If you’ve engaged with me in real life over the last two weeks or so, you may have noticed an increase in political interest, as far as what I have to say. I don’t know nearly as much as I probably ought to, and I have been trying to better inform myself about the affairs of this country in whatever way I can, but I suppose I felt the need to write this stuff down, post-elections, and post #RP69FanFic/tion and #RPNonFiction—two Twitter hashtags that tell very different stories.
It’s safe to say that I grew up fairly safe against most Martial Law horrors. All I knew about it was that there was a curfew, and people obeyed the law, and that you couldn’t really travel, that things like luxury cars were offered to close friends, and things like M&Ms were contraband. I knew that the government was stricter, that people got away with less awful things. I was frustrated with the administrations that followed, because it seemed to me like we were set on a path of regression.
As I grew up and learned more about the other side of the coin, so to speak, I felt so ashamed of the position I held—of declaring certainties, which were certainties only to me, publicly. It felt irresponsible that I hadn’t paid more attention to what happened aside from the stories that surrounded me.
Just because the horrifying things didn’t happen to me, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t happen.
When people actively try to tell you that these are the things you never knew about or were never taught or your family wasn’t aware of—especially since the media was heavily monitored the administration that carried out these heinous things—I don’t think it’s ever wise to hold your hands over your ears and refuse to listen. Listen to everything, then pick your side. It’s hard to not be biased, but when presented with truths that don’t sit well with you, it’s okay to change your mind. We are constantly finding out about facts and bits of buried history, so I honestly don’t think it’s ever too late to reevaluate, as you get more informed.
But anyway. I realized that I don’t have time to argue with Marcos apologists, with those who honestly think that Martial Law was good for our country, with those who admit that it wasn’t yet still chose to support someone who, to this day, directly benefits, profoundly, from it. I fundamentally can’t accept this, and I’ve tried my best to reach out to people like me who didn’t experience it firsthand or didn’t have family who did. We owe it to ourselves to learn, but I’m not interested in arguing with anyone anymore. I feel like rejecting other people’s stories and the context of Martial Law and the Marcos Dictatorship in its entirety, is willful ignorance, and that’s ultimately on you.
So, onto the thing that’s been keeping me up at night and has instilled in me some kind of permanent coating of dread all over my body. The Duterte presidency, in its current manifestation, is something that has not, so far, made sense to me. When it was clear he was going to win, I think a part of me felt like it died (dramatic, I know), but I wanted to be a “good citizen” and support the government and “do my part” and it was easier to find the energy to feel these things then. Right now, it just feels like a death sentence for a lot of things like due process, and honestly, it’s just fucking terrifying to see how things are kind of unfolding right now.
Right after the elections, I had been approaching everything with a “wait and see” attitude, because I did realize that it’s unfair to judge someone without letting them make their moves first. And of course, I really want to like the guy. I’ve been saying over and over, that it’s not about the candidates that we root for, but that it ultimately has to benefit the Philippines and our countrymen. So, if he is the best bet, I will support it. But every move he’s made so far has just turned this liquid dread inside my chest into something solid and permanent-seeming. I just don’t know how to get out of this situation, and I guess we’re all going to have to ride it out… and it is honestly so terrifying to me that we have literally no other choice but to “wait and see.”
Anyway, maybe I’m being irrationally scared about this, though I don’t think that I am. I have to keep reminding myself that if I’m in the position that I am able to help make the situation better for others, I ought not to ignore that. It’s not the end until it’s the end, even though it feels like it sometimes.
Header image is from the Esquire Dec 2015 issue. Words by Luis Katigbak, art by Kristine Caguiat.