MANILA — A team from Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), one of the premier academic institutions in the Philippines, recently launched an interactive ‘online museum’ in their effort to educate the public on late Ferdinand Marcos’ reign as Philippine President and his implementation of Martial Lawwhich runs for another decade. Still in Beta versionthe site is easily accessible to everyone through any up-to-date internet browsers and is free from charge.
The team says that what triggered them into creating the website was the burial of the dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani(Heroes Cemetery). They added that another motivating factor was the near victory of Bongbong Marcos during the 2016 elections, son of the late president turned dictator.
The establishment of the website sealed Ateneo’s commitment against rampant dissemination of false information on Martial Law years in social media and other digital platforms, a frequent practice today. Fernando Aldaba, dean of AdMU School of Social Sciences, said in an interview with Philippine Daily Inquirer that the museum is their “community response” against revisionism of facts from the dark 14-year dictatorial rule of Marcos.
The website has three interactive ‘tabs’: Mag-aral, Magturo, and Manindigan. The Mag-aral contains the digital library which is divided into four more key sections: the beginnings of martial law, martial law in the Philippines, the end of martial law, and lessons of martial law has. It includes news clips, scanned news reports, and explanation of Bagong Lipunan or New Society campaign in which the former ruler promised to the Filipinos. Marcos’ speeches, his massive network of cronies, the heroes who fought martial law, as well as a list of things Imelda Marcos left in Malacañang Palace are presented in this main educational piece. Joshua Uyheng, the project’s head of research, says in an interview that they took a chronological approach in presenting data and information under the Mag-aral tab.
Magturo library provides an extensive content of teaching materials tailored for K-12 teachers. It includes an array of history videos, lesson plans, and workbooks where an exercise requires students to compare the amount of particular stolen Marcos wealth to a number of school buildings or books. The project aims to integrate the modules to the current curriculum of basic education as well.
Manindigan, “is a call to move beyond the classroom, for students to do more than just learn the facts of martial law; for teachers to do more than teach the facts of martial law. It’s to take a stand with us,” says Uyheng. Under this category they are eyeing Martial Law Museum Awards next year, where high school students from across the Philippines are encouraged to join and use art or literature as a means to express the value of martial law history.
In a keynote speech at the launch of the online museum, history professor Maria Serena Diokno, daughter of human rights advocate and martial law victim Senator Jose “Pepe” Diokno, said that the dichotomy is out there in the public arena and to deny its existence is to fool ourselves into a state of mindless oblivion or deliberate forgetfulness.
Diokno added that the present that we live in compels the Filipinos to remember the country’s past, that whatever they’ve have established is not a “mere pocket of memory” but an entire boundless “chamber of remembrance” that educates, empowers and offers hope. The museum demonstrates that there are Filipinos who will not remain silent either about the past or about the “creeping authoritarianism” of the present.
The group of educators and learners behind the project were able to gather hundreds of information from different interviews and intergenerational initiative, which means that all the information in the website is a collaborative effort among past and present generations, academic institutions, and civil society groups that all aim to present the truth about the dictatorship.
However on the ground, it’s a different scenario. On its launch, the website immediately faced attacks after news organizations published their stories regarding the digital museum. Opposing narratives which mostly came from internet trolls hit the content and creator of Martial Law Museum, flooding the posts with shallow arguments and baseless accusations to the victims of the regime. Some even accused the missing student activists with treason, and many expressed their agreement through likes and ‘heart’ reactions.
But this wasn’t the first time they encountered them, ”when we were doing this initiative, we already encountered trolls. They come from, perhaps, the other camp, sa mga Marcoses. They try to mock us, bash us. That’s the number one challenge [so far],” said Arjan Aguirre, Project Director of Martial Law Museum in an interview with CNN Philippines.
In the Philippines, about 58% — or 60 million of the total population has access to the internet with more than half of all the online traffic now comes from mobile. When Filipinos go online, they tend to roam around, specifically for 9 hours every day on average which 4 hours and 17 minutes of it is dedicated to social media — the highest in the world. (We Are Social, 2017) And the social media capital is likely to consume more data after Facebook launched its Free Basics program through internet.org, providing access to those who can’t afford internet bundles.
Under Facebook’s free mobile internet project, the company partnered with local carriers Globe Telecom and SMART Communications so users can conveniently use the basic version of the platform through data connection, which in normal circumstances are charged per day or per data. While its free, the program was largely rejected in other developing countries due to it’s peddling limited access.
Despite the popularity of mobile internet in the country, it is among the slowest and most expensive in Asia. But with projects like Free Basics, Filipinos can scroll and use it all day long, but that also means consuming fake stories embedded in their timelines and fact checking would just add up to the data and additional cost.
The most significant changes have occurred only since the 1990s with the World Wide Web, the smart phone and social media. What is genuinely novel with the internet in a democratic perspective is that it cancelled the social division between speakers and listeners of the public sphere and made everyone into potential participants in numerous public interactions and debates, without cancelling the possibility of communication in an expanded space. Through blogs, YouTube and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, the public has transformed itself into narrators, reporters, editors and broadcasters (Davis, 2009).
At the end of the day it became hard for Filipinos to know what to believe in after they’re bombarded daily with salacious tales about the critics of the current administration and Marcos rule, and propaganda from pressing issues that needs substantial reference to be proven true. Unfortunately helpful materials that would enlighten them are beyond the boundaries of Free Basics program.
Aguirre adds that another challenge is the pessimism of some people who feel that it is useless to have this initiative, ”we have encountered people who are so clear about that sentiment [where] they feel that it’s so senseless to have this talk again about martial law,” he explains. “We try to address these issues by making sure that this initiative will be inclusive enough to engage people, narratives; to know things, to know those claims objectively.”
The opposing narratives are what the newly launched online seeks to address. While the platform is not purely about Ferdinand Marcos and his family, the information goes beyond the reign. The initiative is not just against a person, as Aguirre describe it, “it’s more of an initiative to engage a phenomenon called dictatorship or authoritarian rule,” he says. “We are here to commit ourselves to those things that are usually affected … by authoritarian rule: human rights, democracy, freedom, individual dignity, etc.”
Despite the attacks and hauntings from the pessimists and Marcos apologist on the goal of the project, the creation of the Martial Law Museum exemplifies that even when there are people who deny the atrocities of dictatorial rule and want the memories of martial law to disappear into neglect, there will always be Filipinos who will not be silenced by using new platforms like online museums.
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Enano, Jhesset. 2017. Ateneo starts martial law ‘online museum’ to counter revisionism. Retrieved from http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/931327/ateneo-starts-martial-law-online-museum-to-counter-revisionism#ixzz4tYO722GK
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Ladrido, Portia. 2017. An online museum that immortalizes years of martial rule. Retrieved from http://cnnphilippines.com/life/culture/2017/09/19/martial-law-museum-launch.html
CNN Philippines: http://cnnphilippines.com
Martial Law Museum: http://martiallawmuseum.ph
Philippine Daily Inquirer: http://inquirer.net
We Are Social Singapore: http://wearesocial.org