A Teen During the Martial Law Era

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martial lawI was 15 years old when Proclamation 1081 was declared by then President Ferdinand Marcos. My folks seemed overjoyed with the news. The administration did a great job brainwashing the old folks that the country was in turmoil and thus, Martial Law needed to be declared. I didn’t know it then, of course. I felt disappointment wash over me when I was told that my essay on “Freedom of Speech” would not be published in my High School Magazine. It was supposed to be my first publication. Even if I wrote another piece, all sorts of magazines were banned.

I felt a bit alarmed that any house could be raided for “subversive materials”. Any reading material might be “subversive” in the eyes of the military. Dad was wise. He started buying books and magazines that were pro-Marcos. But all of these inconveniences were insignificant to me.

As a teen, the first thing that came to my mind was “Now what can me and my friends do for fun?” This was what faced us:

1. Curfew of twelve midnight was imposed.
2. Any group of 5 people or more needed a permit at the Camp Lapu-lapu.

How can we ever party now? During those days, mixed parties, watching movies, hanging out in our homes was our idea of fun. No shopping malls then to frolick except for the neighborhood grocery store. Of course there was the beach but that is mostly for family events.

My fears didn’t last long. My classmates and I learned to adapt to this new situation.

noemi dado highschool

How did we do it?

1. The class president or the secretary procured the necessary party permit from the Camp.
2. Parties started at exactly 7:00 PM.
3. Dancing commenced soon after.
4. At 11:30 PM, we leave the party just so we can beat the curfew.

Then we became more innovative. Wessie Quisumbing, whose family owned Norkis Trading had a basement in their office which could be pitch dark if the curtains were drawn. Betcha by Golly Wow we shrieked at Wessie’s offer. That prompted our parties to start at 4:00 PM and we grooved the night away to the 70’s disco-soul music of The Intruders, Three Degrees, Gloria Gaynor, The Trammps or Barry White. “Theme from ‘Shaft'” by Isaac Hayes with its high-hat disco stomp beat was a favorite for years. As long as we were being watchful of the curfew and got our party permit , Martial Law was no killjoy

If there was one valuable lesson that Martial Law taught me as a teen-ager, it was the ability to make productive use of our time, to be organized and being punctual. Time and party planning was of the essence. My friends and I had to maximize our precious time in order to enjoy the limited party hours.

We learned to tame the time monster. You might be surprised at how much you can get done. The real reward for us was that we were less stressed and more happy even under adverse situations.

martial law photo

Family Photo taken on October 1972



Noemi Lardizabal-Dado (1385 Posts)

You may contact Noemi (noemidado @ gmail.com) for speaking and consultancy services in the following areas: Parenting in the Digital Age (includes pro-active parenting on cyber-bullying and bullying) ; Social Business ; Reinventing One’s Life; and social media engagement.

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  • Yup, those were the days when we had to make do with what is allowed, unless you want to pull weeds from Crame’s grounds. Long hair invites a trip to the military’s barber for that marine look.

    Sadly, its hardly noticed now. The politicization of the military continues and the killings are on the rise. Apathy has led to more sufferings and injustices abound. We are living in undeclared martial law and those who never experienced it doesn’t even know, nor do they see the signs on the walls today.

    I just hope we who have lived through it continue to impart our experiences to the youth so that they may know the truth.

  • nakakatuwa naman ito. glad to know the martial law didnt prevent the young ones from enjoying their youth.

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  • Hi Noemi, ok kayo ha, naka-gimmick pa rin kahit martial law, he he. Am only 2 at that time, as I grew up, I’ve learned that Dad lose his job when Pres. Marcos ordered to have Congress abolished during martial law. Nonetheless, no effect on the playful child….

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  • My dad, who was an officer in a government agency, was elated too when martial law was declared. But guess what …. he was temporarily detained a few weeks after. Ironical ano? But he enjoyed his brief stay there somehow … rubbing elbows with celebrity-detainees.

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  • Now here’s a totally different take & view about Martial Law. Thanks for sharing Noemi. Normally when I see “Martial Law” as subject, they tend to be dragging reads.

    I could almost see the “grooving” you were doing then. I was still too young to understand Martial Law. The youngest memory I had was of an editorial cartoon on “Free Press” with Marcos telling off a schoolkid for drawing a stick figure of him as the Devil. When I asked Nanay what it meant, she just shushed me. Di naman ako nagtanong bakit ako sinasabihan ng “ssshh”!

  • @auee- As teens we wanted to make light of the grim situation. Ah our old folks were paranoid. They dare not contradict Marcos. Maybe the “ssshh”

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  • very nice read. this is”the other face” of martial law. this is something worth to be shared. i feel that the country today is “on the loose” hence, progress is far at hand. not that i’d like another martial law. but Filipinos today should know what they are ought to do and not do whatever they want.
    .-= aajao´s last blog ..night time- play time – =-.

  • Krish

    I hope you don’t mind but may I use this for my project research on how martial law effected the people?