I read something this morning (via Fran Wilde on Twitter) and have little more to say about it than to urge you to read it to. It’s from Filipino writer Dimas Ilaw, and it’s called “After a Revolution.”
The revolution there is not a metaphor. Ilaw was born just before the People Power revolution of 1986 that pushed the dictator Ferdinand Marcos out of power after years of brutal martial law. When Ilaw was older, they lived through another revolution, in 2001, which ousted the corrupt movie star-turned-politician Joseph Estrada.
But this essay isn’t just about life after a revolution, but about life before the next one and the price that will be paid whether or not it comes. It’s about life between revolutions.
It’s a beautifully written, courageous, insightful, astonishing thing. And at this moment in history, it seems urgently important.
I’m excerpting a snippet here to entice you to click through and read the entire thing.
We don’t talk further about the corpses, how the killers put their victims on display with cardboard signs on bloodied bodies, saying: drug pusher. Addict ako. Murderers making corpses confess so-called sins to justify their deaths. My friend and I know all this; we know, too, what this means. It’s a warning to anyone who speaks out. This could easily be you, the signs say. And no one will question your murder, because your posthumous cardboard confession already marks you as deserving.
My friend and I talk, instead, about how to be careful. As if being careful will save us.
Sometimes I wonder if my mother, like so many parents of her generation, did not tell me about her fear during martial law to protect me, as one shields a child’s eyes from roadkill and bloody accidents on the streets. Sometimes I wish I had known more, that others like me had known more. Perhaps we would be fighting harder now. Perhaps we would be speaking.
These days all we can do is whisper.
“Ingat ka, please,” I tell my friend.
This is how they used to say goodbye in martial law. Take care.
Here is a secret that is not a secret. Here is a curse that is not a curse. Revolutions are not redemption. They will not save you, just as ours did not save us back in 1896, or 1986, or 2001.
It is not that revolutions are useless; it is that they are not enough. And, perhaps, that is what damns us: we give everything we have, blood and fire and all our screaming voices, and after that it is still not over—we still have to go on, to carry our country through the painful process of rebuilding and rooting out diseases infesting our systems and finding better ways to be just, and fair, and kind, which is an even longer, more difficult trial, for all that it is less lit by fire.