Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for February 21st, 2016

‘Di na ko papayag! 6

Posted on February 21, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 21, 2016 – 12:00am

Every generation everywhere looks at the youth as the promise of tomorrow. We have often heard and actually said (and believe) that the youth are the hope of the country and the future.

This was what I was talking about with a friend recently. We were daunted by the fact that so many young people on Facebook appear to be voting for Bongbong Marcos. From the content of their comments and posts, they readily believe the lies and propaganda the Marcoses have put online. It seems many of them are impressionable, ignorant and gullible. Against solid facts, they argue that the Marcos years were the high points of recent Philippine history. They gloss over the monumental thievery, skullduggery and cheating that occurred during the Marcos years.

My friend and I were left wondering how the “hope of our country” had become zombies. How did this happen? Where have we been remiss? Would this be one of those strange moments in history when the old will end up blaming the young for how the nation has turned out?

That afternoon, my friend and I both participated in an event sponsored by the EDSA People Power Commission at Club Filipino. It was a dialogue between 30 people who were at EDSA — the Baby Boomers — and about 150 millennials — young people who were born after the EDSA event.

The setup was like this: each table had one EDSA participant and five students who sat together and answered questions flashed on a screen onstage. Each millennial was asked to answer the question and the EDSA veteran would be the last to respond. After 20 minutes, the young participants were asked to move to another table as the next question flashed on the screen. All in all, each young person joined and met four older EDSA vets.

The millennials were mostly students from De La Salle University, University of Makati, Philippine Military Academy and the Philippine National Police Academy. There were also young recruits and regular members of the Philippine Navy and the Philippine National Police.

The young got to sit with the likes of Etta Rosales, Ed Garcia, Elfren Cruz, Chito Gascon and many other men and women (writers, ex-detainees, teachers) who lived through the horror of martial law, fought against the dictatorship, and helped win back our freedoms.

When I met with my first group, I had ample time to talk to them before we tackled the assigned questions. I described what it was like to have been a college student and a young person during that dark period in our history.

I told them that 20 years of my life were spent under the Marcos regime, 14 under his military dictatorship. I told them about my classmates in college who died after being picked up by the military; how mere soldiers could stop a bus and order any person with long hair to get off the bus to be subjected to an instant haircut, or even be arrested and detained for whatever reason they could manufacture. I talked about visiting some of my professors in prison camps; the controlled press that published only good news about the Marcoses; the independent media that was suppressed, forced to spread lies or be shut down; how the opposition was persecuted and many of them jailed, killed, or forced to leave the country. I talked about life under a curfew and the climate of fear that permeated our daily lives.

They said that they had heard stories about EDSA from their parents and grandparents and they read some stuff about it on the Internet. The characters in the EDSA drama were a bit sketchy to them so I tried to describe as best as I could who they were and compared them to contemporary figures.

They asked a lot of questions. And after answering a question, I listened to their insights. Here are some things I remember they said. (I paraphrase.)

“I now realize freedom is a great gift given to us, but it can also be lost through the ballot.” (From a student taking up journalism.)

“The greatest achievement of EDSA was that it reoriented the military back to its professional stance — that it must follow civilian rule and not rule over civilians.” (From a PMAyer.)

“EDSA made me realize that the freedom I am enjoying is not free. People who were born before our generation fought and paid for it.” (From a PNPA cadet.)

“EDSA must have been one of the important defining moments in your life, Sir.” (From a student.)

“These elections are so important. Democracy can be subverted by corruption and by people who do not follow the Constitution.” (From a student.)

I was amazed and happy to hear their responses. I know that with more such dialogues, we could help the Filipino youth understand the damage that martial law and the Marcos family did to our country and people, and the importance of upholding the freedoms we regained at EDSA.

The millennials expressed wonder at how we pulled off EDSA without cellphones and social media, using only landlines, decrepit beepers and, of course, radio. They were in awe at how millions of people were mobilized so quickly with such basic communication tools compared with all that they have now.

The answer, of course, is the overwhelming desire for freedom, justice and democracy that made citizens drop everything and come to EDSA from Feb. 22 to 25, 1986.

Now that the EDSA People Power event is 30 years old, I realize more than ever the importance of preserving and promoting its ideals, dreams and promises among the youth.

In the coming elections, there are candidates who are plunderers and potential dictators. A Marcos spawn is vying for the second highest position in the land. In his campaign, he urges Filipinos to “move on” to the future. To him, moving on means forgetting the atrocities, the skullduggery, the grand thievery that his father imposed on our nation. He wants us to think martial law never happened and asks, “What is there to apologize for?”

“Plenty,” is the response to his arrogant question. We have not forgotten. History will not be repeated. EDSA is alive and will not be retired into nostalgia. It will continue to fight for more freedoms, more democratic space and an ever more vibrant democracy. No dictator or plunderer will again rule this land.

Never again. ‘Di na ko papayag!

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