Dekada 70: A Book Review

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In the 70’s, the Republic of the Philippines was suffering under the midst of then- President Ferdinand Marcos’ reign as ruler. It was in September 21st, 1972, that he chained close whatever inkling of democracy the Filipinos had by declaring Martial Law. Unfortunately, it was a rule of a a twisted sort: the nation would be under the rule of the Armed Forces, but contrary to its definition, Marcos’ Martial Law kept himself in power. Dekada ’70 (Translated into English, the 70’s decade) is a bittersweet tale of love in the face of hate, hope in the face oppression, and new life in the midst of death. It is a novel of a mother, her examination of her oft-unappreciated role in modern society, and how she struggles to find for herself a sense of purpose and identity while suffering through the very pit of the nation’s disintegration. It is a novel of a mother and her family, how society around her affects her family. It is a tale of she becomes torn between the letter of the law or her responsibility as a mother.

Dekada ’70 tells of how under hate, greed and corruption, one normal person transcends beyond right and wrong: instead learns that it is freedom that entails survival. Set in the 70’s, urban Metro Manila, Amanda Bartolome is a middle-class mother of five young men. Amanda acts as a supposed symbolism of detachment. First of all, she was a mother, a housewife; such were not considered integral parts of society during those times. She was not the breadwinner; she did not experience the foremost effects of the decline of the Philippines economy back then. She was a member of the middle class; her family did not take money, like the rich, nor did her family suffer the worst of the financial crises, like the poor. The lives of Amanda’s children each went in different directions in the story, and each varied. Her eldest son was Jules. Jules grew up normally, similar to every other ideal family. His upbringing was that of what ideally conformed to normal standards and circumstances. Being the eldest, however, Jules lived, and more importantly, matured through the shock caused by the declaration of President Marcos’ martial law. Thus, Jules lived his adolescence exposed to rebellious reading material, and inevitably molded his mind into that of guerilla. Jules grew up to become a member of the communist New People’s Army, and his evolution came full circle.

Amanda and the father, Julian, had suspicions of their son’s inclination to become an anti-Government winger when they found copies of rebellious pamphlets lying around the house. It was when they confronted their son with it that he told them of his decision. At first, the conflict that had arisen was unbearable. But eventually, as parents, they grew to accept their son, and became proud of him. In fact, heir home became a constant place of recreation for Jules, and more often than not he would come by with a friend. The friend of Jules whom Amanda had become the fondest of was Doming. Doming stayed with their family for quite a while, because he was recuperating from an injury. The family became close to the young man because, among other things, he reminded them of their son Jules. But, it was all too late when they realized that Doming was an operative of the government all this time. He exposed Jules. His friendship was all a front. Jules was subsequently sent to prison. Possibly the most successful of the children was Isagani, their second child. With Jules becoming a rebel, they became more careful with how they handled Isagani, or Gani, as they fondly called him. Gani then grew up to become a sailor, and became the family’s cream of the crop.Gani, however, quickly became the goat of the family because he had made the simplest mistake of getting a girl, his girlfriend Evelyn, pregnant. Naturally, being a Catholic country, the parents insisted on marriage. Alas, their lives were nothing but hollow imitations of couples in love, without enough of the very essence that keeps two people together. Their separation was inevitable; Gani never lived the shame down.

Ironically, it was the third Bartolome offspring that provided himself with the most secure future. Emmanuel lived the same life as his elder brothers, but knew that the extreme left and the extreme right had no place in society. He called for peaceful evolution, change in the form of expression. He wanted to become a writer, a noble profession, one exceptionally crafted for someone of Emmanuel’s ability. His problem was, his father violently objected to his son’s decision, due to practical reasons. There is no good pay for a writer. Jason was Julian’s favorite among his children. He was also the opposite of Emmanuel. While Emmanuel was studious and hardworking, Jason was a typical teenager. He joined rallies to make noise, not express a message. He was a constant failure in school, albeit his problems were self-inflicted. He stole from his parents. He lied to them. However, in the midst of the first three brothers’ hardships, it was Jason’s happy-go-lucky demeanor that provided Amanda and Julian with a well-needed dose of happiness. Unfortunately, in the end, it was Jason’s felonious tendencies that caused hm his life; it wasn’t his fault, but he was out with his usual round of pecadillos that the police accidentally killed Jason. Sometime before he was sent to prison, Jules himself met a girl he wanted to marry. And unlike Gani, he truly loved this woman, Marah, and also got her pregnant. While in prison, he married Marah, and so there was the first addition to their family. The youngest son was Benjamin. After all had come to pass, he was in the middle of his teens. – (READ MORE)