Last weekend we saw a grandfather and his six-year-old grandson reading one of the latter’s kindergarten books titled Learn and Grow in Mathematics (Calanog et al., 4th edition).
Under the law, Republic Act 10556, or the Araw ng Pagbabasa Act of 2013, November 27 of every year has been declared “Araw ng Pagbabasa” as among the means to celebrate in all elementary and secondary schools the virtue of reading books.
Nothing wrong with that.
But when we dig into the rationale why such law was authored in the House of Representatives, with a similar version in the Senate, we read that the Araw ng Pagbasa was inspired by the ideals of the assassinated former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. who, some said, “believed that there is great worth in reading.”
Some have said that through reading, Aquino found a source of hope and empowerment while he was in solitary confinement during martial law imposed by then-President Ferdinand Marcos, called by some as dictator “for 20 years” from 1965 to 1986 when he was toppled by the so-called EDSA Revolution backed by the Catholic Church.
Equating martial law with Marcos’ presidency, forgetting that Marcos declared martial law on Sept 21, 1972, to check what he called was a state of rebellion and to help him institute urgent national reforms and lifted it on Jan 17, 1981.
Marcos’ critics and those pretending to know history conveniently forget that – assuming arguendo he was a dictator during martial law – he won by a landslide in 1969, in 1981, and won again in 1986 during the snap election.
Nothing is mentioned about Aquino charged with four counts of subversion, one count of murder, and one for illegal possession of firearms – all punishable by death – before a military court, defended by former Senators Jovito Salonga. Jose Diokno, Rene Saguisag, and others.
And nothing is mentioned that Marcos, through Imelda Marcos, granted him his request to have a triple bypass in the United States while he was confined at the Philippine Heart Center.
We also went through the suggested reading materials.
While we agree that there is virtue and corollary hope in reading to teach the younger generation about historical events before they were born, we found the conspicuous absence of stories about the courage and patriotism of the likes of, not limited to, Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, Emilio Jacinto, Miguel Malvar, Antonio Luna, Marcelo del Pilar, Gregorio del Pilar, Josefa Llanes Escoda, Roque Ablan, Juan Luna, the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in the 1940s.
We were immediately jabbed by suggestions that the younger generation should be taught about the abuses during martial law. Period. Nothing about what people in their 70s, 80s and 90s today – those who witnessed the emergency episode – say about martial law.
Which, from our side of the bench, is not an impartial and objective way to teach the young about the accuracy, which means historical writing that is not one-sided and obviously a publication that has blinders.
If Araw ng Pagbasa should be objective and appreciated by all children, whatever their political and economic persuasions are, it should not limit its focus on the so-called “heroism” of only one man, but the gallantry of those who helped build the Filipino nation in war and in peace.
Let’s also encourage storytelling sessions, from Tawi Tawi to Batanes, about Rajah Soliman and Sultan Kudarat to those who were valiant to stand up to the Spaniards, the occupying Japanese Imperial Forces, and the American troops at the start of the Philippine-American War.
We owe it to the younger generations to be truthful and honest. (ai/mtvn)