Glaiza de Castro as Liway sings Himig ng Pag-ibig and Pagbabalik.
If there's one Martial Law film our generation needs to watch today, it has to be Liway.
Our generation is fortunate enough not to have experienced the brutal repercussions of Martial Law firsthand, and yet this is also the very reason why many of us seem unmoved, unfazed, and aren't the slightest bit threatened when it seems like the government is bending in favor of the Marcos family and its cronies, even putting back in power a handful of the shameless ones.
Many times, I'd find myself thinking, what can an individual like me do? Attending rallies, convincing friends to register to vote, sharing news on social media, in hopes to get people to care—these are tiny steps, but is that it? I still don't know the answer. And this is why I am thankful for Liway because it is able to do what is difficult to do today: tell the truth, despite the risks it may take on your life, stand by this truth, and fight for it.
I've seen countless of Martial Law films in my life, and Liway is one of the few that doesn't dwell on the torture (e.g. Batch '81), the brutal killings, or the ruthlessness of the dictator himself. Instead, director Kip Oebanda simply tells his story, growing up in the dark years, through the eyes of Liway.
Liway was tagged a rebel for teaching her neighbors liberation theology. She was taken to a prison camp with other rebels and criminals, and lived there for years together with her husband Ric and son Dakip.
Parents, criminals, children, and babies—they all lived and co-existed together in that prison compound.
Have you ever imagined what it's like being a child growing up in a cloistered prison? At a time like the Martial Law years? What do you hear the grownups talking about? What do you see when you wake up? Do you get to play? Do you understand violence and danger?
Liway is quietly compelling, and in its simple storytelling, it is able to let us feel the dark and dreary days of the Martial Law era, the forced silence and repression, the abuse and misuse of power, and how it all affects the people, most especially families, mothers, and children. Commander Liway’s bravery, stubbornness, will, and feminine power are enough to touch our hearts, and to make us sit up and listen to what Oebanda is trying to tell us.
In fact, I believe I may have found the answer to my question earlier. Amid the revisionists that threaten, the trolls that spread evil, and the lousy gimmicks that try to distract us from the real issues of the country, Oebanda’s mission is to tell us the truth, show us the facts, and share what really happened. And he is urging us to do the same.
Liway’s fight is our fight, a message to keep going, never tire of supporting, going after, and writing about what is right and true. To tell stories that matter. To not create noise that distracts, but to make noise that brings the truth to light. And to keep fighting—even with ourselves, to fight being okay with what we shouldn't be okay with.
I almost forgot that Liway was based on a true story.
And so when the film ended and the theater lights went on, a man from the audience shouted "Ang tao, ang bayan!" to which the rest replied, "Ngayon ay Lumalaban! Huwag matakot! Makibaka!", and it turns out that Liway—yes the real Commander Liway, Cecilia Flores-Oebanda—was among us. People went over to her, asking her questions, taking photos with and of her, and we just stood nearby, watching everything happening. It was strange and fascinating to see her right in the flesh, like a hero before our eyes.
It felt beautifully strange that her presence that day made me feel hopeful. Before she finally left, she turned to us and said: "O, huwag makalimot, ha." (Don't forget).