SDSU community protests the Philippine government on the 50th anniversary of martial law

Through visual, spoken and multimedia art, San Diegans call for reparations for martial law atrocities


Photo Courtesy Eliana Allize

A student speaks to a crowd during the Speak Out for Truth rally at Seafood City.

by KT Devera , Contributor

On Sept. 20, dozens of Filipinos and allies gathered at Seafood City to proudly protest against the Marcos-Duterte regime in light of the 50th Anniversary of martial law in the Philippines.

A sculpture of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the current president of the Philippines, was on one side of the stage dressed in a clean barong (a Philippine dress shirt). On the opposite side was a sculpture of Philippines’ former president and Marcos Jr.’s father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., who was dressed in a bloodied “barong,” decorated with images of his crimes against humanity. This creative display showed them waving at those passing by, one with a blood-covered hand; the other holding a bloody knife with an iron fist. 

An display of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in front of Seafood City during the Speak Out for Truth rally. (Photo Courtesy Eliana Allize)

Anakbayan San Diego and Malaya Movement San Diego (two organizations that support freedom and democracy in the Philippines) hosted this event. A compilation of music and art presented the stories and experiences of martial law victims. This was set up to highlight the previous Marcos regime and show a rejection of the one currently standing.

Celine Milla, a fourth year Urban Studies major and chairperson of the San Diego Anakbayan chapter, was one of the major people who helped plan the Speak Out for Truth rally. 

“If you look at the Philippines in the 1970s and you look at it now, they’re still facing the same problems of poverty, inflation, joblessness, and inaccessibility to health care,” said Milla. 

During Marcos Sr.’s martial law, the Philippines had undergone massive corruption. The country was driven to extreme debts, which lead to an inefficient industry. There was also a spike in unemployment that affected the quality of life for people. Thousands of pro-democracy activists, political rivals of the former president and innocent civilians were imprisoned, tortured, and even killed under his rule. All the while, the Marcoses indulged in luxury and excessive spending.

The regime was dismantled in 1986 by the democratic People Power Revolution, which forced the Marcoses into exile. Now in 2022, the Philippine people have elected the late dictator’s son into office. According to CNN reports, this action was attributed to the erasing of that era in Philippine history. In addition, Marcos Jr. appealed to supporters of former president Rodrigo Duterte, by appointing his daughter to be vice president. 

Survivors of martial law and democratic critics worry that President “Bongbong” will continue the inhumanity that his father had left and what Duterte had reinforced. No apologies have been given to martial law survivors and little to no reparations have been handed out.

Third year political science major Michael Vargas, was one of the many speakers at the event who was also a part of Anakbayan’s development committee. 

“We need to make sure that the true history of martial law is being told not only in schools but in our family and friend circles as well, because education goes beyond academia,” said Vargas.  “We never forget, because history should not be repeating itself again.” 

Vargas made the point that despite many Filipino Americans feeling that making a difference for the Motherland seems futile, ancestry and “kababayan” can bridge their people back together. 

“There are a lot of people here who don’t identify as Filipino, so we really love to see that allyship. It shows how the passion for human rights goes beyond our identities,” said Vargas.

“We really want to build that international solidarity throughout all our struggles with all people and all oppressed people.”

The event welcomed Eliana Allize, a San Diego State Alumni who identifies as Nicaragüense American, who was there as a photographer for Anakbayan.

“Support and transnational solidarity is the best way to be able to create a movement,” said Allize. “Regardless of who you are and what your nationality is, it’s important to fight against imperialism all over the world because it can happen anywhere.”

In addition to the effigy, many other artistic venues expressed the movement’s messages and were showcased through videos, dance, spoken word poetry, photographs and songs. 

A student sings to the crowd while another plays the guitar during the Speak Out for Truth rally. (Photo Courtesy Eliana Allize)

“I hope people are able to take away the stories that they learned today and can feel inspired to take some kind of action,” said Milla. “Whether that means joining an organization, creating artwork or just talking to our families about the reasons as to why we’re here.”

Anakbayan San Diego plans to continue protesting the Marcos-Duterte leadership through travel, art exhibits, film screenings and other hosted events. With next month being Filipinx-American heritage month, Anakbayan and many other Filipinx activists urge people of all backgrounds to partake in their events to further educate themselves about Philippine history.