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How it feels like to be born on the same day 30 years after Martial Law was signed

By: Axcel Quing
 

Illustration by: Jose Philip Salido


As you read through this article, history happens. 

Being born on the same day 30 years after late-dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081, placing the country under Martial Law, feels like my existence knots with a massive responsibility. It is a responsibility to choose and stand along the right side of history.

Of all the 365 days in the calendar, I cannot help but wonder as to why I was born on that day (nope, this isn’t an existential crisis). Going back, every time that I would be asked, “When is your birthday?", as a bibo kid,  I would quickly retort to, “September 21, 2002 po!” Then they would answer, “Uy, Martial Law.” I did not bat an eyelash to it at first, not until my social awakening.


When it all started

My social awakening embarked when I was chosen as one of my elementary alma mater’s representatives in a history quiz bee. I had to review the Philippine history from pre-colonial to early 2000s. I can still remember the person who betrayed the Katipunan, the meaning of Jose Rizal’s name, as well as the important dates in our history. I was astounded when I saw “September 21, 1972” in my reviewer because I was born 30 years after that.

Upon reading and reviewing what exactly happened on that day in 1972, I found myself in dismay and disbelief because that day gave birth to the darkest page in Philippine history books. In the lens of a child, I never thought that a Filipino could do such inhumane things to his fellowmen.

That fueled my drive to know more and learn from history. Dawning in secondary, my knowledge and wisdom deepened and broadened. I began to assert what is morally and lawfully right from what is not, especially when news about human rights transgressions mushroomed in 2016 and the years after. I hated to think about it but it seemed like history was repeating itself. 

That infuriated me. But most importantly, I had a newfound epiphany that if oppression is not happening to me, it does not mean that it is not happening to others. And if oppression is happening to others, it can happen to me or to any of my loved ones. I have learned that history must not repeat itself. Hence, I found my voice and the reason to freely express myself and stand for what I believe is right.

 

Freedom and expression

When Martial Law happened, it exacerbated the patriarchy in an already highly patriarchal society. All progressive movements including the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights were hampered by the Marcos government. This made me think how worse could be the LGBTQIA+ situation back then?

Sadly, we can never bring back time. All that we can do is to learn from it, prevent it from happening again, and never forget. This is exactly why my worth and the value of my fellow LGBTQIA+ sisters and brothers are worth fighting for. LGBTQIA+ rights are human rights. Therefore, we must be seen, heard, and treated as equal as anyone else.

Last June 2021, I was invited to hold a virtual Pride talk to the youths of my hometown. I highlighted the reason why we celebrate Pride and why we should fight for it. It was my first time giving a Pride talk, and it will surely not be the last. Because as long as there are people who relentlessly ridicule and discriminate against us, speaking our stories of Pride is a life-long responsibility.

Aside from giving a talk, I use my knack for writing to influence, educate, and enlighten other people on social ills crippling our country. I found my purpose in telling stories: Mag-ulat, Magmulat, at Magpalaya.

Listening to different stories of people, I learned the value of compassion and empathy. This gave me the power that truth holds—to be able to tell, speak, and fight for the truth even if it hurts and when it hurts in pursuit of the common good.

To be alongside those people who courageously hold the line in breaking barriers and the status quo is not something I want, but something I need. As I become a new Iskolar ng Bayan, I will always bring with me the honor, excellence, and responsibility to serve my fellowmen. 

Expressing myself and my beliefs have never been easy. Other people may either agree or disagree with my beliefs and the things that I am fighting for, but I find beauty in diversity. With these differences, we can build a discussion and conversation and we can distinguish what is right from what is wrong. And sometimes, a conversation can spark change.

History has taught me that we may have different beliefs, but when your belief jeopardizes and torments other people, belief becomes a moral choice.

To fight, speak, and amplify the voices of those unheard is a massive responsibility we all share. My birthday may entail a scar from a dark past, but I will always believe that the choices I make today and for tomorrow are what truly matter most.

History is made every hour, in split seconds, in every blink of an eye. Now more than ever, I choose to stand on the right side of history. 


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