But it was still raining. Would the students come?
They did! Slowly the area around the stage began filling up as groups of young people started arriving. My earlier fears that students from the Quezon City side would not show up was unfounded. Ateneo was there! So were UP Diliman and Miriam College. I later found out that some of them held lightning protests in their school vicinity first before piling into jeeps to come to Luneta.
My generation, the generation that had the most right (and reason) to protest the Marcos burial because we lived through martial law, was compromised. And yet here were the young ones, the millennials, who only heard of martial law from their history subjects, marching and protesting with us.
Despite the muddy grounds, I walked around three times to feel the emotions of the people. Everywhere I looked, I saw YOUNG PEOPLE! Some came as a family, with plastic or aluminum sheets on the ground for sitting on. Others came as a barkada or as a school group.
The young crowd was fully immersed and connected to what was happening onstage.
I saw a girl standing in the midst of groups of people. She was alone and she had her back turned to me. I immediately noticed a handwritten cardboard placard hanging behind her back. It read: “No infrastructure, no accomplishment can ever justify all the killings, tortures & enforced disappearances during Martial Law”.
I came closer, took a photo of what she had written, then moved away to take more pictures. But as I backtracked, I saw her again. Alone. So I went up and asked her who she was with. She came alone. All the way from Bulacan!!! I asked if anyone in her family followed current events and she said no, that all she knew about martial law was from what she read. But she was there to be with us and to make a stand for her future. I was so stunned. Here was a millennial with no support group, no friends, no family to keep her company. But she came anyway. I kept hugging her and telling her that I was so happy to meet her and that she was bringing back all the hope that I thought I had lost. Dear P, you just lit my candle of hope again!
As darkness fell, the lights on the stage and around it were dimmed. It was around 6:30pm. Everyone was asked to light up their phones. In a moving display of unity, courage, determination and spunk, a sea of millennials mixed in with older people, raised their arms with lighted mobile phones. This was the new “millennial candlelights” symbol, so appropriate for the digital generation.
The protest chants at the rally were familiar to the martial law activists and survivors. These were the rally chants in the 70s and 80s.
“Marcos, Hitler, Diktador, Tuta”
“Makibaka, huwag matakot”
Now, the millennials are taking up these same chants against the same family that is attempting to rise up from the ashes, reestablish themselves in power, and revise history as we know it. But they are also creating new protest slogans that mirror their generation like “Marcos, Diktador, Di Bayani”, “Ang Tao, Ang Bayan – Ngayon ay Lumalaban” and transforming slogans into hashtags. They are doing it THEIR WAY!
The Other Side of the Millennial ‘Coin’
While my hopes are up now, I am also praying for that “other side” of the millennial ‘coin’. From what I have observed and experienced online, a good number of the trolls, hackers, and purveyors of fake news appear to be millennials too.
This is a challenge I pose to the millennials who are now socially aware:
Bring your social media influence and engagement to more of your generation. Engage offline. Discuss issues with your friends and their friends. Reach out to the millennials who are less fortunate than you, may not have ready access to the internet, or may not be fully aware of what is happening. Read up more and learn from credible sites about martial law and about elevating your social media engagement to do good for the country. Denounce the evils of trolling, black propaganda, proliferation of fake news, etc that some millennials do. Show them there are much better ways to earn a living honestly. My generation may have failed you in some way but you have shown us that you have the capacity inside you to make the future what you want it to be.
This post is supported by a writing grant from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) .
Photos by Noemi Lardizabal-Dado are indicated on captions. All other photos are the author’s. Some rights reserved.