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Diligently I keep track of Philippine news. Since Ninoy Aquino's assassination that August day in 1983, the situation back home has gotten worse. I read the papers and magazines. I tune in to television and radio reports. I attend taib by Diokno, Kalaw, and other visiting Filipinos. I exchange views about the Philippines with other Filipinos in Los Angeles. The picture I glean is a sad one.
Letters from home confirm my conclusion.
In her letter my mother says: Now times have changed greatly. Everything is hard. I avoid writing as I hate to let you know how hard life has become in the Philippines.
Money has gone down in value and things, especially food, have become very expensive, at times exorbitant.
In her Christmas card, my aunt writes: Life here has gotten very depressing. There are bread lines, sugar lines, rice lines. What makes me so mad is that these shortages are caused by greed. There is no sugar in the market but sugar is rotting in the warehouses. Rice is P4.50 a kilo. The average person brings home-if he is lucky to be employed-P16 a day. Pork per kilo is P50 and chicken is P30. School enrollment has dropped 45 percent in Manila.
In her November 3, 1984 letter, my cousin gives a lengthier account of life in the Philippines.
The tension here in Manila is something else. Two days after the Agrava Report, a full-page ad with 60 signatures of generals came out professing deep loyalty to Ver. The day after that ad, General Farolan, whose name appeared as one of the signatories, came out with a statement saying he did not sign or authorize anybody to sign the manifesto. Another general was not even in the Philippines to sign his name.
Marcos has been taxing everything left and right. Unfortunately for him, since he's hitting the pocketbook, the people are retaliating. For example, he raised the registration fee for cars for November and December. The jeepneys and buses went on strike and the private car owners filed a class suit. The tax was rescinded. Marcos raised the gambling tax. The people boycotted the horse races and the jai alai. Again he had to rescind the tax. We are all waiting for February. The opposition is trying to organize an income tax boycott. That should really be interesting.
The demonstrations are getting violent. The police don't bother to hold back their punches and are using everything from tear gas to armalites. The one good thing is that the citizenry is fighting back. In the last demonstration in Makati, which they tried to break up, people in the buildings hailed them with everything they could possibly sling out of the windows. A friend of ours who was there described it as guerra.
It is getting worse and worse. Every night there are more people living out in the streets. The lucky ones on fold-out cots and the really bad-off lying on newspapers. What is heartbreaking is the psychic damage being inflicted on our values system. For the first time, I see old people being abandoned on the streets and trembling from hunger. This is getting too depressing for words.
The situation in the Philippines is indeed sad. A helplessness possesses me as I observe the country spiral down and down. What will happen to my family and my friends? And what can I do? I am so far away and feel so powerless.