Two Filipino films spark fight against revisionism
Updated: Sep 3, 2022
By Diana G. Mendoza
Manila—Two films currently showing in theaters have divided an already polarized society in the battle to tell the country’s past during the martial law years and the story of the hurried flight of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ family from the Philippines during the 1986 People Power revolution.
Netizens continue to clash online with the showing of “Katips: The Movie,” a musical drama about the struggles of student activists during martial law, and “Maid in Malacańang,” which is about the Marcos family’s final hours in power in the presidential residence.
“Katips” refers to “the new Katipuneros” from the Katipunan area in Quezon City, and also from the revolutionary organization “Katipunan” that fought the Spanish colonizers.
“Maid,” according to its co-producer Sen. Imee Marcos, the dictator’s eldest daughter, tells her “family’s side” of the People Power revolt that ousted her father.
The Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences Awards gave “Katips” a record seven awards, with its writer, director and producer Vince Tañada, a lawyer and grandson of prominent activist Lorenzo Tañada, who was arrested during martial law, enjoining young Filipinos to watch and educate themselves about the truth about what happened.
Born two years after the imposition of martial law, Vince Tanada grew up seeing the atrocities. “In the midst of uncertainty, there’s no other passion that can pull us back to freedom but the burning fire that hides within each of us,” he told media. “‘Katips’ is a tale of the young and their fight for their ideals.”
Critics believe that the late dictator’s namesake son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., won the May 2022 elections because of online disinformation that glorified his father and attempted to scrub out information about corruption and abuses under the authoritarian regime. “Maid” is one such tool to distort and revise history in favor of the Marcoses.
Many Filipinos fear that with another Marcos back in power, history will be rewritten and revised, since the Marcoses neither acknowledged nor apologized for the corruption, theft and abuses that occurred during their father’s rule.
Observers say this move has started with the recent pullout of books about Filipinos’ experiences during their country’s past that are considered “subversive” and “anti-government” by the Commission on Filipino Language. Alternative news sites have also been blocked by the National Telecommunications Commission.
Last year, the Commission on Higher Education directed regional state schools to remove materials and books "that contain pervasive ideologies of the communist-terrorist groups" from their libraries.
But elsewhere in the Philippines and overseas, Filipinos young and old are purchasing books that provide historical accounts of Marcos’ rule for 21 years.
One of the books, "Marcos Martial Law: Never Again," written by Filipino journalist Raissa Robles, has increased sales and requests for reprint. "The book price had nearly doubled and yet the people were buying the book by batches,” Robles said. “They weren't just buying one or two. They were buying five or 10 at a time."
The Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Monument for Heroes), a memorial park in Quezon City, is fighting against the whitewashing of martial law abuses through its museum and historical research center about the events of the Marcos regime from 1965 to 1986.
One of its advocacy activities on social media is #ThrowbackThursday that enjoins Filipinos to help in preserving the documentation and in interacting with them about that period.
At the Ateneo de Manila University's publishing press, marketing head Almira Manduriao told media the rush for Philippine history books began soon after Marcos Jr. won the May 9 election.
"People were suddenly fearful that literature critical of the dictatorship would be banned," she said. "Hence, the need to buy and safeguard the books (when) they still can."