In what must be a peculiar twist to the notion of celebration, President Ferdinand Marcos ordered the 43 million citizens of the Philippines to pause this week and give thanks for five years of martial law under his rule.
The striking thing about Marco's order is its unmistakable message that he intends to keep the nation locked under martial law - in fact if not in name - for as long as he remains in office. Given their experiences of the past five years, few Filipinos are likely to find comfort in the idea.
For several weeks now, Marcos, apparently toying with the emotions of his people, has been suggesting that a return to "normalcy" was approaching and that "some sort" of elections would be held by the end of next year.
As the country was marking the fifth anniversary of his "new society", however, Marcos ordered the arrest of 34 persons, including students, professors, and workers who were suspected of planning a demonstration to protest his authoriatarian rule.
Also during the festivities, Marcos ordered his armed forces to lauched a massive assault on Moslem saparatists in the south of the Phillippines, where an uneasy truce has been in effect since last January.
The chronic secessionist problem in the south and social unrest in the northern provinces, where the Communists are strong and in control of substantial areas, were Marco's publicly announded reasons for seizing power fives ago. Neither problem bas been resolved by the martial law administtration.
There are no open debates on the pros and cons of martial law, or on the endless stream of presidential decrees flowing from Marco's desk.
Those who would protest must commiserate quietly among themselves in the shacks of urban slum neighborhoods, in university rooms or in the private homes of intellectual elite.
They complain about the unknown thousands jailed in the last five years; about the torture; about the vast corruption which, they say, has simply shifted hands from Marcos' enemies to marcos' friends and relatives; about the emasculation of the courts, the massive buildup of the armed forces and about the once free newspapers that are now so dishwater dull that they can be read in five minutes.
And they complain about the creation of a personality cult, unmatched anywhere in Southeast Asia, built around Marcos; his former beauty queen wife, Imelda, who was made governor of the Manila metropolitan area, and their three children.
They are on the front pages and on television daily, presenting each other restored houses and other expensive gifts and wearing T-shirts with the president's picture on the front and "We love you" on the back.
Given Marcos' tough rule, it is very difficult to gauge the nature and size of disaffected groups. An underground manifesto by a group calling itself the "Peoples Assembly for Fredom" has been sharply critical of the regime. The group, which claims a base among students, the Catholic hierarchy and urban and rural poor, hopes to put together a strong opposition force in case Marcos keeps his promise to hold "some sort" of elections next year.
In everyday life, however, a visiting journalist does encounter dissenting views and grumbling.
"Tell the world that the people of the Philippines are not for martial law," a taxi driver told me. "We are not such a hard people that they must lay such heavy hands on us."
Supporters of Marcos claim that enforcement of "peace and order" is an important accomplishment of his administration. They recall that before Marcos' martial law, Manila had a reputation as Southeast Asia's version of Al Capone's Chicago, that nightclubs and restaurants had posted signs asking customers to check their guns at the door, and that the climate of lawlessness was exacerbated by politicians running their own private armies.
Much of this has changed. The government has confiscated large quantities of unregistered firearms and has disbanded 145 private armies. It has also invested heavily in showcase projects for Manila - hotels, museums, theaters and parks.
But the countryside has been neglected and Marco's original promise to bring the entire nation under a vast land reform act - land to the tiller - has remained largely just that, a promise. Today, only 1,800 former tenant farmers actually own the deeds to their land.
"These figures are misleading," Marcos said in an interview, adding that "land reform shouldn't be too obsessed with ownership, but with possessing the land and farming it."
Marcos, whose principal support lies in the well-paid and well-equipped armed forces, was president for seven years before he imposed martial law. He feels, he said, that his five years of martial law have helped resolve some "valid grievances, social inequities and the like."
"These had to be removed by way of radical restructuring - social, economic, political. These were our objectives and there fore these are our greatest achievments."