September 21, 2008
Reference: Valerie Francisco, Chairperson, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment
(FiRE), (925) 726-5768, email


New York, NY–In the middle of a busy Saturday at the Filipino community hub of
Woodside, Queens, a younger generation of Filipino Americans gathered to hear the stories of a different generation. The generation that lived through a dark chapter in Philippine History, Martial Law, helped piece together a story that sometimes is easier to forget.

Bebot Galvan, a member of KABALIKAT Domestic Workers Support, was one of the guest speakers of the event organized by a Filipino women’s organization,
Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE). Galvan started the sharing by telling the crowd that we “can’t remember Martial Law without remembering family, friends and comrades.” Galvan recounted the added dangers women had to face under Martial Law, detention meant sexual torture and rape under the hands of the fascist government. She went on to tell about the blatant injustices perpetrated by the Marcos regime to the common Filipino people: the curfews, the lack of freedom of speech and press, constant surveillance, to say the least.

Another invited speaker was Ramon Mappala, a former detainee during arbitrary sweeps of Martial Law, shared his experiences as a student at the University of the Philippines in Baguio City and how activism on campus was an invitation for government scrutiny. He told the younger generation that gatherings like the one we were having would be warrant enough for arrest and detention. As the young people in the audience looked around in disbelief, Mappala insisted that any critical stances of the government was undoubtedly punished.

Thirty-six years ago today, on September 21, 1972, Ferdinand Marcos, the former
US-supported dictator of the Philippines, declared Martial Law in the
Philippines. And today, the historical trauma of that period and the continuation of backwards economic and political policies still resonate. Both Galvan and Mappala commented on the state of Martial Law and its continuation throughout the years.

Galvan stated, “Martial law hasn’t ended at all. Martial law has existed through Marcos, Aquino, Ramos, Estrada and especially Macapagal-Arroyo.” The height of the human rights violations in the Marcos dictatorship has been surpassed by the Macapagal-Arroyo regime in her 7 years in office, GMA’s record has a over thousand violations reported in 2008. GMA’s eagerness to bend over backwards to the dictates of United States politics and its IMF/World Bank appendages have outdone the assaults of Marcos on his own people.

“Martial law still exists because those in power during Marcos’ administration is still in seats of power,” said Mappala, “But the difference today is the government don’t care to make excuses for disappearing activists.” The disappearance of 2 young women, students at the University of the Philippines and activists, Sheryl Cadapan and Karen Empeno, doing field research with famers in 2006 is evidence to the brutality of state repression under the Arroyo regime.

This inter-generational exchange ultimately led to the question: how has Martial Law affected subsequent generations, especially those Filipinos born in the US? Jackie Mariano, the educational officer of FiRE, stated, “Our lives as Filipinos in the US are connected to Philippine history and current struggles as the US-Philippine regimes come closer and closer together.”

GMA’s policy of political repression, foreign diplomacy and economic strategies mimic the very steps that Ferdinand Marcos to drive the Philippine into unending debt and social unrest. Despite, these odds, in an afternoon commemorating the deaths and disappeared during the Martial Law era, these generations of Filipinos in the US came together to also remember the resilience of the Filipino people.

“Remembering our history through the experiences of members in our community is the best way learn,” Mariano added, “As FilAms we have inherited this history and the right to change our future.”

Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) is a mass-based women’s organization serving New York City and its surrounding areas. We connect the Filipino diaspora to the women’s struggle in the Philippines. By bringing woman-born and woman-identified people together, we challenge pervading stereotypes and create self-defined Filipina identities. For more information, please visit .

FiRE is a proud member of BAYAN-USA, an alliance of progressive Filipino groups
in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. To learn more about the only overseas chapter of BAYAN, and the other organizations in our alliance, please visit


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