… Ferdinand Marcos not only imposed a brutal dictatorship on the Philippines, he also forced the people to celebrate their loss of freedom. He declared September 21, the date he proclaimed martial law, a “national day of thanksgiving”. Ostensibly, the holiday was to commemorate the country’s deliverance from communism. But the regime which Marcos created was dedicated to only two things: feathering the nests of the ruler and his cronies, and snuffing out all opposition. From 1972 until 1986, when the dictator was finally chased out of the country, his infamous “New Society” murdered, tortured and robbed as it pleased. The Philippine poverty rate, 24 per cent in 1974, jumped to 40 per cent in 1980. The Marcos family looted the national coffers of billions of dollars. While it is true that Philippine politics was already corrupt before Marcos arrived, his dictatorship rewrote the rules and perverted all the country’s institutions.
But we can remain American in that way, optimistic and hopeful. Unlike the Philippines I knew growing up, we have freedom. Freedom to speak our minds, to criticize the government and those in power, to worship the god of our choosing, to live true to our selves. We have a working democracy, rule of law, and hard as it is to believe, a functioning albeit faltering economic system. We have a broad middle class. Now we have leadership we can trust, believe in, and work with. We have a future.
My parents, brother and I, along with hundreds of thousands of other Filipinos finally rose up against the Marcos regime because we no longer had hope and little to thank for. We immigrated to the United States because it offered opportunity, freedom, equality and hope. It still does. And we are thankful indeed.