A message for those who did not experience Ferdinand Marcos and Benigno Aquino Jr.
by Wilfredo G. Villanueva
Thirty years! Time passes like a thief in the night, it steals everything including the best and the worst memories, but only if we allow it.
I actually readied my .22 caliber air rifle—laughable but the only weapon we could have in our possession at that time—for the call to storm Malacañang after Benigno Aquino Jr. was executed, shot from the back like a traitor. We weren’t connected like we are now, so we existed on dribs and drabs of news, from the We Forum guerrilla newspaper, repackaged to Malaya, but word-of-mouth mostly. We buried the new national hero in what could be the longest funeral march in history, two-million people strong. España boulevard was filled with mourners. From Sto. Domingo church where thousands lined up to see him in repose, we followed the casket to the Rizal monument through a thunderstorm and drenching rain, marched down Roxas boulevard to the first-ever confetti falling from Ramon Magsaysay Center. Emboldened, the disciplined throng of marchers poured left into President Quirino avenue, right on President Osmeña (South Superhighway) onwards to Nichols where convoy vehicles darted towards Manila Memorial Park in Sucat, Parañaque to bury the man in a blood-stained safari jacket before dusk.
About two weeks later, on September 16, upon a call by like-minded individuals, the stone-faced buildings on Ayala Avenue spewed yellow confetti shower upon shower, what a sight, and thus began the long fight to regain what was truly ours in the first place, lupang hinirang… duyan ka ng magiting… ang mamatay ng dahil sa ‘yo, lifting our spirits to the heavens that at last people were united, using one platform, one cry—Marcos Resign!—one nation at last, no longer composed of “40 million cowards and one s.o.b.,” as one U.S. official described Pilipinas kong mahal.
Thirty years later, what has changed?
Some people say we are worse off. Bongbong Marcos said we could have been another Singapore if we hadn’t kicked out his family. Really? He can live in his own universe if he wants. But the trouble is, he seems to have listeners among you, hence this letter to you, millennials, ang mga anak ng henerasyon na nagpatalsik kay Marcos.
Freedom to Say What You Want to Say. Renée my wife and I decided to write this letter to you to defend the gains of People Power. No system is perfect, there’s indeed a snake in every jungle as Cory’s pick for Makati Officer-in-Charge in 1986 has eloquently shown, but today we are free to say what we want, our poor can say they want more benefits than they deserve, you can walk on the streets shouting whatever it is you want to shout about, and no one will pick you up and you will be a desaparecido, like the thousands who disappeared in the Marcos years. Sometimes we wish people will be more civil, for example, that they voice out opinion with less emotion. Panot, abnoy and noytard rile us, but that is democracy for you. We marched on the streets to throw out the dictatorship precisely for this one right. You deserve it.
Buying Power. In the days of dictatorship, there were only three brands of cars: Toyota, Mitsubishi and Nissan. Most were reconditioned to look like new, but they were really 10-year-old relics, because the car business was kaput. Today, you have an explosion of car brands, and young people can pay down payments and pass credit checks. You complain about the traffic but you forget that in our time there was less traffic because less people could afford to buy cars, especially brand-new ones. This is because robust economic growth—upwards of 6 per cent annual Gross Domestic Product now versus 3.4 average GDP Marcos time—has made possible 10 per cent interest on loans versus 26 per cent around the time you were born. Congratulations to you, mga anak, for powering the Philippine economy. You deserve it.
Gimmick Galore. If you wanted to shop or to go out on a date, there were the usual Makati central business district cinemas, also Cubao and Greenhills. Today, you have myriad choices, all appealing to the senses, with stretch movie houses, cozy restaurants and inviting rest rooms. Young people never had it so good. Cory Aquino once said in her term that our shops could already compare to those in Hong Kong or other places abroad. Oh, and don’t forget the resorts, Boracay, Coron, a host of them. You deserve all of them.
Pulis You Can Rely On. Metro Manila population doubled from 1980 to 2010, from 6 million to 12 million. This may explain the rise in criminal activities. Nightly tv news report though that most petty crimes are captured on closed-circuit tv, and by alert law enforcement agencies from barangay to city level. You don’t see policemen now with abdominal obesity and a miasma of callousness, instead lithe young men and women wearing the smart blue-grey uniform of the service are visible in the streets, courtesy of the Philippine National Police Academy in Silang, Cavite. Seventy-five thousand police officers have been issued new semi-automatic Glock pistols in 2013—a law enforcer’s weapon of choice anywhere in the world—something they sorely lacked for years. From a sordid reputation, law enforcement agencies have become more professional, more accessible and reliable, a much-awaited transformation. You deserve them.
Military Muscle. You deserve as well the new land, sea and air assets of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, centerpiece of which are 12 FA-50PH fighter jets at full delivery. The country is arming itself not for a fight with any transgressor but because we should have done it a long time ago. The sick man of Asia not only jogs around the block with angas, he also got himself a new pair of balls.
World-Class Offices, Residences. We did not have BPOs then, and few buildings were erected. Today, look around you and you can hardly recognize your surroundings if you’ve been away for some time. The land is growing vertically, buildings built by international standards, a little like Bangkok, which left us biting the dust in the economic downturn brought about by dictatorship who couldn’t keep its hands off the public till. The new economy. You deserve it.
Good Governance. Carpers, haters, trolls abound. It’s just natural, as JoeAm said. If you go to war against oligarchs who are in the corruption business, you are bound to take a hit or two. It’s war, mga anak, and no one comes out of it unscathed. Lest we forget, a good son will naturally want to know who ordered his father to be killed in plain sight. President Aquino did not use the vast resources at his disposal to find the brains behind the pre-meditated murder. He focused on his job even if thoughts of vengeance must have crossed his mind. And there are people in appointive positions who are not beholden to the President in case he falters, doing their jobs as per constitutional mandate, like the Ombudsman, Justice Secretary, Supreme Court Chief Justice, COA, Sandiganbayan, SolGen. The President and his team, they are here to make democracy work for you. You deserve them.
Filipino on Board! Your parents toiled in the 80s so that we will be where we are now. We braved the dreaded Marcos psy-ops and the effects of institutional pillage of public treasury, driving the middle class to penury. Mga anak, we scraped the bottom of the barrel so that you can finish schooling, so that you will be ready for the world. Our efforts were not in vain. OFWs are pulling their weight in technology and medical science, among other fields, darlings of foreign companies, equipped not only with language proficiency but also know how and good old Filipino resourcefulness and joie de vivre. Foreigners actually look up to you, our millennials with skills for world-class job performance because we raised you well, parented and schooled you even in dismal times. You deserve our blood, sweat and tears.
We’re Still Here. What else? Guess what, we are willing to do it all over again. If Bongbong Marcos or his minions wedges a foot into Malacañang, believe me, he will feel our presence, and we will go at him like waves crashing on rocky shore, trying to break it down even if it takes eons, until at last it is fine sand. We your parents will not dither, we will attack in full force because we have done it before, and we can do it again. We’ve had 30 years of relative rest. We are refreshed for the next level of resistance against charlatans, dictators, plunderers. From “Marcos Resign” it’s now “Marcos Never Again.” That applies to his assigns. Everything we ever did and will do for the beloved country is eventually for you, aming mga anak. You deserve it. You deserve our love.
Traffic Solutions. Two more points before we close. We reserved our best messages for last. We’re sure that you are hurting from traffic. Six hours both ways everyday to commute to work is certainly no joke. Forty-eight new MRT coaches will be operational early next year, imported from China, with motors and brake systems made in Germany. It will boost carrying capacity to 800,000 passengers, 200,000 more than the present load of 600,000 in a system made for 350,000.
Wait, there’s more. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the Metro Manila Skyway stage 3 project is a “14.82-kilometer elevated expressway from Buendia to Balintawak which is targeted to decongest Edsa; ease traffic along other major roads like Quezon Avenue, Araneta Avenue, and Nagtahan; and have fast access to eight interchanges—Buendia, President Quirino Avenue, Plaza Dilao and Nagtahan, Aurora Boulevard, E. Rodriguez Avenue, Quezon Avenue, Sgt. Rivera, and Balintawak.” The project intends to “lessen travel time from Buendia to Balintawak from the usual two hours to just 15 to 20 minutes.” Target completion date: April 2018.
So, an MRT upgrade, a diversion road north to south and vice versa to avoid EDSA, is government’s answer to the people’s need for faster and more efficient travel. Help is on the way. You deserve it to the extreme.
A Call for Patriots. Lastly, you know it’s elections by May. We’re sure you already know by our preceding analysis that we’re rooting for Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo, mga anak. You see, we’re for continuity. Study the issues well. Watch the debates, get involved in discussions actual or on-line. We cannot impinge on you, knowing how strong-willed you are. It’s up to you. The Philippines you want for yourselves, your children and your children’s children are in your hands. You may be blinded, however, by pain: too much crime, commutes that take forever, government “insensitivity” to your urgent needs. But no. It’s not unfeeling. Responding to the population bomb that exploded in our faces had to take some time to make sure corruption outlets are plugged. We know it’s painful, but please look at it our way. You may say that the country is dying and therefore we need a change in leadership, from Daang Matuwid to something else, para maiba naman. We think it’s just being reborn. Birth involves a lot of pain. Why change midwife in the middle of delivery? We know you will not like our parting words, but just the same, we’ll say it: Konting tiis pa, mga anak. We will not ask of you what we are not willing to do ourselves.
It’s time to bring out the word: Patriotism. The bigger the sacrifice, the bigger the reward. The smaller the goal, such as self-enrichment or instant gratification, the smaller the gain. Look at the examples set by Ninoy Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos. One was buried with millions staying with the casket till the very last minute. The other awaits burial—divisive, rejected and forlorn.
May the Lord bless you with a good decision this May.
Parents of four of you,
Renée and Will