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Figuring out why Martial Law education remains neglected in PHL curricula

Martial Law, a major era in Philippine history, is still not talked enough about in schools. The rise of falsehoods about that dark period only highlights the need to fix this.

“Never Forget, Never Again” serves as the battlecry of those against Martial Law and Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s regime—arguably one of the darkest periods of Philippine history. Yet it seems that it is seemingly being forgotten, even in classrooms. 

The abolishment of the history subject in highschool curricula by DepEd in the year 2015 does not help this case either, making matters worse is the role of social media as the leading medium for misinformation and disinformation nowadays. These untrue narratives leave the question of where the history of Martial Law is in the present Philippine setting, amid falsehoods and the lack of proper education. 

Present-day reflections from another perspective 

Maria Jodelyn Urata, an elementary teacher from St. Paul University of Tuguegarao City, emphasizes how students only knew a handful of facts regarding Martial Law. 

“Aside from that the topics included in the Grade 5 curriculum,  only talked of the negative aspects of Martial Law.” Furthering on her answer, Urata explains that she believes that there must be no bias in a discussion regarding Martial Law, sharing both sides of the story.

“In Araling Panlipunan [of the fifth grade], sad to say that only [a] few details were discussed like [how] Martial Law was proclaimed by the late President Marcos [and how] Martial Law made many people suffer from poverty and injustice,” she mentions, which she thinks is biased. “I believe…there were more disadvantages as narrated in the books, [but] there are also advantages. Sadly, this was never mentioned,” she continues.

When asked how she, her colleagues, or the Department of Education can improve Martial Law education in classrooms, she admits that she has little to no power regarding the implementation of changes in the curriculum. “But as a teacher, it is my duty to improve and [to] check some gathered data which were irrelevant in the books circulated in the field,” the elementary teacher concludes. 

In the perspective of Marie* (II, CAM), as she talks about her experiences in learning about Martial law from DLSU, “I can say that my knowledge on Martial Law is sufficient enough. However, due to the revisionist narrative we currently are experiencing, many downplay what happened. I have heard students saying we should ‘move on’ and mention the ‘contributions’ of Marcos as a counterargument. We need better education about the atrocities of this period more than ever,” she states. 

Stretching the political nuance

As of late, the University of the Philippines has spearheaded efforts to provide Martial Law education to its students. Francisco Jayme Guiang, assistant professor in the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy in the University of the Philippines Diliman, shares that Philippine history textbooks are improving in showing the full context of Martial Law, “Textbooks that are published by big textbook publishers are so neutral that they are unable to present essential facts,” he points out. “For example, data economic mismanagement, human rights violations [are] minsan absent sa mga textbooks because the treatment is so objective and [probably] because textbook authors and publishing [offices] find the topic so controversial.”

Suggesting approaches to how Martial Law should be taught, Guiang stresses the importance of how teachers and professors must rely on the analysis and interpretation of primary sources, rather than memorization. Furthermore, he states that deeper analysis could enable students to value the subject. 

Beyond general knowledge and information about Martial Law, Guiang also shares that several courses in his university tackle the cultural relevance of activism, resistance, and underground movements. When asked about how these concepts are being taught, he posits that “the thrust [of the subjects focuses] on literature in different literary works in fiction, but also nonfiction works over three memoirs, [a] biography, and primary sources about the dictatorship.” 

Undoing the erasure of history

Philippine historian and DLSU Department of History Professor Dr. Jose Victor Torres also communicates his insights on Martial Law education in institutions. According to Torres, one of the problems that the students of DLSU face is that it is “not taken in fully” since the topic itself is only presented in one trimester of a student’s school life. 

“Everyone knows the basics of Martial Law, that it was declared by Marcos in 1972, so on and so forth, but they don’t know the entire nuances and tiny nuances of history,” he details. “We don’t understand why people would vote for another Marcos in spite of everything that we learned about them. We should, of course, understand the implications of martial law.” 

Torres also brings up the value of having instructors who are “well-versed” in the entire topic of Martial Law, with knowledge on the side of both Marcos and the opposition to fully know the events of history and its significance. “The reason [why] you have to teach Martial Law is that you have to tell them that this thing happened and changed our very lives,” he emphasizes. 

With UP expanding their education on Martial Law through the available subjects of learning in film and ADMU establishing a museum regarding Martial Law, DLSU followed suit with the University Student Government (USG) proposing a Martial Law general education subject alongside DLSU’s previous seminars and lectures on the topic. To concretize support from the student body, a survey was administered online to check students’ interest in a Martial Law elective. 

Evidently, DLSU is behind its fellow college institutions when it comes to Martial Law education—with only the recent proposal coming to light. Torres suggests that the subject must contain proper conceptualization of its syllabus and expected learning outcomes. The LaSallian has since reached out to the USG for additional comments on their plans on fulfilling a Martial Law subject, but did not receive a response. 

*Name with asterisk (*) is a pseudonym

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