Martial-law midnight memories
Apart from censorship and the curtailment of civil liberties, one of the struggles that artists had to contend with during the martial-law era, which lasted from 1972 to 1981, was the dreaded curfew.
Imposed nationwide, the curfew ran from midnight to 4 a.m.—during which citizens were not allowed to roam the streets. That proved to be challenging for actors and singers whose work usually lasted till the wee hours. (The people power revolution ended the Marcos regime five years after the lifting of martial rule.)
We asked different actors and singers to recall those heady years of living dangerously. Some memories were funny; others, frightening—but all their stories should not be forgotten.
Kasalukuyan kaming nagte-taping ng TV show ko, “Ang Makulay na Daigdig ni Nora.” Break time namin kaya niyaya ko ang mga kasamahan ko, pati na ang direktor naming si George Rowe, na kumain sa labas. Ayaw nilang sumama kasi wala silang curfew pass. Ako lang ang merong pass. Pinilit ko sila…hanggang napapayag ko sila. Pero noong nasa kalye na kami, pinahinto kami ng Metrocom (Philippine Constabulary Metropolitan Command).
Sinabi ko na may curfew pass ako. Pero ako lang ang pinagbigyan at dinala ang mga kasamahan ko sa Camp Crame! Napahiya ako. Tinawagan ko si Lola Josefa (Marcos, mother of then president Ferdinand Marcos). Nabigo pa rin ako. Ang sabi niya sa akin: “Hindi ka reyna ng sarili mo!” Sinamahan ko na lang ang mga katrabaho ko sa Crame. Hindi natuloy ang taping. Na-reschedule ang trabaho namin.
What I remember the most are the human rights abuses. In my line of work, I needed a curfew pass because shootings would often wrap up late at night. Martial law was no joke!
When I did Mike de Leon’s “Sister Stella L.” in 1984, I didn’t know much about our society. But when I became a public servant, nakita ko na ang realidad ng buhay! Panoorin po ninyo ang movie at malalaman ninyo na ang problema noon sa lipunan ay siya pa ring problema at sitwasyon natin sa ngayon.
At the time, I was singing with the Up From Down Under Band at Wells Fargo on Roxas Boulevard. So we had to stay in the club, as in sing-to-death until 4 a.m.! I would belt out Diana Ross’ “Touch Me in the Morning,” while everyone was drunk. Dusa! Such suffering! But it was great training, in terms of patience, humility and stamina.
Was it funny? I guess so because, we, the band members, were all together. Oh and our talent fee was just P30 per night, so that was hilarious! Three years earlier, on the night martial law was declared (on Sept. 21), I was pregnant and painting my son’s little cabinet—blissfully unaware of life’s changes.
It was about 2 a.m. I woke up in the dressing room of ABS-CBN—with armed soldiers banging on the door, ordering me to vacate the premises. Martial law had just been declared. I couldn’t even pack my clothes.
A few months later, when the studio reopened as KBS, I saw the janitors wearing my “imported” T-shirts that I was still paying for on installment basis. Once, I got caught violating the curfew and was made to pull grass along Edsa, and we pretended that we were shooting a movie when people stared at us during traffic. We would shout: “Direk, saan ang camera?” The soldiers also picked me up one night to sing on the army camps in Mindanao. No music. A cappella. I went from camp to camp in army planes, where you had to sit sideways and hang onto a strap!
I remember singing my way through martial law, from the barikada at the UP Administration building all the way to the nightclubs and hotels along Roxas Boulevard—moonlighting after school as a backup vocalist for Basil Valdez, Celeste Legaspi and Leah Navarro. We had to get a pass from Camp Crame to make it through the checkpoints.
What was scary was when the police officer would bend down, flash artificial light on your face, and start asking questions. Until now, I don’t know if that was more frightening than the makeup we wore in the 1970s! I resembled Morticia Addams: One-line eyebrow, smoking dark gray or pixie black eyeshadow, deep-rouge blush, and bloody red lipstick. Every time, the cop would jerk back and say: “O sige, dali! Uwi na!” I would reply: “Thank you, Mamang Pulis!” Then, the taxi driver and I would laugh. The cabbie would say: “O ano… sino’ng natakot?” I’d answer back: “Abilidad lang, Mamang Driver!”
I did not experience attending the junior-senior prom. It was prohibited during the early years of martial law. A soiree had to end before midnight because of curfew. Otherwise, we had to wait in the venue until 5 a.m. While studying, I stayed in one of the UP ladies’ dormitories. We got scared whenever there was news that the dorms were going to get raided. We also got worried that some of our dorm mates who were activists, might get picked up. I was a member of UP Repertory Company, under Behn Cervantes. One of the plays we presented in some schools was Bonifacio Ilagan’s “Pagsambang Bayan.” We were always in a hurry to get out of the theater after each performance for fear of getting picked up. We knew that we were being watched by government agents.
During a jeepney transport strike in 1985, after singing in the street, we were dispersed by plainclothes men with truncheons. As I was running to save my dear life, I saw a broken bakya on my path. I managed to laugh despite the tension. I think kuya (the cop) recognized me, but I was still able to escape. Kaso habang nagso-softdrink na kami, um-apir ulit si kuya at dinampot ako! And I landed in jail with directors Lino Brocka and Behn Cervantes and two more colleagues from Peta (Philippine Educational Theater Association).
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