I was barely in my teens and a greenhorn freshman when the despotic regime of Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972. Having been raised in an outback island where life was easy and unperturbed by the social turbulences in the cities, I was not perturbed by the growing tensions in the national capital and elsewhere, where there were resistance.
High school was a breeze then, I was only concerned about my grades and my girl-barkadas, didn’t even have night-life, as I was also sheltered and overly-protected by relatives who sent me to school.
Then when the time came and I had to be in college, that’s where my awakening to the real world started. I didn’t know then that I could be part of that historical turn of events when a dictator finally met its downfall.
It was only when I started to be conscious about the real world around me, when my eyes were suddenly opened to the cruelty and inhumanity of the dispensation, and the people’s cry for justice, the struggles of the ordinary people, the farmers who were gunned down in broad daylight by Marcos’ armed forces…, that I thought my mind was also blown away.
I was revolted by the scenes that was playing right before my very eyes, every day as Marcos’ menacing paramilitary and CHDFs bared their monstrosity against helpless Lumads in the countryside, and the farmers, fisher folks workers, everyone that gets in their way.
Imagine yourself in the middle of the city where our university was located, and endless waves upon waves of people came marching through the streets bearing protests banners, shouting not vindictive words but the ouster of a tyrannical leader in Marcos, demanding a stop to the atrocities brought upon them…
It was hard to listen to the professors’ lectures when your spirit was elsewhere, and so to be truthful to the self, one had to yield to the curiosity (at first) initially that gave way to the real understanding of the whole social diaspora.
Henceforth, it was hard lessons thereon, as me and my fellow campus writers started to learn the social ropes about the real situation, and why there seemed to be only chaos in our society.
Then I remembered crying in one of those lectures about class analysis and Philippine Social realities upon learning that my family belong to that “class” in our society that was considered “opportunistic”, not because my family was, as I always considered my family beyond reproach, as my parents were all “religious” and God-fearing, but because my family descendants came from the “upper-middle class”, landlords and having “servants” who helped raised us kids.
It was not easy then to accept that reality. But to understand and arrive at the questions in my mind, I need to go back and get to the roots of the problems that beset society during my time.
But then there was no time to waste then, as campus “activists” became targets of repression like many among our peers who fell and became victims of the Marcos regime. One among us at Atenews who became martyrs was Babette Prudencio and her unborn fetus, our News Editor, was gunned down while running away from the line of fire, as it was told, during a raid in the countryside.
National leaders among the youth activists like Lean Alejandro, and many others among countless of youngsters have succumb as more and more friends were imprisoned, disappeared or felled with bullets.
Learn fast, we must then.
What was imperative for campus scribes like us at that time was the necessity to join the growing masses who could no longer take the abuses of the despotic regime. What later came out of the campus paper that we need to put out with urgency every time were the real picture outside the campus, and that earned for us the ire and suspicion not only of the school authorities but also State intelligence agents who stalked us even inside the campus.
What was clear though was that we cannot close our eyes to what was happening outside the four walls of our classrooms. We were oblivious then that we were actually learning our lessons not in the comforts of the four walls of our school, but out there, from real-life situations of struggle of the Filipino masses, because it would have been futile to deny ourselves the truth when it was staring back at us in black and white.
The unflinching truth in street protests had taught us about the kind of society that we needed to change, if we want the next generation to live a life. Thus it was then, in our time, as it is now, in this generation whom the martyrs of my time have offered their lives for.