martial-law-declarationI was in 4th year college in September 1972 when the then President Ferdinand E. Marcos placed the entire Philippines under Martial Law to become an absolute dictator. In January 1981, he artificially lifted Martial Law but he continued his dictatorial rule until the People Power Revolution in February 1986 forced him out of Malacañang Palace and democracy was restored. That’s a total of more than thirteen (13) years of martial rule during which our nation was governed by a man who made the laws by himself and implement them as he wished.

I had an account of what happened in my personal life on the exact day that Martial Law was announced to be in effect but this is the first time I will write how it was to start a career one year after its imposition and build a family when the country was under dictatorship in my first decade as a husband and father. How was it to find a job those days, the salary, the chance for promotion, the cost of living, etc.? On this occasion of the 43rd anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, I wish to declare that contrary to what some people are trying to portray those it was easy earning a living during the days under martial rule, it was not so.

As a graduate of a not-so-common college degree, I did not find it so hard looking for a job. I landed a technical position in a semi-integrated steel mill with a salary that was double the minimum wage in those days. I was already enjoying my job as a Research and Development (R&D) Engineer when my services was terminated before the end of my probationary status. The reason was not that I was not qualified to be a regular employee. All of us with probationary employment status were terminated because the expected volume of orders did not came in.

I was lucky to be recalled two (2) months after the lay-off. I did look for another job in those 2 months but there was not that much employment opportunities in those days. Some of my co-graduates of Metallurgical Engineering course took the challenge of careers in sales and marketing due to lack of openings on technical positions. I stayed in that metal manufacturing company for three (3) years without getting promoted though occupying lateral positions made me get salary increases to earn enough for my new family’s expenses.

After three-year stay in my first employment in an entity that was classified as a crony corporation because its owners were closed friends of the dictator and eighty (80%) percent of its sales was to the government, I had to accept a job offer by a competitor company. My stint with the second metal company did not last a year because business was so uncertain in those days, the company had to close shop to avoid further losses in its operations. Businesses not connected with the people in power during Martial Law were similarly situated. Only the so-called crony corporations flourished and I counted five more employers before the end of dictatorial regime in 1986.