Recollections and Reflections of the Marcos Years

or The Struggle between two romantic narratives

It is the time of the year in the Philippines that people remember Marcos, Martial Law and Memorials. If you go around Metro Manila there are at least five memorials: Bantayog ng mga Bayani, the People Power Monument, the Edsa Shrine, the Ninoy Aquino monument and yes the burial grave of President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. This is a reflection of the national divide about Ferdinand Marcos and the Fortuna or fate of his legacy. In remembering Ferdinand Edralin Marcos: FM: the Apo: Macoy there are several contending and romantic narratives — one depicts a tyrant while another depicts a strong leader. Which is which?

Ferdinand Marcos and the Martial Law Babies

Martial Law Babies are those Filipinos who were born or grew up during the Marcos Presidency and witnessed his fate until the bitter end. For a time Marcos was the only leader they knew. A number of Martial Law babies voted for the first time during the snap elections and joined or witness the fall of Marcos from the tiger he was riding. Most Martial Law Babies also witnessed the return of Marcos and his family to the Philippines and the family’s resurgence in succeeding years.

Recollection of the Marcos Years.

First, During the first days of Martial Law all media were padlocked or closed up. If you turned on the television only cartoons were aired. The television stations came back eventually, all five tv stations returned. Although as the Marcos years progressed one still felt the presence of Marcos during the broadcast — when Marcos or any of his people needed to make an announcement or statement it was simultaneously covered on all channels. There was no escaping Marcos.

Speaking of cartoons, Later on during the Marcos leadership a wave of Japanese cartoons or anime arrived on our shores. Dubbed in Filipino these robot anime were shown during the afternoon when students came home. So we became familiar with Mazinger Z, Balatak, Mekanda Robot, UFO Grendaizer, Danguard Ace, Daimos and of course Voltes V. These anime dealt with invasions by aliens or humans and against them defending the Earth were the paladin mochas or robots. Twist and turns of the stories include complications of the invader s back story — for example their planet under a tyrant or a military regime and of course one the familial or personal ties between the heroes and villains. In Mazinger Z. Dr Kabuto and Dr. Hell were colleagues and in Mazinger Z the Armstrong Brothers were half Bozanian and their father no less the rightful heir of Bozania except he was deposed because he was hornless, In Bozanian Society there was a divide between those with horns and those without. In an ironic twist their main enemy Prince Zardoz was the Armstrong’s half-brother. There were a number of Zorab and Rustum stories in those animes. After some time the airing of these anime were halted by a directive from the Marcos Leadership one newspaper even had an editorial cartoon showing Marcos defeating Voltes V. It was said at the time that parents complained about the violence of these anime and they were promptly replaced by anime like Nobody’s Child, Paul in Fantasy Land and the like. The gossip that came out later was that the Marcos leadership was afraid of the coup plot and back stories in Voltes Five.These anime made a comeback after the Marcos leadership.

Second, A number of people were jailed. Political leaders, businessmen, media men, activists , academics,students and citizens were jailed. If they were lucky not to be jailed there was the fear of being jailed if you did not follow the law. As previously mentioned several media outlets were padlocked and the different business establishments identified as belonging to the elite were taken over. The Lopez business empire was taken over. So in essence business and media were jailed only a few media outlets were allowed to open. People who violated the curfew were taken to Crame and asked to cut the grass or do menial tasks. Urban myths that came about at this time was the tv male presenter who was punished for mocking the new society slogan by going around Luneta with a bicycle and the singer who was forced to sing a marathon version of the national anthem for ridiculing the national anthem. The true, longest incarcerated and most famous prisoners of the Marcos Leadership were Senator Beningo Aquino, Senator Jose Diokno and Jose Maria Sison. Their stories have been told, retold and still being lived out in the case of Sison who was released by Aquino when she came into power.

It cannot also be denied that there were a number of casualties during this time because of the on-going war between the state versus the NDF, CCP-NPA, MNLF and allied groups. The Philippines was the battlefield against separatists and insurgents. It was also the area where the term Low Intensity Conflict was used.

It was in this conflict of ideas, politics and ideology that the hands of the State, its allies and enemies were bloodied. The conflict was not limited between the State and its enemies but also between the factions themselves. The communist insurgents purged a number of cadres when they would not tow the party line or they were suspected of being deep penetration agents of the state. These conflicts continued past the Marcos Leadership. Two notable assassinations post Marcos were those were of Kintanar and Lagman who before they died parted ways with Sison and company.

Of course, Marcos was also personally saddled with the disappearance and death of others; One story was that of Primitive Mijares and son — Mijares a former Marcos official wrote the book The Conjugal Dictatorship. Other names whose disappearance would be tied to Marcos a name I remember was that of Edgar Jopson.

Third, The Marcos Regime lasted for two decades more or less and it has left its stamp on the Philippines. One narrative paints the Marcos Years as the dark times, while another narrative calls it the golden years. Then there were the legends that rose, spread and lingered.

These Marcos legends ranged from the fantastic to the somewhat plausible … slightly plausible. Most of these were oral stories spread and talked about during social gatherings and social interactions. It was said that Marcos was always ahead of his enemies because he was able to do astral projection and eavesdrop on conversations. Marcos only ate the Ilocano dish packet only cooked by his mother — Josefa.

Reflection on the Marcos Years

The narrative of the Marcos dark years have been said and spread over the years. There is however an opposite narrative that recalls those as the golden years. The golden narrative paints a Smiling Martial Law that gave the Filipinos a peaceful society. A Philippines that experienced a boom of roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other facilities for the people. Scholarships were maid available. Food, health and agricultural programs were also launched. This formed the backbone of the so-called golden years. It must be remembered though that most of these were funded by loans from organizations like the World Bank and the United States. There were projects proscribed by the said organizations. One must also remember the allegations that a number of funds were either diverted or pocketed by the regime. It was also at this time that the rumors of the Marcos and crony wealth began to grow. A white paper on the wealth of Marcos, his relatives and his crony was published and distributed by photocopy. The term crony capitalism came about. Despite this of course the regime made sure the services were delivered and the infrastructures built — BLISS, KADIWA, MASAGANA and NUTRIBAN became part of nostalgia.

These two opposing narratives of the Marcos Years have played out through the post Marcos years and probably explains the divide between the Filipinos. The corruption, the abuses and failure of the succeeding governments to remove the Marcos and their allies made it possible for their return. Ironically, It was also the failure to recognize the lesson of history — that all governments and regimes in the past, present and future has always had and always will have a good, a bad and an ugly aspect. This personally explains to me why during the Marcos and Post-Marcos years there has been a division of opinion on Marcos. I remember my Tagalog grandfather caught in a debate with a Manilena about Marcos. I also remember my relatives from the Ilocano side of the family talk about Marcos and the Solid North. Then there was the argument between two students from the University of the Philippines about EDSA I and whether does EDSA represent the whole nation. Then there was the military man who broke down before his mother because the military initially became divided during the early days of EDSA. Lastly, the dwindling number of people who went to the EDSA celebration as it was taken over by the different political factions or cliques and as EDSA became the boulevard of broken promises. There really is a need to properly contextualize and relate the Marcos Regime, its successors and the Filipinos.

A memorial is a time to remember and to reflect the past. If you look back and see things without nostalgia and romantic notions one is reminded of two things. First, Is the character of Benjamin the Donkey in Orwell’s Animal Farm who always remember; And Second, is notion of the Durants’ who said that those who topple a government will soon if it’s not careful will take on the weakness and corruption of its predecessor. Keeping this is mind it would be prudent to remember what the Durants wrote and to slightly reshape it would go like this. The real revolution is emancipation of the mind; True change comes from the individual; And the only true revolutionaries are philosophers, saints and the common man.

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