During the 2019-20 Residency

Of Mournings and the After (OMTA) is a project that focuses on the memorialisation of grave human rights violations and mass atrocities, through which the victim-communities of those violations may mourn and heal. Prior to the start of the Residency, OMTA foresaw three potential outcomes: (1) increased public awareness of different forms of mass atrocity that occured in the Philippines throughout its history, through meticulous documentation of stories, conduct of memorialization activities through partnership with conflict-affected local areas and victim/survivor communities, and production of information, education and communication (IEC) and artistic materials and spaces with the end goal to prevent the commission of mass atrocity crimes from happening again; (2) the rebuilding of narratives of victim/ survivors of the most egregious and emblematic cases of human rights violations and mass atrocity crimes, through spatial imagery, memory terrains, and permanent space for expressions; and (3) contribution to the study of critical historicity of direct and structural violence and embeddedness of power relations in a state’s narrative through the establishment of a transitional justice programme in the Asia Pacific Centre on the Responsibility to Protect-Philippine Office.

During the Residency period, OMTA visited the communities of Manili and Malisbong for discussion on and documentation of narratives as both communities were victims of grave human rights abuses and mass atrocity crimes. In Malisbong, for example, community members (made up of thousands of Muslim men, women, and children) were killed, raped, and/or detained by units of the Philippine Army during the Marcos Martial Law. These and future visits are part of the project’s two steps plan to (1) gather data on communities that have experienced mass atrocity crimes and then (2) respond to this data and conceptualize memorialization scenarios/ practices in conjunction with the victim communities for implementation. This second step includes the actual production of designs for the physical construction of memorials. However, the COVID-19 pandemic not only paused the visits to these and other communities, it also led to the postponement of several projects including a workshop on playwriting in victim communities, an exhibit on mass atrocities, a lecture/ conversation series by the project team and other experts, and the launch of one project team member’s book.

Despite these issues, OMTA’s work continued. Although the pandemic severely limited the group’s movements and possible actions, it also provided an opportunity for the group to coordinate and hold activities online. Interestingly enough, communication with partners actually increased during the pandemic. In response to these circumstances, OMTA, in cooperation with the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect - Philippine Office (APRtoP-PO) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) held an online webinar on 8 July 2020 entitled “The Relevance of Transitional Justice in the Time of COVID-19: An E-Conversation” (a recording of the webinar can be found at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdZCIY0PJ40&t=2795s). On 21 September 2020, another webinar entitled “Recovering Memories, Pursuing Justice: A Webinar on Transitional Justice“ was also held in cooperation with the CHR, the Martial Law Museum, and the Transitional Justice League (TJL). Additionally, the importance of the role of Arete and the Sandbox Residency Program cannot be stressed enough. Aside from funding and providing a safe and professional space for the project to convene, hold activities, store key documents and materials, the program has also helped legitimize the importance of memory and the narratives of victim communities, beyond mere academic study.

The project team continues to plan for the future despite (and because of) the pandemic. Aside from plans to continue the current work of OMTA, an off-shoot project focusing on transitional justice narratives for women victims of mass atrocity crimes has also been planned for 2021.

The 45th commemoration of the Malisbong Massacre which took place on 24 September 1974, where more than a thousand residents of Maslisbong, Palimbang were killed in the community’s mosque.

A march done in commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the Malisbong Massacre.

The memorial outside the mosque where the Malisbong Massacre took place.

A screenshot of the latest webinar held on 21 September 2020, entitled “Recovering Memories, Pursuing Justice: A Webinar on Transitional Justice“ held in cooperation with the CHR, TJL, and the Martial Law Museum.