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REMEMBERING: Remembering a time when dreams must die

mindaviews remembering

(On the 36th anniversary of People Power that ousted the Marcos dictatorship, let us remember what Mindanawons did to fight for freedom. 
This piece by H. Marcos C. Mordeno was among the essays featured in the book ‘Turning Rage Into Courage: Mindanao under Martial Law,’ published by MindaNews in 2002, on the 30th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos)

Colleague Carol Arguillas’ e-mailed query sounded poignant: Where have all the human rights workers gone? Fortunately, I thought, not to graveyards everyone, as Peter, Paul and Mary lamented in the classic “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” despite the long passage of time.

Carol asked the question because she thought it’s an interesting theme for this year’s International Human Rights Day on December 10. Years after the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship, it is, indeed, worth asking what paths each of us (I was one of them) had taken as we were forced to adjust our sails to the winds of change.

I have since ventured into another line of calling and already have a family of my own. So have others, too, some of them I still have contact with. Many have settled in the quiet confines of government and private offices. The helpless romantics – like myself – still cling on to that “crazy” profession called writing.

Personally, the thought of those comrades never failed to send a whiff of nostalgia. We lived and struggled together in hard times, enduring the uncertainties, not knowing if we’d still be around the next day to go on with the kind of life we chose to live. There was always the possibility of being arrested, or worse, killed. I’ve lost count how many HR workers were victimized in those days. Some came out of their ordeals alive to tell their story or simply to suffer in silence.

Those were terrifying times and repression was at its worst. Yet these were the same conditions that bonded us and strengthened our friendships.

I dread to even imagine a return to that situation. But I must confess I miss the genuine friendships and comradeship, the sleepless nights together as we pounded vintage typewriters making manifestoes and reports, sustained by an endless stream of cigarettes (I used to smoke) and coffee; the arduous treks to remote war-torn villages to interview victims and their families; the haggles with military officials and, susmaryosep, rude-mannered CHDFs (Civilian Home Defense Forces).

Together we spent many years of our youth doing these rituals. It was the worst of times. But it was also a time for discovering life itself amidst the daily grind of death and destruction. The search for meaning found an answer in our own simple ways of responding to the wanton abuses. While most members of our generation were busy building their careers in the corporate world or in the academe, we were there trying to help poor victims rebuild their shattered lives.

In a sense, we were victims, too. The martial law regime committed a sin against us by killing whatever little dreams we had. There’s no regret, though, because the situation taught us the value of selflessness.

For many of us, the fire and idealism that gave us courage may no longer be there. But at least, for once in our lifetime, we stood in the line of fire despite the risks.

If only for this, those youthful years were not spent in vain.

(H. Marcos “Boy” C. Mordeno is a native of Buenavista, Agusan del Norte. He was nine years old when martial law was declared. Boy’s experience with martial law started right in his own hometown, where he witnessed the forced displacement of peasant communities and other military abuses. In some instances, his parents allowed some evacuees to stay in their home until it would be “safe” to go back to their places. These events would influence Boy’s outlook in life. He joined the Task Force Detainees in 1984 and became its regional director for Northern Mindanao from 1993-1996. Boy is a board member of MNICC. This piece was dispatched for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews, in December 2001).
Mordeno is one of the editors at MindaNews. 

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