By Raïssa Robles
Last night in my brief acceptance speech for Marcos Martial Law: Never Again winning the National Book Awards, I said:
We – the author, the editor Alan Robles, the publisher Filipinos for a Better Philippines represented by Attorney Braulio Tansinsin and Attorney Boogie Rodrigo, son of the late Senator Soc Rodrigo – are deeply grateful for this award especially because it is an award for NON-FICTION PROSE in English.
We produced this book as a reminder to everyone, including the unborn generations, that giving up our freedoms at the behest of a leader – no matter how charismatic and full of promises – exacts a terrible price on the nation.
The National Book Awards is the Oscars of the publishing industry. One is essentially judged by peers.
What makes the award so special is that we did not really expect to win. To get short-listed in the Non-Fiction Prose in English category was vindication enough.
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Let me now use this occasion to share with you the “Thank You” page of my book, which enabled me to finish the manuscript and put the book through production in one year, even as the research took decades.
A book like this needs lots of helping hands, especially when written in a Third World, resource-challenged country like the Philippines.
My thanks to my husband Alan who, as the book editor, conceptualized the entire book down to the look, the colors, the outline, chaptering and story path, built the skeleton of the bibliography, identified key online sources and drew up the preliminary list of interviewees, then wrestled with my rebellious text and provided the titles and subheads. He gave the style that made the ideas that I wanted to convey clearer, the sentences crisper and the flow much better. When he edits he totally forgets I’m the spouse and that is a good thing for this book. He was always looking at the lay of the forest while I was down among the trees.
My son Julian patiently waited to be served late meals while I finished page after page of the manuscript.
Special thanks to the generous, publicity-shy funders who made this book possible. They let me choose my own team to work with and gave me full editorial control of the text.
Filipinos for a Better Philippines put its reputation on the line by choosing me as the author. It could have taken the easy way out by simply publishing pictures to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1986 Edsa People Power. But it decided that it wanted to break new ground and tackle the very controversial and taboo topic of torture and atrocities during Martial Law. Hats off to them. And for their patience while the manuscript got delayed.
The members of the Editorial Board gave very helpful suggestions as they critiqued the manuscript, for instance, on the way the chapters flowed, especially the Introduction. The book is so much better, thanks to:
Ricardo “Ricky” Sobreviñas
Ramon “Boogie” Rodrigo
Braulio “Boyong” Tansinsin
Part of the strength of this book is in its Cover design and the overall book design. For that, I wish to thank artist Felix Mago Miguel who took on this very difficult project. I knew I could count on his artistry to convey the brutality of that era in an elegant manner. Despite the very stringent deadline he delivered excellent work that did not reflect the frantic pace. Since I failed to meet an earlier deadline, this became a book to commemorate EDSA. Unlike other commemorative books, this one examines the deadly undercurrents that swirled before and after EDSA.
When I was covering Senator Rene Saguisag 29 years ago, I would have laughed if anyone told me that one day he would write the Foreword to my book. The Publisher asked him to and I’m glad he agreed. I am honored to have a distinguished senator who was known for his integrity to have written it.
Part of the difficulty I had with this book was the tremendous amount of footnotes — the secret code academics use to signal readers their source of information. After swimming for months in footnote hell, I decided to seek the help of my brother-in-law, newly-retired International Relations professor from De la Salle University, Dr. Alfredo Robles, possibly the most overqualified academic editor a book has ever had. I was in footnote heaven after he came in. He not only verified each and every footnote that I placed, he also edited the manuscript with an eye to making it sound enough to use inside the classroom. If you see any contractions in the text like “didn’t” or “should’ve” or “OK”, I insisted on it to bridge the academic with journalism. He also did the extensive Index and the Bibliography. I can’t thank him enough.
When most of the manuscript was finished, I realized a truism. Authors are bad at proofreading their own work. They tend to glide at imperfections like typos. After going over the same text twice and still finding typos, I told myself, “I wish I had Booma Cruz.” Booma is a fellow investigative journalist and former General Manager/Producer of Probe Productions, Inc. and a former colleague of Alan at the Manila Chronicle, who had very kindly proofread my first book. Lucky for me, Booma — who is now based in California — was in Manila for Christmas holidays. She scrapped her sightseeing to proofread this book. Many, many thanks.
Three people worked in the background, providing vital staff support. Evangeline “Vangie” M. Santiago went above and beyond the call of duty, smoothening the flow of manuscript and communication between me, the publisher, the Editorial Board and the printer. Her assistant, Leah Lozano assisted her, while Joseph Alison went all over town delivering and fetching manuscripts and documents.
During production, another pair of fresh eyes examined the proofs to see to it that corrections were put in place. Carmen Felicisima Reyes-Odulio, a retired Citibanker and Math/Physics summa cum laude graduate from De la Salle University, generously offered a hand, which I took gladly.
I also wish to give thanks to the members of Cyber Plaza Miranda who continued to congregate on my site and discuss the hot button issues even though I wasn’t able to update my blog much last year. They kept the fate and the fire burning. One of them, Rosario Gunter, overwhelmed me with her expression of faith. As soon as I announced I had written a book she suddenly wired me money to pre-order it without even knowing what the price was.
A book is only as good as its sources and insights. Dr. Ricardo T. Jose, Director of the Third World Studies Center, not only lent me his rare books on the Philippine military, he also explained to me the military viewpoint and pointed out people I could interview. The Center’s staff, Bienvenida C. Lacsamana, Miguel Paolo P. Reyes and Joel F. Ariate Jr., all helped dig out books and newspapers that they had from the Martial Law era.
The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, through its Executive Director Emmanuel Amistad, gave me full access to its documents and photos from the Martial Law period. Sunshine Serrano pulled out from storage what I needed. Without TFDP’s presence in the darkest days of Martial Law, this book would not have been possible. The country owes a lot to TFDP and the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines whose army of nuns and priests fought the dictatorship with selfless action.
Manuel Mogato of the wire agency Reuters also shared valuable insights on the military. I am grateful to my colleagues in the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) for allowing me to ask so many questions during our news briefings. It was the only way, for instance, that I could have asked Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos some questions regarding the family loot and the massive human rights violations during his father’s regime.
I am touched by the way my colleagues in the media took an interest in this book. ABS-CBN news anchor Karen Davila devoted valuable time to be the panel moderator during my soft launch, then invited me over to guest on her show, ANC Headstart. Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride included me in his news feature on the EDSA Anniversary. So did Floyd Whaley of the New York Times. Maria Ressa of Rappler sent a crew over to do a short feature. So did Isagani de Castro of ABS-CBNNews.com, Jaemark Tordecilla of GMA7 and Luchi Cruz-Valdez of News5. Jing Castañeda of ABS-CBN TV also interviewed me.
It was thrilling to find the Philippine Daily Inquirer use my soft launch as its banner story on the EDSA People Power Anniversary written by Niña Calleja. My thanks to Inquirer’s Fe Zamora for sending someone over. I found it extremely instructive to be at the butt end of questions from fellow reporters. BusinessWorld Editor Robert Basilio asked me some of the toughest questions which I myself would have asked.
Andrew London, the Deputy International Editor at South China Morning Post, allowed me time off to finish this book. I learned a lot from him on the angling of stories, which helped me in writing this book.
I am deeply grateful to American Attorney Robert Swift who litigated the civil lawsuit of the human rights victims against Marcos in the US. Swift provided rare insight and sent me the complete testimony of the late US Ambassador Stephen Bosworth before the Hawaii court of Judge Manuel Real. I have included this in the Appendix. It will be the first time Filipinos will read this.
My thanks to Germany’s state-run broadcasting station Deutsche Welle for extending to me a serendipitous invitation to attend its 2015 Global Media Forum in Bonn last June on “Media and Foreign Policy in the Digital Age”. Because of this, I was able to make side trips to Berlin and to Utrecht to do interviews. The following made this trip possible: Michael Hasper, Deputy Head of Mission of the German Embassy in Manila, who turned out to be a historian by training; Michael Fuchs, First Secretary, Cultural Affairs and Press Attache; and Carmina Barcelon of the Press and Cultural Section. I would also like to thank Deutsche Welle’s Executive Press Officer Sarah Berning for her help in making it possible for me to interview Dr. Iris Graef-Callies about trauma and torture.
In Berlin, Kay-Uwe von Damaros, Head of Communications of the Topography of Terror Foundation, arranged an interview for me with Dr. Thomas Lutz, Head of its Memorial Museums Department.
A semi-historical book like this would not be complete without images. Aside from TFDP, photojournalist Sonny Camarillo shared with me the stunning photos he took during Martial Law, Benigno Aquino’s wake and funeral, during street protests and the 1986 Edsa People Power. Thank you as well to photojournalists Andy Hernandez, Pat Roque and Recto Mercene for their photographs. And of course to Presidential Communications Undersecretary Manolo Quezon, who placed online valuable historical photographs. a number of them found their way into this book.
Political commentator Teodoro Locsin, Jr. allowed me to use the editorial cartoons of the family-owned, pre-Martial Law Philippines Free Press, and he even attended the book’s soft launch. Jonathan Best, author and Filipiniana collector, permitted me to use from his collection a photo of the “water cure” during the American Occupation. Best’s partner, John Silva, author and Executive Director of the Ortigas Foundation Library, gave me leave to tap its collection. The Foundation’s librarian Celia Cruz, my former colleague in Business Day newspaper, found for me the Daily Express newspaper I am using in this book. Silva also allowed me to use the picture he took of a dying child in Negros and his thoughts about it.
As a newbie in publishing, I turned for advice to three friends who are veterans in the publishing business: Karina Bolasco, founder and publishing manager of Anvil Publishing, Inc., book editor Nancy Pe-Rodrigo and poet-publisher-book designer Ramón “RayVi” Sunico. They shared their valuable advice most enthusiastically.
This book would not have been possible if Professor Alfred McCoy had not broken ground on the issue of torture. His three books – Policing America’s Empire, Closer than Brothers and Torture and Impunity – inspired me to go one step further.
I wish to thank the torture victims for personally sharing their terrible stories with me: Human Rights Commission Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales (who also provided some of the survivors’ stories in this book, Communist Party of the Philippines Founder Jose Maria Sison, author Ninotchka Rosca, spiritual therapist Hilda Narciso, “Michael”, Susan Tagle, Pete Lacaba, Roberto Verzola and Robert Francis Garcia. Retired businessman Abdon Balde shared his poem on the Film Center, while Joy Kintanar told me about her late husband Edgar Jopson. Judge Priscilla Mijares and her daughter Pilita trusted me with their deeply personal stories about Primitivo Mijares.
A book like this is understandably intrusive. I am grateful that the following persons did not clam up when I asked them highly personal questions regarding torture: President Benigno Aquino III, former President Fidel V. Ramos, Colonel Eduardo Matillano, the ex-NISA officer, General Ramon Montaño, General Victor Batac, Senator Panfilo Lacson and General Resty Aguilar.
Finally, thanks to Google, the Gutenberg project, archive.org, the hathitrust.org. Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, the US National Archives and the United Nations for making available online valuable primary source materials on the Marcos era.