September 21, 2022 (9:55 PM)

9 min read


Art by James Walter Abao

Imagine all the people living life in peace.

In this line from the poignant song “Imagine” by John Lennon, listeners are drawn to imagine a life where no divisions exist. Brimming with a dream to uphold peace among individuals, it invites people to someday help the world be and live as one.

While it advocates for a universal experience of harmony, the world is still burdened by harsh realities that impede us from reaching that dream of peace. Conflicts, prejudices, discrimination, and social divisiveness: the list of dire straits that hinder our realization of peace goes on. With this, people are born into the world with an awaiting acknowledgment that not all things are well-balanced. 

In contrast, peace cannot just be thought of as a line from a song, a taste of calmness, or ultimately, a state of being free from disturbance. As much as it must be widely inherent, it must also be kept as a promise to be constantly fulfilled—a lingering experience to be lived.

When talking about peace, we think of its symbolism—a dove that signifies purity, freedom, and harmony. The dove can also be a metaphor of our journey to achieving peace, where our collective efforts become our wingspan, and genuine intention becomes the wind beneath our wings. Through this avenue of achieving peace, we were able to reach milestones not just as a community, but as an entire world. Take, for example, the establishment of the Peace Year, Peace Month, and Peace Day in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly. Two decades later, the assembly designated September 21 as the International Day of Peace. It was a day designated as a time of non-violence and ceasefire wherein all nations and people are invited to cease hostilities for the duration of the day.

However, the world’s flight towards peace is a quest that still goes on for years. Because even after these two milestones—the establishment of the resolution and designation of the date, the path towards peace has extended beyond mere heights. In other words, the dove must keep soaring to surpass the perils of discord that try to hunt it down.

A paradox of peace

Filipinos are staunch advocates of peace: through solidarity, uplifting communities, unity, name it. The country and its peoples have long been promoting peace by their own means. Thus, it isn’t foreign that since time immemorial, the country has braved major distances from across oceans and mountains to streets and stages. Heeding to the call to advance progressive agenda, Filipinos are known to be resilient; defiant of any challenge that gets in their way in order to achieve a common goal, with peace as one of their utmost priorities.

But peace isn’t something handed to us on a silver platter.

Ironically, one of the most dreadful events in Philippine history is remembered along with a global celebration of peace; but this doesn’t budge the people’s desire to amplify their call for justice.

As the world confederated for peace across the globe on the 21st of September 2001, the Philippines was witnessing the 29th commemoration of the infamous Martial Law declaration, a known force that acted as an antithesis to the Filipinos’ peace and freedom. On September 21, 1972, President Ferdinand E. Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081, declaring martial law in the Philippines. The decree was dated September 21, despite other sources claiming that Marcos signed it on September 17 or September 22. According to the late president, it was the last line of defense against the rising unrest brought by increasingly violent student protests, the alleged communist insurgency threats made by the newly formed Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and the Muslim separatist movement of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

However, many Filipinos disagreed with the need for the imposition of martial law over the country. To them, it was an unjust strategy to get a tight hold of the country’s diplomacy and abuse presidential power.

Preying hawks, praying doves

The declaration of martial law robbed and stripped citizens of their fundamental rights: to freedom of speech, to due process, and even to life. The militarization of the country steered our direction towards crimes under international law and amassed grave human rights violations. As per Amnesty International records, the extensive human rights violations clearly showed a pattern of widespread arrests and detention, enforced disappearances, killings, and torture of people who opposed the government. Church workers, human rights defenders, legal aid lawyers, labor leaders, and even journalists were unjustly detained.

While these narratives only depict an overview of the time period, there are also important names, details, and more specific events that help the people remember what was a dark, gruesome past for the country.

Archimedes Trajano, Boyet Mijares, and Liliosa Hilao are only few of the people whose lives were mercilessly ended by the hands of injustice. Primitivo Mijares, Romeo Crismo, and Rizalina Ilagan are only some of those who disappeared without a trace in the middle of their plight for fairness. Ka Pepe Diokno, Ricky Lee, and Neri Colmenares are only part of the long list of the political prisoners who suffered under the brutality of those who abused their power. 

These victims of extrajudicial killing, the desaparecidos, and the political prisoners are not just names to be remembered. They are the reason behind the unyielding efforts of the Filipinos fighting for the truth—the tenacious pursuit towards justice that rightfully belongs to those who need and deserve it.

However, even with the tireless efforts to preserve history and promote truth and justice, the peace crisis in the Philippines went on beyond decades and for the years to come. After Martial Law was lifted in 1981, the struggle for peace still remained a challenge for the country. The injustices continued, those in power remained unjustly powerful, and the attempts at keeping the truths have been overshadowed by deceptive propaganda.

The preying hawks continued to lurk in the treacherous skies, all while the doves had to take their chances under their wings and utter prayers for positive change—for the winds to feel free and the skies to be safe again.

Fleeing from the hunt

In the five decades of fighting for genuine justice, the country is still at a pedestal—especially with the presidential election of another Marcos. Through this, many Filipinos have been alarmed as the looming threat to freedom, democracy, and to an ultimate peace persists.

In an interview after his landslide victory in the elections, Marcos Jr. stated: “Martial law was established because of the wars, the two battles we were fighting on two fronts.” The statement caused mixed reactions from the public, with some being assured that martial law was the “greatest period” in Philippine history, while some took it as an added insult to the already existing and unresolved problems that have been there since the previous Marcos administration.

While the former resembles the kettle of hawks that take pride in the side they took, the latter mirrors the incessant flight of the doves soaring towards their collective goal of rightfulness and peace.

However, carrying their “promise” of unity, the new administration has been confident in attaining collective progress as a nation. But their platforms for anti-insurgency nor law and order were nowhere near the acknowledgement of the counts of grave misconduct and violent atrocities that took place during his father’s presidency.

With this, there could be a growing realization that the country’s peace isn’t up against mere preys anymore. The dove is not just fleeing from hawks and preys. It is now fleeing from a hunt; the tight grip of the hands of abusive power that once threatened to clip its feathers, now posing a much bigger threat that could sever the wings of effort and hope.

Chasing the wind, braving the skies

With an unyielding pursuit to speak truth to power and give justice to the victims, many Filipinos took to the streets and rallied a shared agenda. For decades, Filipinos have been marching onwards, lobbying their campaigns through the parliaments and urging officials to push for legal action. They know that if no imperative action is taken, no positive change will happen; hence, the dove that carries their hopes of peace could not take flight and forever suffer in the eyrie of its prey.

To some, the new administration’s promise of unity isn’t far-fetched; and in retrospect, it is something that Filipinos have all been yearning for as a country. However, it’s not in the promises and auspicious speeches where the country’s chances lie. It is not in the mere campaign of unity where we find our peace, but in the actions we carry out as the means to achieve the peace we deserve as a nation.

But before we move forth towards that vision of peace, there must be an acknowledgement of the existing truths of the past which led us to where we are now and influence where we will be heading. 

With the irony in commemorating a global celebration of peace and an infamous part of our past in a single day, there comes a great deal of emphasis on how the former amplifies the importance of overcoming the latter. In the nation’s ongoing flight towards achieving peace, we continue to chase the wind, brave the skies—breaking free from the restraints of the past and soaring towards an all-embracing peace.


Amnesty International. (2022, May 17). Five things to know about Martial Law in the Philippines. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from

Beltran, M. (2022, May 19). Does Marcos Jr. Have an Economic Plan for the Philippines? The Diplomat. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from

Francisco, K. (2017, September 21). Gone too soon: 7 youth leaders killed under Martial Law. RAPPLER. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from

Francisco, K. (2022, August 18). Martial Law, the dark chapter in Philippine history. RAPPLER. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from

Gavilan, J. (2022, September 21). No ‘moving on’ for kin of Martial Law desaparecido Romeo Crismo. RAPPLER. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from

Luis Manuel Mijares: The Son of Whistleblower Primitivo Mijares. (2021, September 21). Lourdes School of Mandaluyong.

Moss, D. (2022, May 14). The Powerful Machine That Brought Bongbong to Victory. Bloomberg. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from

Ong, J. C. (2022, May 10). The World Should Be Worried About a Dictator’s Son’s Apparent Win in the Philippines. Time. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from

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