Sunday, November 19, 2006

under red blood skies

When freedom comes at the cost of life, and life at the cost of freedom, what is there left to do?

World War II ushered in one of the darkest moments in Silliman’s history. Death came with screams from blazing red planes in flashes of light and fire. Darkness loomed over
Silliman University, with the Japanese rifle taking full reign, casting gloom and fear over the American-inhabited city beside the sea.

“Clouds By Day and Fire By Night: The Silliman Story” by Drs. Paul Lauby, Proceso Udarbe, and Jennifer Lauby, recounts the significant events that have conditioned this university into what we know today. From there we learn that upon arrival, the Japanese brought Silliman and Dumaguete into great degradation. And it is this suffering of innocent people that terribly fanned the flames of passionate faith and action.

People escaped to the hills and various barrios, such as Malabo several kilometres away from the city. The students and faculty hid in the most unthinkable areas, and they suffered from scarcity of food, shelter, medicines, and other basic necessities. Some even resorted to dwell in caves. But the Sillimanian commitment to care and to educate was never undermined, and they made a mission field out of the mountains and barrios.
There was even a time when Japanese troops found a barrio and burned it to the last nipa hut. But, fortunately, a spy aided the Silliman refugees to flee.
Mountain treks encompassed dangerous terrains towards the sea, seeking help from clandestine American submarines and ships waiting for them at shore. Though not everyone was saved from the Japanese atrocities, there were those who survived until the aliens finally fled—living on to tell their story.

Life seemed to only go uphill from there. But years later, the sky was yet again beset with horror and strife. On September 21, 1972, the whole country was declared under Martial Law.

Manila certainly had most of the publicity during the Marcos’ regime, with all the rambles and trend of unexplainable deaths. But Visayas and Mindanao suffered just as well under the Marcos manipulations, with Dumaguete’s renowned Silliman University given special attention in the Visayas region.

In the year 1972, four universities across the Philippines were closed, including
Silliman University and University of the Philippines. The Weekly Sillimanian and the student government were forcibly closed as ordered. Dr. Nichol Elman was actually the last SG president before the body was closed.

On January 15, 1972, the Movement for a Democratic Philippines (MDP) led other affiliates like Kabataang Makabayan (KM), among others, to protest. Even women groups like Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MAKIBAKA) called on all progressive women to join forces with the national movement in altering the cruel and unfair system the Philippines had.

Even the idea of a Silliman Cultural Center (which we now know as the Claire Isabel McGil Luce Auditorium) faced some controversies. One can imagine how, in those years, an innocent construction plan was regarded as a “treasonous act against national democracy.”

Even if Sillimanians were also hailed among the world’s most outstanding artists and performers, the university paper at that time linked Marcos, as well as the Silliman Cultural Center, to American imperialism, domestic feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism, stating, “It is a project that will only become symbols of senseless extravagance in the midst of widespread poverty.”

Amidst the string of adversities, these ages of confusion and antagonism have shaped in the Silliman student’s mind the skills of responsible civic duty and loyalty. It is in times of war and conflict that the human spirit is at its worst, or at its finest. And those times have prompted us to adapt and live our lives not with fear, but with a Godly resolve to face and conquer them.
In a world that hates evil more than it loves good, a Sillimanian offers hope under blood red skies.

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