LOOKING BACK IN THE ‘70S
I guess that is how it is for newly minted senior citizens today, they reminisce a lot. They were like their parents before who would rather lament the passing of years and would remember those times when they were in their juvenile and early adulthood years. That is right, there are a lot to remember by the passing of years.
I am particularly drawn on a period which had a lasting imprint not only in me but for a generation who are now past the golden year. This was the ‘70s.
Now this is a classic response from a contemporary (David Israel, a fellow writer). Listen up. “If I were forced to pick one decade to live in forever, I’d pick the ‘70s. While the times were full of upheaval, long gas lines, nuclear meltdowns and ugly wars, it was really the last decade before consumerism/commercialism started accosting us at every available opportunity. It was the last decade before professional sports contracts went through the stratosphere. Music was still bought on vinyl for the most part. UHF was still a part of our day-to-day dialings, emergency breakthroughs were the hackers incipent call waitings, and flattering fashions like bell bottoms hadn’t yet given way to parachute pants. LIFE WAS SLOWER AND ECONOMIES WEREN’T YET FULLY GLOBALIZED, WHICH MEANT THINGS WERE SIMPLER. The ‘70s were pre-AIDS, pre-cellphone and restaurant hostesses still asked “smoking or non”?
For Filipinos during said decade, it was more personal and somehow political compared to his socially conscious counterpart in other cultures. Although the theme is quite, or a bit bizarre similar, there is a twist. It was a period for activism, for rebelliousness, for non-conformism especially among the youths. While in other liberal cultures, the hippie movements and the flower people rejoiced at the new found intellectual and moral freedom, in the Philippines it was devoted largely on heaping critical opposition to government and everything established including faith. The growth of insurgency during the period was fanned by the flames of a discontented society. Such discontent would also trigger the proclamation of the Martial Law. Hence, for the most part of the ‘70s, it was wrapped in militarism.
I was a fledging sophomore in college when Martial Law was declared. Time stood still that day in September, 1972. The hippie culture was at the height of its recruitment, every item was never controlled including permissiveness in everything natural like long hair. But military government had nothing to do with fad and so all of my classmates brandishing afro had to wrap their head and hide. Those with fair skin and smooth complexion, just to go home, had to pretend to be girls!
Commuting via bus— De Dios, JD, G Liner, and AC jeepney were fun ride in Greater Manila. For 25 cent at that times, I could go places already. An increase of a centavo on a litter of gas could reap a whirlwind of riots in streets already. Those were the days my friend, to paraphrase a song.
Martial law clipped and prohibited the influx of knowledge (even on the manner of questioning the wisdom of the powers that be) especially if it would border on political and human rights. Knowledge would rather flow through under ground and would flourish along with the studentry whose hunger for knowledge was exacerbated by challenges posed by established limitations. Those brilliant minds at that time would be silenced through incarceration or buried unceremoniously. Martial government could not countenance the presence of critics and its response was instant penalty designed mostly towards extreme termination. Majority of those who survived were not only politically castrated but socially deformed. Meanwhile, those who came through the period without bruise because of critical collaboration have transformed themselves as heir to the succeeding generation of political stewardship. Unfortunately, the ‘70s was a stiff learning period for genuine future leaders but they never made it.
Those who merely sat on the fence during the tumultuous period of the ‘70s could only count on the melodies played during the time. There was also a dichotomy or split among them: those who remained within the sanctuary of the academe and those who choose to hide under the influence of hallucinogens. Meanwhile, the so-called OPM (Original Pilipino Music) was the smokescreen in the on-going political vendetta of those in power. It served as a “nationalist” facade during the time various freedoms of the people were being toyed. The people were fed with slogans of greatness in a sea of deplorable administrative deception. For those who were held captive during the period, it was a badge of honor and a certification of heroism that they eventually felt after several decades having earned liberty. I was a fledging college student at that time, joining the street parliament every now and then, at times a firebrand during Kabataang Makabayan sit-ins, or at times idly watching moderates march with subdued banners encircling schools. When my fellow street parliamentarians got into booze and mind bending concoctions, I withdrew into my own world of arts instead.
It was a decade when singer-songwriters Ryan Cayabyab and Jose Mari Chan would rise to fame for their love songs alongside pop groups led by the Apo Hiking Society, Juan de la Cruz band, Cinderella and Hotdog. Their songs would later serve as inspiration to a growing number of progressives in the midst of a subdued and cautious population. Ten years later, their songs would be replayed again during the time when the purveyors of dictatorship would be driven away.
Despite the challenges and large scale frustrations, the ‘70s was an unforgettable decade, animated by a generation that bannered peace, love and flower power. For those who went through the period have better qualities as peace-makers and lovers of nature. It is so because in our hearts and minds, we have lived in it.