I am a martial law baby. I was four when Mr Marcos through Secretary Tatad read Presidential Proclamation 1081, placing the whole Philippines under martial law.
Mr Marcos wanted to radically restructure the body politic, shutting Congress, arresting his political opponents and gagging once Asia’s “most free wheeling press”.
Nonetheless, the early gains were remarkable. There was a decrease in crime rate, new infrastructure made, orderly traffic and disciplined pedestrians. My older cousins who were teens then, had to stay at home after 12:00 AM as there was a curfew till 4:00 AM. This was to the delight of my uncles and aunts. Their sleepless nights were over, at least with regards to teenagers.
I was an innocent child then. I thought that “curfew” pronounced in Philippine English as “karpew” was akin to having no cars for all. A fact that as an adult, I realized, was not far off the mark, there were no cars on the street after 12. My days after school were spent at play with the neighbourhood children and watching TV reruns of “Mightor” and “Sealab 2020”. It was an uneventful childhood really. In school we were taught about the gains of Mr Marcos’ “New Society”, the “promises” of the “New Society” among other things.
But as I grew older,GMA Seven TV station imported these Japanese robot anime starting first with Voltes V and Mazinger Z. This grade 5 pupil immediately became hooked. After my 4-5 PM social studies class, I always asked my dad to bring me home pronto.
Looking back now, I realize that martial babies were supposed to have been insulated from the dictatorship. As like many parents living in totalitarian regimes, my parents took extra effort to shield their children from the realities of martial law. But this was not to last, children grow and have minds of their own soon enough. True enough, Voltes V and Mazinger Z were a hit to my generation since the embodied discipline,courage, martial qualities, loyalty, fidelity and filial piety. These are virtues that Mr Marcos wanted since these would ensure subjugation to his regime. What he did not realize was that these virtues were useless and without meaning without liberty.
Voltes V started innocently enough as a story of five young people tasked to defend the earth against Boazanian invaders. These five people lost their parents and three brothers were looking for their dad. This was set on a backdrop of political intrigue and power play among the Boazanians.
The power play was not lost among the martial law babies. Sooner we started thinking that a similar fate may befall Marcos and that we knew it was inevitable. Perhaps the last straw came to Ferdinand Marcos himself when Zule the Boazanian noble wanted to assasinate Prince Zardoz and stage what is nothing but a coup d’ etat anime style. That was the last episode aired and Mr Marcos pulled the “robot shows” off the air. He cited parental claims that children were becoming “violent”. Thus we see a classical trend in totalitarian regimes. The welfare of children is used to further the regime’s ideology.
The martial law babies were enraged. Parents got a lot of temper tantrums. Little that Marcos knew that martial law babies were extremely hard to fool!
The networks replaced it with saccharine Japanese anime. The meanings were not lost on the martial law babies. Too young to vote but nonetheless were politically engaged. When the Pope came to visit in 1981, Marcos lifted martial law but retained the powers he had exercised. The babies were now in high school and their politicization was coming to a head. The 1983 assasination of Senator Ninoy Aquino marked the beginning of this maturing politicization.
So in 1986, bye bye Marcos. But it wasn’t lost to the martial law baby generation the realization that the Cory ascendancy will never deliver the promises it made. Martial babies were still hard to fool.
So don’t be surprised if we will have a critical eye on the recent impeachment and we will never easily fall for politicking from both administration, left and right. We are hard to fool still and like in 1980, we rage still. We rage at the lack of moral courage of the national leadership. We rage at them and also at the lack of alternatives of the opposition.
And we have babies of our own now.