Next time I get in a cab, I’m stonewalling the driver.

Like, I ain’t gonna talk except to tell him where I’m going, to give him directions, and then to pay up. If he makes conversation, I’m going to ignore him. And if he demands I get into the conversation, I will throw myself out of the cab.

Taxi drivers in this city where I live and work are all of one set of paramecium not-even-brains. Here’s what makes me say that.


Like my sister says: don’t me. Don’t even.


ain’t moving on from this one

I live in a country that is currently a seething mass of sexism and hatred and bloodshed and malicious obfuscation, and no, that doesn’t mean I live in the US.

In my country right now, the *leader of the country* is actively engaging in actual gaslighting. Come on, local media, educate yourselves on this thing and then tell the world that this is what is happening. And while you’re at it, tell the world that there are so many people who are not only working to be complicit in such gaslighting, but are also happily cheering it on.

And no, that doesn’t mean I live in Russia either.

Oi the Philippines, what are we all doing to ourselves. Every day it seems like we might be slipping closer toward certain nightmare elements of Orwell’s 1984. This post was in fact inspired by that terrifying thing that is known as the memory hole.

Go look that up, please, if you need to. It’s a thing that I think everyone should be learning about.

I mean, this president and his lackeys, okay. They are *still* yammering on and on about “moving on from history”. Which, wtf even? Is history one bad breakup, or is it perhaps a series of bad breakups, in which case shouldn’t the point be self-betterment instead of just merely turning one’s back on it and forgetting the lessons that were learned?

More insidiously, the government is asking us to move on from recent history. From that which is still firmly within living memory. Move on from martial law? Move on from the deaths and the hunger and the killings and the famine and the treachery and the corruption and the plunder?

Why? So we can suffer through them all over again — and I don’t actually know if I should end that clause with a question mark or a period. I don’t want people to get the wrong idea. If I turned it into a question, it’ll be easy to dismiss it with a flip response or with so-called irony. If I turned it into a sentence, however, I will have soured my own mood and yours as well, for something that might still be staved off.

(Although, yes, as a dyed-in-the-wool cynic who’s trying to change those colors, I can’t help but think that bad things are always in store.)

They’re telling us to “move on from history” and what they’re really trying to tell us is, “forget the history of your parents and grandparents”. What they are really trying to say is, take martial law and those people who perpetrated it, and the revolution that got us all out of it — and throw it all down the memory hole.

I say that is ridiculous — not to mention impossible.

You can move on from a breakup — in fact, that’s totally recommended and the thing to do because to do otherwise is self-harm.

But moving on from history? How even?

So many people in my country saying it again and again and I’m already half-convinced that so many people take it for truth and for granted.

Fuck that.

Ask me a question about martial law, and I will do the research and get back to you with a proper answer, not the self-serving gaslighting bullshit that the leader of my country is trying to force down our collective throats.

this is what democracy looks like

15283961_10154225293703348_7995081024908818236_nI got this limited edition shirt from an alumni homecoming event at one of the high schools I attended: the main outpost of the Philippine Science High School. “Agham” is Filipino for “science”. And you can all see what the pop-culture rage du jour was at that time.

15284028_10154225998933348_6244023987829923142_nYes, that’s the same sign I carried on 25 Nov. I didn’t see any reason to make a new one, since the message was still relevant.

#marcosnotahero #neverforget #neveragain #hukayin

I had to write these verses.

They buried Ferdinand Marcos among the soldiers and among the heroes today, taking the country by surprise.

They sneaked in the waxen false idol of a corpse, and buried him in hallowed ground, where he did not belong.

I am up in arms. The country is up in arms.

And I wrote this, today, and I don’t know what it is except my feelings are there in the words.

It’s called “Reply to Enjolras” because now we need to build the barricades, and now we need to take our country back.

Reply to Enjolras – PJ Punla – 18 Nov 2016

the grandmother rose and took up her cane.
her hands and her knees trembled, bowed by the weight of the years,
bent by the scars of truncheon and shield.
she turned her back on the gloating news, and stepped out the door.

the woman at her desk rose and made sure she still had an Internet connection.
her fingers tapping out messages: “I’m on my way to the monument,
wait for me, but please stay safe.”
she turned her back on the cowards’ comments, and stepped out the door.

the child clutched at her mother’s hands.
her questions whirled in her mind, questions that she felt she couldn’t ask,
not when her parents looked so sad and grim.
she didn’t know she was turning her back on ignorance when she stepped out the door.

the class rose and left their history books behind.
it was up to them to make history and they all knew how to do it – how to capture it.
they made their signs and they bought their candles.
they turned their backs on the lies about the past, and stepped out the door.

the grandmother, the woman, the child, the class –
they became the family, they became the city, they became one island after another,
one people and one voice on the move, and they spoke words of truth.
they turned their backs on the evil – dead or alive – and they stepped out the door.

my friends are tweeting the Enjolras portions of Les Misérables

And honestly, I’m thinking I should probably try to do so at least once, too.

It was a bad day yesterday, in terms of the history of this poor benighted country of mine. We kind of turned ourselves into a laughingstock — or at least we would be a laughingstock by now if the rest of the world weren’t so riveted to the election results in the US.

Nine of the 14 justices on the Philippine Supreme Court voted to basically allow dictator, plunderer, murderer, and fake bemedaled president Ferdinand Edralin Marcos to be buried in the same hallowed ground as all the actually honorable dead soldiers and dead presidents, in a graveyard that we’re supposed to call the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Graveyard of the Heroes). Five of the justices dissented, and one abstained from voting.

That would be the equivalent of the French government saying, “Oh, there’s space for Adolf Hitler to be buried in the Panthéon in Paris!”

Those nine justices basically took a big, politically-motivated dump on my country, on my country’s history (that is still within living memory), and — this is the really heart-wrenching part — on the graves of the Martial Law victims, and on the heads of the Martial Law survivors.

There were immediate responses to the verdict, of course. I won’t get into the Marcoses’ reactions, because those things are vile and obscene. I’ll talk about the reaction from the opposition, instead. Several groups organized rallies and vigils and protests, including at least two major universities, and I went to one of them, last night.

There was indignation a-plenty, of course, but I stood there speechless with heartbreak and anguish. Mostly because the men and women who had already lived through one hellish exercise in Martial Law were looking the prospect of a repeat straight in the eyes.

Overheard at the rally: “We’ve already lived through this shit and now we have to do it all over again.”

I raised my fist when it was called for, and I applauded the speakers as they spoke with barely-controlled rage and grief, but I was really trying not to break down on the spot.

The painful thing is that we basically did this shit to ourselves.

Martial Law happened. Tens of thousands of people were martyred or forcibly disappeared or worse. The entire country was enslaved for generations to come.

But soon after the whole sordid period was brought to a close, the apologists started to gloss over the dark days. It didn’t even take them that long to lay the foundations that would allow for what would seem like the forgiveness and, worse, the “redemption” of the Marcoses, at whose feet the entire fault and blame of Martial Law can and must be laid. It started with the return of Imelda Marcos and it just snowballed on from there, with the Marcos children clawing their way into political power and influence after their mother, all in the pursuit of papering over the excesses and wrongs of their patriarch’s rule.

The apologists have always been working behind the scenes. They have always been making it so that we buried Martial Law in the past. They have always been making it so that more and more people would respond positively to the flat-out lie that things were good and happy and glorious during the years of Marcos’s strongman rule.

And the apologists have been extending such generous help to so many politicians that it was inevitable that one of them would be elected to high enough office that it would be child’s play to orchestrate yesterday’s farce and travesty.

I have always railed against the cultural tendency to forgive and forget, to sweep things under the rug, and to pay back favors. Because this is what those tendencies are getting us: we’re frankly looking at a repeat of Martial Law. It is right there with a gun pointed right in the nation’s face. Extrajudicial killings, each more brazen than the last; a concerted campaign of violence that targets the poor and those without friends, and lets go those people who have influence and wealth. The continuing perversion of history, which I repeat is still within (painful) living memory for a lot of people.

These thoughts are making me physically sick.

I don’t know how the rallies will help, though I’ll still try to go when I can.

All I know is that there are some bad days ahead for my poor country, which has been turned into the land of the jackboot stomping repeatedly upon some poor sap’s face.

The people have not stirred
We are abandoned by those who still live in fear.
The people have not heard.
Yet we will not abandon those who cannot hear.

From Les Misérables – Dawn Of Anguish – sung by Enjolras

Because commemorating Martial Law means mourning the dead and the living

I wrote this a few months ago, when I was angry at the news. (So what else is new. In the Philippines, and in the rest of the world.) Today, 21 September, is the anniversary of Ferdinand Marcos’s imposition of Martial Law in 1972, thereby plunging my country into a long and dark night from which there would be no waking up until around 1986. Some people will necessarily be happy about this date, because they think the Marcoses are not sinners.

I always feel like sackcloth and ashes on this date. 

“Martial Law is trivia.”

“Martial Law is history.”

“Martial Law is done and over with, so let’s move on.”

Well, let me tell you a thing: Martial Law — and its horrors and abuses and all the other things that are far too terrible to merely be subsumed under the farcical term shenanigans — is not trivia to me.

Trivia, they say, and who are they? Imelda Marcos. Imee Marcos. And the current arch-sinner, Bongbong Marcos, who whines about being cheated precisely because he thinks that what he says, goes. The Marcoses who stole billions from the country’s coffers and threw them away to buy art and real estate and atrocious displays of conspicuous consumption are the same Marcoses who are trying to get back into power — for what? So they can do it all over again!

And we are letting them do that, because we are bombarded on all sides by their own self-serving claims that Martial Law was good and beautiful and not, say, a howling wilderness of hunger and poverty, a blank bleak silence of the tortured and the maimed and the disappeared and the raped and the dead.

None of those things are trivia, by the way. Just the opposite. Imagine a student who dared to put his hand up at an open forum. He wanted Imee Marcos to answer a question. The student in question was — ahem –– dealt with in the parlance of the time, meaning, Imee Marcos only had to nod at her bodyguards and the student was picked up, assaulted, and killed. On the same day as he asked the question.

The name of that student — Archimedes Trajano — is not trivia.

Again: Imagine a sixteen-year-old boy. He would have had his whole life ahead of him — he would have still been around today — had he not been the son of a man who had had enough of the Marcoses’ terrible deeds, the son of a man who stole away from the regime and wrote a book whose title has since passed into common parlance. Ever heard the phrase “conjugal dictatorship”? Then you know the title of the tell-all book that Primitivo Mijares wrote.

And that means you know why Primitivo’s son was abducted and tortured. Boyet Mijares got his skull bashed in, got his hands smashed to bits, got turned into bloody dead pulp –and for good measure his corpse was thrown out of a military helicopter.

The names of those two people — Primitivo Mijares, and his son Boyet — are not trivia.

I’m hammering at the topic of Martial Law being promoted as trivia and being written about as not trivia because the entire idea was introduced to me as, yep, you guessed it, trivia. Specifically, as facts and figures that I needed to remember, because I was going to be competing in a nationally televised quiz show.

And now I feel like some of you are going to look at me funny and go, OMG, you were on Battle of the Brains?

Yes. Yes, I was. I competed in two separate seasons, actually. And every time I got ready for the competition I studied the hell out of the quiz topics. David Celdran had all these questions to ask on Science, Mathematics, History, General Information, and Arts/Literature, and those of us on the team had to be on our mettle every time. We needed to have all these facts and figures and answers.

We competed on the show some time after 1995 and that meant that people were actually still talking about Martial Law, because in that year ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation had released through its film and TV production arm Star Cinema a movie called Eskapo: a dramatization of the company’s fortunes during the Martial Law era. The title in this case refers to Eugenio Lopez, Jr., at that time the media network’s head, and to Sergio Osmena III, currently Senator Osmena III — who were political prisoners under the Marcos regime and who broke out of prison in a daring escape.

If nothing else, the movie had a point to make: that it was a true story, that most of the people being portrayed by the show business stars of the day were actual real and living people, and that these people had emerged from the horrors of events that were well within the idea of recent. After all, 1995 was less than a decade removed from 1986 and People Power. It was possible to find those who survived, or the families of those who didn’t, and it was possible to remember some of the terrible deeds that were committed under the aegis of the “Bagong Lipunan”.

And the point is this: it is still possible to find those who survived, and it is still possible to find the families of those who didn’t. It is 2016, thirty years after the EDSA Revolution, and to these people Martial Law is not trivia, and it will never be: for Martial Law is stamped upon them, more indelible than the ink we get on our hands when we go to the polls.

Martial Law is not trivia to me: it started out that way, with having to memorize when it began and when it ended, with having to memorize the perpetrators and the heroes and the living and the dead.

But knowing the dates and the names, knowing the faces, led to –- and still leads to -– talking about the horrors. To discovering what else was done. There are books upon books devoted to these dark deeds that were done in the name of staying in power. Trivia? I say no: this is history, this is our own history, this is the history that has shaped and scarred the Philippines for the past thirty years and more.

I’ve been reading about Martial Law for a long time. And I can in no way claim to be an expert. There is still too much to learn. There is far, far too much to understand. And understand is a conditional thing, because: how can you wrap your head around a family so obsessed with money and riches and worldly goods and reputation that they had so many thousands of lives so casually snuffed out?

Is it possible to say that the victims of Martial Law are items of trivia?

Is it even rational to say that Martial Law is something to move on from?

You tell me, after you’ve been confronted by the testimony from the living and the dead and from the perpetrators. Not trivia, but evidence. Specifically, evidence against those who are even now seeking to revise history, to deny that Martial Law ever happened.

Martial Law is not trivia. And it should never be.