(Conclusion) IN THE days and weeks after martial law’s declaration, a more passive form of journalism that not only toed the government’s official line, but also trumpeted both its real and imagined achievements
emerged and replaced real newspapers.
And to ensure that these propaganda outlets continue to do their job, Marcos gave his cronies, including Imelda’s relatives, free reign to operate these new newspapers and TV stations.
Meanwhile, Filipinos, even without cell phones and the Internet, were already fond of spreading urban legends. This penchant for rumors, facts and humor was stoked even further by our growing distrust and dissatisfaction with Marcos-controlled media outlets.
My good friend Sue, for instance, in reaction to this entry’s first installment, reminded me of the story about Bongbong Marcos, now a senator, the then first couple’s only son.
“Alex, ’di ba meron din rumors about the Bongbong twin?” (Weren’t there rumors about Bongbong’s twin),” she said. “Supposedly, the real Bongbong died, and the one who was studying in London was only a doppelganger.”
Wow, I can’t seem to remember that one. What I do remember is the one on Imee Marcos and then little Aimee’s supposedly less-than-conventional origins. Guys, don’t bother to Google it because I don’t think it’s on the Internet. 😉
Closing down critical media was just the beginning of bigger, more sinister things to come, as Marcos and his cronies, without established checks and balances vital to a free and functioning democracy, ruled and plundered the country with total abandon until he and his family were ousted in 1986.
I’ve come across a number of people claiming, albeit lightheartedly, that they were “martial law” babies since they were born during the martial law years. If that were the sole criterion, then Ronnie, the youngest in our family, is a true-blue martial law baby for being born sometime in 1974.
I was already 9 years old then, and I remember my mother having a difficult pregnancy. At one point, when she was three or four months pregnant with Ronnie, she had to be rushed by my dad to the hospital in the wee small hours of the morning because she was spotting.
Curfew was still enforced back then, but my dad had to drive in the dead of night in our red Volkswagen pickup to reach their destination. It was something short of a miracle, as they weren’t harassed or delayed by policemen manning a number of checkpoints.
Had they been delayed by an hour or so, God knows what would have happened to my mom and her then unborn son. Her obstetrician-gynecologist, Dr. Teresita Mendiola, who also doubled as the family doctor, demanded from my mom complete bed rest after giving her a list of medicines and vitamins to take.
With only one maid, who left even before Ronnie was born, complete bed rest was out of the question. And despite taking her meds and vitamins religiously, she wasn’t able to carry my brother to full term. The guy was in such a rush to come out that he was born two months short of his supposed birthday. He’s our family’s martial law baby.
Many years later, when democracy was restored in the country under President Cory Aquino, I came across an article about the generation that came of age at the height of martial law. I can’t remember anymore who the writer was, but he said that this group of children was “special” in a way.
Unlike Baby Boomers, who were already starting to come of age when martial law was declared, and therefore had a choice to either leave the country, live with the system, or resort to armed rebellion by going to the hills, this new generation (which would be later dubbed as Generation X) had no choice. Having spent their entire formative years during martial law, they knew no president but Marcos.
Since they were old enough to absorb what was happening around them, yet too young to fully understand and do something about it, their impressionable minds bore the brunt of Marcos’ propaganda machinery. They would grow up, said the writer, either abhorring such a system, or seeing and embracing it as the new normal. There won’t be any middle ground when it comes to these future adults.
They are the real martial law babies, not those that came some ten years or so after them. Since I happen to belong to this demographic, I’m one of the martial law babies! By now, I guess I need not say which side I’ve taken.
Marcos eventually lifted martial law on Jan 17, 1981, but everyone, including his cohorts, knew that it was a sham. He did it just to appease the United States and legitimize his continued rule. All the hallmarks of a true democracy I mentioned earlier were still absent. His administration as well as his health was on a steady decline.
Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangang.
Indeed, but what kind of discipline? Should it be discipline resulting from fear and dictated by the whims and caprices of a select group of people? Or should it be discipline that comes from within and borne out of a genuine malasakit (concern) for the nation from a free and enlightened citizenry?
So, the next time somebody tells you that Marcos was a great leader who just needed more time to show the country and the rest of the world the fruits of his New Society, don’t believe him (or her.) Neither was he a benevolent dictator nor was his martial law benign. That’s one big lie!
Marcos had 21 years to do it, and all he left us with was a cash-strapped, rudderless and morally bankrupt nation that became an object of curiosity all over the world and the laughing stock of its neighbors. Remember, remember the 21st of September.