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Martial Law Museum: An online experience through our dark past

By Tanya Lara Published Sep 23, 2020 12:00 pm

Ateneo de Manila’s online museum gives you a way to counter revisionists: educate them. But it also lacks a substantial multi-media archive to make it more immersive.

“We forget everything. What we remember is not what actually happened, not history, but merely that hackneyed dotted line they have chosen to drive into our memories by incessant hammering,” historian, writer and philosopher Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago.

Around the world, established history (or even scientific data) is challenged every day by revisionists — many of them with agendas, others simply from sheer ignorance.

In the Philippines, martial law revisionists are all over social media, challenging historical events not with their own set of facts but with opinion.

Ateneo de Manila University's online Martial Law Museum

So how do you argue against martial law revisionists? Ateneo de Manila’s online Martial Law Museum gives you one way to do it: educate them, inundate revisionists with facts (visit here.)

The interactive museum was launched on Sept. 16, five days ahead of the 48th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos.

Former chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Maria Serena Diokno, daughter of Marcos opposition leader Jose W. Diokno, put into context the role of the interactive museum. “As one end of the historical museum sees vindication, honor even, for the late dictator, the other end chooses to remember in order to heal still raw wounds. Or make any repetition of the past impossible.”

Diokno said that under conditions of terror, most people will comply but emphasized that “some people will not. There are some Filipinos that will not remain silent.”

The looting of a nation by Marcos, martial law collaborators and cronies

Like a physical one, this online museum is divided into sections. There’s a digital library (Magaral), teaching resources (Magturo) and calls to action (Manindigan).

Under the digital library are the different periods of martial law, which was in effect from Sept. 21, 1972 to Jan. 17, 1981, though Marcos’ one-man rule did not end until he was peacefully deposed on Feb. 25, 1986.

Watershed moments include the First Quarter Storm of 1970, a period when student activism was at its peak and the start of the disappearance of young opposition leaders.

Under Magturo are lessons plans for grades 7 to 10 and other learning materials. Under Manindigan are calls to action and workshops on how martial law should be taught in classrooms.

The objective, according to Habi Education Lab, is to “gain deeper insights on how teachers work and how they can maximize the use of the museum.”

A watershed moment in the Marcos administration

Under Magturo are lessons plans for grades 7 to 10 and other learning materials. Under Manindigan are calls to action and workshops on how martial law should be taught in classrooms.

The objective, according to Habi Education Lab, is to “gain deeper insights on how teachers work and how they can maximize the use of the museum.”

It’s a great online resource for anyone wanting to learn more about this dark period in our recent history.

My only criticism is that it lacks a substantial multi-media archive. Videos from the past, clippings from the gagged media and opposition publications, speeches and letters would have made for a more substantial historical archive to make it a more immersive experience.

It would have made a bigger impact if these were already available when it was launched — especially to young people who know very little about martial law.

My grandfather used to have those bootleg black and white footage of opposition rallies and speeches that I watched as a child. Even before I learned about politics, I learned about justice and injustice, and one’s duty to speak out.

As this online museum grows, it should be able to help shape the character of the present and generations of Filipinos still to come.

Stories from the digital library