Saturday, November 13, 2004

chapter 3, part 2

"No matter how strong and dedicated a leader may be, he must find root and strength amongst the people. He alone cannot save a nation. He may guide, he may set the tone, he may dedicate himself and risk his life, but only the people may save themselves."--Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, address at the launching of the Mabuhay Ang Pilipino Movement in Malacañang on November 30, 1972

Beatrice felt tears welling in her eyes as she watched the scene unfolding on TV. Quiapo was burning again. She heard someone shouting angrily at the cameraman, and then the video focused on a member of the Anti-Piracy Agency, telling the TV news crew to stop filming. Then, realizing that his cursing was being aired live, the APA operative muttered and hurriedly ran in the direction of his companions.

"Grabe, parang giyera na ‘yan, a!" Aida said as sat next to Beatrice and viewed the carnage. It was another raid against the pirate dens, but both Beatrice and Aida felt something ominous in the air. Many vendors were fighting back, hurling stones and bottles at the law enforcers, and Beatrice and Aida both cried out when they saw one vendor being gunned down, his body riddled with bullets as he was about to throw a makeshift missile at the policemen.

"Diyos ko," Aida said as she made the sign of the cross. The other members of Task Force Katarungan had stopped what they were doing and had congregated in front of the TV set, the preparation for the Martial Law diorama at the University’s Bahay Kalinaw.

"Nangyayari na naman," a young student observed. "Sinabi na nga ni Professor Timoteo, matagal nang martial law ang Pilipinas, nagkukunwari lang tayo."

"E nasa denial stage pa rin tayo, Miguel," one of the TFK officers observed. "Talaga namang nung pumutok ‘yung 9-11 e balik-Cold War na tayo, tapos ang mga gagong Kano, na-re-elect pa ang Koboy na utak unggoy. E talagang wala na nga tayong patutunguhan kung di martial law ulit."

Aida smiled bitterly. "E hindi lang naman yung mga Kano ang bobo. Tingnan mo kung sino ang naghahari dito."

"History repeats itself. History is doomed to repeat itself if we do not learn from the past, if we do not learn its lessons," another TFK officer solemnly intoned.

The sound of gunfire and frenzied screaming had filled the room. They could hear the TV reporter’s blow-by-blow account. "At yan nga po nakikita ninyo na patuloy pa rin ang pag-wasak dito sa mga tindahan ng mga pirata. Makikita ninyo na nakahanda na ang mga hose ng firetrucks at naka-porma na ang mga riot police."

"Kasamang Markie, hindi ba medyo overkill naman yata ‘yang ginagawa ng APA? Hindi naman rallyista ang mga pirata na ‘yan, bakit may mga riot police pa at napakarami na ng mga APA diyan, e magpapadala pa sila ng reinforcements? O balak na ba talaga nilang lusubin ang mismong mga warehouse at tuluyan nang durugin ang mga tinamaan ng lintik na mga pirata na yan?"

"Well, kasamang Albert, ‘yan na nga ang nagiging spekulasyon sa ngayon. At kung maaalala ninyo, may exklusibong report tayo noong isang araw kung saan nakapanayam natin ang isang eyewitness daw sa isang massacre na naganap, na kung saan ilang APA ang natagpuang patay diyan sa may harap ng simbahan. Ito naman ay idineny ni APA Director Gener Roman at ng Chief of Police, ngunit positibo ang eyewitness. Kaya kung totoo ang kanyang kini-claim, hindi malayong isa nga itong malaking opensibo laban sa mga pirata at pagganti ng APA sa mga pumaslang sa kanilang mga kasamahan. War on piracy na ito, kasamang Albert, at animo warzone nga sa kasalukuyan itong Quiapo," the reporter said.

He had barely finished his sentence when they heard an explosion. People screamed as hundreds of panicked uziseros ran in all directions.

"Mark! Mark. Ano ang nangyari?"

Beatrice and the others tensely waited as the TV reporter struggled to make his voice heard amid the shouting and the sound of gunfire. Yet Beatrice already knew what his answer would be. She had seen this. When she was dreaming. It was happening again.

"Kasamang Albert, may nagpasabog dun sa memorial ng mga Plaza Miranda victims! Kinukumpirma pa namin kung ano ang sanhi ng…"

"Ano ang nangyari?"

"Diyos ko! Plaza Miranda?"

"Martial Law! Sinabi ko na sa inyo. Martial Law!"

Beatrice stood up. She walked as one who was sleeping, her mind dreaming of other places, her eyes barely registering the images of the exhibit surrounding her. She saw the statues of the Martial Law victims, one diorama representing two jailers electrocuting a prisoner by attaching jumper cables to his testicles, another woman whose face was frozen in terror as her torturer stubbed out a cigarette on her face, another whose face had been kicked in, battered and bruised, by a man wearing army boots. She saw the victims that had been shot, stabbed, strangled, raped, strung up, torched, electrocuted, decapitated, chopped, run over, crushed, impaled. One torturer was said to have enjoyed carving drawings on his victim’s chest using a Swiss knife. Another had chopped off his prisoner’s fingers, one for each day, then started on his toes. Many had forced the detainees to drink their own urine. Others had beaten their victims with rifles, two-by-fours, baseball bats, bamboo sticks, canes, nightsticks, chair legs, steel pipes. They wanted their victims to confess their crimes, name their accomplices, reveal their hideouts, share their documents, renounce the revolution, embrace the New Society that promised a new brotherhood of man.

Beatrice stopped as she saw the photographs of a young woman in one of the exhibits. It was a memorial to Tanya Sandoval, an editor of a student newspaper who had been abducted during a protest rally at Mendiola during the first year after the declaration Martial Law. Tanya was an honor student and a gifted young writer, who had written scathing editorials that called for the lifting of Martial Law and an end to warrantless arrests, illegal checkpoints and the imposition of the curfew. She had backed her fearless words with actions, giving up middle-class comfort to join the student demonstrations at her school and the protest marches in the streets of Manila.

"From the designer clothes she had once loved, Tanya chose to wear the uniform of the revolution, dressing in T-shirts, jeans and tubao, which was more than a fashion accessory as it provided some protection for rallyists from the tear gas that was a constant weapon used against these young children," Tanya’s sister Aileen narrated in one of the newspaper clipping that formed part of the memorial.

Aileen was only ten at the time, and would cry whenever she would see the bruises Tanya had sustained, the scratches that sometimes marred her pretty face, and the angry arguments the activist had with her mother and father.

"My parents were afraid for Ate’s life, and they wanted her to stop joining the rallies and to resign as editor of her paper. My mom even told her that we would just leave the country and that she would just continue her studies in the US, just as she had always dreamed.

"I remember praying at night that God would make Ate listen to my parents. I begged him to convince Ate to accept my mom’s offer, because I didn’t want them fighting anymore and I was afraid that I might lose my sister. I remember once telling Ate this, and she hugged me. She was crying, but she told me to be brave and that one day, I would understand what she was doing. She said that she was not happy that she made this choice, but that it was something she had to do, for all our sakes. She said she dreamt of a better world. She said she loved me and always will, that no matter what happened she will always love our family and do her best to be a good Ate to me."

Tanya Sandoval died after three days in custody. She had been raped repeatedly and beaten to death. The authorities claimed she killed herself.

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