Dissonance (by Rio Constantino)

Masses rallying against the burial of President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Photo by Rio Constantino.

Too many people right now confuse forgiveness with forgetfulness. They think that by allowing Marcos to be buried with fallen soldiers the country will heal, and that letting him rest in the soil reserved for heroes is equivalent to moving forward. It isn’t. To bury him there is to consciously forget all the evil he did in the first place, to ignore all the people he killed and left missing, to insult all the survivors he left unjustifiably scarred. Burying him in the graveyard where we keep our bravest citizens isn’t moving forward, it’s just moving on. Because before you can even begin healing you have to realize that you have a wound in the first place. That you’re bleeding and in pain, and looking for treatment. And as anyone who has ever been injured before knows, it takes a certain amount of courage to apply alcohol to an open cut.

It infuriates me to see people citing all the projects Marcos oversaw as if that would absolve him of his crimes. Because I also believe in a moral gradient, that there is no such thing as absolute good or absolute evil, that even the worst men can commit a noble act. But the thing is, gradients have values. They go from 0 to 1, from black to white, from villain to hero. And everything Marcos did puts him overwhelmingly on the villain side of the scale. To say that he should be honored because of the theatres and parks he commissioned is to honor his torture of thousands to keep those projects afloat.

There are also those who would reduce heroism to a checklist of basic yes-and-nos. Just by being a past president, they say that Marcos automatically qualifies for burial at the cemetery where we enshrine our finest heroes. But to do so would be to diminish the sacrifice of every other man and woman buried there by defining their heroism as a list of titles and positions required for honorable burial. The only reason that checklist even exists is in acknowledgment of the fact that there is no singular definition of heroism. That you can only define heroism through the common words that appear in all descriptions of a hero: bravery, generosity, the willingness to die for others. All traits which our late president resolutely lacked.

I like to think that the majority of people who support his burial at Fort Bonifacio do so because they believe in the right of everyone to have peace, which is true. Marcos is dead, his body long since diminished to bone. Nothing more can be done to him. But to insist that he be buried at Fort Bonifacio is to deny the right of countless others to the same peace we would give him, simply because we want an expedient way to forget a painful past. Don’t bury him here. Bury him in Ilocos where his family lives. Bury him in Ilocos so that those of us still suffering can find their own peace as well. They should already consider themselves lucky that their patriarch died without having to face an international criminal tribunal.

The speaker on the far left of the photo holding a red and yellow sword is Toym Imao, an exemplary artist speaking for the families of those who fell victim to forced disappearances during Martial Law. He and other speakers came today to protest the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, sharing their stories and their message to a crowd all dressed in white. Like what Toym said, white is what happens when you put all the colors together. It’s the color of unity. Which is exactly what happened today, countless people joining each other in Luneta to cry out that Marcos is no hero.

I wrote this not just to honor those who fought during Martial Law, but also for us. The youth, the young. Because when a speaker mentioned the word pro-Marcos, the word millennial inevitably followed. Misled, mistaught, misinformed millennials who do not see the past and ignore the danger that comes when you forget what comes before. Not all of us are like that however, certainly not. But enough to worry. Because tomorrow I will turn 18, and be part of the next generation to lead this country into the future — or past. And my fear is that when the time comes, too little of us will know the right direction to choose.

Rio Constantino was born 1998 to Red and Kala Constantino. He holds a special interest in History and Biology, and is an avid fan of Calvin & Hobbes. He is currently a Grade-11 student at the Philippine Science High School — Main Campus.

Check his original Facebook post here.