Remembering Martial Law

Okay, okay, how on earth would I remember Martial Law of 1972 when I wasn’t even born yet during that time?

Much of what I heard about Martial law were from my parents (who’ve joined the People Power of 86), my college professors, and those tambays and tour guides from Luneta Park, Manila.

For some reason, Ferdinand Marcos is an interesting figure in history for me. First of all, this man is a genius. Topped the bar exams while he was still locked up during his college years at UP. Rumored to have photographic memory and great understanding of the law. Heck, he even won a highly prominent case to acquit himself in the face of veteran judges and prosecutors while he was still a law student.

This man holds great promise and so much vision, that when he won the presidential race, the Philippines experienced a dramatic and rapid economic and industrial growth, with his infrastructures being still used until today. Disgruntled folks were apt to say that no president can match what Marcos did to the country.

But what happened on 1972? Did the Philippines really went into an economic turmoil and Marcos proclaimed Martial Law just to cover up his shortcomings?

Human rights violations were rampant. Academic and press freedom was severely repressed. Students from different universities held massive gatherings and protests. Never was the love of the Filipinos for freedom and democracy was demonstrated before and after that dark period.

My mom was part of the EDSA group. They were among the students who marched up in EDSA along with multitudes of people for several days. It was adrenaline-rushing moment, imagine being with people from all walks of life joining you in a call for democracy and freedom. Maybe if I were alive then, I would have joined too.

But 40 years since Martial Law, what have we achieved? What had changed?

I’m not really a fan of the happenings behind the People Power one. Yes I admire the efforts of ordinary people to stand up against Marcos, but at what cost? They put an incompetent housewife in power. Marcos cronies were still in power along with Oligarchs and elite families. It’s actually the same situation, but with different masters altogether. At the end of it all, it was the Filipino people who get the short end of the stick.

What happened? Why is it that when we achieved the long-cherished democracy, we didn’t achieve the long-lasting reform for economic and social change? Why is it that after Marcos, we dropped from the 2nd richest nation in Asia to the Sick Man of Asia?

Why do the same problems grapple our nation to this day? Is it because of the long shadow casted by Martial law continued to haunt us? Or is it something innate in us Filipinos, a problem that’s found within us and one that will stay forever if we didn’t face the fault on ourselves?

Maybe it’s time to let go of Marcos and the horrors of Martial Law. Never totally forget about it but to remember the heroes who died during that dark period, and the lessons it had planted on our sense of democracy and patriotism. Never forget about the scars, the turmoil, the repression and the brutality. Never forget  just the cruelty of that period, but of the succeeding administrations. Never forget the people who died ten years, twenty years and forty years since Martial Law.

Condemn not only 1081 but the same sickening system that still grips our nation.


During Marcos’ time, people from neighboring Asian countries used to go to the Philippines either to work (Imagine, Japanese people used to be overseas workers in our country back then) or to study.

Majority of the students came from the war-ravaged South Korea which is still in infancy stage as a nation. Fresh out from the Korean War, South Koreans look up to the Philippines as a big brother in terms of economic development and industrialization. Korean students were quick to take the chance to study in the Philippines, but they eagerly return to their motherland to apply their knowledge and skills.

S. Korea was ruled by president Park Chung-hee in 1963 until his assassination on 1979. His term slightly coincides with Marcos’.

He even bore startling resemblance with Marcos in appearance.

President Park Chung-Hee. Image from Wikipedia.

President Ferdinand Marcos

According to Wiki, Park is at the helm behind S. Korea’s rapid economic growth through export-industrialization. Yep, all those Samsung Phones you have, the LG TV in your living rooms, were the brainchild of this South korean’s late strongman.

In 1999, Park was named by Time magazine as being one of the top ten “Asians of the Century”

Yet he remained a controversial figure in South Korea because of his authoritarian policies especially implemented at the latter part of his term. S. Koreans fought for their freedom too through protests and demonstrations. But they didn’t need people power to overthrow Park as in 1979, he was assassinated.

Philippines and South Korea’s history runs similar in democratic context. Both nations are freedom-loving; both economic growth influenced by past ravages of war and civil unrest. Both ruled by dictators but both were freed from it.

But what I can’t understand is why S.Korea is now one of the Tiger of Asia right now while the Philippines remained low on economic ranking. Take note, S.Korea still had its mysterious, unpredictable twin, (N.Korea) to watch over for.

Maybe because despite the hate, the condemnation of Park’s actions, his economic reforms were still continued by the succeeding presidents.

And the good projects of the president before him were continued by the next president, and the next one after him.

I guess the scrapping of good projects reign after reign only happens in the Philippines 🙂

And that is why 40 years later, we’re still the same.


About sentimentalfreak

Consistently inconsistent. Forever searching and wandering. 'Tis only writing that calms down her restless little soul.

Posted on September 21, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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