Grace, Grief and Loss, Love Actually, Taking A Stand

Remembering Martial Law (2) — Tina Pargas Bawagan, activist and teacher

The Martial Law (ML) years produced innumerable losses resulting in grief untold, and grief that continues to linger many decades after. Loss of loved ones, loss of self, of property, of identity are only some of the few losses that came out of that dark period.

Early this year, knowing that the country would mark ML’s 40th anniversary, I decided to immerse my Ateneo grief students in the losses of the era for the entire month of September. The final product of that immersion would be to create a 5-10 minute video interview with a family member of an ML martyr.

The challenge I posed to my students was for them to tell the ML stories in a manner which their generation could easily appreciate and understand. It saddens me to note that there is so much misconception among young people today about what ML truly was.

Perhaps the fact that it is not taught in schools as part of the curriculum adds to the ignorance that continues to grow the farther away we find ourselves from the ML years. The fact that EDSA ’86 is only a concept to most of today’s youth, how much more that darkest period in our history?

Many of us have forgotten, but those who lived through it and lost loved ones have not, and they will never. Those who lived to survive and tell the tales of the horrors they experienced will forever bear the marks of those terrible days of incarceration and torture.

In our own little way, this is my students way re-telling the stories and remembering and speaking to their own generation about the period that was. It is our hope that these video-narratives will be used by educators to teach about the period,  by the families who survived the hell of ML to remember what bravery and courage they all have, and lastly as a small testament to all those who gave up their lives so that one day we could all be free.

I first heard of Tina Pargas Bawagan around eight years ago while I was still editing a women’s magazine. We had a run a contest for high school students in search of inspiring teachers. Tina’s student wrote a beautiful essay honoring her bravery, her courage and her nurturing ways.

Truly an amazing woman and teacher, her journey into activism is an inspiring story of courage. Today, Tina teaches some of the country’s brightest high school students at the Philippine Science High School.

Tina’s losses go beyond losing a much-loved husband at the age of 24, 40 years later she remembers still, the searing loss and difficulties of having to leave family in order to fight for freedom.

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