By FIDES M. LIM
Twelve long months have passed. Another year torn off the calendar shelf. The path trudged from the first of January to the last of December has been long and hazardous. There were those who thought they would never survive the heat of the year. But Filipino hearts and minds, though fragile they may look, are cast in the strongest of metals that can withstand even the hottest fire.
For the Filipino nation, the year 1974 signified the second year of martial rule, or rather, of constitutional authoritarianism. For some of its people, it hardly mattered what the color of the times was. But for those who refused to see with hazy eyes—the grass was not that green and the sky was a putrid blue. From afar, sprawling in the horizon towered the angry hills were, at times, blood gushed down in rivulets.
The twelve months of 1974 comprise the year that was. The period’s questions of the year have been asked. How did ’74 fare? How did the people live in the midst of loss and distress? How about the happy ones—how long did they keep the smile on their faces?
Review the year, and, if in ’75, you retain the same smile that was in your face last ’74, you are a happy one. But if you feel a heaviness in your heart, a nasty tug in the throat and you trudge at the hour of dust—kindred soul—look back not in anger.
The Tourist’s Cultural Calendar
Amid the twanging and the rattling of 20 native musical instruments, “Ugnayan ‘74” was born. The first day of the year sounded the clangor that was but an intimation of the cultural activities that were yet to come.
And surely enough, amid much fanfare in the month of July, what was considered as Philippine culture emerged garnished with the foppery of the times—the tiara, the scepter and the cape. Indeed, the cultural history of the country could as well be summed up by the holding of the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant, the inauguration of the Folk Arts theater (FAT) and the parade of the Kasaysayan ng Lahi.
The FAT was erected as a “monument to the Filipino spirit” and as a shining symbol of unity. However, it was initially built as the site of the pageant but its role was later expanded to include the folk arts. The FAT stands as the symbol of the arts of the Filipino people, but in the awarding ceremonies, foreign celebrities were given precedence over Filipino artists.
Though it was disclosed that “the income derived from the pageant ceremonies more than compensated investments made,” it is difficult at this point to reveal if profits were earned. Not much mention of the financial part of the picture has been made by the newspapers. In the cultural review of a leading daily, the “pageant of pageants” was totally ignored.
However, this seeming indifference has not dampened the excitement over beauty contests. Not wanting to be left out alone in the cold, unspangled and ungarlanded, as a fitting yearender for ’74, Quiapo announced the search for a 1975 Mutya ng Quiapo. At last, after years of filth and putrescence, Quiapo has realized its dream of being placed in the world map.
The Jolo Holocaust
New Year’s Day was already a month gone when suddenly from down south a torrent of fireworks scorched the sky. The bonfire, that would raze Jolo to the ground, had begun.
But it was not at all surprising that such tempest could spawn such fury. The spark needed to set off the powder keg that was Mindanao had already been ignited. For some years now, the region of Mindanao had been engaged in fierce fighting and it was not simply a case of Muslims vs. Christians but was far more involved.
The feudal problem of old had intensified in the ‘70s when land-grabbing became a most common occurrence. The rich fields of Mindanao held great attraction for local and foreign investors, who soon enough had bulldozed their way into acquiring lands that were not for the taking. Whether he be a petty Christian farmer of a Muslim claiming ancient title to his land—the offended parties were naturally angered and protests and rebellions ensued.
To suppress the brunt of these revolts, which endangered their pineapple and banana plantations, the land usurpers resorted to forming strike forces which were unleashed against those who persevered in battling for their rights. But the power of might and money makes an easy loser of anyone armed only with a paltik gun and a kris.
Thus, realizing the futility of fighting it alone, those dispossessed realizing that they shared a common grievance, organized themselves into alliances. If at first these groups were formed on the basis of individual interests, continuous brutalization and exploitation induced these alliances to take a class character.
Each peasant became aware that justice is not possible without the cause of liberty. That individual justice cannot be had from the state if the state government is itself not free to mete out justice. The individual by virtue of his dependence on his society’s “produce” is necessarily affected by the conditions inherent in his society. To paraphrase Rizal, “man can only be set free if his nation is first liberated from the shackles of oppression and subjection.” The liberty of the enslaved Filipino, whether he be Muslim or Christian, lies in the liberty of his people. And as Rizal has stated: thus, was how “the movement sprung from the people themselves and based its cause upon their woes.”
The pillage of Jolo, which has been blamed on either the government forces or the rebel movement, marks the appalling height to which the Mindanao problem has risen. The Muslim insurrection in the south, despite the Menade talks, has not been reduced and the Muslim secessionist movement persists as a lingering threat to the frail unity that binds the country. In fact, in many parts of the country, armed conflict continues unabated.
Through all these, the straw-sipping pineapple-grower has remained untouched by the implications of these problems. Perhaps, it is because he holds the key to it all.
But definitely, all is not quiet on the southern front. And neither on the other fronts.
The Great Deluge ‘74
History is the story of the flux and change, of the advancement of forces towards the goals to be attained. History is not the story of cycles that trap men in never-ending wheels of fate. But for the year ’74, the weather was not at all cooperative with the progress that is equated with history. In a drastic turnabout, weather ’74 did a repeat performance of the July-August 1972 calamity.
Rampaging floods wrought havoc in the fields of Central Luzon. The rise in floodwaters necessitated the rescue and evacuation of endangered lives. Week-long rains rendered roads impassable, cutting off the much-needed supply of food.
The question was asked, “Why was the Philippine Air Force’s weather reconnaissance team able to abort the typhoon that threatened to mar the Miss Universe contest, but was helpless in preventing destructive typhoon Normind?” The answer to this question was supplied quite adequately but the answer was not sufficient enough to explain why the succeeding typhoons, which were relatively less in force, were not aborted.
And more about the weather. The Philippine economy was reported to have weathered another crisis. In spite of adverse economic conditions abroad, such as the repeated increases in the cost of crude oil, mounting inflation and deepening recession, the economy was rated “fairly well” in its performance.
The present economic status of the Philippines as primarily an export of raw materials has again done little to swerve the economy away from its colonial nature in order to direct it towards eventual industrialization.
Of all of the national exports, the only export commodity that survived the price dives in the international market was sugar, the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner for the year. But even sugar may yet turn bitter. The sugar quota from trade partner America has never been steady.
Imports on the other hand showed an increase, with the US and Japan as major suppliers.
The gross national product (GNP) of ’74 may have increased by some 36 percent but due to the structure of Philippine society, the GNP’s value only holds true for 10 percent of the population.
And of utmost significance to national development, the year ’74 saw the rise in influence of multinational corporations in the key sectors of the economy. The fear has been expressed that unless tighter regulations are imposed “in the foreseeable future, multinationals will progressively dominate the economy as well as the social, cultural and political life of the nation.”
The fourth of July may have come and gone but the myth of Cinderella has again decided to tarry awhile.
Cinderella’s myth “of friends and of special Philippine-American relations born out of a series of distortions that for decades (our) thinking and life have been founded on,” continues to haunt the Filipino’s storehouse of fairytales and lost glass slippers. And the best illustration of this myth would be the Laurel-Langley Trade Agreement which specifies that all rights acquired by American individual nationals and corporations or other entities with American individual nationals and corporations or other entities with American equity participation beyond 40 percent under the Parity provision of the 1935 Constitution shall terminate and be resolved.
Like Cinderella, this 20-year-old treaty was supposed to go kaput come the tolling of the midnight bells of July 3. But the Philippine government issued a decree announcing that it will not do anything until May 27, 1975, to recover American-owned properties.
So, thanks to those who had revived it, the multinationals of the foraging fingers now tinker with bigger wands.
On the fourth of July, a coffin stood a day late waiting for a Cinderella that never came. Laurel-Langley, akin to the war that would not go away.
Madame Takes a Trip
The second anniversary of the proclamation of martial law was highlighted by the goodwill visit of Mrs. Imelda Marcos to the People’s Republic of China where she was able to negotiate for oil, talk with Chou En-Lai, and visit Mao Tse Tung.
The tail-end of the year also witnessed Mrs. Marcos’ trips to Hawaii, New York, and Mexico. In Honolulu, she was raucously met by a protest demonstration of Filipino political exiles. And likewise, in New York where she was to inaugurate the opening of the Philippine Center, another hostile demonstration greeted her. It was in Mexico, that she was quietly received and was promised a supply of crude oil.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the unexpected had occurred. Ambassador Eduardo Romualdez was held hostage by Napoleon Lechoco, Sr. who demanded that his son be allowed to leave the Philippines. The demand was granted and Romualdez was freed. But not Napoleon Lechoco Sr.
After several years of “insurgency” the members of the so-called “Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas” came in the open with arms up but guns down. At last, their protracted “sending of feelers” so that they can be taken back within the folds of the New Society bore fruit. Their arms have caught rust and now they can forget the past. The return of the prodigal flock?
But a question may be asked “how about the other group who are really way up there?”
One 'Top' Down
The most spectacular scoop of the year could have been the top story for ’74, were it not for the victim who vehemently denied the report. The victim was no other than PC Chief Fidel Ramos.
But to clarify matters, it is best to lay down the events as they occurred. In a column that appeared in a San Francisco paper it was reported that PC Chief Ramos was robbed. “The dreaded general offered no resistance when the bandits divested him of his car, pistol, cash and valuables within shouting distance, of all places, Camp Crame.”
The story goes that “he even pleaded with the robbers to please just leave him enough bus fare. But fortunately, Gen. Ramos, who was in civvies at the same time, was not recognized by the goons or something terrible would have happened to him. You see, the holdappers in all likelihood held him up just to be able to buy goods for themselves or their families. That’s how bad life is under the illegal martial law government.”
The article noted: “What’s happening to peace and order in the New Society?”
The Religious’ Sin
The Roman Catholic Church took an active role in the social and political life of the country. This was due to the influence exerted by Manila Archbishop Jaime Sin in ensuring the welfare of his constituents. From him emanated the protests against the treatment of political detainees and the illegal raids conducted by the military in violation of the democratic rights of the people. Rice throwing in weddings was prohibited. From the pulpit, sermons castigating abortion were delivered. All in all, the courage shown by these actions point out the fact that from the ranks of the religious, the people have a protector.
Despite the passage of centuries, more particularly the overthrow of the Spanish frailocracy, the modern sword still lies in fear of the traditional cross. But if the sword has not been stained with sin and goes by way of clear conscience, why the cause for fear?
Look back not in anger
This too shall pass away
Soon, we shall creep up the
And capture our star. ●
Published in print in the Collegian’s January 13, 1975 issue.
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