Adelina is now a teacher. Her children are grown and have their own families. She, however, continues her own quest to serve her nation and her people through education. Fortunately for her, one of her children chose a path close enough to her own by working in a university press.
Here, Adelina talks about how Martial Law came into her life. This is not one of those stories you have already heard but, in a real way, it is also a story that is all too familiar for her experience is not an isolated one. It is one among many.
I feel fortunate that she was even willing to talk to me and write her account. We had agreed, however, that with certain personalities back in power in the Philippines and their allies holding so much influence, it was better for her not to give her name.
Is that extreme? Is she being overly paranoid since Martial Law was decades ago? No. Both of us are being realistic. Leopards do not change their spots even if some leopards were still just cubs when Ferdinand Marcos went from President to Absolute Dictator. You’ll pardon the non-mention of real names.
We hope you understand and as you read her account, I hope that you feel the fear that is still there, the anger that is still there, the pain that is still there. No apologies have been given and attempts have been made to change details about Martial Law. No. It should not be forgotten because people have been hurt and are still hurt.
You will also notice that the account seems “bitin”. It’s actually good that it is because that’s what Martial Law was and is. It’s an open wound that cannot be closed because we are continuously still being wounded by the reality of what it was.
Before 1081, my life revolved around the concerns of
home, school and church. I had a little exposure to political events because my student activist classmates would discuss many issues in class. These included the existence of oil cartels, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the constitutional convention, and the possibility of the declaration of Martial Law.
On September 21, 1971, we all woke up to a tense atmosphere. No newspapers were delivered and radio and television only had static sounds and noisy screens. Nothing went on air. I do not know how my father learned about it, but my father said, “Martial Law has been declared.”
When newspapers, radio and TV went back to “business,” a lot of things changed. Many media people went to prison while others fled the country. New faces dominated media.
What I remember clearly was that one can get arrested by just talking to one another in groups of three. Curfew was enforced.
One night, my classmate and I forgot about the time and it was nearing curfew hours when we finished our project. I had to call my father and my father had to rent a passenger jeepney just so he could fetch me and bring me home.
We had to stop at a checkpoint and we had to explain why we were violating the curfew. While we were released after being asked a series of questions, I came to realize that I had put my father in a dangerous position for a very flimsy reason – I forgot the time while doing a school project. My teenage heart started to rebel. Why are we in war mode? Why are we not free to talk or walk in a land when I used to feel so free? Why are they chaining us? Little did I know that the chains I was complaining about would be more real in due time.
Then I started to listen to classmates in school. I joined campaigns to discuss the new Constitution that was supposed to be immediately ratified while the Constitutional Convention was supposedly not yet finished with their work. We campaigned for a “No” to the ratification of the Constitution. It felt good to feel free despite the tight political control.
No ratification happened.
We just woke up one morning with newspapers and banners screaming on the people’s supposed approval of the Constitution by raising of hands.
That led me to really not want the dictatorship. We secretly held discussions against the Martial Law regime. We actively sought news on what was happening in the country from newspapers abroad (newspapers inside the country only published the “good” news). We joined rallies. We joined forces with other sectors fighting Martial Law.
It didn’t take long before I got arrested.
You didn’t speak out against the dictatorship and expect to not be noticed. Such things were just not tolerated at the time.
Together with a few other young activists, I was imprisoned in an arsenal. I could not tell the time of day because all we had was a small opening in the wall for us to breathe the little fresh air that was able to go through that opening. There was no sunlight penetrating the hole in the wall. We were all in darkness.
We were made to lie down on the cold floor and were not allowed to sleep for days. Every time we start falling into slumber, we were woken up. One by one, a prisoner was taken out and tortured – one was made to lie naked on top of a block of ice with the air conditioner set at high cool. Another was electrocuted in his extremities and private parts; one was raped not by insertion of private parts but by instruments. Different instruments. The sound of the steel doors opening and closing became a sound of torture to most of us.
Then the torture stopped. Later, we were to learn that relatives and friends had already come looking for us.
Why were we imprisoned? We were never told. No case has ever been filed against us.