“Past is past, Bongbong says of dark Marcos years.” This Inquirer headline (10/22/15) recalls novelist William Faulkner’s oft-quoted statement: “The past is not dead. It is not even past.”
The announcement early this week by Christie’s, the jewelry auction house, illustrated Faulkner’s point. Christie’s discovered that an item described as “loose crystal” among over 700 pieces of jewelry left behind by the Marcoses in their flight to Hawaii was actually an “extremely rare” pink diamond believed to belong to a Mogul emperor. The entire Marcos jewelry collection was initially valued in 1991 at between $5 million and $8 million. Christie’s estimated the Mogul diamond alone as worth $5 million.
This reminder of martial law plunder rebuts Sen. Bongbong Marcos’ insistence that Filipinos should just leave the Marcos legacy to discussions among “historical analysts.” Current concerns, such as the deterioration of the educational system, domestic insurgencies, and impunity, have deep roots in the Marcos past. Historians will study the past to illuminate the problems of the present and the options for the future.
US President Barack Obama used the Faulkner quote to remind Americans that the current crises in the black community can be traced back to inequalities suffered by earlier generations under the brutal legacy of slavery. The current violence in the United States arising from race relations cannot be understood or effectively addressed without understanding its historical context. The history of human rights violations during the Marcos regime is not of the same scale and duration as those suffered by the American black community. But it requires the same comprehension of context.