I asked my son, Noah, “If you knew that the wealth you have was stolen by your father, would you return it?” He answered, “But if I am poor, I need the money.” His Dad, Norman, said, “It does not matter if you are poor or rich. If the money was stolen, then it should be returned to the one who owns it.”
Maybe I should have asked him too, “If your father abused his authority to silence people who were protesting against him and they were tortured, raped, imprisoned and disappeared, would you be brave enough to say that was wrong, apologize for it, and offer reparations as a sign of remorse for the wrong done?” I would like to believe my children would.
My disgust for the triumph of Bongbong Marcos is not personal. It is an issue of justice. Or maybe that no longer matters in this country. How else can you explain the return of the Marcoses to power after plundering the country’s coffers by at least 10 billion dollars or the oppression of the people under military rule, denying people their basic human rights? What are we doing as parents and grandparents, as teachers and church leaders, as cultural formators? We are a Christian country but despite our theories and theologies, our study of ethics and moral laws, our rhetoric about the will and the justice of God, we do not do what is just. Like battered women and slaves who have been conditioned to cycles of abuse, we return to our abusers and allow ourselves and others to become victims. For me to serve God is to do what is just. It is what God requires of us! (Micah 6:8)
It is also an issue of national pride. I feel ashamed for my people who are deprived of their dignity. Worse than our colonizers who enslaved our people, Ferdinand Marcos and his family, betrayed his fellow countrymen and women for 20 years. Weaving myths and lies which millions still believe today. If only we would study history, the decisions of the courts on the issues of plunder and violence, and scientifically analyze the facts, would we still have faith in another Marcos? And if Bongbong himself had the full understanding of the magnitude of his family’s sin against the Filipino People, why did he need to seek power again? When I was younger, people spoke of “hiya” or “delicadeza.” Now we have no shame. We have no shame over the graves of young lives killed which is the legacy of Marcos. We have no pride as a people because we allow ourselves to be victimized again and again. I hope the world is not laughing at us. We are a country buried in debt, one of the most enslaved people’s in the world, and has had the most corrupt governments in Asia, one after another. We ousted a dictator in 1986 and with Bongbong, we are like dogs who eat our own vomit.
Until we learn to pursue justice resolutely and teach its value to the coming generations; until we cultivate national pride and remember that we are a people of courage, honor and excellence, the Filipino People will be enslaved. We will be enslaved not by foreign masters, but by our own. And most tragic of all, we will continue deceiving ourselves.
Artwork by Tamara Adams