An Equinox Remembered-A A +A
Roads Less Travelled
Monday, September 20, 2010
SEPTEMBER 22 is the 265th day of the year, with only 100 days remaining. On it often falls the Autumnal Equinox, one of two days in a year (the other being March 21, the Vernal or Spring Equinox) where the day and night are of equal length. The equinox at the latter half of the year signals the start of shorter days and longer nights leading to winter. On the Autumnal Equinox thirty-eight years ago, events happened that were to signal the start of the darkest winter of my life. I had just turned 18 that April.
If I remember right, Marcos did not actually declare martial law on September 21, 1972. The document, Proclamation 1081 was dated September 21, but there have been a lot of debates on when Marcos really signed the document. Some accounts say it was signed on September 17, because of Marcos' numerological obsessions. What is clear is that it was announced only on the night of September 22 after a fake ambush was staged on then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile. That bogus ambush provided Marcos the dramatic fanfare to go on air at 9:00 p.m. of Friday, September 22, 1972 to announce the imposition of martial law throughout the country.
I have reason to believe the speculation that Proclamation 1081 was signed on September 17 is true.
Then chair of the Movement for a Democratic Philippines (MDP), Negros Occidental Chapter, I was in Manila in early September 1972 as a delegate to a conference of the Movement of Concerned Citizens for Civil Liberties at the University of the Philippines. For some reason the MCCL conference was cancelled, so I made good use of my time observing the student council elections at the UP and helping out with Operation Tulong at the National Press Club for victims of a series of typhoons that lashed at Central Luzon during the past weeks. I spent the last few days of my stay in Metro Manila at the national headquarters of the MDP in Kamuning Road, Quezon City. On September 16 I boarded a Negros Navigation boat for Bacolod City. The next day, September 17, I heard over the radio that the Kamuning MDP HQ, as well as the Charlie del Rosario Center of the Kabataang Makabayan in Kamias had been raided by the military. It was a sign of things to come.
Back in Bacolod, I lost no time briefing mass organizations under the MDP about what I perceived was creeping militarization in the capital and the signs of an impending declaration of martial law. A few weeks before I left for Manila I had the rare opportunity to be among those briefed by the late Sen. Benigno S. Aquino about indications of an impending martial rule, the details of which he would later expose in congress as "Oplan Sagittarius" which was supposedly the blueprint for Marcos' declaring martial law. The late senator was in Bacolod for the induction of officers of Katilingban nga Inisa sang mga Lanubo nga Tagwaragwag (KILAT), an organization of young radio broadcasters, and he took the opportunity to meet with us student activists. The Kamuning raid reinforced our fears of the imminence of martial law, but we just had no way of knowing when Marcos would impose it.
It was an exhausting week with meetings almost going round the clock. In the evening of September 22 I was one of the guests at a talk show in a local RMN-IBC radio station. After hearing my analysis of the political situation, the host asked me when I thought Marcos would declare martial law and I replied, "Who knows? It can be next month, next week, and tomorrow. It can even be tonight."
After the show I went home to Silay City to take a little break and wash my clothes. I turned in early but Tatay woke me up past 9:00 to tell me he had heard over the radio that Enrile had been ambushed. I squeezed my still damp shirts and pants into a duffel bag and took the last bus to Bacolod. I spent the night drafting anti-martial law press releases and composing flyers for reproduction.
Early in the morning of September 23 I went out to submit my press releases, but was told all radio and television stations had been ordered to go and stay off the air. I hurried back to our HQ but was stopped a block away by concerned bystanders. I was told constabulary soldiers were ransacking the house, and indeed from where we stood I saw perhaps a platoon of soldiers in full combat gear surrounding the area.
I told myself, this was it. My statement at the radio station the evening before had turned out to be prophetic. And as I retraced my steps away from the scene, I knew from that moment on, my life was to change completely.
A political equinox for the country, a major turning point in the life of an eighteen-year old dissident.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 21, 2010.