May 22, 2024

The countdown has begun for the 50th-year anniversary of the declaration of martial law in the Philippines.

It can be recalled that then President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. placed the nation under military control and started ruling by decree on September 21, 1972.

It wasn’t until February 25, 1986 that the Marcos administration came to an end at the climax of a four-day and largely peaceful uprising.

To this day, the legacy of martial law continues to divide the Filipino nation.

One narrative posits that it was time that heralded political stability and economic progress.

The opposing view asserts that martial law represented repression and unbriddled corruption.

Proof of this continuing rift is the controversy generated by two films that went toe-to-toe against each other in August this year.

We’re talking about Katips and Maid in Malacañang.

The two films tackled the same subject of martial law and the legacy of Marcos Sr.

Katips follows a group of student activists from the Katipunan area of Quezon City, which is popularly known as Katips.

Maid in Malacañang focuses on the last few days of the Marcos Sr. and his family in the presidential palace of Malacanang in 1986.

Respected movie journalist Mario Dumaual of ABS-CBN News reported on August 4 that the two movies attracted huge audiences on their second day of screenings.

“At SM Fairview where both movies are showing, long lines of moviegoers snaked through the mall, a scene replicated in Gateway Araneta City and across other cinema chains in the country,” Dumaual noted.

Maid in Malacanang exhibited in some 200 theatres. Katips showed in about 100 movie houses.

The exhibition of the two movies followed on the heels of the May 9, 2022 election of Marcos Sr.’s son, Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., as the 17th president of the Philippines.

There appears to be signs that the country is moving on, albeit slowly.

One example is the list of regular holidays and special non-working holidays for 2023, which was released by the Office of the President.

A proclamation signed by Executive Secretary Victor D. Rodriguez on August 22 declared the commemoration of the EDSA “People Power” uprising on February 25, 1986 that toppled the martial law regime of Marcos Sr. as a special nonworking day.

The document also declared the death anniversary of Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino, Jr. on August 21 as a special nonworking day.

Aquino Jr. was killed on August 21, 1983 when he returned to the Philippines from the U.S., precipitating a political crisis that led to the 1986 uprising.

Meanwhile, academics and activists on August 3 launched a 50-day countdown to the 50th anniversary of the declaration of martial law.

Historians, teachers, researchers, students, and history enthusiasts have banded together to form the Alyansa ng Mga Tagapagtanggol ng Kasaysayan (Tanggol Kasaysayan) [literal translation: alliance of history defenders] to highlight how martial law affected the lives of the Filipino people.

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