“The book is unfinished.
The Filipino people shall finish it for me,”
-Primitivo “Tibo” Mijares
Society is large and each person a small part of it, yet each one holds a potential to change society. Each person holds a pen, giving him or her the ability to write history, and thus giving him or her the capacity to create ideas that will shape history. What the person writes with that pen will serve as an assertion of a voice that will give the person the capacity to write the multi-faceted stories of people who suffered, and continue to struggle today. It is through that same pen, the people’s voice, that will give us the capability to forge our history. An example of this kind of person would be Primitivo “Tibo” Mijares, who wrote his book The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, which presented incriminating evidences against the abusive authoritarian regime of then President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda Marcos. Despite knowing his impending death after his decision to implicate, he still pushed through it, and thus created a book that contributed to the conception of the history of the Filipino people. However, the forging of Philippine history does not stop with Primitivo Mijares; we, as students of the present, should incorporate and weave the collective notion and sense of our society in rewriting a history that genuinely represent the poor, marginalized, and the oppressed masses. Hence, as Filipinos, there is a calling for us to learn not only from the past, but also from the current issues, and strive to rectify what has been distorted that will not just shape the historical landscape of Philippine history, but also will also mold the minds of the inheritors of our nation.
In this age, massive amounts of information are fed to us in a daily basis, and perhaps we have seen information pertaining to how Ferdinand Marcos was the “best” president, how his time was the “golden age” of the Philippines, and how martial law was used as a means to instill “peace” amidst the insurgency of the “rebels”. Until now, many people still believe this; in fact, there still exist a swarm of pro-Marcos Filipinos around the Philippines. Still, after the deaths of prominent student activists, the accounts of those who survived the tortures during the martial regime, the bribery of multiple public officials, the revelations on the extravagant life of Imelda Marcos, and the control of Ferdinand Marcos over free speech, many Filipinos still believe that all of these could be set aside due to the “economic progress” realized by the Marcoses and their cronies, although many statistics, and witness accounts say otherwise. Now, should we as Filipinos ourselves let the injustices, lies, and abuses of the Marcos regime be forgotten and replaced by the notion that the Marcos era was economically progressive due to the many infrastructures it has created? Should we simply forget that there were people who fought and died against the whitewashing of Philippine history, and against the abuses of the Marcoses and their cronies? Definitely, this is something that cannot be allowed.
“Hence, as Filipinos, there is a calling for us to learn not only from the past, but also from the current issues, and strive to rectify what has been distorted that will not just shape the historical landscape of Philippine history, but also will also mold the minds of the inheritors of our nation.”
Amidst the information of a “progressive economy” during the Marcos regime, we cannot simply dismiss information from accounts of other people who lived during his rule – that his regime was full of abuse and oppression, that his regime had violated the people’s freedom to speech, and that his regime plundered from our nation. The information simply tells us that there was something wrong during that time, and because there was something wrong, many people decided to speak against Ferdinand Marcos’ martial rule. We should not forget Liliosa Hilao, a student activist who spoke against the abuses of the administration, where even at the hands of her torturers, she cried cries of protest. Marsman Alvarez, an idealistic man who opposed the martial rule, was kidnapped, and brutally mutilated after the military failed into turning him into a government informer. Boyet Mijares, the son of Primitivo Mijares, was also one of the victims of torture during Marcos’ rule. When his father had decided to confess the conspiracies, lies, bribery, and dishonesty within Marcos’ inner circle, Boyet Mijares was taken in by the military, brutally tortured to the point that even his internal organs were mangled, and his body beaten to the point that he was almost unrecognizable. After the deaths of these three people, the government would simply come up with news or labels, putting these people in a bad light such as a “rebel”, a “destabilizer”’, or as someone who runs counterproductive to the aims of the New Society that the Marcoses wanted to establish.
The “progressive economy” that the New Society of the Marcoses was by no means a reality – it was an illusion meant to deceive the Filipino people into thinking that the martial law regime was established to maintain peace and order, as well as to help solve the primary problems of the Philippines. In relation to this, Dr. Eduardo Tadem, a professorial lecturer at the Asian studies department in University of the Philippines Diliman and also the president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, wrote an article discussing the massive debt incurred by the Marcoses and their cronies. The article states that when Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in 1986, the total debt rose to $26 billion from $600 billion, when he became president in 1965. The debt came from excessive spending on his infrastructure projects such as the $2 billion Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, and his prioritizing of the bailout of the businesses owned by his friends and by his cronies. It was not only Ferdinand Marcos that misused the funds of the government, even Imelda Marcos, with her outrageous extravagance, used the funds of the government for her lavish parties, and absurdly expensive projects. Primitivo Mijares attests to Imelda Marcos’ corruption in his book, The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Primitivo Mijares claims that for Imelda Marcos’ Miss Universe Pageant (MUP), which was held in Manila on July 1974, was declared to be only $40 million; however, Primitivo Mijares had also claimed that Imelda Marcos gathered funds amounting to approximately $100 million from government and private sectors for the MUP. If the total funds were $100 million, and the actual cost of the MUP was $40 million, then where did the $60 million go? Primitivo Mijares surmises that perhaps the rest of the funds went to the most extravagant collector in the Philippines – Imelda Marcos.
If that were the case, and we still continued to accept the rule of Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda Marcos, and their cronies as something to be praised due to its “attempt to establish peace”, or its “progressive economy”, then we would be blatantly destroying the history of struggle, and suffering that the Filipino people had woven. It would only bring dishonour to their efforts to awaken the rest of the nation to the reality of injustice that the Marcos’ dictatorship has wrought.
There is a clear need to speak, to write, and to be critical of every letter of information in society as they may simply be misinformation – the tool by which people in power use to achieve their totalitarian aspirations. The conflict in information itself is good reason for us to be critical because it is clear that something is wrong. As inheritors of our nation, we can and we should create a culture of discourse among our peers, in which everyone can speak freely, and in such a way that the discourse could scrutinize and criticize the flaws of society. Through this culture of discourse, each of the people can have a voice independent from the standpoints presented by the media, and from the perspective that those in power want to impose upon us. As such, there would not only be a single idea presented in addressing the flaws that are prevalent in society, but that there would be multiple alternatives coming from different people who could see the problems of society from different angles.
“There is a clear need to speak, to write, and to be critical of every letter of information in society as they may simply be misinformation – the tool by which people in power use to achieve their totalitarian aspirations.”
The contribution of multiple alternatives coming from various perspectives, even conflicting ones, is necessary for solving society’s foremost problems. For instance, how can we solve a problem, where the harsh, anti-poor system itself is the problem? Perhaps the only way to address this is through the consideration of various alternatives coming from viewpoints outside the system itself, meaning ideas that would oppose and criticize the system. From the moment we speak, we write, and we become critical of society, we begin to create the foundations for a society that values the culture of discourse. Through this critical view of solving society’s problems, we honor those who have died fighting against these problems. We, as inheritors and active promulgators of Philippine history, have been called to action by our predecessors to continue writing our history – a history of those who suffered, and continue to struggle today, the history of the Filipino people.