How to Properly Commemorate Ferdinand Marcos' Birthday
This month marks the late President Ferdinand Marcos' 101th birthday. There’s his 100th birthday celebration at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, as well as a literary arts festival that includes talks, a poster-making contest, and a debate tournament.
While Martial Law Era history has been wiped from textbooks, and possibly Wikipedia pages as well, the Digital Museum of Martial Law in the Philippines proves that Filipinos have not forgotten the truth of what occurred during Marcos’s term. Through engaging content like visual timelines, short films, and poems, the digital museum provides a venue where students can easily access accurate information about Martial Law.
The museum was launched last year on September 21, 2016—the same date martial law was declared in 1972—by a non-profit organization called DAKILA - Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism. Its first exhibit was Isang Daan: 100 Moments, Mementos, and Memories on the Path Leading to Martial Law and the People Power Revolution, an interactive timeline which includes photos and videos about significant events that occurred between 1965 and 1986.
The idea for the exhibit came when DAKILA executive director Mich Rama and creative director Andrei Venal noticed that historical revisionism was at its peak during the 2016 elections, and online debates about martial law raged long after the elections were over. "We were seeing people having epic arguments and it would be like, 'Hindi, 12 pesos lang kasi to the dollar noong time na iyon!' 'Hindi, tumaas!' And what we discovered was that they're actually comparing different parts of the same period," Rama explains. "We thought that we have to put all of this into context so that people will understand this didn't happen in a vacuum. There are all these things that led up to what happened and you have to see it as a whole rather then saying, 'Ay maganda kasi may CCP or ay it's horrible kasi may Jabidah massacre!'"
Rama and Venal recognized that the amount of information online was either overwhelming, or reductive to the point of being misleading. "One of the ways to get around that was to create a journey for people to get the whole story in a way that is engaging," Rama says. And so she and Venal collaborated with historian Christian "Xiao" Chua to come up with a historically accurate timeline.
The museum also includes short films like Hector Barretto Calma’s Ang Mga Alingawngaw sa Panahon ng Pagpapasya and M. Bonifacio’s Tigbao, as well as a moving visual poem titled How to Achieve True Progess and Change.
One of the website's exhibits, The Revolution is Colorblind, seeks to dispel the notion that People Power is a "yellow or red" issue by placing it in context of the Filipino's constant pursuit of freedom. "We were brainstorming with volunteers from the University of Caloocan for an exhibit on the People Power Revolution. Their insight was that this wasn’t a new thing, this is what Filipinos do: fighting for freedom and standing up for our rights all throughout our history," Rama explains. "To reduce our history to this one shining moment of People Power and to say this is the only way that it looks like limits what the future of People Power could be."
The exhibit presents a timeline of Filipino revolts in the form of symbols. "To help people recall, since symbols last way longer than stories," Rama says. "Once we put all the pictures together, it creates a very focused history of when Filipinos came together and stood up for themselves, and embodied the spirit of bayanihan."
Since it launched, the Digital Museum of Martial Law has been well received, especially by students doing research. Upon popular request, they plan on updating their martial law timeline with biographies, reading lists, and other references. Rama adds that they get hits whenever something about the Marcoses comes up in the news.
The museum's followed up the website with a collaboration with Active Vista and PETA to create an exhibit based on the musical Game of Trolls. "We definitely want to maximize the creativity that PETA has already put into this," Rama says. "It has such a good narrative so we wanted to complement that and upload it with study guides and reading lists."
The Digital Museum of Martial Law in the Philippines has been a labor of love for those who are passionate about preserving the truth about the Marcos era. "Nobody's getting paid. Everybody's doing this on their own time," Rama says.
This article was originally published on September 11, 2017, and has been updated to reflect new developments.