Two types of discipline Ferdinand Marcos wanted to impose on Filipinos during his Martial Law: Harsh and subtle.
Harsh was, when Lim Seng, a big time drug pusher was executed by firing squad.
Subtle was, when Ariel Ureta, a T.V. host during the 70’s, pedaled his bike around Camp Crame for twelve hours for curfew violation – for which, Ariel Ureta turned up his mouth as producer of suds.
The Martial Law’s media machine drummed up the slogan “Sa ikauunlad ng Bayan, Disiplina ang Kailangan” (For the country’s progress, discipline is needed) to hammer up to people’s consciousness the consequence of non adherence to discipline. But for the three of us, Tabog, Pepit and myself, of course, that slogan never get nailed in our brain. Therefore, when we were caught violating the curfew, like Ariel Ureta, we were meant to be punished – but, much worse!
The three of us were party junkies during Martial Law. One time, Tabog nosed for us this Tenejero place for our next dance gig. Although the place was hostile, spooky and fraught with danger, this gig would calm us a bit, as we had been jittery without fix for forty-eight hours. Tenejero is one barrio in the town of Candaba, Pampangga, west of Baliwag, Bulacan, where we lived. The road to it was a long stretch of desolate, un-asphalted gravel track. Apart from being far from Baliwag – six hours walk – the road was a frequent scene of clash encounters between the Philippine Constabulary and the insurgents. Kumander Freddie, a leader of HUKBALAHAP, an insurgent organization, was ambushed and gunned down on that road by the military. Of course, we cared less of the danger of the dance venue. But, hey, we wanted to get “high”, and so, we went. We arrived at Tenejero ten in the evening. The party was progressing. We saw that the coconut palm-gated converted basketball court of the dance venue were guarded by disinterested looking guys who seemed to be unmindful of people’s comings and goings, Nonchalantly, we sneaked in.We didn’t waste time. Chicks were sitting around the periphery of the basketball court, and one by one, we started dancing with them, nonstop.On sweet tunes, Tabog and Pepit did their usual modus operandi of impressing chicks. Tabog would sweet-talked his partner – of his being a son of prominent family, that he study at the University of the Philippines taking up Marine Engineering, that he’s a member of the KM (Kabataang Makabayan), a patriotic youth organization. He projected himself as intellectual with good breeding. How can one sound so pompous yet humble? It was his voice, perhaps. It has a cool and kind quality of a midnight disc jockey, like everything that came out from his mouth are consumables. I had seen his effects on chicks – their eyes sparkled.
Pepit, on the other hand, was the opposite. He has this voice of booming baritone quality. Chicks would snap at attention, and then when he mixed his repartee with self deprecating humor, chicks get at ease shedding inhibitions. For chicks, Pepit was a sports buff who used to mingle with Amang Parica, famous billiard player in Manila. He was a student of Lyceum University, and a member of SDK (Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan) Organization of Democratic Youth. As for myself, I was the boring guy who just dances, but I had this ability to recognize disaster before it comes. Like when I saw bunch of people coming in the middle of the dance floor carrying ribbon plates. I knew those ribbons were for us, because at the time, we were dancing with beauty contestants. Once those ribbons were pinned, we can be obliged to put money on the plate, payment for the privilege of dancing with the barrio’s beautiful ladies. As Tabog and Pepit were so consumed performing their antics, even before those “plate” people come close, I said to my partner that I had to walk her to her sit, as I needed to pee.
Tabog and Pepit were so mad. Knowing I was able to avoid the rip off. They blamed me for not giving them warning. That dampened our spirit to stay. So we decided to start our trek home.At San Roque Labak, the border barrio between Candaba and Baliwag, we were stopped at the military check point. “Where are you guys going”? Asked by a man, holding what seemed to be a Garand Rifle. A soft streak of light from the moon perched on the barrel of the gun. The gun traveled toward my chest. The metal felt colder than the night. My hair stood on end. Why the military man chose my chest to poke his gun with, was beyond me “We’ve been to a party, boss, and we’re heading home”, Tabog volunteered. The tall man, switched the barrel to Tabog’s chest. I felt relieved.“Do you know what time it is?”
”I think its 1:33 in the morning Sir, and we still have a lot of walking to do before we reach home, Sir.” Pepit said. Now, the barrel went to Pepit’s chest. “Are you students”? The nose of the rifle runs up and down on Pepit’s chest.“Yes Sir. I am from U.P. Sir. I am a KM member Sir.” Tabog said. “And I am an SDK member, Sir.Pepit followed.” What the hell these two are thinking? I said to myself… Where do they think they are? Still at the party, talking to chicks?
“Student Activists…Huh. So you’re NPA’s? The military man said. I surmised that check points was to catch or discourage movement of the NPA (New People’s Army) the biggest insurgents’ movement at the time. And lots of student activists from the different universities in Manila went underground, and became NPAs during Martial Law. I remembered Marcos picked up thousands student activists immediately after he imposed Martial Law, and gave them a hair cut. I was hoping that this tall man would just give us a hair cut.
“It’s curfew time boys,” The man whose rifle was on Pepit’s chest, said, “You know what this means” With that, Pepit run. His feet, as if were bicycling the air. We heard a gun fire. It tore off the silence of the night, “Come back here, you stupid” The man in uniform, yelled. Pepit came back. Now, he was sobbing.
“Alright. Now, the three of you, get yourself naked,” commanded the man. This scene was quite familiar. I knew the three of us had been on this situation before. We were beside the road, and the ground we’re standing on was a mimosa field. We started removing our clothes leaving just our briefs. That, too. The tall man said. And we were on our birthday suits. We saw our maleness shrunk, because of the cold or because of fear…I didn’t know.
“For curfew violation, here’s what you will get,” said, the man, “you’re going to kneel and spread you arms sideways, then sing “Bayang Magiliw”. Thorns of the mimosa plant were pricking our knees, we’re freezing to death, and we felt our arms hanging numb in our shoulders.
Oh that was easy, I consoled myself. We know the national anthem since Grade One. In unison, we belted the national anthem. The dissonance felt breaking our ears, but should we care? I heard crisp thud of the barrel landing on Tabog’s face, then on Pepits, then on mine. The sting the barrel left on our faces made us really cry out loud. I was thinking, had it not been for Tabog and Pepit antics about the stupid KM and SDK, thing, perhaps we would get lesser penalties.
“That was not the way I like it”. The uniformed man yelled, “I wanted you to sing it in the reverse order. Start it at the end ‘ang mamatay ng dahil sa iyo’ then up, but with the apt original tune for each line. And you can’t go, till you get it, with the right tune” “Just kill us,” Tabog said bravely, “That was impossible to do” It was too late for Tabog to be a hero…
“That’s your problem, because you’re going to stay here till the dawn breaks and people would see you naked with your pecker hiding behind your crotch.Oh… that would be so embarrassing. We have to find ways by which we can sing the reversed national anthem. I devised a way… I recited the lyrics in the natural order, and I asked Pepit to isolate the last line going up to the top line, and Tabog will sing the isolated part with the right tune.We did that till the sun rise up. We’re so engrossed with the process that we didn’t realize that our tormentor was already long gone. But that’s the face of the man I would never forget in my whole life. And we’re going to get back at him.