#AnvilReadlist: 8 Reads to Commemorate Ninoy Aquino Day

[C]ome August 21, we will commemorate the life of one of the most important figures in the Philippine history, former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. Regarded as a hero by many, the martyr was gunned down during the Martial Law era that resulted to the bloodless EDSA People Power Revolution ousting the dictator Marcos from position.

To remind us of the lessons of the EDSA uprising and to remember the dark time in our history that not only Ninoy, but also our fellow Filipinos, fought our freedom for, here are eight featured books to delve into:


Subversive Lives: A Family Memoir of the Marcos Years by Susan F. Quimpo and Nathan Gilbert Quimpo

Subversive Lives gives us a glimpse of the Marcos regime through the powerful testimonies of the Quimpo family siblings. Bearing witness to the atrocious events that transpired, from attempts to smuggle weapons for the NPA to the near hallucinatory tales of imprisonment, summary executions, and torture at the hands of the military, these stories paint us a clearer picture of the Philippine revolutionary movement, the struggles of these youth activists, and the fight for the three “evils of Philippine society.”

“These stories remind us of the personal costs and the daily heroism of those who joined the movement… To read these accounts, each so rich and distinctive in its tone, is to hear the rhythm of the revolution.”

— Foreword by Vicente L. Rafael

Dekada ’70 by Lualhati Bautista

Originally published in 1988, Dekada ’70 is the story of a woman, Amanda, who felt like she was living in a “man’s world” during the the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. The novel tackles the struggle of being a woman in a society where women were seen as subordinates of men, where she was expected to submit and fulfill certain gender roles.

Bautista minces no words in the political novel, as she tackles martial law, gender inequality, and other societal injustices with a strong feminist approach.

Empire of Memory by Eric Gamalinda

Weaving history with fantasy, Empire of Memory is a politically-charged novel about two friends who were hired by Marcos to rewrite Philippine history. Their mission: to make it appear that Marcos was destined to rule the country in perpetuity. Working from an office called the Agency for the Scientific Investigation of the Absurd, they embark on a journey that will take them across a surreal panorama of Philippine politics and history, and in the process question their morals and beliefs.

Gamalinda uses magical realism to paint the story, using mythological sultans, mercenaries, the Beatles, millenarian vigilantes, letting your imagination get loose, at the same time, hitting the Marcos regime right in the face.

Gun Dealers’ Daughter by Gina Apostol

“In this fearlessly intellectual novel, Gina Apostol takes on the keepers of official memory and creates a new, atonal anthem that defies single ownership . . . perception is always in question, and memory and the Filipino identity are turned inside out.”

— Eric Gamalinda, author of Empire of Memory

Gun Dealers’ Daughter centers around Soledad Soliman, a young woman who tries to piece together her troubled past of rebellion and romance set in the latter half of 1980. Belonging to the elite Philippine class, she leaves the comfort of her home to study in a university in Manila, and soon enough, she falls in love and we find her transformed from a bookish rich girl to a communist rebel. In this provocative view of the Philippine revolutionary movement—between rebellion and authoritarianism—we question the role of the young bourgeoisie in the movement, can she really be a relevant part of it or is she just a “useful tool?”

Cory: An Intimate Portrait 2 by Margie Juico

The book’s strength and charm lie in very form: firsthand stories by friends of President Cory’s for many years, by men and women who served in government, and by others whose lives she touched in countless ways.

The Jupiter Effect by Katrina Tuvera 

The narrative focuses on Kiko and Gaby, two martial-law babies who underwent political initiation during the Marcos years. The book poses questions about the Filipinos’ complicity in the Marcos dictatorship and portrays many compromises that are still present in the current Philippine politics.

Tibak Rising: Activism in the Days of Martial Law by Ferdinand C. Llanes, ed. 

Columnist and teacher Michael L. Tan writes, “The Tibak stories remind us there’s more to transformation than slogans and the grim and determined politics of the streets . . . We find friendships and camaraderie built even in detention, not just among prisoners but with the soldier . . . (These stories) remind us that history and memory-making, so vital for the nation to move forward as a people, is not just of commemorating people, but also of reclaiming places weher people lived, struggled, and died.”

Killing Time in a Warm Place by Jose Dalisay, Jr.

This is a novel about growing up in the Philippines during the Marcos years. Told through the voice of Noel Ilustre Bulaong, the narrative travels through familiar social and literary territory: the coconut groves of Bulaong’s childhood, Manila’s hovels, the Diliman commune, “UG” safehouses, martial law prisons, the homes and offices of the petite-bourgeoisie.