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Remembering the dictator and honoring the activist in 'Himagsik at Protesta'

A rusty typewriter is the first thing you’ll see when you descend the stairs to the Filipiniana section of the University of the Philippines Main Library, where the exhibit “Himagsik at Protesta” is being held. 
The typewriter once belonged to Jose Burgos Jr., the iconic journalist who ran several opposition publications in a period when the press was strictly controlled by the Marcos administration.
Those who understand Burgos’ contribution to the fight against Martial Law will be thrilled to behold the very instrument upon which Burgos’ fingers once padded away, spewing ideas that were, at that time, as dangerous as they were liberating.
The legendary writer was among the group of Martial Law heroes who were honored and remembered at the exhibit, which opened Friday evening.  
“This is to remember Martial Law, the dictator, the terror,” said Karapatan secretary-general Tinay Palabay.
“But more importantly, we want to give tribute to the ‘fire-starters,’ those who imbued with the courage, creativity and daring of the Filipino people’s struggle, those who led the way and offered their lives in the fight against tyranny, oppression, and for national freedom and democracy,” she added.
These “fire-starters” themselves and their own families contributed much of the material at the exhibit, so that the display was as authentic as it could get.
Other items on display are an assortment of old vinyl records by musician-activists such as Jess Santiago, who played one of his songs at the launch.
There are vintage cameras and an old television, where once, perhaps, a family watched as Ferdinand Marcos spoke the words that would place the country in what most say was the darkest period in our recent history.
There are paintings, poems and essays by activists who experienced Martial Law, and even some who didn’t, but feel its effects to this day. There are posters as well, crying out for justice for those who were slain, not only then, but now.
For instance, a poster decrying the murders of Italian priests in Mindanao, Fr. Tullo Favali in 1985, and Fr. Fausto Tentorio in 2011, hung alongside each other, as if to say that the problem of extrajudicial killings is as relevant today as it was in the Marcos era.
The collection of curios on display at the exhibit are so varied that they barely make sense at first, but their significance suddenly screams when one sees the old newspaper clipping that seems to be the center of the entire exhibit.
Smack in the center of a collage of crusty pages is a now-defunct weekly with the headline “FM declares Martial Law” in big, black letters that seemed to jump off the yellowed page.
This piece, placed in the center of the room, seemed to be the point that the rest of the exhibit pieces revolved around and revolted against a single event that sparked the chain of uprising surrounding it.
Palabay told GMA News Online that the exhibit is meant to explain Martial Law to the youth of today who were not around to witness and experience that period in history. She also said in many ways, very little has changed from the Martial Law era to the present day.
“Sa tingin namin mahalaga na manatiling buhay ‘yung spirit nung paglaban nung panahon ng martial law dahil itong spirit na ‘to ng tapang, ng pagbibigay ng commitment, ng pagbibigay ng lakas at talino lalo na nung mga kabataan nung panahon ng martial law, malaki ang nagawa nito para mapabagsak ‘yung diktaturang US-Marcos,” Palabay said.
“’Yung mga issues noon nung panahon ng Martial Law, nananatili pa rin hanggang ngayon… You need not enumerate kung ano ‘yung mga similarities sa panahon ng martial law sa kasalukuyan…human rights violations, kahirapan. Eto sa tingin ko, nagpapatuloy pa hanggang ngayon. Kailangan mamulat ng kabataan,” she explained.
Legendary political activist and former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo told GMA News Online that while the exhibit may have its limitations, it’s a good way for the youth to get an idea of what it was like 40 years ago.
“May limitasyon ‘yung mga mementos, pero palagay ko maganda-ganda ng batayan para sa isang hindi nakaranas ng panahon ng Martial Law na magka-ideya  siya ano ang nangyari sa panahon na ‘yun,” he said.
Ocampo added, “Siempre kinakailangan meron pagsasaliwanag dun sa mga nakaranas para mapalalim ang pag-unawa nila mula dun sa mga visual display.” –KG, GMA News
"Himagsik at Protesta" will run until Sept. 21, 2012.