By now you know the monsters are back.
How I wish I could turn back the clock, but I can’t. I guess you could say the fight was over even before it started. They prepared for this long before you were born, or more accurately put, shortly after we thought we had won the day for you, for us, for everyone.
We were dead wrong. We failed. I failed. And for that I am extremely, extremely sorry.
We can always make excuses, bank on a once proud legacy — that back then we were brave, that we did the best we could. That we fought the past dictatorship like the fearless radicals that we were. We faced Marcos’ soldiers and tanks with flowers in one hand, prayers in another. And we won the day.
Now, these recollections serve as no more than palliatives to ease, but for a time, what has now intensified into a nightmare. A nightmare we could no more stop than a runaway train.
In a few days, the die will be cast. The truth of whether they cheated or not will soon fade like thin shreds of a rumor, then memory, then into nothing. Chained to a wall where memorials in honor of the truth are often left forgotten.
The French have a word for it: the oubliette. The fact that we don’t have a word for such a dark, unforgiving place makes us even more susceptible to the trap.
This is our fault: we failed to create the weapons which you could use today.
There’s no telling how long this nightmare would last. The last time it took us two decades. While I cannot assure you that tomorrow would be any different from today, this much is certain: many belonging to the generation which ousted the dictator that fateful night in February 1986 are still alive. And so, too, the memories of killings, corruption, and the rapes.
We may not be as young as when we first raised our fists, but let me assure you we are no less determined to fight today than we did back then. The times may have changed, but courage remains the one constant in the struggle against greed. Age has no claim on it. If anything, the years may have just emboldened it.
People who wish to control your lives and your freedoms will remain a constant threat. That’s one fact you must always remember. In a world where greed is couched as a way to ‘everyman’s dream’, and corruption a tool to amass wicked alliances, never for one minute believe that power is good, or that might is right.
These serve as camouflages to hide the one purpose for which they pursue power: to steal.
To seize what doesn’t belong to them — wealth, knowledge, another’s dignity. Our rights. Our history. For as long as we are dirt poor, ignorant, deprived of our self-worth, blind, we will be too weak to stand against them. They create the conditions that force us to look at them as our sole provider, our champions — a promise they will never fulfill. For such is the evil inherent in human greed.
At the end of the day, after they’ve shed all the glitter and glamor of power in the comfort of houses worth tens of millions, they are merely thieves.
If there is one thing I learned from the recent elections, it is that courage is not only defined by boldness, it is likewise defined by longevity. For courage to be courage, it must be stubborn, dogged to the point of being insatiable. It itches for a fight, if such a fight proves necessary. It persists, regardless of time, the movement of the seasons, the onslaught of the elements.
Courage is what love is, but with a prayer on one hand and a sword in the other.
Is it normal to be afraid? Let me tell you something about fear. The presence of fear dispels any chance of you being reckless. So, do not shun it. It gauges your thoughts and your actions, to save you from falling into the trap of underestimating your enemy. Fear is to the mind as pain is to the body. It points to where the problem lies so you can change it.
Miguel de Cervantes was right when he said “Fear has many eyes and can see things underground.”
It is cowardice you must watch out for. Cowardice is not defined by running from your enemy, but by the immediate act of sharing your bed with the oppressor.
With the return of the Marcoses, unity now works against us. The political reconciliation bandied by the victors is a surefire way to eliminate justice. No. Corruption, theft, and the deaths of thousands are non-negotiable. No reconciliation must happen in the face of the shameless.
Without justice, what the hell do we need governance for?
While it is sad, even infuriating, that the monsters are back, rest assured there is still several ounces of fight left in us. Soon it will be dark. We will be pulling out our swords from their sheaths.
The late National Artist Cirilo Bautista was spot on when he said, “There can never be a ceasefire in the writer’s war with the irrational, the incompetent, and the corrupt.” Therefore I ask again your your patience as I must steal whatever hours I’ve reserved for you to chase off the wolves.
Take heart: no darkness falls without heavenly bodies watching over us.
As for you, my children, take courage in your ability to create. Now is the time. Summon all your talents and gifts and tell the world our story. Create the images that depict our struggles, and if you must sing these from the housetops, if you must scream across the open farmlands, then do it. In dances and songs and the melodies you love. You also have the power to create the conditions that foretell your future. Make good use of your time to converse, to share the truth with other kids, so that your generation will be able to carry these through to the next. The philosopher Edmund Burke said when bad men combine, the good must associate. Join us. It’s not too late to win this.
Love struggles. There are no two ways about it. If we must love, we must fight. If we must love, then we must race against time. Love gives us power not only to breach our limits, but to remember what has largely been forgotten.
Love and memory, therefore, are the strengths that would see us through the struggle against power and lies. It’s not going to be easy. Where lies proliferate, love and remembrance and the creation of the conditions for your future will cost you dearly. The road will be fraught with real dangers.
But opportunities for you to make history come few and far between. Let’s not wait another twenty years to equip the future with the weapons we can create today.
Joel Pablo Salud is the author of several books of political nonfiction.