President Marcos declares curfew to finish repairing the roads, he says. Curfew: once you’re somewhere at 10pm you can’t leave til 4am.
Then the bombings began around Manila from March through August. They're meant to send a message, not massacre. The blasts occurr late at night or early in the morning so few people were hurt. Here is a calendar of the bombings: in March, the Filipinas Orient Airways and the South Vietnamese embassy were hit. In July, bombs shattered places I knew—the Phil-American Life building where we’d gone for theater, and the American Express office. In August, the bombs hit first at PLTD (the phone company), the Philippines Sugar Institute, then a water main in Quezon City, again the Phil-Am Life building, and then an armoured car in front of the PBC bank. Later that day, a twelve-pound bomb was found in the Dept of Foreign Affairs.
And then on the night of Wednesday, September 20th, the real explosion. I joined friends for Bernstein's Mass at the Meralco Theater along Ortegas Avenue. We learn the next morning that just down on Ortegas Ave, Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile escapes an assassination attempt -- there are b&w photos of bullet holes in his car.
The 1935 Constitution states that the President can declare martial law only in cases of rebellion, insurrection or invasion or imminent danger thereof.
On September 21, 1972, Marcos declares Martial Law.
That Thursday, no one goes to work or school. We rise early at Villanueva household to a state of controlled chaos. Everyone is home in the most tense of lockdown holidays: Uncle Vil, Auntie Eva, Clyde, Leslie and Kenny. The radio is buzzing incoherently, the Manila Bulletin never arrives, and all TV stations are snowing. Someone in PhilAm subdivision comes over to tell us that there is gunfire at the ABS-CBN TV station nearby on Bohol Avenue. Lopez, the president of the company was a fierce critic of Marcos, and this is payback time. (He was imprisoned along with Sergio Osmena II for five years.)
When the black rotary phone starts ringing, it never seems to stop. Uncle Vil tells us some of it. Some times he listens into the receiver, hangs up, and confers in a low voice with Aunti Eva, who shakes her head slowly, in disbelief. He does tell us this: there are emergency meetings in Congress, the military arrived in jeeps at houses last night and detained this and that church person, a few have disappeared. We had no idea the massive impact of Marcos' next move.
Enrile writes in his memoir,
“Political noises and wrangling were dissipated. Rallies and demonstrations disappeared from the street. Congress was closed. Schools, colleges and universities were also initially closed right after the declaration of martial law but after a month, classes resumed except in a number of colleges and universities. The radio airlines and television broadcasts were cleared of the incendiary and bombastic attacks of commentators. They were silenced.”