and was never found despite search efforts. His disappearance was the first case of the Desaparecidos.
EPILOGUE: NEVER AGAIN. The relics and exhibits at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani give names to the countless that died in the hands of a dictator, his family and his friends. But what is the point of revisiting the past? Do we have to own the pain of those who were raped, tortured, and killed during that oppressive regime? Can’t we just move on? We do not need to fan the flames of hate today. But we have to remind generations the valuable lesson that evil exists because good men do nothing.
While it is said that history is written by the victors who have hung the heroes, thus our oral and written history may be revised, but the Truth we shall all be answerable to the Higher Being.
-Feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe,O.F.M.
patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, journalists, and the pro-life movement