- Anna Francisco
Makibaka with the millennials
Much have been said and written about the infamous burial last November 18. And while this may not be the last word on the matter, contributor Anna Francisco's personal account is certainly one of the more memorable ones of our relationship with the omnipresent Marcoses, and today's creative millennials.
On the crowded sidewalk across the People Power monument, an iPad in always-on mode proclaimed “Marcos ew!” in plain white text on a stark black background. Above the throng of students packed tightly in front of the stage, a small home-made banner was petulant: “Marcos not a hero kaya!” Another poster admonished, “Ginago ka na sinabihan ka pa ng move on.”
Welcome to the digital age of protest actions, millennial-style, on a traffic-free Wednesday (because it was a holiday) in November. A sea of black shirts stretched all the way from EDSA to a substantial length of White Plains avenue, with banners and streamers fluttering in the wind. It seems hard to believe that activists would be doing this again, 30 years after throwing out a dictator who took away our freedom and made the country poorer than its neighbors. But it seems Filipinos never learn, and now, it’s the turn of a new generation to make sure they won’t have to go through what their parents suffered in the ‘70s and early ‘80s.
The tipping point, this time, was the sneaky burial of Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. “Marcos is a highway not a hero,” declared one cheeky poster. “Hukayin, hukayin!” came the chant from the protesters, many of them brandishing toy shovels as a nod to the dominant theme of the rally. The note of levity may have belied the seriousness of the demand for whatever remained of Marcos to be buried in his home region of Ilocos, where it rightfully belongs, but it also signified a new tenor in mass actions.
Militant slogans have been replaced by all manner of cultural references, and woe to the middle-aged protester who could not keep up with the memes and hashtags. “Marcos ang unang hokage #ninjamoves” came from an anime fan, while a Game of Thrones follower came up with the grammatically challenged “A Marcos never pays their debts” banner. The Harry Potter universe was represented by “Fantastic thieves and where to send them” on a drawing of a jail cell. Gay activists waved the rainbow flag, while a cosplayer in a horned helmet and raven staff strutted around with a dismissive “Witchikels bayani si marcos” poster. Beside them, a group of seminarians in all-white cassocks shouting anti-Marcos slogans seemed like a throwback to the Martial Law era, only this time, they were taking selfies on their mobile phones as well.
The unrepentant Marcoses bore the brunt of the protesters’ ire, naturally, with cries of pera ng bayan directed at everything from tuition ni Sandro to botox ni Imee and stem cell ni Imelda. Trust the Pinoys, outraged as they are, to find humor in every situation, even demanding “Ibalik ang mga Hermes!”
But as the night wore on, the resurrected “Marcos Hitler diktador tuta” rhythm was soon replaced with spontaneous chants of “Digong Duterte, tuta ni Marcos!” The brightly lit stage, which seemed all set for a rock concert rather than a protest rally, was a far cry from the flatbed trucks of the 1980s but the sentiments were the same: Filipinos will oppose authoritarian rule in any form. The mayor who would be President has to take responsibility for his divisive actions, as the crowd reminded him by rapping, “This is what democracy looks like!”
There were emotional interludes too, as when folk singer Pol Galang took to the stage to sing Bayan Ko. A gray-haired Jim Paredes gathered an army of senior citizens, all stalwarts in the anti-Marcos movement, to lead the crowd in a massive sing-along of the People Power anthem “Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo.” It was a goosebumps moment, made even more poignant when many of the protest leaders took turns expressing their relief that the millennials were out in full force, ready to take over from the older generation in pursuing the unfinished promise of the EDSA revolt. Who knew a violent retrograde would occur decades after the ouster of Marcos?
The scene was reminiscent of the climactic scene when the Order of the Phoenix fought side by side with Hogwarts students in trying to repel the wicked wizards. Or the veteran X-wing pilots lending a hand to the Rogue One mission as part of a Rebel Alliance to thwart the evil empire. Whether your weapon of choice is the wand or the lightsaber, there’s room for every kind of warrior in the continuing battle for peace and justice. And if the November 30 rally was any indication, the Force appears to be strong among the Filipino youth.
(A native of Davao City, the author decided to use a pseudonym for this story to avoid bullying from social media trolls and Marcos fanatics. Aside from reading all the Harry Potter books and watching every Star Wars film, she keeps a complete collection of the Lord of the Rings series to, in her words, "serve as a reminder — when all seems lost — that good always triumphs over evil." -editor)