As the Philippines approached its 49th year after the proclamation of martial law, various books chronicling and critiquing this infamous period resurfaced in the realm of social media.
This serves as an important reminder: that literature is and will always be a powerful device, and that to learn the truth and unlearn revisionism, the act of reading quality literature is crucial.
With the 2022 elections inching closer and closer, it becomes vital to remember that both truth and effective storytelling are two important tools, even and especially in politics. Revisiting this era, decades ago but not at all bygone, can be done easily through reading about the Philippines in the 1970s and ’80s through the work of several prolific authors.
We’re recommending some well-written books that continue to aid us in learning about martial law.
1. “Marcos Martial Law: Never Again” (2016) by Raissa Robles
A comprehensive account of martial law, Raissa Robles’ telling of the violent crimes and injustice is raw and chilling. Her writing is straightforward and thrives in grisly, ugly detail and, every few pages, has visuals to accompany it. The book records the events before, during and after martial law, all backed up by sources and research.
With a foreword written by Rene Saguisag, former senator and cofounder of Mabini, the book opens with an easy flow and a perfect amalgam of enticing storytelling and straight-to the-point facts. For anyone wanting to further learn about martial law, this book provides a thorough look into it.
2. “Gun Dealers’ Daughter” (2012) by Gina Apostol
At the time of release, readers had already caught a whiff of Gina Apostol’s brilliant hand at writing. In “Gun Dealers’ Daughter,” we are acquainted with Soledad “Sol” Soliman, a wealthy young adult navigating her memories in the years following a story she pieces together as the book progresses. A coming-of-age story tangled viscidly
with the recognition of privilege and the looming shadow of politics, readers will watch Sol struggle between her awareness of the political atrocities and the wealth she leans on. Told in a mysterious, tense tone, one unique to the impish Sol, Apostol provides a more intimate perspective into Marcos-era Philippines, one from Sol’s place of privilege and power.
3. “The Conjugal Dictatorship” (1976) by Primitivo Mijares
A household name in martial law and Marcos-related literature, this book is a chilling look into the events that structured and led up to the decreeing of martial law. Since its publication in the 1970s, it’s continued to provide a perspective for readers into one of the darkest points in our history. Primitivo Mijares, who wrote this book based on his time as Marcos’ media adviser, blatantly exposes the grotesque abuse of power that occurred before his departure from office in 1975. This book, and its close-up view of the actions of Marcos, serves as a constant reminder that the Marcos administration was extremely corrupt.
4. ‘The Jupiter Effect’ (2006) by Katrina Tuvera
Like “Gun Dealers’ Daughter,” this book tells the tale of martial law from the perspective of privileged characters. Katrina Tuvera weaves a vivid story of Kiko and Gaby, as their coming of age coincides with the era of martial law. Together, they—and we—chew on and question the ruined state of their current society. If you’re a student like me, this read isn’t as heavy, with a voice that will take you deeper into delving into how people lived during martial law. While it is short, it is still a good, introspective, and above all, timely book for this point in time.
5. ‘Subversive Lives’ (2012) by Susan and Nathan Quimpo
A gruelling and raw account of the events surrounding martial law, this book is far from easy to read. The Quimpo siblings tell of their time, then knee-deep in anti-Marcos activism. This firsthand account, accompanied by a diverse cacophony of stories and themes of sacrifice, politics and revolution, makes for an abrasive reading experience. It is a testament to how ordinary Filipinos lived through Marcos’ era, an important insight in a time of prevalent revisionism and false claims about martial law. A heavy, brooding read, saturated with intense emotion, it urges readers to be caught in their experience, narrated in detail, and shared with an air of intimacy. —CONTRIBUTED
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