I Was Fooled By The Marcos Bullshit
Confessions of a Former Apologist
Yes. As what the title was saying, I once believed that Marcos was a great president.
Before entering college, I was known to excel in our history and social science subjects in both elementary and high school. I was surrounded by encyclopedias, and tapes of the documentaries from National Geographic Channel. I admit it. I was a nerd who was a way ahead of my classmates in terms of knowledge back then (I was a ditz in everything else), but the grading system only merits knowledge learned from the curriculum. What was being taught in Philippine History seemed to be repetitive to me as I was promoted into a higher grade each year.
I watched series like the “Days That Shook The World” and other historical and war films, therefore I developed a picturesque appreciation of history where I imagine scenes staged in my mind as I read text describing events in history. That is why I was disappointed when the history classes were always trivial and have been reduced into mere memorization exercises.
I was excited when the lessons were about the glorious days of the Philippine Revolution, even though the textbooks were only scratching the surface, since they were vivid and thematic. However, the subsequent chapters of the history textbooks paled drastically. Unlike the chapters on the Philippine Revolution where a continuity can be seen on the events that were discussed, the chapters that followed were mere trivia on who was the governor-general or the president at the time along with the things that they were noted for. Textbooks only said that Jones Law was just this and Tydings-McDuffie act was just like that. We were never told of the fervent politicking and debates behind those trivia. We were never told that there were mismanagement under Leonard Wood, or that Manuel Quezon was so charismatic of a president, or that Sergio Osmeña was too pure of a statesman, or that Jose P. Laurel was so bad-ass. They have been reduced into epitaphs and titles like “The 1st and 2nd President of the Commonwealth” or “The President of the Puppet Republic” which have been unfair for those people and unappetizing for the readers of the textbooks.
These sorts of reductions and euphemisms continue with the chapters regarding the presidents that followed. Manuel Roxas became known for the Parity Rights. Elpidio Quirino became known for the post-war recovery efforts. Ramon Magsaysay became known as the champion of the people. Carlos Garcia became known for the Filipino First Policy. Diosdado Macapagal became known for his claims on Sabah.
And Marcos? These words were littered in the textbooks to describe his rule: “20 years”, “Infrastructures”, “Martial Law”, and “People Power”. None of those ever put the words like “Atrocities”, “Authoritarianism”, “Human Rights Abuses”, “Stolen Wealth”, “Cronies”, “Writ of Habeas Corpus”. At that time, relying solely on textbooks, I have no idea what happened during his regime.
Since, it was just recent, I asked my relatives, both in the maternal and paternal side. They gave polarizing opinions about the regime. Some of my relatives who enjoyed the westernized facade of the economy sang praises to the Marcoses. Practically, they were brainwashed into docility that made them blind to the atrocities committed on which some of my other relatives witnessed and told me in response. In summary, they were in disagreement of what they think of Marcos and his regime.
In the maternal side, it was worse. Even though they were initially indebted to Marcos for rounding up my great-grandfather (Paulo Cunanan, Barangay Captain, Brgy. San Nicolas Balas, Concepcion, Tarlac) and the other barangay captains in order to protect them from the communist extortion which ran rampant on the countryside. Tsk. I found out later that they were just used as instruments in the citizen assemblies in order to ratify the constitution Marcos himself drafted. But that ulterior motive was not revealed to them, and they remained loyal to Apo until he betrayed them in the snap elections of 1986 where soldiers held them at gunpoint to coerce people into writing Marcos in the ballot.
My quest ended in stalemate with regards to asking my relatives. The general opinion was polarized. I think that divisiveness was long present before it was revealed recently now that the issue has resurfaced. People had their differences and they do not settle it in debates. For kids and younglings, debates just seemed to be mere childish verbal quarrels. We were never raised to question authority, even of our parents. Parents would often make drastic measures to keep their kids at leash, docile, and compliant to their prejudices which they can never let go out of pride. Honestly, I’ve been thinking if they wanted to raise puppets instead of children. Well, it was a reflection of me growing up rebelliously (in principles).
Maybe, that sense of powerlessness and docility became a tradition to them. Ma-prinsipyo (being principled) became an insult. If we look into the examples of the past, we can see that our ship was sinking with its current trend and path. That is the peril of not knowing our history properly. We were never raised nor trained into discourse or voicing out criticisms. I was publicly scorned in class by my teachers and classmates every time that I was pointing out errors in their lectures. To them, it was bragging. I thought that education was a two-sided communication of knowledge in the first place. I stood up for that thought and I received the worst of the anti-intellectual comments and treatments during my high school life. I was ostracized. They perceived my critical thinking as bragging. It was maybe the case, since I was showing that I have a rational, logical, and critical mind, which they don’t have. I belonged to a minority, way too few for a minority, since I was alone and isolated. I can only hope for my situation to improve back then. Even the blessed had problems too, thanks to the crab mentality.
My interest on the Marcos era was renewed when Cory Aquino died in 2009. TV networks ran long documentaries about the Marcos era and the triumph of democracy that Cory led in 1986. I have idolized Ninoy Aquino. I was dazzled by his speeches. I was enlightened by the sources online that I read about the atrocities of Marcos, his cronies, and his bloody authoritarian regime.
But something deep inside ticked me off. The Aquinos were glorified too much and it was used in politics to place another Aquino into presidency. That time, I was already in UP as a political science major and I read a lot of books about the history of Philippine Politics. The first book that I read extensively was “Changeless Land” of David Timberman, which credited Marcos for his success of initially eradicating the traditional political culture of the Philippines. But my oversight that it was more of a political science book rather an a historical one (the mentions about the atrocities were minimal), “gaslighted” myself. I brought gaslight to myself, out of my error and naivete on my political consciousness. What seemed rebellious and against the current status quo seemed attractive to me.
That time was when I was vulnerable into being misled. And that video entitled “Aquino-Cojuangco: The Facts That You Did Not Want To Know” fooled me good with its enticing presentation. It was the time that my father lost his job in the Philippine Airlines because of the Aquino administration’s lack of concern over contractualization. I resented the administration a little bit that time. That is why I fell for the video and started to believe. I even showed it to my parents on which lamentably were still believing until now.
Because of the “revelations” that I got to see, I started to look for the loopholes in Ninoy’s speeches. I started writing a novel incorporating the alleged Luna-Cojuangco affair, making euphemisms regarding Marcos on my depiction of history. I made a parody of Noynoy Aquino as the title character of that novel: smart, clever, sinister, and sadistic (an exaggeration of his rumored qualities).
My greatest sin as a former Marcos apologist came three years ago. It was a talk being broadcasted live on radio. Present on the event were professors of history, key figures of the opposition, and the chairperson of the Commission of Human Rights. Live on radio, I introduced myself and proceeded to ask the CHR Chair personally about the very moronic and annoying argument of the apologists/fanatics of today: “Sa maraming gusaling naipatayo noon, diba po parang nakabuti rin ang Martial Law? (With all the infrastructures being built, will that mean that Martial Law gave benefits after all?)
Argh. I wanted to punch my past self into having the audacity to do that. It was a memory that I was trying to suppress. Holding back her tears, the CHR Chair calmly replied that these buildings and infrastructures could have been built even if Martial Law was not declared. She somehow communicated her grief to me which shook me greatly.
I pondered upon my belief after the talk. I set aside all the conclusions being fed to me and I let myself draw conclusions from the solid facts:
- Why was the economy in shambles while the Marcos left the Philippines filthy rich?
- Why such high-regarded statesmen like Jose Diokno were imprisoned without charges?
Those question snapped me out of the false dichotomy. After that, I remain inconclusive about the Marcos era.
It was until I drew interest on Pedro Paterno and upon studying him extensively that I developed self-consciousness on the beliefs that I was holding upon. What if my beliefs were just selfish prejudices instead of rational convictions? Pedro Paterno was a snob, an eccentric scholar who believed that there was a great ancient civilization of the Tagalogs. He held himself vainly in high regard even though his works were scorned by his colleagues, even Dr. Jose Rizal. He was delusional of his role and importance to no end. He even fabricated evidences to “bridge” the logical gaps behind his theories just to have them “proven”. He was that audacious just for the sake of self-preservation, apart from the “turncoatism” that he was more well-known of. Look at how history judged him: scorned and ignored.
In fear of sharing the same fate as him, I rechecked all what I believed in and tried to back them up with evidences as much as possible. Following Teodoro Agoncillo’s postulates, I tried to be impartial as I could, and with that I drew my conclusion, which were biases themselves since they favor the evidences at hand at the moment. I realized that if my mind was not clouded with ego and urges of self-preservation, I will be able to let go false beliefs and accept new rational beliefs in order to pursue the truth.
There are only two general conclusions:
- Marcos did real bad.
- It was not about the Marcos-v-Aquino but a matter of the Filipino people.
Behind the hospitals that his regime built were citizens deprived of preventive health care, where the money should have been spent. Behind the edifices of their image building were the poor languishing in the cities. Behind the infrastructures that his regime built were alarming corruptions and depressing debts which we were paying until now. Behind the “new society” were the disappearance of great men (Now we were left with trapos coming from the generation of that era). Behind the facade of saving democracy were the abuses to common man and its temporary death.
I know that it is hard to hit the streets and raise our voices….
…Because we have a president who flaunted dead bodies, whether involved in his “war on drugs” or “collateral damages”, even though he declared that we are “free” to voice out our criticisms to the administration and to its misdeeds. This illusion of democracy and liberty is clearly a facade that hides the realities of the administration’s tendencies towards authoritarianism.
The administration is making us cower in fear and retreat into docility. The administration is making us retreat to the “comforts” of social media where trolls were ready to prey with their fake news and propaganda.
How can we get out of this situation? As Gandhi once said, “Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state has become lawless or corrupt. And a citizen who barters with such a state shares in its corruption and lawlessness.” Also he said, “Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good.”
When the government no longer lends an ear to our qualms and cries, and when trolls silence our voices, we have no choice but to have our voice be heard, this time, in the real world, on top of our lungs. With that, we can actively pressure the government. With that, we can actively pursue the truth, as we share the hardship of others and personally hear their sentiments. With that, we can directly say no to a tyrant. With that, we can show that we are real people, unlike those lurking in the social media.
It is like the allegory of the cave, where the social media is the cave on which we have to go out in order to see the real worlds behind the shadows being cast in the dark. And when we get to see the truth, it is now a sin to avert our eyes from it.
As for the novel that I started to write, fortunately, instead of scrapping it, I am encouraged into finishing it, because the character that was meant as a parody of Noynoy Aquino resembles Rodrigo Duterte more (even with the exaggerations).
As for the quest for Paterno, I just found out that Pedro Paterno was a great-granduncle of former Senator Vicente Paterno. I have leads yet I am in trouble in laying hand on Pedro Paterno’s autobiography in 1908 which is stored way too securely in the National Library.
My experience is a prime example of how an intellectual can fall into the revisionist propaganda and rewritten and twisted history and stories that put some dramatis persona into good light while erasing the sins that they committed. Emotions can cloud judgments.
However, the countermeasures that I did to myself to get out of believing that deception, thanks to Pedro Paterno, is also a prime example of how we can get people out of it. Maybe, the answer was not a clash of what we believed to be truth. Instead, we must patiently and continuously educate and introduce the people into the school of thought, where we must set aside our differences, where we can learn to get rid of our prejudices, where we can learn to value the pursuit of knowledge over ourselves, and where we can learn how to make proper and civilized debates and discussions. If we teach a man how to fish, instead of giving them fish, then maybe instead of forcing down the truth on them, we must teach them how to find and pursue the truth so that they can find it themselves.