Twenty five years after “Batas Militar” premiered on Philippine television—to high ratings and wide acclaim—documentary producer Kara Magsanoc Alikpala is screening her second film about Martial Law. It’s called “11,103,” and it’s scheduled for a free screening at the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani in Quezon City this Wednesday, September 21, the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Ferdinand Marcos’ military rule.
What compelled her to revisit the subject and dedicate another documentary to it? And do we really need another film about Martial Law—when 31 million Filipinos effectively brought the Marcoses back to power after voting Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos the 17th Philippine President last May 9?
“We produced ‘Batas Militar’ 25 years ago with the singular message that eternal vigilance is the price of democracy. What a no-brainer. Why does it even need spelling out?” Kara tells ANCX. “We produced that for the students so we went very basic. The ill gotten wealth, the human rights abuses, the collapse of the economy, the destruction of our culture and values was so outrageous I didn't think people would forget. But 25 years later, it is shockingly possible to distort and erase stories and get away with it.”
While “Batas Militar” largely explored the situations that brought about Proclamation 1081 and how the Marcoses ruled the country under its spell, “11,103” tells the stories of Martial Law survivors. The title refers to the number of victims given compensation—thanks to the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013–for the atrocities they suffered during the Marcos rule from September 1972 to February 1986.
The film includes the story of Enrequita Toling who was able to escape the Las Navas massacre of 1981 in Northern Samar, and Nemia Cabe who survived the same event but lost her father and her sister who was with an infant at the time.
It tells the story of Puring Viernes, an avid churchgoer in military infested Misamis Oriental, whose house was fired at several times one late evening in 1984, killing her husband, five-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter. Had the gunmen also burned their home, Puring and her daughter Cecilia would not have survived—although Puring suffered gunshot wounds on her leg which explains why she now walks with the help of crutches.
Then there is the story of Cris Palabay, jailed at 18 in 1972, and arrested again and tortured in 1974. “Pinaupo ako sa ice block tapos nilublob pa ako sa kasilyas,” he says in the film, his voice shaking. “Inalis lahat ng damit ko, tapos kinurye-kuryente ako. Tapos mawawalan ako ng malay, tapos mamaya na naman uulitin na naman.” He says he was tortured inside what used to be the La Union Constabulary Command.
Kara says she started work on the documentary in 2018 and only completed the film a few weeks before its Philippine premiere. “COVID 19 delayed production. We had to stop and resume till everyone was vaccinated, even our interviewees who were all seniors. We conducted most interviews outdoor to keep safe.”
But she says that’s hardly the most difficult part of making “11,103.” “People think the challenges to making a documentary are always external,” she tells ANCX. “But I think figuring out what your story is, deciding on how to tell that story and picking who among the protagonists would best tell that story is always the toughest.”
But no matter the ordeals she and her team had to face—Kara is joined in this undertaking by director Mike Alcazaren who also worked on “Batas Militar,” director Jeannette Ifurung, director of photography Lee Briones, editor Lawrence Ang, and musical directors Erwin Romulo, Malek Lopez and Juan Miguel Sobrepeña—it seems there was no way they were not going to have the film done.
Why is there a need for another documentary on this, one of the darkest period in Philippine history? “We need to uphold the factual, truthful experiences of these Martial Law survivors and heroes who are dying out,” Kara says. “We need to keep retelling their stories. We need to crowd out the false narratives. If we are to be truly free, we need to take responsibility for many difficult truths and maybe one day have one common truth.”
[Visit Active Vista on Facebook for schedule of future screenings in different parts of the country this September.]
Photos from the official ‘11,103’ website.