Layout By Hiro Odamaki
Layout By Hiro Odamaki.

Start ‘em young: Introducing the realities of Martial Law through these 5 children’s books

For the flag bearers of tomorrow, below is a list of five books on the topic of Martial Law which seek to help Filipinos understand the era better—for both young readers who are discovering it for the first time and old readers who have forgotten its magnitude.

By Jorel Magistrado, and Lexa Chua | Sunday, 25 February 2024

Memories are etched along the pavement of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA), particularly that of the strength of a revolution that echoed throughout the country and changed the course of Philippine history forever. The EDSA People Power Revolution was and still is a feat itself—garnering millions of Filipinos to peacefully protest against the Marcos Sr. regime that reveled in the fearmongering and fraud that plagued the country.


As the 38th anniversary of the People Power Revolution draws near, it is important that what this historic date stood for should never be rewritten, buried, or overlooked. It continues to face the threat of erasure with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s proclamation that it will no longer be celebrated as a holiday. This further drives the point that it is vital for us to pass down information on this piece of history onto younger generations—with media that allow them to understand the gravity of the revolution.


Stories reflect history, and as long as they are being told, the bravery of those who fought for freedom will always carry on. With that in mind, these are five kid-friendly books to educate children on such a remarkable moment in Philippine history.


Layout By Alia Medina

Isang Harding Papel by Augie Rivera

This book was first published in 2014, then republished in 2022, and was eventually made into a play. Augie Rivera’s “Isang Harding Papel'' dives into the duality of people’s views on Martial Law. It emphasizes the juxtaposition of democratic principles and the ideals of a dictatorial regime. 


The book follows the story of 7-year-old Jenny as she navigates her relationship with her mother, Chit, who had been locked up for acting in performances that angered the president. This story explores the oppressive realities brought about by the sinister ideals of an orderly and disciplined country, all under the guise of a political catchphrase: Para sa ikauunland ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan.


You can purchase a copy of this book on or on the Adarna House website


Layout By Reina Cruz

Ito Ang Diktadura by Equipo Plantel

Plantel paints a vivid picture of society under a dictatorial government, and how that affects one’s quality of life and security. “Ito ang Diktadura” shows concrete examples of the many faces of a dictatorship—like how one cannot think for oneself. Despite taking on a tone that young kids can clearly comprehend, the book tragically encompasses the grim reality of living amidst the grasp of an iron fist.


Originally written in Spanish, the book is part of the “Aklat ng Salin” series. Plantel wrote it post-Francisco Franco’s rule over Spain—the era was also known as the Francoist Dictatorship. Despite being first published in 1978, the sentiments of the book still ring true, especially the line: “... Hindi naman talaga matapang ang diktador.”


You may purchase this book via the Adarna House website or the Artbooks site. 


Layout By Maia Martin

Si Jhun-Jhun, Noong Bago Ideklara ang Batas Militar by Augie Rivera

Augie Rivera pushes the imagery of the political clash of the people versus the dictatorship—delving into the realities of children who have had loved ones just seemingly disappear due to their involvement in the protests, and how those left behind would eventually learn to live with it.


This book was published in 2001, and is recommended for children 10 years old and above as the themes go with a radical and mature approach—touching on the trauma that the disappearances have caused on the main character and containing depictions of violence with mentions of weapons and conflict in protests. Overall, the relationship between children and politics is greatly emphasized, encouraging them to be a part of the fight with newfound knowledge and growth.


You can grab a copy of the book on the Adarna House website or on  


Layout By Kervine Tan

At the School Gate by Sandra Nicole Roldan

Hailing as a professor from the University of the Philippines Diliman, Roldan delivers a chilling story based on her experiences during and after the Marcos Sr. regime. It sheds light on the torture and killing of activists during the Martial Law era through the story of 15-year-old Ella Cortez and her dad's disappearance. Though set post-Martial Law, the book shows how the trauma received over the past few years is still being carried over to the generations to come. 


Published in October 2018, the book has since been part of CNN Philippines' best books of 2018 list and has been shortlisted for the 6th National Children's Book Awards. You can get a physical copy of the book through Mt Cloud Bookshop and select Fully Booked outlets. Alternatively, an online copy is available via Pumplepie Books.


Layout By Eljin Wagan

12:01 by Russell Molina

12:01 is a graphic novel written by Molina and illustrated by Kajo Baldisimo. It follows a four-member band getting stranded in the streets of Metro Manila past curfew during the Martial Law era. As the book progresses, the audience is given a clearer picture of what life was like during the 1970s—using music at the forefront of its narrative. This echoes the importance of music during the protests at the time, subsequently spotlighting the role of artists during the revolution.


A book for older kids, the story does not shy away from the injustices of the then-regime. It greatly encapsulates the breath-halting fear the Marcos Sr. administration inflicted upon the Filipino people, poignantly depicted in Baldisimo’s distinctive black and white style. It also honors the bravery of student-leaders at the time, with each of the band members being named after them.


You can get a copy of this at the Adarna House website and through Pumplepie Books.


Most of the time, it is easy to underestimate how much children can understand. Given the patience and the right guidance, they have the chance to grasp such grim and complex concepts. They need to understand in order to condemn what happened, and recognize if it were to happen again. No more disappearances. No more unjust killings. 


Books are not made of merely paper—if they were, Adarna House’s #NeverAgain bundle would not have been red-tagged. They are glimpses into a vile past, one that the guilty insist on distorting. It now becomes the reader’s duty to resist this revisionism, and to protect the voices of those who continue fighting.