Abellanosa: Nuanced History of the Marcos Era

Abellanosa: Nuanced History of the Marcos Era

A FEW days ago, a group of academics gathered for an international conference that proposes a nuanced history of the Marcos era. Apparently, the term “nuanced” captured the attention as well as the criticism of those who prefer a “black and white” approach to Philippine history.

I participated in the said event knowing the risk of being associated with those who have been labeled “Marcos apologists.” Quite a risk on the part of someone who has written essays that defended the gains of Edsa, not to mention that in the last election, BBM was not my choice.

I believe however, as an academic, that there is a certain level of responsibility that one should move up to. It is a level that goes beyond political convictions though not necessarily in contradiction to it. An academic is supposed to live up to the virtues of "open-mindedness" to the "truth" one ought to look for. Regardless of how such a truth is defined, no academic would say that his or her search is directionless and thus leading to nowhere.

Precisely, the study of a country’s history requires willingness to embrace the probability of constructions and reconstructions of narratives. History is not the mere assemblage of facts. There is subjectivity involved in it; this subjectivity is grounded in the present.

Now that we have another Marcos for a president, what would become of the country’s history with the Marcos of the past? Why was the country brought to the administration of the son of a dictator who was toppled down years ago?

Out of convenience some groups blame the elites and the hypocrisy of the religious, some others blame the failures of Edsa. Even among those in the academia, there is that tendency prefer mental shortcuts. Anything and everything that crosses one’s political horizon is captured and used as variables for analysis. Because of this the reasonings of some, even in articles published in said to be reputed journals, are faulty.

In my conference presentation, I argued that the data source to be reviewed must be broadened to include writings of political theorists and social scientists. The reason being is that even after Edsa in 1986 there were writings written in favor of Marcos and anyone who studies the late strongman’s life, the Martial Law, and Edsa should read these sources. It does not matter if one is for or against Marcos, what is important is for historians, social scientists and political theorists to open topic for discussion.

Second, the said-to-be revival of a pro-Marcos narrative is actually not new, in fact, decades ago, the 1986 People Power was already interrogated not by the masses but by serious scholars like the political scientist Remigio Agpalo and economist Gerardo Sicat.

It is sad that many pro-Marcos Filipinos have not read the works of these scholars. Arguments and discussions in social media have recycled propositions that border political myths and legends. On the other side, we also have critics of Marcos who refuse to listen to data-based perspectives because it is easier to just dismiss everything outside of their ethical radar as “disinformation.”

All efforts and attempts must lead us to ask more serious questions about our life as a country: why was there a Marcos, what lead to the emergence of a leader like Marcos and what will possibly lead to the re-emergence of another Marcos? If we cannot answer these questions, it means we have not learned anything from our history.


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