Martial law's silent side B

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

Right off the bat let it be made clear that this is not intended to soil the memory of those who sacrificed everything on the altar of freedom to fight martial law. Neither is this meant to deny the pain of those who suffered just by standing in its way. There is no sweeping under the rug that martial law happened. There is no glossing over the fact that for those who had to pay a price, the price had been terrible.

But if the true measure of freedom is the freedom to appreciate the truth for what it is, then let it be said right here and now that martial law was not the same for everyone despite the consistency with which that period in our lives has been described in darkness. Virtually all accounts of the time have not been exactly honest in that they tell of only one side of the story.

There is logic behind the silent B side. It is very easy to be misunderstood in the telling of a version that tends to shake a narrative that has taken root unassailed over two generations. But to tell the other side of the story is not to dispute the whole story. Rather, it is finally paying what is owed to that story by giving it the depth of perspective that has been denied it all these years.

The silence of the B side had been a deferential silence. It was not a silence of infirmity. It was a silence of respect. Martial law left a trail of so many broken pieces it was prudent not to disturb them. But history cannot march on forever on one leg. It is time for the silent B side of the martial law story to be told. It is imperative that the other side be heard because, I am morally convinced, their voices are far far more numerous.

But of course I cannot tell their stories. I can only vouch for mine. I did not suffer during martial law and I can say that with as much pride as those who did. I do not think it fair to make suffering under martial law the sole measure of one's character or worth as a person, as some have sadly been wont to do. Just because martial law did not affect my life in a significant and lasting way doesn't mean I am less of a person than those who were.

To me, what curtailments martial law may have induced on my life were not permanent barriers that I would have to hurdle for the rest of my life. In my unscientific assessment and uneducated guess, those who suffered under martial law were those who chose to let martial law affect them in a political way. What irony indeed that the last act of those who suffered from any loss of freedom had been to freely choose to stand in the way of martial law.

But as many as there may have been victims of martial law, the honest fact is that there were far greater millions who did not allow martial law to stand in their way of going on with their lives. And, if it is any worth mentioning, it was on the backs of these far greater millions that the Filipino nation rode on the road to survival and eventual recovery.

Had these far greater millions chosen to take the political path and clashed head-on with the bulldozer that was martial law, we probably would not even have a country to speak of now. That we still have a country from which to spring forth with our aspirations is not because our freedoms had been restored, although it is important to consider that. We still have a country because martial law failed to run the greater number to the ground. We counted, those of us who waited.

No big and lasting victory awaited any fight that only made martial law harsher. It awaited those who rendered martial law useless by ignoring it. With nothing to test its might against, no immovable object stood in the way of its unstoppable force, averting the only outcome possible. And so the story ended differently. For most Filipinos, the fluke of stability martial law created provided very real opportunities that allowed just enough momentum for the nation to make good its escape.

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