[OPINION] Martial Law: The pill I had to take

I was raised by my grandfather, a Marcos man, who was a police chief investigator during Martial Law. He was a strict man. This modifier is an understatement. I can vividly remember how framed certificates with titles like Outstanding Policeman of the Year, Most Outstanding Officer, among others, were displayed on the wall of our living room. Growing up, I looked up to him. I thought he was a noble man.

“Marcos is the best president.” This was a statement I used to hear before he passed away in 1998. He knew how to apply the law of averages. But after he died, talking about him, his beliefs, and his actions was not taboo anymore. During those lazy afternoon conversations with my grandmother, I learned how cruel he really was. 

I learned about how he pointed guns at anyone in the house, and how he placed his child in a chicken cage as a form of punishment. My grandmother was not spared from this domestic violence. She explained why, when I was in grade school, we needed to escape to my aunt’s house whenever my grandfather started to booze up on Tanduay. 

In college, I found a passion for reading through my literature courses. Dogeaters by Jessica Hagedorn opened my consciousness to Marcos and Martial Law. I became more inquisitive. I asked a lot of questions about my grandfather and his loyalty to the dictator. My aunt told me that she once had to erase a cast vote to favor Marcos. My grandmother told me that the first time she saw my grandfather crying was when Marcos and his family were chased out of the country in 1986. She narrated how my grandfather tore off a wall calendar and punched the wall out of disappointment and anger. (READ: Martial Law 101: Things you should know)

My grandfather was also so proud of having a man named Armin Gustilo as his close friend, believing this brought “prestige” to the family. I remembered him telling me that Gustilo’s house in Cadiz City was open, should I decide to study in Bacolod City. 

But this “prestige” turned eerie when I read about the Escalante Massacre in September 1985. Armin Gustilo was involved in that “Bloody Thursday” that took 20 lives and wounded 24 more. The question which I have deliberately avoided finding the answer to – “Was my grandfather involved in the Escam more than 3 decades ago?” – gives me goosebumps. I hope that when I finally have the courage to find the answer, I will get a NO.

In my grandfather’s house, the name Marcos and the idea of Martial Law was like a pill that could cure a malignant disease. But the pill is so bitter, and even unfit for human consumption.

I am not a Martial Law baby. But do I have to be in that darkest period of our history to tell what really happened? (READ: Heroes we must not forget

I don’t have to be with Archimedes Trajano in that forum to know he was found lifeless on the street. I don’t have to be in the same cell as Liliosa Hilao to understand the damage muriatic acid does to your throat. I don’t have to be with Johnny Escandor to see how one’s head is opened. The house where I was raised was like a small version of the country under dictatorship. It was full of bitter and violent memories. – Rappler.com 

Rio S. Aburido teaches Advanced Critical Reading to college students. His advocacy is to topple misinformation and disinformation, which defeat the reason why classrooms were built.