35 Things I Remember About Martial Law and the ’70s

colors and symbols of the 70's


Today we remember the declaration of Martial Law 43 years ago. And with the coming national and local elections, almost everyone keeps on comparing today’s political and economic situations with that era. I don’t dwell on matters of politics and religion as I prefer to avoid those in conversations as much as possible. Not that I don’t have anything to say, but because politics and religion are not my cup of coffee (I’m not a tea person).

So with that said, I would rather reminisce the decade that was with a list of random things I love about the ’70s. Here it goes:

(1) I was three years old then when Martial Law was declared and a travel ban was in effect. My mom left immediately to the United States leaving me behind just so she could avoid the travel ban. I remembered how I cried so hard then and if you’ll ask me when was the first time I remembered crying, this was that day.

(2) There was an assassination attempt on Imelda Marcos which was shown live on national TV. It was an awarding ceremony and one of the awardees drew up a bolo and started slashing the former First Lady. The assassin was shot on the spot and she incurred wounds mostly on her arms, which she used to protect herself. People said that the attempt was “staged” just to gain sympathy. because it happened a few months after Martial Law was declared.

(3) It was in 1974 that I first came to Moncada, Tarlac. My dad brought me there for a vacation. I remembered the doves, the camachile tree, and the smell of freshly baked pan de sal coming from a pugon (brick oven).

(4) Beside our house in Cubao was a 3-hectare vacant lot that spanned from Aurora Boulevard to 20th Avenue and owned by the Aranetas. It was planted with trees, vegetables, vines, and tall grasses and we called it “bukid” (field). It provided us fresh air, fresh vegetables and green leaves. Nowadays, vacant lots are getting rarer.

(5) Those were also the days I would catch all kinds of tutubi (dragonfly) and salagubang (beetle), and make necklaces made of kamoteng kahoy (cassava) leaves. Nowadays, I don’t see these insects anymore.

(6) My cousins would teach me how to dance to the tune of El Bimbo and all girls had tried the Tahitian dance to the tune of Hawaii Five-O. Ask your mom or grandmother if ever they wore grass skirts before, and most likely they would say yes.

(7) The Miss Universe pageant was held in Manila in 1974 and all girls would like to be Miss Spain, Amparo Munoz.

(8) That was the time when avocado green and tangerine were the favorite colors, or I should say defined the color of the decade.

(9) Those were the days that a 3 or 4-storey building was a department store and there were lots of it around Cubao — Josenia, Quality Emporium, Syvel’s, Footstep, Fairmart, COD, and Shoe Mart (years before SM means malls). The advent of Ali Mall during the mid-70s ushered in the concept of shopping malls.

(10) ’70s fashion could be defined as something psychedelic in colors and prints, mini-skirts, bell bottom pants, and cuts that show the navel.

(11) Jollibee was an ice cream house then where we used to order banana split. If we would want hamburgers, there’s Tropical Hut; fried chicken, Max’s or Robina (it’s similar to Chooks to Go these days); noodles and dumplings meant Ma Mon Luk; and pizza meant Shakey’s. McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Pizza Hut came during the ’80s.

(12) Buying a one peso worth of candies would mean filling your pockets to the max. My 25 centavos would buy me one bottle of Pop Cola and one Skyflakes for baon. Nowadays, a candy would cost me a peso.

(13) Paper currencies were the blue Php2.00 which bore the face of Jose Rizal; the green Php5.00 that bore the face of Emilio Aguinaldo; and the brown Php10.00 bill that bore the face of Apolinario Mabini. Today, these currencies were reduced to copper-nickel coins.

(14) Insert 3 ten centavo coins and you can make a 3-minute call in a public phone booth that has a red phone with a circular dial. Digital communication had replaced this with cellphones, text messaging, apps like Viber, and touch tone dialing today.

(15) Our telephone number back then was 78-58-56 (yes, only six numbers) but it came with another feature: the party line. Our party line was a neighbor living a few houses away from us. And there were times that we had to ask them to put down the phone so we could make a call.

(16) If it was Imelda Marcos’ birthday, jeepney fares were free in Metro Manila. If it was Ferdinand Marcos’ birthday, there will be no classes because it was declared as Barangay Day. And of course, no classes every September 21, the anniversary of Martial Law. No, we don’t observe Barangay Day and Martial Law Day anymore.

(17) There were only 3 broadsheet newspapers back then: Bulletin Today, Times Journal, at Daily Express. If I remembered correctly, there were only 2 tabloids: Balita and People’s Journal. That was how Martial Law controlled the media. Today, you can see more broadsheets and tabloids in every newspaper stands.

(18) There were only 5 TV stations (all VHF) — BBC 2 (ABS-CBN was sequestered until it returned on air in 1986), GTV 4, GMA 7, RPN 9 and IBC 13. Most people listen to AM radio stations for news and entertainment as only a few FM radio stations existed back then. No cable TV and no video players yet. Although the Betamax video player came in towards the late ’70s.

(19) Our elders would warn us not to speak against or gossip about the Marcos government or else the Metrocom (our version of today’s PNP back then) would arrest us for sedition. No social media to bash anyone before.

(20) Curfew was imposed during Martial Law. So if you were still out of the house by twelve midnight, just stay where you are and wait for the sun to rise up the next day before going home. If you love going out at night, you wouldn’t like this idea.

(21) Probably this is what I hate about Martial Law, as in B-A-D T-R-I-P. If ever I was watching TV or listening to the radio, I would pray that there would be no press conference in Malacanang. Because that would only mean seeing the press conference coverage in all, I repeat, ALL, TV and radio stations.

(22) My TV fare would include Wonder Woman, Charlie’s Angels, Bionic Woman, Mork and Mindy, Three’s Company, Diff’rent Strokes, Batman, The Incredible Hulk, Combat, CHiPs, etc. PBA games would mean a bet between Crispa or Toyota, and I rooted for the latter.

(23) Movies I liked during the ’70s: Star Wars, Superman, Grease, Oh, God!

(24) I remember commuting by calesa from Cubao to Marikina, and the place we went to was like a province, a rural area. Marikina was not yet a city then.

(25) I never rode the double-decked bus, something I didn’t experience back in the ’70s.

(26) ’70s music ranged from instrumental, funk, jazz, swing, rock and roll, ballad, and OPM. I even thought that the song “One Day In Your LIfe” was sung by a woman.

(27) My nanny was a fan of Philippine showbiz. It was through her that I became aware of Kislap, Liwayway, and all those Pinoy comics. And TV soap operas and sitcoms that began in the ’70s ran long enough to see their characters age in time until the ’80s.

(28) The late ’70s ushered the change in the music scene with the advent of the movies like Saturday Night Fever and Grease.

(29) The late ’70s also ushered the coming of the Japanese anime every afternoon. If I remembered it right, Mazinger Z on Mondays, Daimos on Tuesdays, Mekanda Robot on Wednesdays, Voltes V on Thursdays, and Star Rangers on Fridays. Then President Marcos banned these animes when Voltes V had only 6 episodes remaining. So those remaining episodes became a movie instead. The animes that replaced these were Candy Candy, Paul in Fantasy Land, The Flying House, etc. all of which were too tamed or childish for us then.

(30) Talking dolls, walking dolls, Barbie dolls, and Hello Kitty were my favorite toys. I used to have a 3-feet doll that talks and walks.

(31) My routine would be like play a bit in the morning, go to school in the afternoon. 10am snack, 12pm lunch, 4pm snack, and 7pm dinner. And if there were no classes, I have to take a nap after lunch and could only play outside after taking a snack at 4pm.

(32) Playing outside would mean playing hide and seek, tumbang preso, patintero, siyato, piko (hopscotch), agawan base, luksong baka, etc.

(33) One thing they didn’t allow me to do was to learn how to ride a bike. Because they thought and feared that I would get away and reach 15th Avenue and might meet an accident there.

(34) A whistle from my uncle would mean I am being called. Martial Law was also imposed at home with my uncle’s military type of discipline.

(35) Sometime in the early ’80s, President Marcos lifted the Martial Law a few months before the arrival of Pope John Paul II. Others said that it was a show-off  just to impress the Pope.

Well, these are the things I could think of right now. Some of you might relate to it while others may find it funny or weird to live in a decade like that. One thing’s for sure, that decade molded me to what I am today. Keep reminiscing and learn from those who went before you.

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