Among the corollaries of my work which along with the pictures of the sets is a high-quality production poster which is part of the permanent collection from The Aguinaldo Centennial now on display in the Bulacan Museum in Malolos City. It’s an artist representation of the Filipino people’s revolutionary struggle that spans some 400 years. The theme of social justice is illustrated by the choice of faces on the poster: Aguinaldo, the old Conquistador who stood his ground against Manuel Estacio De Venegas; Captain Jesse Webb of Pacatella Idaho; and the four youths who died on Mendiola bridge. Not many copies of the poster survived, so to have a copy in the Bulacan Museum is a great honor. The play itself caused quite a stir, particularly in Malacanan.
The deaths on Mendiola Bridge (or the reaction to them) also fueled quite a storm. Events developed quite quickly afterwards. While youths took the initiative, there wasn’t one face connected with the so-called “First Quarter Storm” that can be immortalized. Once set in motion everything that happened became irretrievable. One thing led to another until Marcos declared martial law, and (for at least the youths) the reign of terror continued. Marcos spoke the truth when he said that there was “an element of coercion” involved in his action and didn’t when he said it only affected “those who clung to or those who wished to revive the privileged treatment of the privileged few of the old society.” In some ways the majority may have been better off since they were poor and were in constant danger of being exploited, or that was what the faithful of the Marcos regime would have people believe. According to Marcos there wasn’t anything that wasn’t possible in a society in which its members enjoy social equality. But there’s no perfection on this planet, and nothing is precisely what it seems. Unfortuanately “an element of coercion” for some people meant that they were separated and even eliminated from society. At a time when tourists were still granted access to the dungeons of Fort Santiago, youths were taking the initiative of speaking out against (and fighting) a dictator and were being punished for it. Many of them disappeared without being given a chance to say goodbye.
On a back page of today’s paper I saw the following:
SANTIAGO, Oct. 6 (Reuter)- Sixteen more leftwing extremists have been executed by firing squad after being sentenced to death by courts martial in three Chilian cities, the ruling military junta announced Friday night.
And whether the report was intended as a warning or not it served as one.
As a young man I traveled from Spain to the New World, then to these islands. In the fateful year of 1595 I fought Venegas’ men in the Cathedral, where I fled with my men. I don’t recall whether Venegas actually fought or not, but it wasn’t long before he found out his fate, or whether he considered the fight worth fighting over a mortar and a pestle. Venegas was one of the ruthless who took advantage of the hapless. We took over this kingdom in the sixteenth century, and bit more, after the world had been divided between Portugal and us. I now live a stone’s throw from the Cathedral (it’s not clear whether he was talking about the Malate Church or not), and once inside it we found allies…people who had been abused, cheated and there also were those whose relatives were killed by Venegas. All of Venegas’ men were slain, and as for Venegas, before the end of the day he was placed under arrest. Then in 1898 I was near Moralya (near the present-day Philippine Naval Patrol Headquarters on Roxas Blvd.) when the Americans first raised the star-spangled banner near there. In Malolos, the next year, I was there when President Aguinaldo stood up, took a paper out of his pocket, and told the people of the newly formed republic to they could forget three centuries of oppression. And I was there when the U.S. destroyed the Malolos republic. I still ask why President William McKinley forcibly annexed the Philippines. I know that American military officers who served in the Philippines and personally knew Filipinos spoke in favor of giving them their independence. And at first America never intended to keep the Philippines. Then in the early part of June 1898 I read in English papers about how the British had become alarmed over the prospect of a republic being set up in the Orient. They were afraid that it would set “a bad example” for their subjects in Borneo, Hong Kong, Singapore, and East India. In November 1898, the narrow gauge train that was taking me to Malolos passed through the lines of Filipino insurgency and I knew that it wouldn’t be long now. I got down; and I recall that there were half dozen or more Filipinos soldiers on patrol. They were strutting up and down the platform, and seemed to be looking at me suspiciously. It reminded me of when I first arrived in the Philippines, after having braved the New World and perils of a long voyage and landed in the middle of a conspiracy against us. That was in 1588.