Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Mayumi Yamamoto

“Our heroes were poets, and poets were our heroes,”—Dr. Jose Dalisay Jr.

My dear beloved Filipino poet,

Today is September 21, 2022.

You told me that
today, you attended a small event
commemorating the 50th anniversary of martial law in the Philippines.

Being a Japanese national,
the year 1972
which was half a century ago
reminds me of the normalization of diplomatic relations
between Japan and the People’s Republic of China.

And also with Okinawa,
which was returned (or re-annexed, who knows?) to Japan
20 years after the country restored its sovereignty in 1952,
following its defeat in the Second World War.

But for me,
the most important historical event of 1972 was
the coronation of King Birendra in Nepal
10 years after the establishment of Panchayat system in 1962.
I was in Nepal
during the last two years of a so-called “partyless democracy” and
it was this system under the late King Birendra that
I studied for my post graduate thesis.

The late Queen Aishwarya was believed to be a close friend of
Imelda Marcos,
the wife of the late Philippine President.
And it was Aishwarya, people said in Nepal,
who wielded influence and power behind the scene.
There was a rumor, too, that
Aishwarya had learned how to manipulate and control her husband through
Imelda Marcos.

In this context, I knew what the Marcos regime was.

And today,
I came to know that September 21, 1972, was the official date that
martial law was established in the Philippines and
the Marcos dictatorship began.

Years have passed.
Society has been changed.
The political situation has become more chaotic in Nepal.
Then, royal massacre occurred in 2001.
Both king and queen were killed by a mass shooting.

the monarchical system itself was replaced by multiparty democracy, and
the Kingdom of Nepal became the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal,
after a decade-long civil war, or
so-called “people’s war”.

And that past war still tortures many Nepalis
whose family members have been missing till now.

public clamor for the restoration of the monarchy remains, and
the late monarch has become a kind of hero
because of the tragic court massacre as well as
lingering political instability.

I followed all these events.
But in the case of the Philippines,
I know nothing.

I read the BBC news article on
May 10, 2022,
which says in the title,
“Why the Marcos family is so infamous in the Philippines”.
in spite of reporting its bad reputation, there was no answer
why Marcos Jr. was poised to become the president.
The article just mentioned that
he was widely popular among young Filipinos.
But why?

I was curious to know about it,
but nobody could not make it clear to me.
what I became aware of is
half a century has already passed, and
the world has drastically changed
since 1972.

Half a century may be long enough for the world to change, but
some of our memories still remain.
They remain and are handed over to the next generation.

In 1972,
I was a carefree junior high school student
enjoying my school life during Japan’s era of rapid economic growth.
I had never expected that the first oil shock would strike Japan next year.
In 1972,
you were not yet born. That means, I realized just today,
you were born during the period of martial law. And you said that
your maternal uncle became a victim of martial law at the age of 32.

He was abducted on the way to a meeting of labor groups on
May 11, 1977,
has not been found, yet.
His family—your family—has continued to look for him till now.

I am now 64.
The newly elected president in the Philippines,
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is the same age as me.
for the person who turned over more than half a century,
history is not something written in text.

In other words,
history is for me something like layers of an old oil painting
that was collectively created by all I met till now.
probably for him, too, I believe.

Being a son of the late Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos,
he must have witnessed what became a collective memory of Filipino people,
the history of the Philippines,
through the eyes of all he met.

Standing in front of my oil painting leant against the wall,
I try to imagine how his painting has been till now, and
how it will be in the future.
How many layers were buried beneath the surface of his painting, and
which colors were used by numerous co-creators?

When I remove the layers of my own painting one after another,
I see a different history.
History of others.
Not mine.
And each history has a human face.

You convey your Filipino history to me.
You add new colors to my painting.
I am going to complete my work with the help you kindly offer to me.

With gratitude,

*Jose Dalisay, Jr., “Literature and Contemporary Philippine Politics,” Department of English and Comparative Literature, the University of the Philippines, 2005


Mayumi Yamamoto is a writer and academic based in Kyoto, Japan. Her latest works are “Water, my dear South Indian friend” “Why India, and not America?” in Literary Yard, and “English and Imperialism, Japan’s Experience” “Floating Identity Torn Between Victim and Criminal” in Indian Periodical. She authored several published books in the Japanese language.


  1. What a beautiful & poetic expression !
    ” history is for me something like layers of an old oil painting
    that was collectively created by all I met till now.”

    The next point was most interesting for me.
    ” There was a rumor, too, that
    Aishwarya had learned how to manipulate and control her husband through
    Imelda Marcos.” Imelda was infamous in Japan, too ! I do not forget hundreds of expensive shoes she had used and collected !

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