Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dangerous Lives of Third Culture Kids

Argo, The Canadian Caper and The Story of a Young Third Culture Kid (link)

We moved to Manila in August of 1974.  Martial Law had been declared by Ferdinand Marcos in 1972, "to suppress increasing civil strife and the threat of a communist takeover following a series of bombings in Manila."  (Wikipedia).  He arrested all of his political opponents and shut down all the media outlets.  By the time we got there two years later, things had more or less settled down to a dull roar.

Of course there was the curfew (1 a.m. to 4 a.m., but couldn't shenanigans still go on in the dark hours before and after that curfew?)  Signs were posted at building doors to "deposit firearms before entering".  There were armed guards everywhere: the grocery store, the movie theater, and at the entrance to our village.  Everyone, foreigners included, was required to stand at the playing of the national anthem before a movie started.  Pity the fool who tried to sit it out; he would get a poke from a theater employee lurking in the darkness.  Shards of broken glass lined the tops of the concrete walls surrounding our house.  I didn't feel threatened in any way; in fact I saw once that the guards at the bank had big guns, but no triggers.  Everyone whispered quietly about "Camp Crame", the prison where anyone who broke the law ended up (including curfew breakers).  I'm pretty sure there was a raid on our favorite disco, Where Else? and some IS students ended up there.  There were rumors about elegantly dressed women picking up trash along the highway after being caught on the way home from a soiree.  (I never saw them).  Perhaps I was living in a surreal adolescent sense of denial, naivete or innocence?

The dreaded Camp Crame
One time I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of heavy footsteps clomping around on the tin roof of our house.  One of our maids had found a man in our yard, and the police were summoned.  By the time they arrived, the perp had taken off into the night, but nevertheless the cops performed a thorough search of the premises.  Towards morning, they found a poor ragged soul who had been sleeping off a bender at a nearby construction site.  They brought the guy to my dad, who took pity on him and refused to press charges.  I'm pretty sure he had nothing whatsoever to do with the so-called "crime" but I guess the authorities figured they needed to produce a scapegoat.

A great history of US-Philippines policy during the Marcos era.
A lot of serious things happened before we arrived.  A classmate had been kidnapped for ransom and her maid murdered.  Some nut case tried to assassinate Imelda Marcos with a bolo knife.  Another attempt was made on the life of Juan Ponce Enrile, Marcos' Secretary of Defense.  Fragmentation grenades exploded at political meetings.  Things were very very bad; I can't imagine living in this Filipino version of the Wild, Wild West.  Things riled up again with the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, and the Marcoses were sent packing in 1986.

Nothing can compare to the events in Tehran in 1978-1979.  Reading Mr. McInnes' first person account (above) of his last days there gave me chills.  The American School, a school much like mine in Manila, is no more.  The movie "Argo" terrified me more than any Texas Chainsaw Massacre film (you can ask my husband, I crawled into his lap more than once at the theater!)

I highly recommend another book written by a student at the Tehran American School, Anthony Roberts.  Sons of the Great Satan gives you a glimpse into the life of an American teenager living in an exotic foreign country.  You'll see that our lives weren't all that much different from the typical adolescent in the U.S., just with better scenery and a little more intrigue.  Oh, and go see "Argo".  I can't recommend it enough.

***P.S.  Please send me any of your "dangerous" stories, and I will compile them in a future blog entry!


Anemone said...

Hi Liz,
I moved to the P.I. in 1972 and I totally relived the next 7 years thru your post.
Excellent read.

LL's Mum said...

Our time in Manila (81-86) was quite low key, aside from the assassination of Aquino. We were in our own little world of IS and San Lorenzo village. What I did see one day, on the way to the Quad, was a guy with a pistol wave down a car and get in. I said to the gate guard, "Are you going to do anything?". he looked at me as if I was crazy.

Third Culture Kid said...

Thank you for reposting the link to my blog. Thank you for also posting a link to my friend Anthony's book. It it nice to know that as TCKs we are not alone in our experiences and that we in that collective experience we share a bond that many others cannot understand.