THE UNBEARABLE MOOD SNEAKED IN like a winter cold on a sunny day. The beginning was almost like a game, another one played by state forces on sullied individuals. The Philippines had approved, finally, almost three decades after the overthrow of the Marcos Dictatorship, that those who had suffered human rights violations would be compensated from Marcos accounts seized from a Swiss bank. The top compensation would be half a million pesos—at current rates, about $10,600. Yes, this was the first quirk thing that occurred; computations of the ridiculous running through my head . Twenty-eight years meant 336 months meant a $32.00 per month payment for waiting for rectification of a vast wrong.
Nevertheless, one took one’s courage in hand and downloaded the forms required to apply for compensation. A kind of reluctance made me do it only during the last weeks of the deadline for applications. The printer spewed out the forms and with a morbid cheerfulness, one proceeded to fill in the blanks—until one got to this portion:
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
(Please check applicable box)
▢ 1. Killed
▢ 2. Disappeared or still missing
▢ 3. Tortured
▢ 4. Raped or Sexually Abused
▢ 5. Illegally detained
▢ 6. Involuntarily exiled
▢ 7. Unjust or illegal detention takeover of business;
confiscation of property; illegal detention of owner/s
and/or their families; deprivation of livelihood
▢ 8. Victim’s child kidnapped or exploited
▢ 9. Sexually offended during detention and/or in the course
of military and/or police operations
▢ 10. Other violations and/or abuses similar or to 8 and 9,
Please check box. Named and neatly package. All those images. Of a young man wearing a sling because interrogation had broken his arm and shoulder. Of a friend returning from an asylum hearing with her eyes swollen because she had had to recount all the abuses and foul words rained upon her head. Of a girl made to drink muriatic acid after being raped. Of faces and voices, recounting a cascade of inhuman things done inhumanly. And the coup de grace, a friend recounting how his family had asked repeatedly, after a female relative and her child had been taken, to please just return the five-year-old and ending the story with a desultory “they wouldn’t answer and it became obvious they killed the child, too.”
So I threw up all over the page.
Then followed a slide into the mood of martial law days. As four of us stood chatting at a corner of a Manhattan street, a voice said in my head: “too many of us together; we will be noticed.” Yes, three was already a crowd in those days, four was a rally, five was a demonstration. I kept an eye out for the water cannons, the line of shields and helmets about to come down the road.
"Of faces and voices, recounting a cascade
of inhuman things done inhumanly."
I kept trying to write finish to the application forms, getting them notarized over and over again at the Consulate, and threatening to send them ASAP to Manila until the much-imposed-upon Mr. Clor of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board wrote back in exasperation, “why would you do that? I haven’t approved it as complete!?”
With equal exasperation, I wrote back, “I’d like to get this over as soon as possible. I am being triggered.”
And having written that down, I diagnosed myself as having flashbacks, a classic symptom of PTSD—or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had begun to walk all over Manhattan, looking for a hiding place or perhaps, just trying to outrun a remembrance of things past.
The letters bounced around in my head for a while. I tried to change the signification of the acronym but could only come up with Part Time Subversive Decompensating.
What saved many a sanity in the darkest of nights in the archipelago.
Then one early morning, chancing upon a diatribe by a dictator loyalist, I broke PTSD by flipping a finger at those who kept denying what tens of thousands knew had transpired. Damn ostrich heads in the sand.
Anger was a weapon for survival, too. Expletive deleted. —#