Three very significant events in the last hundred years have tested us as a nation. The Revolution of 1896 and the American Occupation tested my grandfather's generation. The Japanese Occupation of 1942-45 tested my father's generation. And the Marcos Martial Law Regime tested mine.
I encapsulated these periods in my Rosales saga, which covers a hundred years of our history, from 1872 when the three Filipino priests, Gomez, Burgos and Zamora were executed by the Spaniards for their alleged complicity in the Cavite revolt of that period. The saga's concluding novel, Mass, portrays the advent of Martial Law in 1972. In all these calamitous events, we failed as a people, the stern lessons from our past banished from our memory.
The colonial ordeal and the Marcos tyranny should have tempered us, pumped iron determination into our veins to lift this nation from its ignominy. We learned instead that patriotism is not rewarded, that it is the collaborators who flourish and prevail.
Let us go back not just to the Marcos years but to the Commonwealth that was inaugurated in November 1935. I was a senior at the Far Eastern University High School in 1941 when the war broke out. The manner with which politics was played then was very different from what it is today. For one, in those days, politicians were impoverished for they spent their own money for their campaigns. We were then a scant 18 million people compared to the 105 million that we are today. Many of our politicians then were from the landholding class, very few from showbiz. We were more critical in the selection of our leaders.
It is very sad that many Filipinos consider the Marcos administration as the Golden Age of Philippine art. But art thrives on freedom, and the Marcoses censored newspapers, movies, literature, books. Yes, Imelda encouraged the visual arts and, because of her patronage of the arts, many Filipino artists became solvent. She opened two exhibitions at our Solidaridad Galleries in the early seventies and both exhibitions sold very well.
Culture is the foundation of any nation. Whether they admit it or not, all artists are politically engaged. True artists persevere, with or without government recognition. The little good that the Marcoses did for culture was nullified by the tyrannical excesses of the conjugal dictatorship, by the thousands who were jailed, tortured or killed, and by their damning legacy of ethical collapse.
The murder of Ninoy Aquino awakened us and congealed into EDSA I. That was a real revolution. The upper, middle and lower classes were united and supported by the Army. But alas, Cory Aquino turned that people power revolution into a restoration of the oligarchy that Marcos had emasculated. Today, we are on the same rotten track. It does not matter that media is not censored; corruption has worsened and has become entrenched in media, as with many of our institutions.
Come to think of it, the best president we ever had was Ramon Magsaysay in the fifties. He served but two years as President but he defeated the Huk uprising and established a clean government--something we may not see again in a long long time. Before him, President Quirino had the foresight to map out an economic program.
In the post-Marcos years, President Fidel Ramos started this country on its rise. I told him, he should have declared a coup at the end of his term so he could continue his reforms. It takes at least one generation for a poor, backward nation to progress the way Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and even Japan did. President Aquino has made some economic gains but these gains are not reflected in the appalling condition of the lower classes, many of whom are so poor they eat only once a day.
A national election will soon be held. In our apathy, we have come to accept that many Filipino voters will vote for candidates who are popular although inutile, whose names are easy to remember and who are crowd pleasers. They will not look into the candidates' past, their achievements or lack of it. And so we deserve the nincompoops that we put in Malacanang and in Congress.
Federalism should be given a chance, but power will only be vested in the provincial dynasties who will then do what they please with the people's money. Democracy favors the rich, not the poor. The widespread destitution in our country cries for a revolution that will wipe out the oligarchy which has colonized this nation.
Poverty must be banished from our midst. But this cannot be done unless the people themselves will it enough to act. And most of all, justice should prevail. Six years after the Ampatuans massacred 50 people--they have not been convicted. And who killed Ninoy Aquino thirty years ago? Surely, it was not those soldiers who were jailed for the crime?
With the coming election, we must now face the ugliest of truths about some of our leaders -- they are murderers. This is the theme of my last novel, The Feet of Juan Bacnang. The novel illustrates the hypocritical acceptance of these killers by Philippine society and the impunity of their evil. To eliminate them, we need a leader who is not afraid of them and can restore justice in Philippine society.
In many levels of our society, even among our intelligentsia, some say Duterte is that avenger. He has a wide following because he feeds on the deepest frustration of Filipinos, which government -- and the killer elites who defy and defile it -- cannot alleviate. Therefore he must be taken seriously. But as King Louis XV said, foretelling the French Revolution, "Apres mois, le deluge."
Are we prepared for this?