On November 18, 2016, the country was shocked when news broke of the stealthy burial of former President and Dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery).
It was 10 days since the Supreme Court justices ruled 9-5 that Marcos’ remains could be put to rest at the LNMB.
He was buried with full military honors, ending a nearly 3-decade long debate but rekindling an old fight for justice.
According to Amnesty International, 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured, and 3,240 were killed from 1972 to 1981, the period when the country was placed under Martial Law by Marcos.
Naturally, protests sprung up from all over the capital city of Manila, while many Marcos supporters took to the streets as well and on social media.
When a photo of young protesters from St. Scholastica Manila emerged online, the internet was further divided. Some decried it, saying the students were forced into rallying and participating in the noise barrage, while some applauded the children for possessing moral courage at a young age.
Child Abuse or Freedom of Expression?
Celebrity blogger Mocha Uson shared screenshots of messages from an anonymous sender, who claimed to be a parent of a St. Scholastica Manila student. In her messages, she alleged that her child was sent home with permission slips to join an Anti-Marcos rally; she was not pleased and even termed it as “child abuse”.
The SSC community got in touch with Uson to air their side of the issue, which she also shared in the “spirit of fairness”.
In her message, the administrator clarified that parents of grade school and junior High School students did receive circulars to indicate whether or not they would allow their daughters to join the noise barrage but they were not forced or pressured to participate in any way.
“You may be pleased to know that we have students who did not join because their parents and the students themselves feel that they should not join. And, we absolutely respect that. In fact, those students who did not join stayed in their classrooms. No judgments even if the institution’s stand on the issue is crystal clear: Marcos is no hero,” wrote JM Lim, one of the administrators of St. Scholastica Manila. “These girls were not forced. They were given a choice. And, they made their choice. I hope we can respect that as much as I respect your commitment to tunay na pagbabago.”
“Just learning and a joyful awakening to activism…”
In response, St. Scholastica alumna took to social media to show their support to their alma mater as a place where freedom of expression is encouraged.
One of their esteemed alumnae, Senator Risa Hontiveros, shared an old photo of her while in her 3rd year of High School in St. Scholastica Manila.
“Me in 3rd year high school. No child abuse at all. Just learning & a joyful awakening to activism,” she wrote in her post.
Read our interview with one of the students from St. Scholastica on the next page
Being one of the most prestigious schools in the country for over a century, St. Scholastica Manila prides itself not only in academic excellence but in instilling in their students moral courage.
We got in touch with one of the student protester’s parents Melay Guanzon Lapeña, who describes her 13-year-old daughter as “an artistic bookworm and a fan of all things ‘aesthetic’, to find out how she feels about the issue.
“As with all off-campus activities, the school informed the parents about the nature of the activity, as well as asked permission,” began Melay. “Parents have the option to allow or not allow their daughters. More importantly, just because a parent allows their daughter does not automatically mean the daughter attends. These students are given the chance to learn about the issue and decide for themselves.”
The importance of social awareness at a young age
She also clarified that the activity was strictly a protest activity and was not graded or made part of their school requirements in any way.
“Being asked for permission is only right, and I am glad the school always does this,” continued Melay.
She believes kids need to be well-informed individuals with a sense of social awareness at a young age.
“Just like adults, these kids live in this world. It makes sense for them to be interested and to care about what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen,” explained Melay.
“Being a kid doesn’t mean not being able to think for themselves…”
She believes parents play a vital role in imparting these good values.
“It is the parent’s or guardian’s responsibility to explain such issues to them. Being in a school that has similar values is also important. These are things that kids see in others. Showing them, either in one’s own actions or in the actions of others, is how they grow in the same way,” the supportive mom emphasized.
She believes parents should consistently engage their kids in meaningful conversations about what they believe is important in life. A strong sense of self and one’s principles should first be cultivated in the home.
“They should be the first to treat their kids with respect – asking them, and listening to, what they think and processing things together so that they know that being a kid doesn’t mean not being able to think for themselves,” said Melay.
As for her dreams for her daughter, she says they are “simple things”.
“I want her to be the kind of person who finds ways to make the world a kinder place,” she continued. “I think it’s the same for everyone.”
READ: Leni Robredo on Marcos burial: ‘It will only deepen unhealed wounds’
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