WHENEVER MY PARENTS shared their stories of the Japanese occupation of Manila, I listened intently and with fascination because their experiences were so far removed from my own.
My Mom told of how two of her sisters died of starvation because all their family had to eat was raw eggs topped on boiled rice. To this day, Mommy will not eat an egg unless it is thoroughly cooked because otherwise it stirs in her the trauma of war. She was only 10 when the Japanese captured the city. She is 84 now.
When she was 14, MacArthur returned and liberated Manila. She was separated from her family in the melee and wandered the streets of Paco on her own, searching desperately for them. It was then that she got caught in the crossfire between American troops and a fleeing Japanese contingent and took cover in a kangkong ditch. Later that day, she randomly entered a house for shelter only to discover an entire family seated at the dining table, shot dead, with their loyal pet dog still standing guard over them.
Every time she told this tale, she would do so in a matter of fact tone, which, more than passion or drama, impressed upon me the implacability of war.
My Dad was 17 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He liked to tell the story of how his sisters would play the piano at night and draw the attention of a Japanese officer stationed nearby. The homesick officer would hear the plaintive tinkling of the keyboard and stand outside their window, humbly asking for permission to listen. He did that almost every night. Though nervous, they allowed him, and he never abused the privilege. He would leave as quietly as he came and showed them nothing but utmost politeness.
These stories filled me with admiration for my parents because they had survived hardships I could only imagine with dread. They enabled me to appreciate the complex history of my Father’s and Mother’s individual lives before they became ours.
It is so tempting for the young to believe that everything starts (and ends!) with them. My parents’ recollections cured that in me. I learned that their shared history is an element in my story, and that for my future to have substance, I must know how to look back. By doing so, I affirm their experiences and honor their contribution.
I wish today’s generation would pay us the same respect.
Perhaps not everyone will understand this, but for those of us who belong to “Gen X,” martial law was our World War II.
We endured nightmares of our own, which today’s young ones can only imagine with dread. This current generation, also known as the “millennials,” was born and raised in the freedoms we fought to secure. I cannot understand why some of them esteem our contribution so cheaply.
There is a tendency these days for certain millennials to downplay recent history in the interest of “moving on.” One young reader of my article Identified, who happens to be a blogger, indirectly lectured me on the need for us “to forgive” for the sake of national unity. He brought up the biblical mandate in an oblique swipe at those of us who cried out #NeverAgain when we recently heard of the Santiago-Marcos tandem.
My response is this: while the Lord Jesus Christ is always ready to forgive, even He called for repentance and promised conciliation only with the properly contrite.
“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, `I repent,’ forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4)
So we should be ready to forgive, as am I. But Bongbong Marcos has shown no such repentance. Therefore, I shall continue to rebuke him.
It is painful that some youth sectors dismiss our experiences – the traumatic reality my generation lived through – as spurious only because they do not know enough history. Nor do they have the energy to validate our testimony. To be glibly told by these young ones that we must “let it go” (often accompanied by the singing of that tired and tiresome refrain), with the veiled implication that it is their time now and they are in no mood for grim martial law tales that may or may not be true – this stings like a slap in the face.
But for them to buy hook, line and sinker the gunk that none of it ever happened and that the Marcos years were in fact the glory days of the Philippines – this is the unkindest cut of all.
I have often seen “#Respect” on social media added as a sort of caveat to readers not to challenge what is posted. I am emblazoning it now on my wall as an admonition to the young to do their homework before lecturing their elders.
According to Comelec Chair Andres Bautista,
In 2016, out of an estimated 54 million voters, at least 20 million will comprise voters aged 18 to 35 which will make up roughly 37% of the voting population. Now put that in context. In 2010, President Benigno Aquino III got 15.2 million votes. This basically means that 75% of the youth vote can elect a President.
Experts are in serious doubt about whether there is indeed a youth vote. That notwithstanding, it is very possible for one to develop in 2016. It is my urgent hope that the millennials, in whose hands it appears our future lies, will learn to look back before they become the undoing of us all.
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
– Romans 15:4