Keep the light burning

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 4, 2016 – 12:00am

Last Monday, I went to my old school, the Ateneo de Manila, where I joined a gathering in front of the Church of Gesu. We were there in response to a call for prayers for the victims of martial law, and for the Supreme Court to be guided in its decision on the President’s plan to bury Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Similar gatherings were also held in different places in the country.

As I was praying with the crowd, I noticed that there were very few people my age who were present. The crowd was composed mostly of young people, students from Ateneo and nearby Miriam College, as well as seminarians, priests and teachers, most of them millennials.

That gave me a feeling of hope. Here they were present, even if they had no direct experience of martial law. I smiled, pleased that these young people had taken it upon themselves to become educated about the past and speak out in shaping the future they want.

After a short prayer, we lighted candles and walked somberly in procession, singing church songs. It was getting dark. It was windy, too. We were having a hard time keeping the candles lit. In my mind, I was asking myself if the flames flickering out was an ominous sign. Were we destined to fail? But I also asked myself what it meant that we kept lighting our candles again and again — which probably spoke more truth about the people involved. In this time of darkness, we were doing our best to keep the light going. I felt hopeful.

While the procession was going on, the names of Ateneans who were killed during the dark days of military rule were broadcast through a megaphone. We prayed for each one of them. I teared up when I heard the names of people I knew, classmates, fellow students on campus in the Seventies. The names Manny Yap, Jun Celestial, Billy Begg and Edgar Jopson brought back a flood of memories of campus life when many of our college classes became sit-ins, venues for discussion on the relevance of our education, and what it ought to be.

It was a time of anger and confusion. Things were changing rapidly. Many of us were not the students our parents expected us to be. We dreamed a different future. We were adopting different values. Many of us were either hippies or activists, or both. We were rebellious and we questioned everything.

We walked along the campus road leading to Gate 3. It was a short 10 to 15 minutes until we reached a little corner near the pedestrian overpass where we stopped. Outside our circle was Katipunan Avenue with cars passing by, oblivious to what we were doing. We said more prayers. By this time, all our candles were lit.

It was a nostalgic moment for me. I have attended many mass actions before. This one felt different for so many reasons. There were more young people than old. They were the organizers and leaders of the event. I felt my age creeping in, not because the procession was tiring. It was not. While I felt hope, I also felt sadness that decades after we got rid of martial law, Marcos is still imposing himself on us with his family’s insistence on giving him a hero’s burial at LNMB.

What a disgrace! What infamy! While we have moved forward in so many ways, our politics is still so dysfunctional that an issue such as this can dominate the headlines and derail us from the gains we have made since EDSA.

We Filipinos have always had a problem with our heroes. Since the days of the Katipunan, we have managed to turn a blind eye to the cads, traitors and villains who have ruined our lives. We always seem to be oblivious to truth and indecisive in dealing with the traitors in our historical struggles.

After EDSA, we also fell short in dispensing justice to the thieves, unrepentant cronies and killers of the Marcos regime. We simply allowed them to return after a brief exile in order to stage their social, political and financial comebacks.

That night, as we gathered, I prayed that the emerging millennial leaders will be more decisive and courageous in correcting the historical injustices in our society.

In a few days, the Supreme Court will decide on the issue of Marcos’ burial. If the justices decide to allow the burial at the LNMB, we know that we must do more to ensure that our interpretation of history prevails. We mustn’t stop. The candle may be snuffed out, but only momentarily. We just have to keep lighting it again and again and continue the march.

Such is the call of vigilance, the prize of which is truth and justice.

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