Friday, September 26, 2008

The true, the good, and the beautiful

The other night, because of the rains, I ended up staying overnight at my folks' place, and my mom and I ended up watching Ramona Diaz's documentary Imelda, which was my birthday present to her. It was a weird, brilliant movie, mostly because of the unfettered access to the subject. Imelda was a ball of tacky extravagance, profound lack of self-awareness, healthy delusion, and appalling vanity, with a glimpse of true evil thrown in for good measure. It was equally funny and chilling in parts.

I gave my mom the movie because she had always been curious about it, and it was the type of thing my grandfather would enjoy, and it was the type of thing my mom and I always enjoyed watching together. During the movie, she was telling me about how the period Marcos declared Martial Law turned out to be her saddest birthday ever (she would have been thirteen at the time), because my grandfather said that it was no time for celebration, and so there was no party. Then she related how, during Martial Law, Tatay would wake up early to buy the then-illegal Malaya newspaper and make his daughters read them every morning so they'd know what went on.

While Imelda was fascinating, I always had been more curious about Ferdinand Marcos. Just before I started into high school, I think it was during vacation at an aunt's house in Iloilo, I stumbled upon an old book about Marcos' early years, prior to his presidency. It was quite a shock to read about Marcos' brilliance, having grown up in a household where the man was (rightfully) villified.

Calling Marcos a brilliant young man didn't do him justice. When he was in law school, he and his father and uncles were accused of murdering a political rival. While in jail, he finished his degree (cum laude, at that) and studied for the bar exams. He posted bail to take the bar and topped it, but wasn't allowed to take the oath because of the pending trial. Although they were convicted, Marcos wrote their appeal while in jail, and he represented himself before the Supreme Court, where they were acquitted.

Marcos also fought in the War, and the book detailed his heroic exploits. I would later find out (from Tatay) that his medals were fake; the book, it turns out, was written specifically for his presidential campaign (much like how it works with American politicians to this day). But there was no doubt that he still fought during the War.

After WWII, his political career soared as a darling politician, an articulate, intelligent young man (think Chiz Escudero, only better). And then he married Imelda, became president, and we all know what happened next.

All the greatest evils of our society started or were exacerbated during the Marcos regime: cronyism, corruption, the gap between the rich and the poor, the Communist threat, the national debt, the diaspora, anti-intellectualism, the abuse of military power, a culture of human rights violation, exploitation of the masses, media intimidation and manipulation, Kris Aquino's entire career, etc. And yet, once upon a time, he was the best and the brightest the country has ever seen, the representation of all our hopes, the embodiment of all our dreams, as brave as Bonifacio and as brilliant as Rizal.

He was, for all intents and purposes, Darth Vader.

Now who wouldn't want to watch a movie about that?



Ferdinand Marcos is still my hero. I have a picture with Imelda Marcos when we watched Cecile Licad, or rather listened to her in CCP. It's posted on my friendster.


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