REVIEW: The construction of so many stories

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NOTICE: The construction of so many stories
Caroline Sy Hau and Patricio N. Abinales

review of O Suzanne! Untold Stories of Martial Law in Davao
Edited by Macario D. Tiu
Publications Office of Ateneo University of Davao, 2016. 326 p.

Between the early 1970s and early 1980s, the two-story wood and concrete Susana Building along JP Laurel Avenue in Davao City was instrumental in creating a community of ” service providers ”(to use Cesar Ledesma’s term) who have led not only civic, religious, artistic and development projects in Mindanao but also surface opposition to the Marcos dictatorship.

Edited by eminent scholar, activist and creative writer, Macario D. Tiu, O Suzanne! brings together the stories of these residents, who called themselves “Susanistas” and were active in religious, corporate, artistic and civil society organizations who shared offices in this building.

While underground resistance to the Marcos dictatorship is well known and documented by academic studies and memoirs, the activism on the surface, especially by faith-based community organizers and cultural workers, has received less attention.

On one particular day, you saw Karl Gaspar exchanging gossip with Chito Ayala, or Nanay Soleng Duterte then berating Councilor “Nonoy” Garcia for not acting quickly on his proposal to have cycle lanes along the main streets of the city. town and ask Rey Teves and Jess Dureza what their plans were for student activists now that it was rumored that martial law could be declared at any time.

Susana’s “elders” also include Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez, Jr. of the Philippine Banana Producers and Exporters Association; Alfredo “Freddy Salanga” from the Banana Export Industry Foundation; Paul Dominguez and Ernie Garilao of Philippine Business for Social Progress; Orlando “Orly” Carvajal of the Mindanao-Sulu Social Action Secretariat and the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference Secretariat; Inday Santiago from the Davao Organizations Coordinating Council; and Nelly Lanorias of Konsumo Davao, to name a few, who would continue to play an important role in government and post-EDSA society.

What is remarkable is how comfortable these people were with each other, despite their class, ethnic, political and religious differences. O Suzanne! makes a compelling argument for the crucial role played by networks that transcend sectoral and ideological lines in connecting people to a common cause in the darkest hours of martial law.

But what does O Suzanne! Particular is the liveliness and vigor with which contributors, some of whom are writing for the first time, tell their own stories of fact-finding missions in heavily militarized areas, of working closely with indigenous peoples and their communities, and artistic promotion through writing and theater workshops.

Marilen Abesamis writes with emotion that she found “love and laughter” amid the “new normal” of “murders, grenades falling in bus stations, skirmishes in public places and clashes between the New People’s Army (NPA) and government forces in the countryside ”. Joey Ayala makes his first album, Kaya nauna in Panganay ng Umaga, in the DEMS recording studio. Wilfredo Rodriguez leads the training sessions which allow parishioners to publish their own newsletter.

Revealing details abound. When Orly Carvajal, who helped establish the Christians for National Liberation, receives a “polite invitation” to the local military camp, he is informed by the commanding general that the suggestion to subject him to a “tactical interrogation” comes from his ” compatriot of the fabric. ”Cesar Ledesma remembers a conversation with a“ courteous and gentle ”military officer who negotiates the surrender of one of the main Muslim rebels, only to learn the next day that the officer was killed in an ambush.

O Suzanne! is a memorial to the living and the dead. Karl Gaspar, himself detained for 22 months, pays tribute to Amasona like sisters Regina Pil and Christine Tan who are not afraid to speak out and help the families of the “missing, imprisoned, tortured and ‘saved’”. Jeanette Birondo-Goddard and Avelina Baliong-Engen honor the memory of Buyog (Manuel Ando), who connects the Citizen Justice and Peace Council to the Paquibato District datus to avoid a pangayaw aimed at avenging the intrusion into the ancestral Ata domain and the kidnappings and killings of Ata Manobo by armed groups allegedly employed by a friend of Marcos.

These heartfelt testimonials have only grown in intensity and urgency since the volume’s publication five years ago, because, as some contributors have rightly pointed out, many Filipinos have forgotten or don’t know what it looked like. life under the Marcos regime. “But”, in the words of Tranquilino Cabarrubias (translated by Alberto Cacayan): “my heart is certain of one thing / In a surge of pure courage / You will continue until freedom is achieved.”

And what to do with the following account of Léon Bolcan, former staff member of MISSSA and member of the National Left Alliance, following his third arrest and torture:

Alas 2:00 his hapon, miabot if vice-mayor [Rodrigo] Duterte sakai to your Willys is a sakyanan. Ug tuod man, nakagawas mi dala ang among ug bakpak lulan handbags in iyang sakyanan. Iya ming gidala in Sangguniang Panglunsod. Naa didtoy taga media nga mo-cover unta sa maong panghitabo apan iya kining gipugngan. Gipasulod mi niya in your opisina ug gilektyuran. “Mga gahi kamog ulo. Kusog ang bagyo. Pasilong una mo kay kusog ang ulan. Mabasa gyod mo. Mora mig manok nga nabasa sa ulan nga nagpasalamat kang vice-mayor Duterte. They were named in the opinion, disregarded the opinion of Task Force Detainees (TFD) in the Juna, Matina, Davao City subdivision and are among the best.

It was no secret to many in Davao that Duterte enjoyed good relations with the left as well as with other anti-Marcos groups. This facet of Duterte’s character has received only superficial attention from academics, political analysts, and public intellectuals in their accounts of his presidency. We suspect that this oversight may be due to the fact that there was little data to work with. It doesn’t help that many in Duterte’s studies industry don’t speak Tagalog Visayan or Davao, and that they haven’t spent a lot of time or two in Davao.

Bolcan’s story is revealing as this is the first time that this “bromance” (in today’s millennial jargon) has been fully exposed. It was certainly not the only case. This certainly complicates Duterte’s image as a strong man.

Ultimately, Susana shows that there is more than meets the eye when we take a closer look at Davao City life, society, and politics in the 1970s and 1980s. Davao University Press’s Ateneo has a Facebook account dedicated to the book launched in 2016. Listening to the writers – older, grayer, wiser – you can’t help but realize even today that the “thing” that makes Davao City unique and legendary as a political arena is still very much present. Those interested in Duterte’s study will find in this book some answers to the question of why we are living such a dire life under the sixteenth President of the Philippines.

(Caroline Sy Hau and Patricio N. Abinales are faculty members of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University and the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, respectively. . Abinales is from the city of Ozamiz)

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