#EDSA36 lesson: How a resistance poem got published during Martial Law

February 25, 2022 - 7:22 PM
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A woman taking a picture during the 36th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution (PNA photo by Robert Oswald P. Alfiler)

Ever wonder how Filipino writers were able to publish works critical of the Marcos regime during that period?

The University of the Philippines-Institute of Creative Writing shared the story of the resistance poem titled “Prometheus Unbound” in light of the 36th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution.

The poem was written by renowned scriptwriter and journalist Pete Lacaba who was among those detained and tortured during Martial Law.

He was arrested from 1974 to 1976 without any charges.

In the post on February 25, the UP-ICW recounted that it was Nick Joaquin who approached late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and convinced him to release Lacaba as part of his award as the National Artist for Literature in 1976.

“The dictator works hard, but Filipinos work harder. Alam niyo ba na muntikan nang hindi maging National Artist for Literature si Nick Joaquin? Noong 1976, tatanggihan niya sana ang parangal bilang kritisismo na pinapabango ng tradisyong ito ang rehimeng Marcos,” the institute said.

“Pero inabisuhan siya ng kaniyang mga kaibigan na gamitin ang pagtanggap ng award bilang kapalit ng paglaya ni Pete Lacaba. Sa taong tinanggap niya ang parangal, lumaya rin si Lacaba,” it added.

Prior to his arrest, Lacaba’s poem somehow made its way to a state-allied publication called Focus Magazine.

The activist used a pseudonym named “Ruben Cuevas.”

The UP-ICW explained that the poem appeared to be praising the Marcos regime upon reading. But it was actually an acrostic poem where the letters of each line form a hidden phrase.

“Sa unang basa, classy, nababagay sa artistic taste na pinapaboran ng rehimeng Marcos. Pero ‘pag binasa mo pababa ang mga unang letra ng bawat linya, may pasabog pala,” the post read.

The phrase is: “Marcos Hitler Diktador Tuta.”

The UP-ICW also attached a link to a report where a screenshot of the printed material was published.

This was just among the methods or strategies the Filipino people employed during Martial Law to protest the atrocities and oppression during that period, the institute said.

These activities later culminated during the four-day demonstrations along EDSA, historically known as the People Power Revolution or EDSA People Power, in February 1986.

‘Sulatin mo ang totoo’

In line with the event’s 36th anniversary, the UP-ICW then encouraged the people to be more vigilant against any attempts for fake news and historical revisionism on online platforms.

“Hanggang ngayon, maparaan tayo sa ating paglaban. Facebook post o tweet man, sa blog man o sa pahina ng isang koleksyon, sa rally man o sa chikahan—ipinapahayag natin ang boses ng mamamayang Pilipino. Malaking bagay ito sa panahon ng fake news at historical revisionism,” the post said.

The institute further stressed the importance of fact-checking information.

“Ngayong anibersaryo ng People Power, tandaan natin na may free data man tayo o wala, kaya nating mag-fact check at ipaglaban ang katotohanan,” the UP-ICW said.

It quoted Lacaba in saying: “Sulatin mo ang mga nangyayari. Sulatin mo ang totoo.”