By Louise P. Abesa
I had the pleasure to be at the Insular Life Auditorium on Ayala Avenue, Makati City with Senator Loren Legarda and American stage actress Leslie Lewis-Sword in July 2010, about a couple of weeks into the presidency of Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
Leslie Lewis-Sword, whose father is an African-American businessman and whose mother is a Filipina from Sorsogon, played Immaculee Ilibagiza, a 24-year-old woman who survived the genocide in her beautiful country, Rwanda, in 1994. The staged drama was called Miracle in Rwanda.
Loren Legarda was with the Assumption Convent nuns in the audience. I think Assumption College was the sponsor of one of the ten runs of the play, Miracle in Rwanda, which was brought by the Repertory Philippines from New York to Manila. A client of my aunt’s eGrande Travel and Tours gave us tickets to the Assumption sponsored run of the play. The play ran from July 14-22, 2010 in Manila but it has been staged in different countries before and after it has been shown in Manila.
In his April 5, 2019 article for America: The Jesuit Review, Deniz Demirer tells us that the autobiography of Immaculee Ilibagiza, “Left to Tell”, has become a New York Times bestseller. The play, Miracle in Rwanda, has been based on the autobiography which talks about the power of forgiveness. In a conference in Florida, USA, Immaculee talked about how the Rosary helped her focus her mind on God and not the killers and not the evil that was happening all around. Immaculee was able to forgive her family’s murderers through a spiritual transformation that can only be described as miraculous.
After the genocide, Immaculee came face to face with the man who killed his mother and one of her brothers (Immaculee had also lost her father and another brother in the genocide; only her brother who was studying abroad was saved). After enduring months of physical, mental, and spiritual suffering, Immaculee was still able to offer the unthinkable, telling the man, “I forgive you”.
According to Demirer, the producers of the play believe that what Immaculee did while hiding in the bathroom with 7 other women for 91 days to escape from the Hutu Interhamwe militia and Hutu murderers of the Tutsi population and their supporters was to touch on the core divinity of every human being, the “indwelling of Christ’s presence”…when we see things with the eyes of Christ-the eyes of the divine- we can’t hold on to hatred.
I have watched the Toni Talks September 12, 2021 episode with former Senator Bongbong Marcos as guest. It seems Bongbong has chosen to be oblivious of the atrocities committed by the administration of his father, President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. during the Martial Law years, 1972-1986. He has mentioned that his father has fallen ill before the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution and that he did not want bloodshed. I agree that we should thank Bongbong’s father for not wanting bloodshed. But at least Bongbong should have the heart to apologize for his father’s intolerance of any opposition to his dictatorship.
I guess what we need in the Philippines is a miracle for Bongbong Marcos to acknowledge the abuses of the government and military powers from 1972-1986 and to reach out to the families of the victims of these abuses because he is running for President in the May 2022 elections. Once the Filipino people achieve this first miracle by sincerely praying the Rosary for the conversion of Bongbong Marcos, hopefully the victims of the 1972-1986 Martial Law regime will have peace in their hearts and will be ready to forgive Bongbong’s insensitivity to human rights violations and move on, this will be the second miracle. Just compensation for the Martial Law victims is not Bongbong Marcos’ concern as a civilian but what if…?
Running for the highest post in the country is open to any qualified Filipino citizen according to the criteria set by the 1987 constitution. But reaching out to the families of the victims of the abuses of the 1972-1986 Martial Law is most noble.
Imee has been more level headed and more objective in looking at the history of our country but she’d rather delete the 1972-1986 part of Philippine history (Haley Gilliland, Bloomberg & Yahoo News, 29 June 2021). I think it is important that every Filipino knows that part of our history by heart as recounted by human rights violation victims so it won’t be repeated as former President, Nonoy Aquino, wished.
Both Imee and Noynoy joined the House of Representatives of the Philippine Congress as neophyte lawmakers in 1998. As they represented their own juridical district of Ilocos Norte and Tarlac, respectively, both chose to be independent opposition lawmakers who challenged the status quo to introduce positive changes in the situation of the country.
I know that the Romualdez-Marcos family are pious. I hope they will come to the point of acknowledging that world history has proven that prolonged Martial rule is open to abuse of power. They should not be afraid of the TRUTH. Neither should they hate the TRUTH for the TRUTH will set as all free (Jn 8:32). I also hope and pray that the bishops in the Philippines would help in the healing of wounds caused by the human rights abuses of the 1972 Martial Law by helping Bongbong, as a candidate for president in the May 2022 National Elections, sincerely reach out to the families of the Martial Law victims.
Gerard O’Connell, another writer of America: The Jesuit Review, has covered the flight of Pope Francis from Bratislava, Slovakia to Rome on September 15 this year. The Pope has reminded the Bishops “to be pastors not politicians” and lead their flock to live the teachings of Christ instead of condemning sinners. From the very start of his pontificate, Pope Francis has advocated the culture of encounter and dialogue and advised against the confrontational approach. He has reminded everyone that “we are all sinners”.
I am offering my daily rosary for all Filipinos and for the Marcos family especially for Bongbong. His first cousin was my student in my 7th grade World Geography class in 1985-1986. She was among my best students and was the most polite. Like Immaculee Ilibagiza, let us “touch on the core of every human being”, the “indwelling of Christ’s presence”. Allow me to repeat the thoughts of the producers of Miracle in Rwanda… “ when we see things with the eyes of Christ- the eyes of the divine- we can’t hold on to hatred”.