Jennifer’s diary: Martial Law through a child’s eyes

My papa Antonio Suzara with my mama Cecilia Suzara.

My papa Antonio Suzara with my mama Cecilia Suzara.

First-Person Essay

By Jennifer Suzara -Cheng

It all started with hush tones and repressed messages among my household members, furtive glances down the street; even the blaring radio has stopped, I could feel that something was wrong. The silence was shattered by loud knocks on the front door, and then soldiers started walking into our home with their Armalite drawn ready to fire.

I could only see their muddy boots walking through our shiny wood floor; they went room to room of our home, I could hear noise from overturned beds and cushions being ripped apart. Then I saw one soldier cut open our new green living room set, books were scattered carelessly from the book cases and drawers opened and contents on the floor. Then one soldier with a lot of patches on his shoulder yelled and called everyone, he asked Mama where Papa was, she answered with a strong voice that she didn’t know.

I was standing beside my oldest sister and I could hear my heart pounding so loud in my head. I could smell gun powder, mud, sweat, fear and most of all danger. I was so scared for our lives and I tried to stifle my tears but they kept on pouring from my eyes, non-stop and soundless, they just kept on flowing until it soaked my shirt and I was too scared to neither move nor wipe them with my hands.
Then, I remember we rode a jeepney for so long I lost track of time, I woke up in a farm; it was the house of one of the tenants who graciously shared their two bedroom home with us. Mama slept on the bed with my two younger sisters while my oldest sister and I slept on the bamboo floor with my two older brothers sleeping closest to the bedroom door.

I could hear unfamiliar noises at night, insects chirping, pigs grunting and the dogs barking incessantly, Mama told us to very quiet and just try to sleep. In the morning, I lost one of my rubber slippers but I never complained and tried to stand on one foot alternately until one of our house help noticed and let me use hers; she walked barefoot.

Then, Mama told us that Papa was arrested for bad mouthing President Ferdinand Marcos during a rally so they charged him with “sedition and unauthorized possession of guns” and he would be detained at the Philippine Constabulary Camp. He was a known supporter of Senator Benigno Aquino at that time. Papa was the administrative assistant to the Mayor in Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte when Martial Law was imposed.

I never saw our house again, we had to move closer to the camp without electricity and running water; we were informed that we were being watched and so we should be very careful what to say.

My lolo Former Camarines Norte Governor Fernando Suzara and my lola Sofia Soriano Suzara, the latter is the grand daughter of General Vicente Lukban who fought in the Philippines-US War of 1901.

My lolo Former Camarines Norte Governor Fernando Suzara and my lola Sofia Soriano Suzara, the latter is the grand daughter of General Vicente Lukban who fought in the Philippines-US War of 1901.

Our paternal grandfather Governor Fernando Argente Suzara (the first post-war governor of Camarines Norte) through his personal friend Foreign Service Minister Carlos P. Romulo, was able to petition or begged at the Malacanang Palace the conversion of Papa’s jail time to house arrest. Later on I learned that his maternal uncle in law Congressman Pedro Venida helped out in his jail time conversion.

After a year, I saw a military jeep stopped in front of the farm and I saw Papa walking towards Lolo (my grandfather) being escorted by two soldiers; he was carrying a plastic bag, head bowed and eyes dull and broken. Lolo just stood there, then he signed some documents from the soldiers and shook their hands, his eyes were tender and sad, his posture looked like he was carrying a lot of Papa’s burden. They both stood there for a while until Lolo told Papa to rest for now. Papa was never the same, he never talked about what happened in jail nor did he mention them again.

I write this narrative with the permission of my siblings who agreed to share our story with our countrymen because of the recent campaign from the Marcos’ camp that the atrocities of Martial Law declared on September 21, 1972, did not happen.

There are countless articles of propaganda that brainwashes the youth and attempts to rewrite history, and from a teacher’s perspective, I know this has to stop. It is important that those of us who were directly affected write and tell the truth.

True, it is not fair to judge the son with the crimes of the father , however, it is a miscarriage of justice to let the truth be covered by lies and falsehood.

It is the intent of my article to challenge the Marcoses to show remorse by not changing facts and more importantly to return the money that legitimately belongs to the Filipino people. If Senator Bong Bong Marcos can do all of these, then he will be ready to be separated from the legacy of his father, but until then NEVER AGAIN.

Author Jennifer Suzara-Cheng (second from right) attends community forum by Kalayaan island Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon in Los Angeles recently. From left: Mayor Bito-onon, Rocio Nuyda, author, Yey Coronel.  Photo by Dante Ochoa

Author Jennifer Suzara-Cheng (second from right) attends community forum by Kalayaan island Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon in Los Angeles recently. From left: Mayor Bito-onon, Rocio Nuyda, author, Yey Coronel. Photo by Dante Ochoa

( Jennifer Suzara – Cheng teaches honors and AP biology courses at a nationally-renowned environmental high school in the Southland. She was recently invited by the White House, among 200 outstanding teachers, students, scientists and philanthropists to participate in its national Back-to-School Climate Education event).



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