WHAT MARTIAL LAW?
For the ordinary run of men, to common folks, whether there is martial law or whatever it is, they have no comment. For them, it is part of their inevitable environment, no matter what it is. They are never affected emotionally and philosophically. The poor, whether it is under martial law or even during any exhibition of martial arts, remains poor, so what gives?
Culturally, the poor among Filipinos, majority of them actually, were never too keen for wealth. Their religion kept them that way. Prosperity was a pie in the sky. They would implore Biblical passages like (Luke 6:20-21) which is oftentimes quoted as “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God; blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied; blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” For them, well, for us, it is better that way because it is nearer heaven than anything else.
The poor are never political and are merely an appendage, a gray background on a fading canvas of social life. They have never benefited from anything that goes around their environment except as footnotes in every communal function.
Businessmen are personally concerned by whatever form of government, even a simple change brought about by electoral considerations. Of course, politicians and even showbiz denizens are likewise grossly affected by changes. Workers for that matter share the same feelings. But for the great unwashed, for the greater majority, the so-called unperfumed, life continues. Social life was static.
When Martial Law was declared, it was as if government merely proclaimed some kind of an edict for everyone pertaining discipline. For those disciplined enough, it was nothing but a reminder.
I remember my father during those days when there was martial law. There was no marked or radical change at all in his routine. He was a worker in the Bureau of Posts by day and a Spanish professor at PCCr in the evening. I was, like my only sister, then ordinary students struggling for good grades. While government then was trying to justify military rule as constitutional and projecting a leadership option to formulate a new society, for us on the ground, it was merely business as usual.
There was curfew starting 12 midnight up to 4AM daily but so what. We were soundly asleep by then. There was no such thing as 24/7 then as far as our perception was concerned. It was even kinda welcome as a new consideration to quiet the street during said period. But by and large, the neighbourhood remained staid and normal as if there were no changes in government structure.
My mother never even changed her schedule to go to the market place. Even the kind of food she would cook for us. My kid sister, a scholar in the State University, then the hotbed of student activism, never for once got bothered by the regularity of street rallies and demonstrations. In my case, had it not for the compulsory haircutting, I never noticed any considerable or bothersome communal practices which had been realigned.
Not that we were unconcerned citizens but we were just plain pedestrians. Our dreams were simple then, our needs, requirements, desires and wishes were basic and very ordinary. We had no sinister thoughts, no hidden agenda, no gross interests to protect, just the normal round the clock considerations in daily life.
We were even, I for one, considered as fence sitters, neutral to a fault and indifferent. But that was how life was to us at that time. There was nothing to complain about. Our family was never bothered by any tell tale sign of rebellion in high places. As long as there was peace, there was order, there was stability in our hub, in the neighborhood, that was just what life was for us all about.
So what if a politician was harassed. Its part of territory, so to speak. They are just earning their upkeep and perks through their machinations and therefore they must be prepared to be harassed by their competitors. So what if a businessman was detained. Profit orientation has its ups and downs anyway. So what if some people become rebels. They merely wanted to be heard and recognized. So what if government leaders wanted to prolong themselves in their positions. Its their position that they want perpetuated for lack of any opportunity in a highly competitive social structure. So what if the news were featuring the downfall of the world, as long as we never felt anything unusual in the neighborhood, we were in good mood. It was more of a “to each his own” proposition.
Call us, the poor in your midst, as uncaring, unconcerned, unsympathetic. For us then, it was just cool. We were never into trouble, so why bother. We will never prosper at all even if we cry to high heavens that this or that is bad.
We were all concentrated in earning our upkeep, our parents as regular workers in government, mother at home in charge of chores and we, the children, busy with school assignments. What more was there to crow about. The neighborhood was eating three square meals, we were all cleaning the front yard on week ends and people were just milling around exchanging pleasantries.
44 years ago, Martial Law was declared. So what? It never amounted to anything for us anyway except that I realized later that some friends were imprisoned, some became functionaries because of political changes and others whimpered because their ambitions were thwarted. Society progressed because of certain developments in science and some upgrades in technology but those were never consequences of government intervention. There were wars somewhere, there were revolts in some areas, the rebels took over the reign against those they were at odds. But as far as our neighborhood was concerned, we still believe that time got stalled, the poor remained as they were.
There were charges and allegations that the Marcos family indeed robbed the country blind using martial law as cover, but how come no one among them were incarcerated? They were driven out and virtually out of political power for sometime. It could have been an occasion to get back at them and press the hands of justice and settle everything. But there was none. The Marcoses came back and sought public office until they were back in harness.
Some averred that private parts of political opponents during that time were electrocuted during martial law. Those who speak out their minds against government were quickly held and punished. So on and so forth. But that was how power, any power for that matter, cleanses its abusive enemies.
Martial Law, or whatever it was, changed nothing. Except the concept of supremacy. And yes, before and after that, there was nothing at all for the powerless, the great majority.
EDSA revolution reminisced about the excesses of Martial Law, excesses which created a monster of its own. And while it ended a struggling regime, it was perpetuated with a series of hostile teams using the same template and ineffective machineries. Brick brats were thrown, allegations on incompetence hurled but as soon as new leaders assume responsibility, the more they look the same.
That explains why Filipinos remained the way they were. For ordinary folks, it was just a momentary incident, a lull in their dull, horrid, rustic and typical life.