Monday, June 26, 2006

Photocopying History

What was the world like the day you were born?

That was the premise behind the piece reproduced below which was submitted to my history class under Ambeth Ocampo.

WHEN I LOOK back to the day I was born 21 years ago, I’m left with a schizophrenic feeling of amusement and concern. Behind the different names and faces in the news, there also lies a reality that is not altogether unfamiliar.

On Wednesday, October 23, 1985, the Bulletin Today reported that President Ferdinand Marcos had signed a Php67 billion national budget. The biggest allocations were given to defense (Php10.5 B), education (Php9.16 B), public works (Php5.6 B), and health (Php3.46 B).

A statement from Corazon Aquino was also released that Wednesday, which announced that she would challenge Marcos in snap elections if there’s a draft with a million signatures for her candidacy.

It was a time when public discontent with government was prevalent; mass action was a natural manifestation of it.

Marcos had approved the Public Assembly Act, which designated “freedom parks” where rallies and demonstrations could take place peacefully. This announcement came in the heels of a violent rally among farmers a couple of days before, which resulted in a death and injuries to many. This event epitomized the restlessness of the times.

Pat H. Gonzalez, Editor-in-Chief of the Bulletin Today at the time, commented about mass action in his editorial. He wrote about how the recent demonstrations in the country have been massive yet peaceful because of “the ability of protest groups and the peace officers to regulate the element of hate.” He called the violence in the rally of a couple days before an “exception.”

Wednesday, October 23, 1985 also marked the killing of Surigao del Sur Governor Gregorio Murillo by a gunman who escaped on motorcycle. Authorities pointed to political rivals and the New People’s Army (NPA) as possible culprits.

On the international front, the United States accused the Russians of hypocrisy because they had broken a previous agreement of not developing anymore new missiles. Russians claimed their new missile was not an entirely new model, rather an improvement of an older model.

It was a time when Apptown’s Appliance Plus was offering a two-gas burner stove for Php3,650, and Php5,200 for a three-gas burner. And they’d throw in a free Cubie AM radio with any purchase.

Metro Motors was offering Php3,000 worth of free accessories with every purchase of the new Nissan Stanza. Fiesta Tours was offering five days and four nights in Boracay for Php2,450, with a “Special Halloween Package” (for those who like to dress up in costume at the beach, I suppose).

Kankunis Herbal Slimming Tea was offering a panacea for fat women (and men), a Filipino doctor claimed to have a cure for AIDS, and the family of Domingo Banzon Paguio, Sr. of Pilar, Bataan was celebrating his first death anniversary (di ko kilala pero ang laki ng obituary box niya).

And finally, in entertainment news, Ramon Revilla, future senator, was starring in Kumander Eber: Kilabot ng Visayas, and Michael J. Fox was promoting his role as Marty McFly in Back to the Future.

Let’s take a cue from Marty and fast-forward back to today.

Prices are different, cars have changed, films have come and gone, and Boracay has become (sadly) a mainstream party place. But the world isn’t that different, neither is our country.

Discontent with dictatorship has reincarnated; snap elections are being called for by certain oppositionists today as well (among numerous efforts to get rid of the current administration).

Mass action is now challenging bad weather as the king of cancellation of classes, while the true peacefulness of such actions can also still be questioned.

The voice of that same widow from ’85 is still being heard, as well as the voice of another widow who has also flexed the Filipino Widow’s power of influence.

Killings related to politics or allegedly to the left have become a headline staple.

And finally, on the international front, are we not witnessing a child of the old Cold War? Russia is no longer as big of a super power threat, but countries such as Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan have recently emerged as new threats to unleash nuclear weapons. And ironically, the nation that has always been cast as the good guys, the United States, has now become, in its own way, today’s Soviet Union.

The cyclical nature of history can be a funny thing. And yet, isn’t history then doing the laughing—laughing at us for repeating a lot of the mistakes we’ve made? I find it hard to believe that our fate is so fixed—that there exists such an esoteric force—that it makes breaking the cycle impossible. But still, if one asks how to stop that sense of inevitability, the proposed answer never appears quite as lucid as the question.


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