“Isang Harding Papel”, our little children’s book set during the Martial Law years was formally launched at the Museo Pambata last November 27, 2014. At the launch were officials of the Edsa People Power Commission (EPPC), the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, cabinet members, and Presidential sister Pinky Aquino-Abellada.
The event coincided with the late Sen. Ninoy Aquino’s birthday. Aquino, a political prisoner during the Martial Law years was assassinated in 1983 at the tarmac of the airport that now bears his name. This set into motion a series of events that led to the People Power revolution of 1986. Aquino’s wife, Corazon Aquino, eventually became president from 1986 to 1991. His son Benigno Aquino III became president in 2010 and occupies that position until 2016.
Here’s a TV coverage of the event:
EPPC Commissioner Cesar Sarino gives the opening remarks. It feels weird seeing my small illustration printed this big. It feels even weirder to have all these people gathering for a book I drew at home in my shorts and ratty old t-shirts.
Me being interviewed.
Storytelling by Bodjie Pascua. I grew up watching Kuya Bodjie on the kids’ TV Show Batibot.
Here’s a new trailer for the book. Don’t mind the tone though. It sort of feels like the main character is some freedom fighter. 😛
I bought the Vestiges of War for 20% off at the recently concluded Manila International Book Fair. Clocking in at 500 pages, it includes visual and critical essays, photographs, plays, poetry, and artwork addressing Philippine-U.S. relations. Very substantial work and worth checking out.
Anyway, the rest of the world is probably unaware that the Philippines was once a colony of the United States of America. During the tail end of the Philippine Revolution of 1898, Spain essentially sold the Philippines (along with other Spanish controlled territories) to the United States via the Treaty of Paris (1898). The Spanish, unwilling to surrender to Filipino forces, entered into a face-saving mock battle with the Americans (see: 1898 Battle of Manila). From being a colony of Spain, we became a colony of the United States.
In the early 1900s, war between the Philippines and the US broke out. American textbooks labelled the conflict as the “Philippine insurrection”. Obviously, the Philippines didn’t win that conflict and so we were America’s “little brown brothers” for the next couple of decades until self-rule was given after World War II.
Now, the Philippines still lives under the shadow of American influence. It seems that we “love” all things American. Our form of government, our educational system, what side of the road we drive in, and our fanaticism with basketball all came from the US of A.
I recently had a conversation with a friend about what it means to be a Filipino artist and we had no easy answers. This country has been taken over by foreign powers three times in its history (four if you count the brief spell the British spent in the 1700s). Sometimes I think we seem to drown in our influences. Our native tongues choke on borrowed words and ideas. How can we make these influences truly ours? Like I said, no easy answers.
But what is clear is that we must dig deeper into our collective memories. As artists, we have a responsibility to figure out where our art-making lies within the greater context of our culture and history. It doesn’t matter if we make art for social awareness or commercial gain. I think we have to make an effort to understand where our practice lies in the context of those that came before us.
I’ve been busy these past few months working on an upcoming children’s book entitled “Isang Harding Papel” set during the 1970s – the Martial Law years. Written by Augie Rivera and published by Adarna House. The book will be coming out soon.
As with all period stories, research is essential; not just textual research but visual as well. Protest pictures were relatively easy enough to find, as well as images of the infamous Metrocom that truncheoned protesters into submission; but the smaller things proved a bit problematic. For example, what did the National Highway known as EDSA look like before ugly gigantic billboards sprouted up and blotted out the sky? What did the old propaganda billboards of President Marcos and Imelda Marcos look like?
Tight timelines only allowed me internet research with Google image search providing the bulk of the reference pictures. Some sites were particularly useful to my research, though. The blog site The First Quarter Storm Library had a lot of protest images during the early 70s while the flickr site by Gorio72 had loads of bus images and advertisements from various decades in Philippine history.
I was also able to grab some reference pictures from the long out of print book “The History of the Burgis” by Mariel N. Francisco and Fe C. Arriola published in 1987. Here is a little glimpse inside the book.
For more information about Martial Law and its victims, here’s a link to the Martial Law Memory Project initiated by online news portal, Interaksyon.
I have always been fascinated with this era in Philippine history and it amazes me that in just two decades after Ferdinand Marcos’ exit, people’s feelings about Martial Law are slowly changing from outrage to ambivalence, and for some even fondness. More stories have to be written, movies filmed, and pictures made about our past so that we won’t easily forget.
Lastly, another book that was useful in my research is a pictorial account of the EDSA Revolution – the bloodless revolt during February of 1986 that toppled the Marcos regime. I was only 7 at the time of the revolution but I had vague memories of seeing the coverage on TV and the fervor of those heady days spilling onto our school.