It is Often Said that History Repeats Itself.
Once more, the Filipino people finds itself at the crossroads of history. A hundred years since Marcos, soldier, lawyer and former President, was born.
Forty-five years since American-style republicanism had to give way to constitutional authoritarianism. Thirty years since in a peaceful uprising in EDSA, Filipinos of all walks of life hopefully decided that it was time to usher in a new democracy.
But to us and our generation, these events paradoxically remain so distant, yet so real in our time and age. Marcos is buried with fellow soldiers and presidents. There is a talk of martial law once more. EDSA is remembered like a broken promise long foretold. And it irks me to hear that the blame is upon our generation, for forgetting and forgiving, for fake news and alternative truths, for being undiscerning and naive to the lessons of the past.
They say we forgot. They say we forgave too soon. They say we betrayed the gains of a peaceful revolution that placed our country on the map and acquiesced ourselves to a rewriting and retelling of recent Philippine history.
The generations ahead of us point fingers at us, castigating us for lending an open ear and rallying a clenched fist in support of a strong leader as if we were ready to give up our freedoms for a strongman. Seems like a déjà vu, 100 years since Marcos, 45 years since martial law, 30 years since the adoption of a new Constitution, seems like history is ready to repeat itself.
What they don’t know is we haven’t forgotten or absolved anyone. We haven’t betrayed or given up everything. EDSA was a legacy we had hoped to be proud of in our time, yet it also meant the return of an oligarchy that has elevated personal and corporate interests higher than that of an ordinary Filipino.
It is not that we have forgotten the past. It is because we rather want to put our hopes in the future. It is not that we have not learned from the past. It is because we believe we can do more to create a better future.
EDSA could have been the dawning of a new democracy, but it only led to the restoration of oligarchic interests that has metamorphosed into an empty shell of liberal democracy. We pay lip service to the heroes of old, yet we seek more of our own comfort, and the convenience of our politics, shaping it into our shameless dogmas of political self-righteousness.
They betrayed EDSA and yet they blame the betrayal on us. They painted Marcos in the darkest of colors and canonized the leaders that followed – even when now we know what they have accomplished pales in comparison to the achievements of those long twenty years.
Marcos had his mistakes. The adage, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, may be true for him and his time. But isn’t it true that the infrastructure that he builds, the specialty hospitals he started and the legal volumes of presidential decrees – remain useful and relevant to our times? I wish I could say the same for the president who came to power after him.
Don’t get me wrong. It is not for me to absolve the sins and excesses of the past. Those who have been pained, those who have been injured, must have the justice that they deserve.
But look at where excessive partisan politics had led us? Are we any better than before? Yes, there is no price for our regained freedoms. But how come we forgot that with it comes our civic responsibilities?
It is good to learn from the past, not so that we will not repeat its mistakes, but because we now know we can be and we can do better.
Because we are Filipinos.
In the end, it is false that history repeats itself – the foolish is bound to repeat its mistakes, the wise make history and inspiration for future success.
Love our country. Pray for our leaders.