History, personal

Sept 23, 1972: Martial Law, my brother and Me

What happened on Sept 21, 1972? Nothing of much importance. Just like any other day in the Philippines. I was in high school then. On that day, I went to school, as usual.

What happened on Sept 22, 1972? Nothing of much importance. Just like any other day in the Philippines. I went to school, as usual.


What happened on Sept 23, 1972? I went to school, as usual. It was a Saturday. It was Scouting day. I was a Boy Scout. I was not yet 14 years old then.

But nothing was usual about that day. Aboard the jeep, I noticed the adults talking in whispers. At school, there was tentativeness everywhere. Finally, the troop leaders announced that classes were suspended.

My classmates and I went to see a movie, “The Red Sun”. It starred Charles Bronson, Alain Delon, Toshiro Mifune, Capucine and Ursula Andres. I loved the movie, esp. Ursula Andres.

When I got home, I learned that Martial Law had been proclaimed.



martial-law-newspaper (Note the date – Sept. 24, 1972. Martial Law was announced on TV and radio on Sept. 23. The newspapers headlined it the following morning.)


From about that time, my eldest brother, Jun Abbas went into hiding. Our house appeared to be under surveillance. A couple of months later, my brother went home and slept there. By midnight, the maid called me and my brother Nazir to come down. We thought we were going to have a midnight snack.

We were asked to go out of the house. We were separated and a police or METROCOM officer asked me a lot of questions about my brother Jun. I said, he was not there and that he had not been staying there for a while. I told the officer I needed to pee.
He told me to do it around the corner. Our house was on a corner lot. I looked around and saw dozens of METROCOM cars. My other siblings were also being interrogated. Finally, one of the officers, shouted, “He is here!” They – the police or soldiers – then rushed inside the house with their long arms.
jun abbas bnw

I felt so scared because I knew that my brother was inside. They were all over the house. Then one officer opened the door to the bathroom. The door didn’t open fully because there was a body between the door and the wall. The officer then shouted something like “He’s here!”. Suddenly all the machine guns were pointed at the bathroom door. That was one of the scariest moments of my life. I thought my brother was a goner.

But, he opened the door and got out of the bathroom. One of the armed men said, “Uy, matangkad pala!” (Oh, he’s tall!) At that moment, to my young mind, I thought he was indeed taller, and bigger than life. He was then led out of the house and brought to Camp Aguinaldo.

My brother, sisters and I were not harmed by the METROCOM soldiers but our houseboy said that he was hit with an armalite butt and our lavandera was threatened with bodily harm.


For months, or even years after that, I had a recurring nightmare, which went like this:

I feel like I needed to escape from the house because of the presence of strangers. I then find myself on the rooftop deciding on the best escape route. I then run towards the garage gate and run outside. I run for my life, constantly deciding whether to turn right or to turn left so as to lose anybody who might be running after me.


Even when we already transferred house, I still had that dream, and in that same house. I had memorized all the street corners and landmarks of that neighborhood.


One day, my brother Nazir told me that ever since our eldest brother was arrested, our neighbors looked at us with more respect and admiration. Somehow, being arrested during Martial Law was a badge of honor. Actually, my brother had two badges of honor. He was also arrested when Mr. Marcos suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus a month before the declaration of Martial Law.

The first time I visited my brother at Camp Aguinaldo, I was again interrogated alone. I supposed my sisters and sister-in-law were also interrogated. The officer asked me so many things. He asked me when was the last time I saw my brother before he was arrested. I said it was on my birthday. He and I went to see two movies. Just the two of us. The military (or police) officer was incredulous. ”Two movies? In one day?”
I told him that we watched, first, “Georgy Girl” and then “Planet of the Apes” (I don’t remember whether it was Part 3 or Part 4). It seemed that he couldn’t believe that people could watch two movies in a day! I didn’t tell him that was normal in our family, esp. with my mother. We were / are film buffs.



Yesterday, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr released a video of him and former Senate President and Martial Law Administrator Juan Ponce-Enrile having a tête-à-tête. The nonagenarian Ponce-Enrile asserted that nobody was arrested or killed during Martial Law because of their political beliefs. He even challenged everyone to “Name one!”


One of them was my brother. He was not arrested because of criminal activities but because of his political beliefs. Throughout his college and law school days, he was a student leader. At UP, he was very critical of the government. He was the Grand Archon of the Sigma Rho fraternity, the head of the Sorority-Fraternity association and the President of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), among others. After university life, he was very active in fighting for the Bangsa Moro Cause. He was Secretary-General of the National Action & Coordinating Council for Islamic Affairs (NACCIA), the United Islamic Forces Organization (UIFO) and other groups, as well as the publisher of the Moro newsletter in Manila and suburbs, Dawat-ul-Islam. Together with my mother’s cousin, Congressman Rashid Lucman, they created the groundwork for the eventual creation of the MNLF by sending 90 young Moros for military training in Sabah.


As for the killings by the Marcos regime, the Dawat-ul-Islam chronicled the murders and massacres done by the Philippine government/military against the Moro people. A couple of years later, my brother Jun gathered the photographs and documents, including copies of the Dawat-ul-Islam, of these massacres and presented them to Tungku Abdul Rahman, then head of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). These documents and my brother’s presentation were the basis for OIC’s official recognition of the legitimacy of the Bangsa Moro fight against the Philippine government. OIC then sent a Quadripartite Committee composed of representatives from four Muslim countries (Libya, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and Somalia) to investigate the Moro situation in the Philippines.


In other words, the OIC, which was composed of some 30 countries then (now around 57 states) believed that the Marcos regime in the Philippines murdered, massacred and was committing genocide on the Bangsa Moro (Moro Nation).


It was not the MNLF or Misuari who brought the Bangsa Moro Cause to the attention of OIC and the international Muslim community. It was my brother – Macapanton Rashid Abbas, Jr. And he did it during Marcos’s Martial Law.

2 thoughts on “Sept 23, 1972: Martial Law, my brother and Me”

  1. Insha’Allah justice will be served for all of the people who suffered under Martial Law. Sir Abbas, if you don’t mind, do you have any books/essays/films that provide extensive records of the Moro people? And in general the Islamic history of the Philippines. I’ve surfed the internet many times but I barely see any that actually delve deeper into it. I’m young and I want to know more about the history of Muslim Filipinos like me.


    1. For Moro History, the best guide is C. Adib Majul’s Mulsims in the Philippines. They should have at UP. For the more recent history, look for Muslim Separatism: The Moros of Southern Philippines and the Malays of Southern Thailand. By W.K. Che Man. Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1990. Or, A Nation Under Endless Tyranny by Muhammad Iqbal or Salah Jubair.


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