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The Day Manila Fell Silent..

IRONICALLY, THE MOST QUIET DAY IN MANILA of contemporary times began with noise: a loud pounding on the glass door of a penthouse apartment I was using at the time.  The friend who was hollering and shouting and bruising his knuckles on the glass, blurted out, as soon I slid the door open, “martial law na[martial law already]”  A split second of silence;  then I pivoted and clicked on the radio.  Nothing but white noise.  Turned on the TV.   Nothing but a white screen and static.  Distraught friend said, “no TV, no radio station… everything’s closed down.”  We eyeballed each other.  The previous night’s last news item on TV flashed into my mind:  a still photo of a car, its roof collapsed, windshield shattered; a male voice saying that the car of the Secretary of National Defense had been attacked but he had not been in it… It was truncated news; I thought,  “what?  An empty car was bombed?”  As I was going to bed, I noticed that the government building behind our apartment building was all lit up:  floor after floor, from top to bottom, blazing with lights.  I said then, “something’s happening; and it’s happening all over the city.”

Now this friend stuttering about martial law triggered an avalanche of images in my brain.  This would become a habit with me ever after, this going into mental hyperdrive, correlating incidents and data, during crisis.  The cascade stopped with the face of a smiling Senator Benigno Aquino, as he said to me,  while we stood in the red carpeted foyer of the old Senate, “Marcos will not catch me lying down.”  I’d asked about Oplan Sagittarius, rumored to be the secret blueprint for martial law.  We’d all assumed that if ever, it would go into effect in November-December.  So I just teased the senator, calling him President Aquino.  It would be my last face-to-face with him.  In 1983, when he was assassinated, I muttered to myself, “I’d better fix my papers; Marcos will fall.”  I was in New York City by then.  I had filed for political asylum but it was just in stasis.

What is the point of this recollection?  It is to stress that martial law was personal… PERSONAL.  Everyone felt it, was affected by it, had an opinion, a thought, a feeling, about it.  The day it was declared, with a friend standing there, his hair practically on end, I remembered how, a week before, a minor journalist on the military beat had generously offered to check if my name and address were on an arrest order.  Young though I was, I wasn’t exactly naïve.  I gave him an old address.  Sure enough, the place was raided.


"What is the point of this recollection?
It is to stress that martial law was personal… PERSONAL.
Everyone felt it, was affected by it, had an opinion,
a thought, a feeling, about it."

 


 

We moved quickly.  I had to find a secure telephone so I could find out what had happened, was happening.  Outside, it was so quiet, so quiet…  Manila had always been a noisy city:  music blaring from car and jeepney radios, from juke boxes;  television noises;  people yelling.  But this day, it was so very, very quiet.  Aboard a jeepney, there was only desultory human voices:  para, mama;  sa kanto lang…  No music; no talking; and we avoided one another’s eyes.  We were all beginning to be locked within; imprisoned as it were.  When the jeepney passed a newspaper building with its front doors barred by rolls of concertina wire, we all took a sidelong glance and averted our eyes.  We did not want to seem overly interested.  We were beginning to learn NOT to call attention to ourselves – a very strange thing for Filipinos who, to this day, love to strut and crow and flap wings.

Being a journalist, my first impulse was to call the National Press Club.  I asked for Tony Zumel, who was NPC president at the time.  The secretary — she was called Baby, if memory serves me right — upon hearing my name, switched to this unusually saccharine vocal inflexion :  “haaaay, hello, how are you…long time no hear”—which nobody but nobody used with me at the NPC.   I asked for Tumel, our nickname for Zumel; and she sang out, “Oooooh, he’s not here.  I don’t know where he is.”  Pause.  I asked, “military there?”  And she said, “Yessss…”  Nothing left but to say thanks, goodbye.

Years later, in 1986, with Marcos still in power, I’d be in the same building, looking for Tony Nieva’s office which was at the back of the NPC.  A young cigarette vendor asked what I was looking for;  I inadvertently said, “the office of Tony Zumel.”  His eyes glazed and he looked far, far, far away, seemingly at a caravan crossing the desert, and answered, softly, “ay, matagal na pong wala iyon…matagal na. [He’s been gone a long time. A long, long time.]”  I looked at him with wonder, a kid with an unbreakable connection to history.

 


"His eyes glazed and he looked far, far, far away, seemingly at a caravan crossing the desert, and answered, softly, “ay, matagal na pong wala iyon…matagal na. [He’s been gone a long time. A long, long time.]”  I looked at him with wonder, a kid with an unbreakable connection to history." 

 


 

It was personal.  It was not just a piece of paper with a signature, not just a voice making the announcement;  it wasn’t even the orders barked at rows of khaki- or fatigue-uniformed men.  It was an absolute threat, a palpable danger, a loss of self-power and security.  It endangered the usual, the common, the ordinary details of daily life.  Years later, Rodolfo Salas, then chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines, would tell me of how about 200 students ran for their Central Luzon guerrilla base, throwing his group into a tizzy — though it’s hard to imagine Bilog, as we called him, even slightly nervous.  “We had to feed them,” he said smiling, “and used up in one day our month’s supply.”  Bilog then instructed his unit to interview each student.  Those not under direct threat would return to town or city to help in the resistance.  Those with “serious threats” would be given the choice of moving elsewhere:  northern, southern Luzon;  the Visayas;  Mindanao.  He said that some who were not under direct threat chose to be sent elsewhere, willing to take on the very difficult task of opening new guerrilla fronts.

Romantic in the telling, it wasn’t, in reality.  The half-joke then was that if one survived for a year in the countryside, one was already a veteran.  Still, many chose this manner of struggle.  Because martial law was personal.

A lexicon grew for clandestine work, so that information could be imparted without naming the information.  Sunog meant raid, capture.  Nanununog meant someone was talking.  Nasunog meant someone had been betrayed.  And of course, at the end of every meeting, INGAT, which recently is translated as “take care.”  No nothing as innocuous as that.  It meant “be careful” out there.  And as if to underscore the intellectual underpinnings of the budding movement, the Communist Party was the Q, following the symbolic logic formula, if p then q.

Thus the struggle against martial law would begin—quietly, carefully, slowly, in a process of learning,, unlearning and refinement as it went along.  It was fought not only with guns, since even guerrillas could not survive without supplies and there were no deep bases as yet.  Supply teams were set up in Manila for various regions, because while there was food of a sort in the countryside, there was little by way of cash.  Certain things just had to be bought.  I recall at the time that the request for supplies for the Cordillera region, then called Montanosa, came to a measly 800 pesos a month.  For as long as I could, I gave all of it.

One early coup de plume would cheer the city of Manila, at least.  A poem, well written, was published by a magazine controlled by Marcos’s cronies.  Just a little poem but all the letters starting each line, when scanned downward, read:  Marcos, Hitler, Diktador, Tuta…  Via the grapevine, we learned almost instantly it had been done by Pete Lacaba.  The owners tried to have all the copies recalled but one was delivered to my residence, so I was fortunate enough to have seen it with my own eyes.  This kind of daring would set the tone for the struggle’s propaganda.

The first issue of Liberation came out in 1975, I believe.  The making of it had its comedic moments.   Since the cover had to be photo-stenciled, one young man went to a Makati Gestetner store, pretended to be buying a machine, and when the sales agent was distracted by a phone call, loaded the designed front page into the machine.  Remember that one had to apply for a license to even have a mimeograph machine.  Distribution of copies was done by a Volkswagen so old its driver door kept swinging open every 350 meters, as it were, revealing all the newsletter stacks on the backseat.  But by 1986, I was assured that copies were being inserted into Marcos’s election propaganda, distributed by his party for the election.  It was no longer the mimeographed version I was familiar with; it was printed, likely by the same printing presses doing Marcos’s propaganda and equally likely, paid for by the same budget appropriation.

The struggle learned how to struggle and in that learning were many, many stories – of rage and laughter, of loss and gains.  The death of Puri Pedro, murdered by a military officer, was a palpable pain over our neighborhood.  The escape of political prisoners, on the other hand, brought an almost carnival mood.  It is my hope that one day, all stories will be told, affirming that those who were imprisoned — 100,000 by the then Secretary of Defense own admission – can be named; that those who were murdered – 3,000 plus have been documented but more died in so-called “encounters” – can be named;  and those who disappeared – 759 documented, though there were more – can be named.

For on the day Manila fell quiet, it was not only noise, music, talk, chatter, the hum of a vibrant life, that martial law sought to take away from us.  Martial law sought to reduce the millions of names in the archipelago to the handful of the Marcos clan and cronies, denying millions the right to be, to exist, to be named.  Martial law reduced the entire population of the archipelago to the Marcos clan and cronies;  nobody else was of significance;  no one else’s desire, wishes, goals and dreams mattered.  Martial law sought to erase all of us, rendering us merely props on the stage where the supposed magnificent destiny of clan and cronies would unfold.  Martial law dehumanized us, rendered us NAMELESS.  We were all rendered non-persons.  The response was to take martial law as personal and to work for both an individual and collective democracy fascism couldn’t break.  This was done in the interfaces of life which couldn’t be policed, away from surveillance, in the days most quiet need.  From time to time, the little noises would break out into a huge yell – a noise barrage protesting the fraudulent Manila election; students banging on the door bars and window rails quickly installed at university campuses.

 


"Martial law sought to erase all of us,
rendering us merely props on the stage
where the supposed magnificent destiny of clan
and cronies would unfold. Martial law
dehumanized us, rendered us NAMELESS.
We were all rendered non-persons." 

 


 

FORTY YEARS LATER, here we are, in a re-collection of those times, at a cool basement gallery, in a neighborhood of a city so different from the terrain where what we have re-collected occurred.  We are on the other side of the globe, though I’m pleased to remember the first reading ever honoring the murdered poet Emman Lacaba (at the Bowery church) and the first reading honoring murdered and imprisoned Filipino poets (sponsored by PEN American Center for which it was excoriated by the head of PEN Philippines) took place in this city – two events I was fortunate to help set up.

In our own fashion, in the Philippines, in the US and wherever we were, we dealt with martial law and the continued usurpation of the archipelago by the Marcos Clan and Cronies.  We learned as we went along, as martial law was a very new thing, we had no models of resistance to it.  But we learned, making as much noise as possible as we learned, and we learned very well indeed.

Which is why the national (official) reluctance to deal with martial law, to name it for what it was,  to extract justice for the damage it inflicted upon people and the islands—this reluctance has been so distressing.  The revision of history began almost at once, and it took the form immediately of denying the power of the people in the overthrow of the Marcos Dictatorship.  Instead, the overthrow has been ascribed to a few names—“heroes”—and supernatural elements.  Hell, if people hadn’t taken their courage in hand, all the “heroes” would have died under tank fire.  But so it goes;  the rich and powerful preserve their own construct.   Victims of human rights violations remain bereft of justice; those who imprisoned, murdered, raped, still walk untrammeled and often in power;  those who shared in the division of loot and turf continue to hold on to what they had stolen – even as the people, yes, the people, were being reduced to metaphorical observers in the narrative of the struggle against martial law.

Because of this national (official) reluctance,  the legacy of martial law continues:  the impunity of assassinations, murder and relentless violence, warlordism and turfism, the perverse view that public money is the private treasury of those in authority and the idea that the people are unthinking lumps of matter entitled only to lies and trickery.  How steadily amnesia has taken over minds and hearts – with those who should be in disrepute elevated to pedestals of respect.  Marcos Clan and Cronies are finger-painting daisies on a curtain being drawn over the putrid night of the martial law years.  Their egos, swollen with the unlimited self-indulgence of the martial law years, have not shrunk to proper proportions.  Only truth can do that;  only justice can do that.


"Forty years after Manila fell silent, let us push away the cacophony of lies and sink ourselves once more into the quiet truth of that day.  Because as martial law was personal then, it is still personal now." 

 


 

FORTY YEARS AFTER MANILA FELL SILENT, let us push away the cacophony of lies and sink ourselves once more into the quiet truth of that day.  Because as martial law was personal then, it is still personal now.

As they seek to perpetuate the legacy of martial law, we must perpetuate the legacy of those who fought it.  What can we, who live so far from the hard heat of a Philippine summer, the cool of monsoon rains, what can we do—we who are on the other side of the globe, in a strange city, in a strange neighborhood and who are now gathered today in a cool basement gallery, so very different from the terrain visited by martial law?

Many of you weren’t even born yet when Marcos was overthrown, much less when martial law was declared.  And yet here we all are, fighting NOT to be nameless in this neighborhood, this city, this state, this country, in the intricate workings of capital.

Through the years I have seen and been engaged in many big and small movements, artistic and political and often both; they waxed and waned, surged and ebbed, and petered out, even as our numbers increased.  Many poets, many writers, many painters, many sculptors of  Filipino descent worked and struggled in this country, trying to bring an awareness of what has transpired, is transpiring, in 7,000 islands on the other side of the globe.  And like a Sisyphean task, we have seen the words we wrote, images we drew, figures we shaped, shatter and fade even as we continued to write, to draw, to sculpt.

There is a need for permanence to our work, a deep-rootedness, to mark it as of this place though prism-ed by events elsewhere.  We need to affirm that we are of this place and of this time, though our lineage may be elsewhere.  We need affirm our right to be here—to be visible and engaged in this country, to be as a branch of the banyan tree which, even as it issues forth from the mother trunk, seeks to sink its own roots into the alien loam.  By affirming our right to be here, our right to fashion a life and a destiny for ourselves here, by affirming our right and duty to make history in the time and place of our lives, by affirming our right to have a name, as it were, here, we defeat the original intent of martial law.  In the process, we also help create a genuine democracy for ourselves, our communities, our brothers and sisters of different colors and different ethnicities. And that, as we did learn in the years following the day Manila fell silent, is the path to victory.

Thank you and, because dangers continue, INGAT— #

...


 

Talk at the Bliss on Bliss Studio, Queens, New York City;  September 9, 2012;  third part of Re-Collection, A Commemoration of the Anniversary of the Declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines, the first two being an art exhibit and an installation/performance.

The text was also published in Doveglion Press on September 12, 2012.

One Beauty Queen & Eight Dead Tourists

If one question were to define the character of your people and if two events were to be pivotal in defining the character of your nation – what question and what events would you choose?

Maria Venus Raj, 22-year-old Miss Philippines contender for the Miss Universe crown, likely did not anticipate she would be at the center of the above-mentioned situations. The question that became a character definition, not only for her but for her entire country mates, was whether she had committed a big mistake and what she did to correct it. Ms. Raj replied candidly that she’d never had a major, major problem and thanked her family for guiding her – not in perfect English, granted, but neither unintelligible nor incomprehensible either. I've heard worse from winners and losers alike. 

Ms. Raj placed fourth and thereby became the object of intense criticism, and a cause for a general self-abnegation on her country people's part, as if she herself, not the judges, chose Miss Mexico for the title. Or as though this was and will be the only chance at a beauty title for the Philippines.

Worse, ex-cop Rolando Miranda decided in the same week to hold hostage a busload of Chinese tourists and allegedly killed eight of them before offing himself. I say allegedly because with all those bullets flying, I prefer to wait for the forensics.

One beauty queen and eight dead tourists then merged into an absurd symbol of the character of the entire nation called the Philippines and an entire people called Filipinos – to wit, that they are flubbers, fumblers, incompetent, corrupt, stupid, murderous, etc.

And now there are rallies in Hong Kong with the Chinese demanding apology, compensation, etc., etc. It shouldn't surprise us when, at some point, there's a demand that the Philippine government reinstate the ZTE broadband project, which was scuttled for corruption under the previous regime.

Filipinos themselves are adding fuel to the fire by blaming Ms. Raj (in lieu of the judges who, btw, were never asked why they chose Miss Mexico), not even understanding the source of their own anger, which in my view is our common perspective on OFWs: bring home the bacon or else... Ms. Raj was born overseas of an OFW mother and an Indian father, hence by legacy is cloaked by the same expectations of OFW women.  Give those of us at home what we want or die trying.

Filipinos as well add to the fury over the eight dead Chinese tourists by immediately blaming one another, passing the buck, falling to their knees and smashing their foreheads on the floor in self-abnegation.

Get a grip, people. The Philippines has had and will have beauty titles galore. Beauty contests are judged on the basis of (1) how close to Western beauty models a girl is; (2) how appealing she and her country are to those looking for product endorsers; and (3) whether there’s a political and commercial advantage to recognizing her country.

Get a grip as well, people and P-noy, re: the eight dead tourists. While it is proper to apologize for this unfortunate end to this murderous madman's actions, enough already with the kowtowing and feeling bad and blaming yourselves.  Hong Kong never apologizes for the cruel and sometimes murderous treatment of Filipina domestic workers; nor did Beijing apologize for the crazed guy who hacked  Filipino father and daughter tourists. If the Chinese feel it’s too dangerous to go to the Philippines, then tell them to go elsewhere.

For the sake of the nation's self-respect, stop acting like the country with its 100 million population is a beauty title contestant and/or a Chinese suzerainty. - #

Didn’t Even Realize It

Was on Huffington Post and only found out when googling for a photo to send to Polland. Click on title above to access. Sorry for those who get posts automatically. I was trying to embed the link, hence the many versions of this post. Failed at it, too.

All Hail To the Goddess Ostara

Or Eastre – from which the words Easter and estrogen spring, and from whose rites –started sometime in 500 BC -- comes the egg, the ultimate fertility symbol.

Nanny used to wake me early Easter Sunday as the church bells rang and make me jump up and down on the bed so I’d grow really tall. I think she had dreams of raising a basketball star. Huge disappointment. I didn’t even get to tall.

Lent seems to grow bloodier and bloodier in the Philippines which spewed out gory images of flagellants shredding their backs to ribbons with thorny whips, of 25 people, including one woman, who had themselves crucified. Government issued an edict banning foreigners from crucifying themselves – and why not? – thus tacitly saying that only the local lower classes may do so.

STGdess, the idea that those who already suffer on a daily basis should corporeally punish themselves more and terribly one day of each year just does not compute to my mind. I don’t see the rich self-flagellating or nailing themselves to the cross, despite the admonition about the eye and the camel.

Unfortunately, this is the week as well when gory details of the sexual abuse of minors by priests and the resulting alleged Catholic Church cover-up or cavalier treatment of such are also spewing forth in global media, rendering the blood-sweat-tears religious passion of Filipinos almost a ridiculous contrapunta.

I can’t even be impressed by the 25 crucifixions nor by one woman letting herself be crucified – though that might make for apt symbolism as to how the Church treats women, what with the Bishops loudly demanding “off with its head” with regards to the condom, and “off with the vote” with regards to any candidate supporting the proposed Reproductive Health and Human Development bill before Philippine Congress. Six bishops have endorsed a "pro-life" candidate for president of the Philippines, that country of such ecological disaster and burgeoning population it's beginning to look like an early Delubio (The Deluge) over there.

And since I am nasty, I mutter that of course, they're all against repro health since their preferred partners can’t get pregnant. {cynical sneer}

With lawsuits, verbal attacks and defense over pedophile priests more strident each day, my one question is why those who knew about this evil did not report it to the police or some outside agency nor saw it as a criminal activity, and opted instead to leave the correction of the anomaly to the very organization to which the pedophiliac belonged. It took 14 years to defrock one such priest and he had access, it seems, to young people all that time.

Moral of the story: you leave one hierarchy to be prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner and all you get is injustice.

Which is why I’m going around saying “Praise be to Ostara!” -- #

A Traditional Election Spread

Been getting emails asking what I thought of the coming (May) presidential elections. I sort of dithered, asking do I have to? (think about it, that is), one of the main reasons being that though there were so many candidates (99 who wanted to be president), 99% were uninteresting. If you’ve been born bored as I was, there’s no greater bane than uninteresting.

So finally, this week, when the inquiring emails reached a ridiculous 350, I took a look.

And decided I like the platform of Sen. Jamby Madrigal. Access it and read at her website – www.jambymadrigal.com. She seems to be engaged in a wide spectrum of concerns – from LRT long-lines to fisherfolks, to the Visiting Forces Agreement (she’s against it) and the Magna Carta of Women. Many women politician get to power by (re)molding themselves to symbolize the male traditional view of how a woman should be (as in non-controversial and malleable) and thus de-genderize themselves in the process, becoming a conduit for conservatism. Sen. Madrigal seems to have escaped this; seems, indeed, to have made it a point to buck this feudal-patriarchal system.

I say “seems” because I’ve never met her, don’t know her but must say I like her oomph and am sorry that she does not have as widespread support as she deserves.

Of the three principal candidates – Noynoy Aquino, Manny Villar and Gilbert Teodoro –I can’t seem to find anything new or exciting. Joseph Estrada one must discount, as there are no second acts in the Philippines, unlike the US.

Gilbert Teodoro suffers from the legacy of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but despite that seems articulate and rational. Well-mannered, one must say.

Of Noynoy Aquino, just about all I say is that he's NOT likely to precipitate a Constitutional crisis to extend or maintain his power. Matter of family legacy. His father died for the 1935 constitution and his mother promulgated the 1987 constitution.

Not sure I can say the same for Manny Villar, who’s spending the peso equivalent of fistfuls of dollars to make it to the presidency, welding an unlikely alliance of right to left, making one wonder as to what his core values are…kind of indicating a monomania … It seems to me – seems again, as I’ve not met any of these protagonists and merely follow their pronouncements and actions through media – that Villar would not be one to hesitate were he to deem a constitutional crisis necessary to maintain, extend, enhance his powers.

That’s not an easy thought for someone who lived under martial law or has had to respond to many maneuvers of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her followers to maintain, extend, enhance her/their power this past decade.

A country whose constitution is constantly threatened does NOT have even an iota of security.

As for the rest, let me say right off the bat that I won’t even consider anyone backed by organized religion, religious sects, etc. The principle of separation of church and state was a hard-won one, through revolts, uprisings, revolutions, through centuries. Throwing it away simply because it is easier to live by dogma than to think and be responsible for one’s actions is just not my cup of tea – or coffee, preferably Jamaica Blue Mountain.

So we come to the final question: will I – should I -- endorse Jamby Madrigal? Hmmm, never endorsed any candidate before; nor am I sure it will do her much good but sure, why not, yes – on principle, based on her platform. -- #

Déjà Vu All Over Again

April is the cruelest month, especially way back in 1973, the 4th of the month to be precise, when Liliosa Hilao was murdered in the makeshift detention quarters of the (Philippine) Constabulary Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU). In the wake of Presidential Proclamation 1081, which imposed martial rule on the Philippines, CANU had abruptly given dope dealers, dope pushers and narcotics traffickers a unilateral truce, electing instead to go after activists, “leftists,” dissenters and a vast array of people who did not want Mr. Marcos to change the Constitution so he, his clan and cronies could rule forever.

Liliosa was 23 years old, a scholar at the City University of Manila and editor of Hasik, the school’s student newspaper. Later testimonies revealed she had been tortured, gang-raped, injected with truth serum. Then, because she wouldn’t be cowed and vowed to go after her brutalizers, they poured muriatic acid down her throat and killed her. Hers was the first death in the urban detention centers of the Marcos regime.

When her family tried to obtain justice, the military used all manner of harassment and threats, including raids, beatings and detention, to discourage her parents, her brothers and her sisters.

I never met her but she remains vivid to my mind. She was killed the night before my release and whenever April comes, I hear the whisper of a co-detainee, talking about her murder. “She was killed there,” my co-detainee said, in a hushed voice, pointing to the building across the street from where we were being held inside Camp Crame. My eyes slid away from the building, kept sliding away from it, as my mind repeatedly said, “it didn’t happen here; it happened in another city, in another province, in another island, in another country far, far away.”

Liliosa’s murder came at the end of a week of severe diarrhea and gastroenteritis in our own detention quarters. For two weeks in March, water had disappeared from our quarters (such a nice neutral word); eventually, despite our efforts, the place began to stink and we were ripe as well. One morning, the military parked a fire truck outside, stuck a hose through a window and poured water into a gasoline drum in the bathroom. Our relief was short-lived; the water was contaminated, probably deliberately to punish the women for complaining.

Water and Liliosa would be linked in my mind forever, a presage of murderous things to come, perverting Aquarius’s symbolism so much that to this day, I barely drink water. In the mid-1970s, when so many women (and men, though hardly anyone talks about this) were being sexually assaulted in military detention camps, I voiced my worries to a friend. His reply: “if you were picked up again, rape would be the least of your worries.” I understood. Liliosa was the tidewater mark. After her, everyone and anyone “picked up” was tortured, some murdered, because the military establishment got away with the first. This was how we learned the word “impunity” – from Liliosa’s fate and her family’s experience.

And now there’s PP 1017 by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, so low a number among presidential proclamations. Marcos at least waited until he got to 1081, being a superstitious nitwit who embedded in the number the year he would “lift” martial -- but not his -- rule, 1981. Does this mean Gloria will step down in 2017? As Charlie Brown would say, aaargh!

But then again, there is this so-called people’s initiative (who are these people?) to change the current Constitution. Then there are all these women and men charged with rebellion, five of them congress people who’ve had to accept congressional protective custody to avoid being arrested without warrants. And US troops are debasing Filipinas again, protected by government itself. Then there are the 556 assassinated activists, leaders and critics, the body count inching upwards to the 14 killed per day in the last years of Marcos’s rule.

Time seems to have looped upon itself, things devolving, the descent into darkness accompanied by the gloating chortles of fundamentalists, military men, warlords and landlords, corporate men and a host of women glorying in their own abjectness. Time has loop and is eating itself up.

I hear myself responding over and over again, to questions trite and significant, that I don’t have time; there is no time; no time at all, because the cloud in the crystal ball has cleared and forever is visible and there is no time left.

Another generation will drop out of school; take to the hills and risk life and liberty to make democracy more than just a word. Physicists, engineers, poets, young peasants, the tribal braves, workers, women, men and even children will forgo the amiable pleasures of an ordinary life to do something which shouldn’t be extraordinary but is – assert people’s rights and freedoms.

Another generation will leave their parents’ homes and take to the hills and risk life and liberty to make democracy more than just a word. Abandoning all that is familiar, they will learn the unfamiliar heart of poverty among 70% of the population and by so doing, become themselves ordinary, usual and familiar, transformed, as the village folks used to say, into nice people around.

Sometime in the future, a woman grown old in this never-ending enterprise to create a true nation will look at the sky with horror-stricken eyes and think: “a third of my generation was killed young; a third went to prison, went to the hills or both, and a third is scattered the world over in exile.”

And remember again, the words of a woman who joined the Tupamaros of Uruguay at the age of 15, spent two years in prison where the military destroyed her right arm, and the rest of her life in exile in Sweden: “there are things I regret having done, but never being there, at the moment of historic juncture, when everyone was engaged in a magnificent undertaking.”

It is said that the poet, Pablo Neruda died of a broken heart when the Allende government was destroyed by a CIA-supported military coup and replaced with a military dictatorship. But one remembers a childhood fairytale, where an honorable man looped iron bands around his heart, to stop its shattering at injustice, thus enabling himself to act.

Go and do likewise. There is no time anymore.