The horrors of Martial Law remain as vivid and excruciating as the day it was first declared by former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, 48 years ago today. And one of the ways that the events have been remembered and immortalized is through film.
AKTOR (League of Filipino Actors) is an organization made up of Filipino TV and film actors, dedicated to taking a stand on issues through their influence and the medium of film. Since their formation on May 30, they have been speaking out on issues that pose a threat to creative freedom, as well as lent their support for COVID 19 frontliners. The organization stands strong in its belief that film has a significant grasp on presenting important social issues. They note on a video post from their Facebook page, “Kami sa Aktor ay naniniwala na ang pelikula ay may taglay na kapangyarihan para ilahad ang mga kwento ng bayan.”
On Sept. 20, AKTOR in partnership with Dakila, a collective for modern heroism founded in 2005, collaborated together for a virtual discussion on Martial Law entitled “Aktor x Dakila: Ganto Kami Noon, Ganito Pa Rin Ba Ngayon? Pelikula. Paniniil. Pagpalag.” The discussion was spearheaded by actor Vilma Santos, Piolo Pascual, Glaiza de Castro and award-wining director Joel Lamangan all of whom have either starred in or directed films about the era. They were also joined by writers and Martial Law veterans Ricky Lee and Lualhati Bautista, who wrote the screenplays of “Himala” and “Dekada ’70,” respesctively. The well-rounded and powerful discussion was moderated by historian Xiao Chua and writer Lourd De Veyra.
The 3-hour Facebook video opened with an experimental skit directed by Angelie Bayani based on the 1982 film, “Batch ‘81,” which showed gruesome scenes of initiation rights into the fraternity of AKO or Alpha Kappa Omega. This skit combined both a live performance by actors on a video call and scenes from the actual movie.
The two moderators began by formally naming the segment of their discussion “Pelikula sa panahon ng Martial Law” as Chua noted, “Tignan natin kasi baka may paralelismo yung mga kondisyon ngayon pagdating sa filmmaking, baka may makuha tayong mga leksyon din. At kapag sa diktadurang Marcos ang pinag-uusapan, alam mo di masyadong pinag-uusapan yang peliluka,” Chua said.
They expounded as well on how the medium of film, even then, was used both to misconstrue and speak the truth. De Veyra mentioned, “Sa medium ng pelikula rin sinubukan ni Marcos baguhin yung naratibo ng nakaraan, sabi nila, lalong lalo na raw yung sa pelikula nung pagpatay kay Julio Nalundasan. Paki-google ‘yun mga bata.”
To get a deeper understanding of the events of Martial Law, they called on Limangan and Lee, who both lived through the horrors of being held and tortured in jail, to talk more about their experience and the work that bore from it. “Ang 21 sa akin syempre ay napakaimportante dahil napakalaking bahagi ng ating kasaysayan ang Sept. 21. Hindi dahil sa pinanganganak ako [ironically, Lamangan’s birthday is also Sept. 21] kundi dahil sa isang pinakamadilim na bahagi ng ating kasaysayan,” Lamangan shared.
They also recounted some of the actors’ past films, such as Santos’ role in “Sister Stella L,” the titular character being an activist nun during the Martial Law era. Upon looking back, the actress admitted to only realizing years later the importance of her role then and its effect now. “Na-appreciate ko lang talaga yung ginawa ko, kung gaano kahalaga yung pelikula, kung gaano karelevevant nung naging public servant ko na,” said Santos.
Throughout the years of remembering the depths of the Martial Law era, the influence of film remains to be a powerful tool to remember the past. As de Veyra said to put the discussion to a close, “Nakita natin na may role ang cinema, may role pala ang mga films sa pagkukwento ng kasaysayan.” We come to see how the arts are so much more than just a medium we enjoy, it is also a medium that educates. And with its power, the films that have immortalized what happened in Martial Law will serve as a reminder and a promise to never forget.
Photo screengrabbed from the “Dekada ’70” trailer
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