“Forgiven but not Forgotten”


In September 21, 1972 President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared Martial Law through Proclamation No. 1081, the dawn of the darkest days in the history of our republic.


Today marks the 35th year of that ignominious event. But Filipinos seemingly suffer from a malaise that consumes our collective memory as a people, and September 21 will just pass us by like any ordinary day, with traces of the oppressive regime unnoticed or not remembered.


Save for a few who incessantly struggle to keep the painful memory burning so we will learn from its lessons. One man in Bacolod uses his art to remind us just that.


Brother Jaazeal “Tagoy” Jakosalem of the Order of Augustinian Recollects is a self – confessed Martial Law baby, born a few months after the declaration of Martial Law. In fact, his late father Feliciano Jakosalem Jr. was pioneer art worker and also an activist and leftist organizer in Negros who went into hiding two months before the People Power in 1986, after being hunted by military elements.


Growing up with free flowing ideas in the midst of a besieged family through out the Martial Law years and seeing for himself the struggles of the underground movement grappling for regime change has greatly influenced Bro. Tagoy’s art.


Even his earlier art works, as shown in his Stations of the Cross displayed at the Santo Tomas de Villanueva – Recoletos Seminary in San Carlos City, have social realist undertone despite their religious nature. Other works of art speak of stories of the oppressed – such as the plight of the sakadas in Negros and the massacre of protesting farmers in Escalante. 


His latest art works in the Forgiven but not Forgotten series will be featured in an exhibit “One Image, One Message” starting today at the University of Negros Occidental – Recoletos, Bacolod City and at Titus Brandsma Center, New Manila, Quezon City. 


Six frames bearing the same imagery if Marcos’ silhouette in the tradition of Andy Warhol’s popular art but sans the banality of reproduction that is common in post-modernist art. Each piece sends a message that is unique its own albeit ubiquitous in the context of the Martial law regime it strives to commemorate.


Framing the face of Marcos in bold, block letters are mere linguistic fragments to remind us of the atrocities of the regime: PROCLAMATION NO. 1081, BUGAS INDI BALA (rice not bullets), CURFEW, NEW REPUBLIC, MEDIA CENSORSHIP, and in bloody red is ARRESTED + DETAINED + TORTURED.   


Looking at Brother Tagoy’s works makes me realize that in thirty five years since martial law the nature of issues that we face still remain the same: the bullets that we supply for the ‘war’ in Mindanao instead of feeding the hungry children in depressed communities, a media that is not just suppressed but also endangered, the call for a strong republic in a government that is riddled with corruption and whose leaders reek of new cronies.   


At the end of the day, Brother Tagoy’s art in the “forgiven but not forgotten” series may just remind us that the face has changed, but the regime remains.  



source: In retrospect

           by Jade Pangilinan