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‘11,103’ Review: A Battle of Narratives

By Dorothy Wynn Marie S. Vendiola | September 29, 2023

“11,103” was not an easy watch; it was a woven tapestry of perspectives carefully unraveled before its audience. 

Directed by Jeanette Ifurung (“Batas Militar”) and Mike Alcazaren (“Patay Kung Patay”), “11,103” chronicles the citizens recognized under Republic Act No. 10368, known as the “Human Rights Victims and Recognition Act of 2013.” This act offered compensation for the victims of the Martial Law era—with 11,103 people receiving such compensation out of the 70,000 victims nationwide. 

Each segment featured crossfires of viewpoints such as atrocity denials by Marcos’ cronies juxtaposed with commentary from first-hand witnesses of such events, meticulously illustrated and animated to fill in the gaps of the witnesses’ absent visualizations.

The documentary’s emphasis on locations and landmarks took us into their perspectives. Far from the urban sphere—which is what every Filipino is familiar with, especially the urban movements of the era— the film’s scope reached Sultan Kudarat to Samar to search for the unheard. We know of the urban Desaparecidos, yet are oblivious to the 45 deaths of the Sag-od Massacre, the 1,500 victims of Palimbang Massacre, or even the ethnic cleansing of the Bangsamoro peoples—in reference to the Manili Massacre, Tacub Massacre, and Pata Island Massacre, which weren’t in the film. 

What oscillated in my mind was a teary-eyed Bangsamoro woman mentioning her affiliation with the insurgents at the time as her vengeance for the killings. Politics truly doesn’t germinate within a vacuum, and as writer Ian Rosales Casocot described during the open forum: it was a battle of narratives.

Cut to a clip of a wiry old woman yelling, “It was the 15th IB (Infantry Battalion)!” as she recalled the logo on her abductors’ uniforms while claiming her reparations. A pastor-turned-artist was charged with being a reformist, and when his lawyer asked what his crime was, the police simply said, “Unfortunately, we don’t have a copy.” I admit to having laughed at the scene, as truly, nothing has changed. 

The Philippine Constabulary and now-dormant Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF) were god hands of the President’s iron regime, and in part, became the acting antagonists of the narrative. Funny, as though the CHDF became disbanded after the People Power Revolution, most of their mercenaries were integrated into the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU). Formed in the same year the former was demobilized, the auxiliary currently has 61,200 members committed to the same mission as CHDF. Still, the atrocities of these forces are denied, and they are instead revered as heroes today.

Vignettes such as these prove how legacies are trickled down to generations, which renders the popularly misconstrued adage, “The sins of the father aren’t the sins of the son,” debatable. Anything today can be traced back to the past. 

There was a specific detail about how most of the people in the film were restrained about their experiences until the interview, even after almost 50 years since their incidents. Yet every interviewee led the filmmakers back to the places where they became victims, some sites no longer in the states they were 49 years ago. A son weeping to his father’s vivid revelations of torture, a Bangsamoro woman’s silence for nearly half a century, an artist whose illustrations sketched the unimaginable perspectives of the victims—all singular threads of the complex tapestry of Martial Law narratives.

These people have never forgotten. How could they?

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