Historical revisionism

    ‘…what some of us see as a rewriting of history is seen by some others as just a correction in the rewriting that was done by the victors after EDSA 1986. The writing – and the rewriting – is definitely far from being over and done.’

    HISTORY,” Sir Winston Churchill is supposed to have said, “is written by the victors.” When Ferdinand Marcos and his immediate family (and some nurses and some diaper boxes and some suitcases that had more than just clothes in them) were packed off into US Air Force planes and taken to Hawaii, anyone could predict what was coming: the excesses of the Marcos years would be revealed, their family name would be besmirched forever, and the Philippines would never welcome again any politician or family that would look at political power as a means to enrich themselves.

    The Aquino years would inspire a rewriting of the story of the Marcos years (1965-1986) and that chapter would be closed, forever.

    Today, 56 years after the elder Marcos won his first four-year term as President, 49 years after he declared Martial Law, 40 years after he lifted it, 38 years after his political archenemy was gunned down in cold blood at the Manila International Airport tarmac, 35 years after he was flown into exile, and 28 years after he passed away in Hawaii, many Filipinos are taking a second look at Ferdinand Marcos, using lenses that the Aquino years never prescribed.

    It seems that any of the rewriting of the history of the years of the “New Society” by the Aquino government never sunk in. Or perhaps it seems that the readers of that history – as written by the “victors,” – has not been as broadly accepted. Instead, today there is a sense of foreboding among the political heirs of the Aquino struggle against Marcos that what they had tried to painstakingly show to the Filipino as fact is now more often being seen as fiction.

    The point is this. History may always be subject to being written by victors, but the writing must be based on facts. But then, as many people will interpret or value the same historical fact in as many different ways. Was Martial Law really declared to save Philippine society from falling into the hands of communists in an age of dominoes? Or was it declared mainly to perpetuate one man in office?

    History also is not static, and many times the passing of time provides people a different perspective from that of those involved in the moment. Interpretations are influenced by distance, and the dominant interpretation today may not be the dominant one tomorrow.

    Many of my father’s generation, for example, swore to never forgive the Japanese for their occupation of the Philippines. That generation is now almost gone; the new generation no longer feels that way. And the same could very well apply to the story of the Marcoses.

    If history is indeed written by the victors, and if the EDSA Revolution of 1986 was indeed a victory of democracy over dictatorship, and if the political winds these days seem to indicate a perspective that no longer sees EDSA 1986 in the same light, then it only means that someone didn’t do a good job in the writing of that part of our history.

    For sure, what some of us see as a rewriting of history is seen by some others as just a correction in the rewriting that was done by the victors after EDSA 1986.

    The writing – and the rewriting – is definitely far from being over and done.