My grandparents’ house has an underground hole. It has been there since before I was born. For this reason, I was never bothered about its existence; I thought it was originally part of the house – like a basement where Lolo could store his farm equipment. Besides, the oldest houses in their neighborhood also have small underground holes, so it was never unusual for us.
I never thought hard about it until I reached first year college, when my Papa called it pakshul. He has been using that word to describe the underground hole even when we were still young but I was not old enough to know that he meant “foxhole” – an underground hiding place.
What I thought was an original part of the house’s structure was actually dug to protect my grandparents and their family during encounters between the military and the New People’s Army decades ago. Lola narrated that as soon as they heard gunshots they will immediately scamper underground, trembling in nervousness. This also explains why some of the old houses have holes underground, too. It’s so appalling thinking that the place where we used to run around was the same place where my Lola’s family would huddle in fright.
Remarkably, not far away from their house was a small chapel with an unusual bell. Hanging from a guava tree’s branch just outside the chapel is a rusting vintage bomb. Like the hole under my grandparents’ house, the bell for me, and for most of the young residents of the Sitio, was just a large piece of iron. I did not know then that it dated back to the Japanese occupation. It is interesting how the object that once divided people during the war is now constantly banged every Sunday to gather residents for the Celebration of the Word.
The underground hole in my grandparent’s house and the improvised bell of their chapel make me think about how history may be manifested even on seemingly negligible objects – objects which became very usual and uninteresting since it has been there even before our existence. This makes me fear that many years from now, the generation might be oblivious of this country’s own history or, worse, might have a distorted perspective on it. Because systematic injustices have been constantly happening now, we might regard them as normal and might entirely forget why they happened in the first place.
September is one of the months with dates most people cannot seem to forget (at least today). The 9/11 attacks, for example, will always be remembered and condemned every year. Coincidentally, 11th of September is also the birthday of one of the most controversial presidents this country had – Ferdinand Marcos. Ten years after this date, the dictator signed Proclamation 1081, placing the whole country under Martial Law.
However, even these historical events are getting more and more unclear as the remnants of their occurrence get more and more distant from the present. In fact, last year, the brutality of Martial Law and the dictatorship of Marcos turned blurry that some of the young believed that no brutality happened at all and that the said era was not as bloody as how the victims who experienced them first hand have expressed. But I can’t blame them entirely, for how can we open their minds to the truth when those who remember the past are combated by those who want to change it?
But around us, like the underground hole or the improvised bell, there are always hints of the past, and no matter how obscure they are – no matter how other people try to hide them – it will always reconnect us to the truth, and make us realize why we are like this at present.
Commemorating the day Marcos signed the Martial Law Proclamation is a time to hear the cries of its victim, a time to clarify, a time to protest not only against the Marcoses’ revolting atrocity but more importantly, against those who want to revise the past. The fight now is not only between the Marcoses and the people; it is now between those who hold the truth about history and those who want to change it to save the Marcoses from the horrible crimes they have committed.
Extreme forgetfulness is the most undesirable and painful thing a person can experience, according to my Lola who suffers short-term memory loss. It makes you unaware of the happiness you have experienced and conversely, of the challenges you have conquered; it makes you unaware of why the present even exists; it makes you live in lies. In these challenging times, this, perhaps, is what Filipinos should avoid: forgetting. (davaotoday.com)