Lukans Participate in EDvoCAFE 2: Implication of Martial Law to Health Care
by Kristen Reyes and Zarina Sarapuddin
The second Educational Discussion Advocacy over Coffee (EdVoCafe) was held at the Penthouse floor VIP Room of the College on September 21, 2018 during the 46th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law. The session focused on the implications of martial law to health care during that era and up to now. The event started with an opening prayer lead by Cristina Manalaysay, president of the Sagip Bayan Student Group.
Dr. Malaya Santos formally started the Kapehan session, where she shared her personal stories during martial law. As a daughter of activists, Dr. Santos was given the name Malaya as she was born two months after the declaration of Martial Law. Her mother who was a casualty back then, is now a part of the Bantayog ng Bayani Wall of Remembrance. Dr. Santos said that she rarely talks about this “…because having grown up [during Martial Law], my mind was conditioned not to talk about this out of fear; fear for myself and my family’s safety.” She remarked the importance of appreciating the freedom that the country enjoys today as it was the fruit of the struggles of those who chose to fight during the martial law.
The first speaker for the event was Ms. Maria Cristina “May” Rodriguez, the Executive Director of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation and a former researcher, journalist and editor. She was also an activist and survivor of torture and imprisonment under the Marcos dictatorship. Ms. Rodriguez provided a testimonial on her experiences during the Martial Law era. She started by giving a brief history on how chaos started that time and how she began to be an activist. As Marcos declared martial law, she decided to go underground, got a new identity, and started writing about the truth of what was happening in the country. She said that if no one tells the truth, then the country would be rooted in fallacy as even the teachers during that time had to teach the future teachers not to talk about what was really happening. After a few months after, she was arrested, raped, and tortured. She said that until now “…I don’t understand why they tortured me that time except that they were trying to get information that I did not have or information that I did have but I did not want to give. Why is it that even if you do not have the information, they still torture you?” When she was released, she said that she realized that people can do cruel things to other people but that despite everything, she can still continue on with her life. As there were more opportunities to protest in the open, she decided to become a professional journalist and continued writing. She ended her testimony with a statement to the younger generation to stand up to corruption, to fight for a good government, and to not stay indifferent.
The next speaker was Dr. Nemuel Fajutagana, a Doctor to the Barrio. Dr. Fajutagana shared the beginnings of community medicine, and how he and his batchmates came together to form this alternative residency. He shared how he served as a general practitioner in Samar and how he had to learn to bond with the community and learn their cultures, how he travelled from one village to another, and how he almost lost his life, after soldiers suspected him to be part of the NPA. He shared how medical students should always go beyond their books, and to give meaning to the things being studied; ultimately, we medical students should become doctors in order to serve the people. He also stated how we should pursue things where we are needed the most, and if we want to pursue something but it is not established, we should pioneer its beginnings.
The last speaker was Dr. Yvonne Eltico, a psychiatrist who previously worked with the Medical Action Group (MAG) as a general practitioner. She attended to political prisoners and internal refugees suffering from trauma. She shared how she finally pursued psychiatry after encountering a patient who would always come to her complaining of pains in different areas of his body. She also shared how she encountered a 6-year-old child became mute after she saw her mother covered in blood after being gunned down by soldiers while they were sleeping during Martial Law. She also encountered a Muslim man who had post traumatic disorder after being tortured. She explained how dealing with patients also mean dealing with their community and other aspects of their health. She stated that there is still much work to be done in the field of mental health, and it is difficult to deal with and treat trauma patients as doctors are not really given sufficient training in this field. Lastly, she stated how people should look into problems in the health system that should be addressed and work towards solving or improving it.
A Q&A session followed the discussions, and afterwards, Certificates of Appreciation were given to the resource speakers. Following this, a moment of silence and prayer for the victims of martial law was given. The program then ended with the closing remarks of Kristen Reyes, head of the Standing Committee on Human Rights and Peace.