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10 Films That Will Remind You Of The Atrocities Of Martial Law

Where art imitates life
by Khatrina Bonagua | Nov 22, 2016
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ICYMI, President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to allow the burial of Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani was justified by the following statement: “I am just being legalistic about it. President Marcos was a President for so long, and he was a soldier. That’s about it... Whether or not he performed worse or better, there’s no study, no movie about it, just the challenges and allegations of the other side.”  

Yes, you read that right: “No movie." 

In response to that, several organizations and netizens came up with their own lists of Martial Law-related films, just to remind everyone that there were in fact movies that touched on the atrocities of the said era. And in case you need a refresher course, FHM compiled 10 must-watch movies that were set during or referenced Martial Law—some subversive, others downright in-your-face.

1) Maynila Sa Mga Kuko Ng Liwanag by Lino Brocka (1975)

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The film is about Julio Madiaga (Bembol Roco) and Ligaya Paraiso’s (Hilda Koronel) tragic love story during the Martial Law era. Dubbed as one of the greatest Filipino films ever made, the movie portrays several siocietal illnesses the country was facing during that time. It shatters the myth of progress that was being proliferated during the Marcos years.

2) Manila By Night by Ismhael Bernal (1980)

The film uncovers the darker facets of the capital by bringing to light the negative aspects of the city, such as unemployment, prostitution, drug addiction, and more. The movie was released at the height of the Marcos regime.

3) Batch ‘81 by Mike De Leon (1982)

Batch ’81 chronicles the lives of seven neophytes as they enter a popular fraternity through a difficult hazing process. The entire experience is seen through the eyes of Sid Lucero (Mark Gil), one of the newbies. The film subtly represents the abuse of power and repression during the Marcos' reign.

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4) Bayan Ko: Kapit Sa Patalim by Lino Brocka (1984)

Printing press worker Arturo (Phillip Salvador), together with his wife Luz Manalastas (Gina Alajar), land on the wrong side of a labor strike when Arturo says he is not part of any labor union. Under pressure to pay for mounting hospital bills, Arturo turns to crime to acquire the money he needs.

5) Sister Stella L. by Mike De Leon (1984)

Sister Stella Legaspi (Vilma Santos) becomes involved in labor strikes after learning of the government’s neglect of the laborers. Things get complicated when Nick Fajardo (Jay Ilagan), her journalist friend, is tortured, and Ka Dencio (Tony Santos), a union leader, is kidnapped and killed. 


6) A Dangerous Life by Robert Markowitz (1988)

The Australian film is about American TV journalist Tony O’Neil (Gary Busey) witnessing Ferdinand Marcos’ (Ruben Rustia) last years as Philippine president. The movie shows the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr. (as himself, interviewed before his assassination) in 1983, to the EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986, which ousted then-President Marcos.

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7) Dekada ‘70 by Chito Rono (2002)

Dekada '70 is the story of a normal family caught in the middle of a tempestuous time during the 1970s. It shows how a middle class family coped with a harsh government, growing activism in the community, and a movement that would upset the cold dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

8) Dukot by Joel Lamangan (2009)

The film is about student activists Junix Entrata (Allen Dizon) and Marical Salvacruz (Iza Calzado), who are abducted by leaders of the New People’s Army (NPA). In order to extract information from both of them, the military tortures them—something very reminiscent of the Martial Law era. 

9) Aparisyon by Vincent Sandoval (2012)

Aparisyon is a psychological drama about nuns in the period preceding Martial Law. Set in 1971, the story focuses on nuns Remy (Mylene Dizon) and Lourdes (Jodi Sta. Maria). The two fall victim to violence from the hands of bandits as they are on their way back from secretly attending meetings of families with missing relatives.

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10) Dahling Nick by Sari Lluch Dalena (2015)

This documentary-drama features the life and works of National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin, who was unjustly detained during Martial Law.

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