My people have a very curious relationship with history. How quickly we surrender experiences to abstraction!
This ridiculous war on drugs started a little over a year ago, and the death of around 13 000 people still haunt our Facebook feeds. Many of these deaths were done execution style, with the victim asked to kneel right before they were shot in the head.
A few days ago, a young gentleman proposes to his girlfriend by staging a pretend arrest by the police who force him to kneel on the ground. At this point, the gentleman offers his girfriend the ring, and everyone around the couple cheers.
This proposal happens just a few days after news broke about the murders of four/five minors who are said to be casualties of my government’s drug war. We have not yet punished the perpetrators, nor have we even finalized the narrative of what happened in these cases. However, proposals coopting images from these experiences are now considered by many Filipinos as cool and creative.
Spain occupied the Philippines for 333 years. In that time, white people pillaged our villages, abused our communities, killed our people, and erased our history. We were made to be slaves in our own country, and we were forced to answer to white people. The abuse was so systematic, we, as a people, have internalized how right it is to be white.
America took over the Spaniards in 1898 (just a little over a hundred years ago), where they murdered so many Filipinos in an attempt to save us from our abusive colonizers. They introduced their brand of democracy and education to my people, and inadvertedly restructured our policies and culture to accommodate capitalist interests. Effectively, they made us think they were our heroes as they retold our history, and centered the narrative on how much we needed to be saved from ourselves.
Until the early 90s, America held military bases in Subic and Clark. During their stay, women were raped, local men were shot, and so many children were born fatherless (as their American fathers refused accountability for the Filipino women they impregnated). Now, only a small portion of the general population feels concerned when military exercises are being arranged between the Philippines and foreign parties.
Forget that they created structures to siphon out our resources so they could be manufactured into products that would be sold back to us at proces we couldn’t afford. Look past how we were made to hate our own languages, and think that English is the only way that we can truly communicate anything that needs to be taken seriously. Gloss over the prevailing culture that our poverty is solely the result of our sloth, not the structures of power they introduced and continually reinforce to support American capitalist interests.
During World War 2, Japan occupied the Philippines for a few years. We have routinely been taught in school that these were very dark years when Japanese soldiers mercilessly tortured, raped, and killed our people. My grandmother (when she was alive) used to tell me firsthand stories of how they would run away from the Japanese. Today, very few people feel the need to hear stories of women who were raped during the occupation, and so many more feel comfortable joking about the murder and rape of our people during those years.
President Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972, and effectively put the country in insurmountable debt by stealing funds from money he borrowed in the name of the Philippines from international governments and institutions. During his rule, dissent was met with torture and murder. Last year, though, the remains of President Marcos were transferred to the Cemetery of Heroes. His birthday this year will be commemorated by his family and friends (guarded by our very own military) at the very same burial ground reserved for our national heroes.
I’d like to think that this forgetfulness is a form of resilience, a coping mechanism from the consistent structural abuse that we are made to endure. There has to be meaning to why we do this. I refuse to believe that we, as a people, are just insensitive assholes.