The victims of martial law
What would a monument to martial law’s victims look like? What signifiers would it contain? What thoughts conveyed? What memories recalled?
Names immediately come to mind. Many names. Perhaps too many. We wonder who might be left out? Some unnamed soul dead in the hills somewhere, grave unmarked, forgotten? The problem with names in public monuments is that they’re always either too many, or never enough. Often, we remember only those already well-remembered. The “ordinary” are easily missed. Those names who need most our collective remembering. Perhaps the monument to martial law’s victims should be a monument to the innocent. Collateral Damage. Why not a monument to the “unknown soldier?” Why not the “unknown citizen?” Since not all of them carried guns.
And we might as well ask: What effect did Marcos’ martial law have on our country, our growth, and history? Measure by World Bank loans we are now still paying for. Beyond the count of souls dead, or maimed, or unjustly incarcerated, there is also the count of those who suffer poverty even now. Count the children who grow up malnourished, or unschooled. Count a people who, by such a wide margin, still live in ignorance. And then conclude: The names of the victims of martial law are so many there is no stone here big enough to cut all their names into. This monument would have to contain the names of all of us, our children, their children, and their children’s children. We suffer. We will still keep paying long into the future.
And we would all suffer a bit less, if only they returned what they took from us. The stolen years can’t be replaced. But what about the money? And why does it seem as if the chance of them ever returning it grows less and less? The only thing they ever returned was a painful lesson in history of how easily they returned to power.
They are now doing the best they can to erase the true history of those times. In a way, they have succeeded by such a large measure that our monument to the victims of martial law now seems impossible to make big enough or strong enough to stop them where they stand. But then, that could be our strongest reason to build it.
But what would it look like? What thoughts would it contain? Inang Bayan immediately comes to mind. But would she be breaking her chains or being swallowed by them? Are we free now? Or, do we continue being chained? This monument must be an image to ask us: How little do we remember of freedom that we would sit back, silent, while they slowly and surely take it away from us? Our monument might as well contain a frog. Let it be swimming in a pot of water that ever so slowly comes to boil. By all means, put in an angel! For hope. Let it make us look forward to a better time, someday soon, when more of us come awake from this deep hypnotic sleep. So start with a big mirror of polished stone or steel. Let it reflect all who view. The easier for them to see themselves so clearly the wall will tell them: You! No matter who you are. And whether you accept it or not, You are the victims of martial law.
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