Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Remember

I remember it was NOT the main headline on the evening news of RPN9,  a TV station sequestered by the government during Martial Law broadcasting then in General Santos City via domestic satellite (DOMSAT). We just  finished an early dinner and had gathered in front of the TV set. I was standing when it came on. The news anchor, grim-faced as he read the news, plainly said, Ninoy Aquino has been shot dead. Then, a blur of images made me sit down on our worn sofa. The minor disturbance outside the Manila International Airport, the sad faces, the military men in their johnny-come-lately stance, the media frenzy, Doy Laurel being interviewed. . . Suddenly, the gathering twilight seemed darker. I felt claustrophobic as I twiddled with the collar of my t-shirt. What I saw on TV chilled me to the bones and ignited a spark of anger within me. I was 27 then and on my second year of teaching at a local Catholic college. The date was August 21, 1983.

Ninoy, the man in white, dead on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport
The days and weeks that followed were minimally reported on TV so I had to rely on the mosquito press, a term for the alternative press which reported widely on the Aquino Assassination in spite of the dangers posed by Martial Law. Leading the pack were Mr & Ms, a lifestyle magazine that came out with its tabloid special issues and Malaya newspaper.

Ninoy as thousands saw him during the wake at Santo Domingo church
The wake at Santo Domingo church in Quezon City was filled with people who lined up to pay their respects to Ninoy Aquino. Cory was a picture of a grief-stricken widow. The burial was awe-inspiring as the cortege wound through the streets of Metro Manila while people showered yellow petals and confetti on the truck flatbed carrying Ninoy's casket.
The massive turnout for the burial of Ninoy Aquino
In General Santos, the general atmosphere was nonchalance, at least on the surface. But there was a sense of purpose and urgency as people awaited the arrival of the mosquito press publications which sold like proverbial hot cakes. Articles and photos from these were photocopied, reproduced by way of mimeograph machines and distributed to friends and others in churches and meetings of civic organizations. After more than a decade of  government propaganda, media control and censorship under Martial Law, the people's need here for the truth was that palpable. These publications stoked a fervor that would eventually find expression in the People Power Revolution in 1986.

I wrote a Letter to the Editor that was published in Mr & Ms Special Issue dated December 9, 1983:
I've been following closely your "specials" since you came out with the follow-up No. 1 issue to the Funeral Coverage. In General Santos City, there's always a mad scramble for copies of your "specials." Encouraged by the special attention you give to letter writers to this series, I decided to write you about a very strange coincidence which happened to me. Just a few minutes ago, I was going through my file of posters/chord guides from Jingle Chordbook Magazines when I was struck by a particular one. (Please see the attached copy of said poster.) One page illustrates the quotation of David Russell: "Martyrs Set Bad Examples" with a comic strip-like drawing of someone named Andres (Bonifacio as in Marcial Bonifacio, the alias used by Ninoy Aquino for securing a passport?) who was apparently shot from the back as the bullet was shown piercing his chin (looks familiar?). I don't remember which issue of Jingle Chordbook Magazine it came with, but I am DEFINITE it was before August 21, 1983, probably two months earlier! The coincidence is nothing short of uncanny. This must be what it feels like to have a deja-vu. And it gives me the chills now as when I saw the DOMSAT coverage of the assassination three months ago.
The following year, a reader, R. Canlas, confirmed what I wrote and said that the issue where it came from was the one with Adam Ant on the cover.

What I read in these publications continued to stoke the spark of anger in me. It was a time of re-educating myself. A time to undo what Martial Law did to my young life. I remember and still continue to remember.

1 comment:

bariles said...

Hi Gilbert!
While reading your post, memories of that saddest day in Phil history came flooding. I was still based in Cotabato City working as salesman of P&G when news of Ninoy's assassination broke out. That time, there was only one newsstand selling print publications on the incident and I had to be there at the right time everyday to get my copies of Malaya, Mr. & Ms supplement and eventually, Inquirer which I share with my fellow salesman or whoever cared about what was happening. I remember wearing a black pin with the words 'HINDI KA NAG-IISA', one of the very few brave people that time. I was even accosted by a military personnel at a checkup along the Davao-Cotabato highway at one point but I guess, my charm was too overpowering that he let me go. That was one good scare!
Anyway, thanks for this post of yours. It made me realize the urgency of sharing stories of Ninoy's heroism's effects on us, right after it happened in August 21, 1083.