President Benigno Aquino III dedicated a huge part of his speech commemorating the 30th anniversary of the 1986 People Power Revolution last February 25 admonishing the Filipino youth for supposedly forgetting the horrors of the Martial Law years.
“Hindi kathang-isip ang lahat ng ito. Hindi ito teorya o pananaw ng iilan lang. Totoong naganap ang Martial Law,” (This is not a work of fiction. This is not just a theory or point-of-view held by a few. Martial Law really happened) he stressed. The President also chided those who claim that the country reached great heights during the Marcos years.
“Napapailing na nga lang po ako, dahil may mga nagsasabi raw na ang panahon ni Ginoong Marcos ang siyang golden age ng Pilipinas. Siguro nga, golden days para sa kanya, na matapos na masagad ang dalawang termino bilang Pangulo, na katumbas ng walong taon, gumawa pa siya ng paraan na kumapit sa kapangyarihan,” (I can only shake my head at those who claim that the country reached its Golden Age during the Marcos years. Maybe it is a Golden Age for his family and his cronies because after having two terms, he still wanted to prolong his stay in power.) Aquino said.
Towards the end of his remarks, Aquino urged the youth to know more about the struggle for democracy during the Marcos years, quoting Spanish-American historian George Santayana’s warning that “Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”
Aquino’s concern is understandable. For example, pro-Marcos fan pages and memes are all over social media (here’s one of those, with almost 400,000 likes). This is all the more relevant given that Marcos’ son and namesake, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos II, is running to be Vice President and in fact has a good chance of winning.
It is easy to bash the youth for being insufficiently informed about what transpired during the Marcos years. However, we must first look into why that is happening in the first place. (Before proceeding, let me point out I am writing the following as a history instructor who also happens to be a millenial although the views are my own and does not in any way represent the institutions I am affiliated with.)
- The youth have very little opportunity to study Philippine history in general and the Martial Law years in particular. Unless you’re a history or political science major, you will only have a Philippine history class when you’re in Grade 5, first year high school, and some time during college (that’s during my years studying).
- Since history is taught chronologically, the discussion on Martial Law years will have to wait until the final weeks of the school term. When you’re already at the tail-end of the semester, in-depth discussions are sometimes no longer possible.
- Keep in mind the basic problem facing history teachers around the world – How do you squeeze in everything within the semester or the school year?
- A lot of people may disagree with this observation, but I’ll say it still – I believe that
marcos years – uniformly negative portrayal