“I distinctly remember the letters our parents gave us, telling us how much they yearned to be with us, and that they look forward to the time that we can be together as a family… My parents did not impose their principles and belief on us, but rather gave us the freedom to discover for ourselves what is right and wrong… There is one instance, though, that Nanay imparted to me a lesson I cannot forget. Sometime when I was around eleven or twelve years old, she pulled me aside and told me in Tagalog: ‘Always look out for those who are less fortunate in life.’”
“Sometimes, I look at our country and find myself feeling sorry my father had to die for all this. I often feel sobrang lugi from it all. Is this the better place he wanted to leave for us, his children? Is this what he fought for? … They say history repeats itself until you learn the lesson… It had to take another dictator for me to really understand why he made the choices he made. It is quite ironic that finally, I am finding some healing for myself. Someday, I hope to make him as proud of me as I am to be his daughter.”
Those passages—the first by Antonio Luna Malay Ocampo, son of Satur Ocampo and Bobi Malay, and the second by Joyette Jopson, daughter of Edgar and Joy Jopson—are taken from articles in a newly released ebook titled “Rekindled: Children’s Narratives.”
Published by Bantayog ng Mga Bayani Foundation and De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB), this ebook contains 12 short articles of children and grandchildren of veterans of the struggle against martial law, which was declared by President Ferdinand Marcos in September 1972. It was produced with the help of student illustrators and layout artists of DLS-CSB.
Bantayog executive director Ma. Cristina Rodriguez described the ebook as “an example of our continuing efforts to pursue a lively conversation with young people today, so that we can continue to share with them the still highly relevant lessons taught by the 14 years of dictatorship.”
The ebook project sprang from a discussion last year between Bantayog officials and some of the children and grandchildren of martial law veterans.
“We agreed that people could get a different perspective of this period of the country’s history if the children and grandchildren write about what life was like with their parents and grandparents, and what they learned from them,” said Bantayog board member Ester Isberto.
‘How can we forget?’
For many of the writers, life was hard because they were often separated from their parents for long periods.
“Throughout these difficult times, my mama and papa never stopped making me feel loved even when they were miles away. They kept sending me letters folded so small we called them ‘chicklet’—just to tell me they loved me,” wrote Issa Manalo Lopez, daughter of Manjette Manalo and Ted Lopez, in her essay “I Was Born in Prison.”
Speaking of their life of fear under martial law, Issa said: “We should not let this happen again. How can we forget when wounds have never really healed and the cancer we see in our society continues to oppress the majority of our nation?”
The children wrote of the pain that they and their parents endured.
“I was too young to understand the horrors that my father experienced in detention at the time. But even now that I am older, I still have many questions,” said Crisanto Malaya L. Lacaba, son of Jose F. Lacaba and Marra PL Lanot. “The torture of my father is just one story among many, and I believe these stories need to be heard… To deny these stories is to attack the truth.”
Ronald Emmanuel de Vera, son of Adora Faye de Vera, wrote of how martial law shaped not only his family’s history but also his very personality: “Ang kuwento ko ay kongkretong halimbawa ng ‘The political is personal.’ Personal kong naranasan ang epekto ng martial law. Ang kasaysayan ng pamilya ko, ang kabuuan ng pagkatao ko ngayon, ang mga flaws, trauma at kung anu-ano pang personality traits and quirks ko ngayon, ay bunga ng pinagdaanan namin ng nanay at tatay ko dahil pinuwersa kami sa ganung sitwasyon ng martial law.”
Others described their sense of living in a larger community because of their parents’ political activities.
In her article, “The Movement Raised Me,” June Taguiwalo, daughter of Judy Taguiwalo, wrote that “having an activist mother means being raised by a whole movement who deeply cares about the country and our wellbeing.” She added: “My mama taught me how to care about the people around me. She taught me that we don’t fight for the masses, but fight with and alongside them for a better life.”
Ayen dela Torre, daughter of Edicio dela Torre and Girlie Villariba, quoted her parents as saying that they did not have material possessions to pass on to her, but that “wherever I would go in this world, there would be a home that would welcome me.”
“Throughout my adult years, they have lived up to their promise,” Ayen wrote. “When I travelled alone to study in Denmark, a friend of my parents stood at the arrival gate, armed with a bag of winter jackets and the promise of a home-cooked meal. When I spent Holy Week with the Aetas in Zambales, they told me stories of how my parents taught them to be proud of where they come from, and how thrilled they were to share their traditions with their daughter.”
From her parents Rolly Pena and Ninotchka Rosca, Dr. Sibyl Jade Pena learned of the necessity of working together to help those in need, of pooling talents and skills to achieve a common goal and to bring about a safe, healthy and orderly life for everyone: “Natutunan ko sa kanila ang maging matulungin sa mga nangangailangan… Mas madaling maatim ang isang objective kung sama-samang magtutulungan para makamit ito. Bawat isa ay may ambag na talino at kakayahan. Bawat isa ay may boses sa isang proyekto.
“Nasa 21st century na tayo. Nakarating na ang tao sa buwan at nakapagpadala ng Rover sa Mars. Hindi naman siguro mali na patuloy tayong mangarap sa isang Pilipinas na mas maayos kaysa sa mga nagdaang siglo. Kung saan bawat isa ay may oportunidad sa maayos, malusog at ligtas na buhay.”
Despite the continuing challenges that the country faces, Silay Maria Mendiola Lumbera wrote, it is important to continue to hope and maintain a positive perspective. The daughter of Bien Lumbera and Shane Nograles recalled her father saying as much in an interview: “Isang bagay na natutunan ko mula sa pagiging bahagi ng kilusang Makabayan ay ang pananalig na maaaring magbago ang mga bagay—na kayang baguhin ang mga bagay. Kaya’t sa kabila ng lahat, puno pa rin ako ng pag-asa.”
She added: “Sa mata ni Tatay, ni Bien, may pag-asa sa pagpanig sa bayan. Kaya’t manalig tayo at magpatuloy.”
Only the beginning
According to Bantayog officials, this ebook is just the start and more innovative projects are in the pipeline.
“Would you be interested in reading about the love stories of activists in the thick of their fight for people’s rights and welfare? Abangan!” Ester Isberto said.