On the grounds of Camp Aguinaldo this week stood the Edsa People Power Experiential Museum, a makeshift structure that combines elements of theater, cinema, photography, performances and installations.
The Edsa People Power Commission said the interactive museum sought to relive the experiences of the victims of the 14 years of martial law under former President Ferdinand Marcos, specifically for young Filipinos who were too young to remember or who had not yet been born during the martial law years until Edsa I in 1986.
The tour could be “disturbing, haunting, and uncomfortable,” warned the organizers.
The tour recreated the struggle for democracy and the events leading to the bloodless People Power I. That each hall was interactive was intended to attract and engage young people, millennials who are more attuned to multiple media forms.
At the end of the guided tour, a hologram of President Benigno Aquino III appears, exhorting visitors to cherish the democracy that was achieved because of Edsa and to never allow martial law to happen again.
The youth have to learn the mistakes, pains, sorrows and joys of the past, the organizers added. “Only then can the country move forward.”
Sadly, the words of the President himself may hinder the process of moving forward. His People Power Anniversary speech was characteristically full of innuendoes, bitterness, blame and self-righteous claims. He went to the extent of rabidly campaigning against the son of the man who declared martial law and who is seeking the vice presidential post in May.
The experiential museum is a good move to make more young people care about Filipinos’ collective story. But a better way to let them experience the lessons of history is to show how the country has advanced from 1986 to the present. This is what they will experience for themselves, a reality they will not be merely told about.
How far, indeed? Has the income gap between the rich and the poor shrunk? Do workers have enough opportunity to earn and raise the quality of their living? Have the agricultural and manufacturing sectors been developed enough? Have more children gained access to education? Has corruption at all levels and in all places been abated? Do Filipinos have more choices? Have institutions been strengthened, or do old ills continue to plague the country albeit under different names or political colors?
These firsthand experiences and not a museum tour would give the younger generation a sense of how we have progressed. We don’t need a hologram of one of Edsa I’s main beneficiaries telling us about moving on when he seems to have been stuck, engulfed in his own bile.