The forgotten era in Philippine history
The other day, a friend of mine sent me a petition on change.org for educators to re-write the Philippine history books to include the full story of ousted president Ferdinand E. Marcos. This petition made me wonder what kids are learning in school these days. Thanks to movies like "General Luna" for educating the millennials and the generation after. Apparently, such movies did not only provocatively portray the conflicts among our heroes, but also "educated" the young audience why Apolinario Mabini was always seated! Turns out (some) students these days thought his confinement to the chair implied that he was a very busy man, and not because he was infected by the polio virus. I am pretty sure this personal detail was presented in our history book by Agoncillo and Alfonso.
Now that the Philippine election is wrapping up without a clear winner for vice president, the memory of baby boomers are jogged with the forgotten era of Marcos. It seems that this historical period has been forgotten given the results for the vice president. But for some, if not many, the idea of having another Marcos as second in command is a scary thought. Bongbong Marcos (does he have a real name we can take seriously?), the son of the late Ferdinand, turned out to be one of the strongest candidate for vice president, and is protesting the lead of his strongest contender Leni Robredo, widow of one the most popular cabinet members of President Noynoy Aquino (another name hard to take seriously), Jesse M. Rebredo (Secretary of Department of Interior Local Government). Sec. Jesse Robredo died in a plane crash in 2012. Another thought comes to mind, will Marcos defeat the widow this time? The Marcoses have been beaten by a widow once before, and should it happen again, it would be a 2nd strike.
What does the Marcos era mean to me? I was just entering grade school when Ferdinand declared Martial Law in 1971. Growing up in one of the most anti-Marcos environment, I learned the meaning of "curfew" at midnight. Getting caught outdoors when the clock strikes 12 midnight meant community service. Not so bad, and I do not recall any of our friends nor acquaintances having been subjected to such "harsh" punishment. If you were not home by curfew, you were probably captured by the military, tortured and killed, with your remains ending up in an abandoned lot. Everyone seemed to know someone, who was fighting for their rights and ending up dead because of it. Even then, Marcos was popular in the early 70's because their PR was all about the greatness of Ferdinand, and the beauty and elegance of his wife Imelda, who was known for promoting the Philippine Saya (and culture), and the glamour she brought to the country! No one took notice of her shoes back then.
In the 80's when I was in high school, the spell of Marcos was fading with the fraudulent elections in 1981, and the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr in 1983. The Marcos presidency finally collapsed in 1986 during People Power and the family was forced to flee to Hawaii with the help of the USA. It was prom night on February 26, 1986 in Junior High School, and a relative of my classmate came to the prom venue about 9 pm to pick up my classmate because at that hour, a coup de dat (another term I learned during the Marcos era) had just been announced and everyone had to go home, not for safety, but to watch history unfold on TV. Earlier that day, our family attended the State Funeral of my Great Grandfather who was awarded National Scientist by Ferdinand Marcos in 1980. While the State Funeral was supposedly attended by key government officials and the military's "who's who", the ceremony was subtle because something was brewing within the military.
Meanwhile in the USA 1985, a group of Filipinos and Americans were lobbying the US government to withdraw support for Ferdinand. Charito Planas led the group in a meeting with John Kerry (current US Secretary of State) who at that time was Senator for the State of Massachusetts. Bill Christeson from Stanford University was a US volunteer in the Philippines during the 70s. Bill returned to the US and worked as a bike messenger to support his work as a lobbyist against Marcos. In 1988, Howarth Bouis, also a US volunteer in the Philippines during Martial Law, testified for the Select Committee on Hunger Chaired by Congressman Mickey Leland from Texas. This testimony was to provide solution to the foreign debt incurred during the Marcos era, which made him a very rich man and the second most corrupt president in the world second to President Mohamed Suharto of Indonesia. Marcos accumulated as much as $5 to 10 billion over a 14 year period, while Suharto embezzled $15 to 35 billion over a span of 31 years.
With a President elect who has no qualms of admitting blood on his hands in national and international media, then having a vice president with a family history of killings and corruption seem lame. What's the big deal with Bongbong as vice president? It is not like he is president, they are never that visible anyway. When Sarah Palin run for vice president alongside John McCain in 2008, the fear was having someone, who claimed that Russia "was next door neighbor" to Alaska, to be one step away from the US Presidency. That put the position of vice president in perspective. What if something happens to President Elect Duterte? Could the Filipinos (including me) live with another President Marcos, especially with the key players during Ferdinand's Presidency still very active in Philippine politics? What role would a President Bongbong give to his mother Imelda, whose political career flourished as Congresswoman of Ilocos Norte. Juan Ponce Enrile, one of the proponents of Martial Law during Ferdinand's presidency, but was also key player of People Power, held a senate seat until 2014 when he was indicted for plunder. What would be the fate of his plunder case? Bongbong as potential president is a far out idea! But what if?