Over our dinner,my children questioned me,”So,daddy, why then did you come to America?”
My children are growing and developing physically, intellectually, socially,emotionally,politically and I guess they are searching for owns identities of being Americans or Filipino.I need to be very careful with my answers and I come to think that the issues are especially thorny because they move through the realms of faith and belief, I should answer them honestly and with brevity — without delving into extraneous information that might confuse them.I know they ask me this question because they are curious.
Since there is some interest in them in knowing why I came to America, I might as well tell the story.
I went to Philippine College of Commerce and wanted to have a major in Public Administration, a freshman in 1972. My teachers included many brilliant political genius ferreting Ferdinand Marcos. Sometimes, when we got to know them personally, we would ask them why they hate Marcos. Our university president and some of my radical friends and classmates were handcuffed and brought to detention when Apo declared Martial Law.That time my eldest brother who has a connection with the police, military and in Malacanang told me not to attend class and he never elaborated any reason.He forced me to have a ride with his corolla and headed to province.
Though our once fomenting University slogan “Down with Marcos” had become simply a cue for laughter, even then I would find my bile rising at the most random of triggers. It should be explained here that at the time, among students, any balanced attitude toward government, especially Marcos, was rare, and I was not an exception. The veneration of riot police for their brutality was as common as the revulsion for their vile actions. I’m equally as upset, frustrated and disheartened as everyone else.
I tried to forget about Martial Law I have so many close friends who’s carcass found floating the river and some vanished without a trace, but it has occupied my mind for the worst nightmare of yesterday and I don’t know why this piece so gets under my skin.
Today, it has become popular to draw parallels and even equate to the past of Martial Law, specifically the present administration,. It must be emotionally gratifying for some to make this equation but it seems to be a shallow comparison given the very different complex histories . To imply that Filipinos are living under a government fast becoming a dictatorship with violent ideals bent on using systematic annihilation towards that goal is no light assertion. A more apt comparison power.
Congress, a practice they understand to be feeding a beast. These people would never learn, they would grind their heels in, and they would protect their homes, their families, their friends, their livelihoods, their way of life. Defending the Constitution would not even occur to them. Of course, one must come to their own conclusions about a life philosophy, a framework of principled reason within which to perceive and act upon reality, but my experience during Martial Law, is that it robs some significance from the achievements throughout human liberties,the recognition of human rights, the implementation of a structure through which justice can be served; through the lens of equality and freedom this history of Martial Law seems inevitable, so obvious, to be expected, because according to some thought man is good and is driven to pursue the highest goals.
As we almost finish dinner and time to do the dishes I told my children.”If I have a choice to give you a better lives and fullfil your dream in the Philippines I will not leave that beautiful country.” Leaving Philippines strips my choice of action. I no longer have a clear cut leave and be ‘safe’ option like people once did. I’m living in America right now and I’m going back once you all finish your education,buy your own house, have a good life and most importantly freedom. Why? Because I’m helpless here. I’m sick of being asked questions by Mexicans who crossed the borders and American friends about my country and what we’re doing even though I don’t live there anymore. People still expect me to do something because I was born there. And you know what? in AmericaI I can work towards something for retirement and have a Social Security pension for the rest of my life and I won’t carry a cardboard sign along the road that states “I’m homeless and Hungry,Please help,your donation is much appreciated.”