Ferdinand E. Marcos and his Imelda were driven out of the Philippines by an event history refers to as People Power. Remember?
Dramatized and epitomized, People Power came to mean the peaceful removal of a conjugal dictatorship best known for the grandest of larcenies, unabashed profligacy, greed for jewelry, works of art, real estate and a few thousand pairs of shoes! And of course, for the arrests, incarcerations, atrocities of mayhem, torture and murder, culminating in the assassination of Sen. Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino.
The mostly Manila-centered events of February 22 to 25, 1986 were witnessed by the world via television. The dramatic political sensation produced celebratory occasions, a spate of continuing reportage, literary endeavors, journalistic pursuits, petering out over the years but observed every anniversary with rituals and memorials. Notably, the Filipino People Power, with yellow as it banner-color of choice, was cited whenever emulative uprisings by oppressed populations occurred in other parts of the world. There were several that followed. Purple, Orange, Jasmine, Rose and Blue!
Practically every somebody who had something to say about Ferdinand E. Marcos and Imelda Romualdez Marcos ( also alternatively, fancifully referred to as Ferdie and Meldy), including themselves in their time having threatened to write a His and Hers version, have written a book, a magazine article, an essay or an academic paper, produced a video and audio documentary, filled reams of media columns by the ‘commentariat’ or in the least, wrote a letter to the editor.
Having served in the post-Marcos government of the Republic of the Philippines as her Consul General to Hawaii, to which clime the fleeing despotic duo were extended exile accommodations by their American President friend, Ronald Reagan, I have also acquired the privilege and relevance, nay earned the right to speak and write about the Marcos couple and about attendant subjects and circumstances of their exile.
After all, they were my daily fare, 24 hours a day, for over three and a half years from mid-April of 1986 to the end of 1989. Very visibly, I spied on them!
Apart from managing a Consulate, which I regarded as being akin, for the most part, to ministering to the needs of the diaspora in place, say a City Hall-away-from home, I was more heavily engaged in surveilling the obdurate and recalcitrant activities of the Marcoses. The post personally assigned to me by the People Power President Corazon C. Aquino was truly a singular and a once-in-a lifetime task. And I was to perform it by all means possible, the means of which the new government had very scant.
The Marcoses were fomenting long distance destabilization and serially mounting political disturbances in Manila. There remained remnants of the boisterous, vociferous “Marcos pa rin !” ‘loyalist’ horde. They were wired to react, and they did, to every scripted emotional outbursts hurled from the despondency of Ferdie’s and Meldy’s Hawaiian exile! And I happened to have been the assigned front man of People Power in Honolulu facing their barrage of foolish, vainglorious molestation of the new civic order that kicked out the “Conjugal Dictatorship.”
It would be fun remembering and writing about these authentic memories, for so doing I am also able to contribute to the archives of People Power. I intend to present recollection and raconteurship crafted in a series of essays and sketches, my preferred vehicles of expression. Hopefully, I can run the gamut of the humorous and the serious, the inconsequential but human, the caring though pugnacious, the vengeful and confrontational as well as the sentimental and painful, the factual, the fanciful, the silly, the petty. I would like to recall the joys and pitfalls of snooping and of being irreverently sassy. Plus the unexpected, unsolicited publicity windfall that came along being the most visible spy in the service of the Republic. My very own ‘fifteen minutes of fame!’ The experience was not only one ever of a kind. It was also pretty heady. Happily, sobriety reigned over self-intoxication!
To the unrepentant Marcoses and their ‘loyalists,’ although much dwindled but still irredeemably irate and irritated by the very thought of Yellow People Power, the recollections I will share could even be more infuriating. But to the larger community, that crowd of the incorrigibly curious, always with an ear for authoritative and definitive gossipy erudition, I am hoping to serve some mirthful moments.
I will rummage through my memories for what we can all laugh about. Would not laughing at Ferdie and Meldy be a benign form of retribution? While some may have preferred blood, most hate the sight of it. So benign we remain. Besides, it is too late to lynch them!
Indulging in the license of literary concoctions, the raison d’etre under which I would like to pursue my story-telling venture might run something like this: “Those who seek the silver lining from the billows of hovering Metro Manila smog --- lead, sulphur and carbon monoxide -polluted clouds -- in the festering hangover of the Marcos tempest, deserve the gift of humor. A sense of humor promotes life’s equanimity!” Laughter has always been an antidote to pain, physical as well as political. It has been one of the Filipino’s versatile ways of coping with and confronting life.
For those who, by accident of birth and geography, may have no clue as to what this Philippine episode is all about, I must point out that disrobing the Marcoses publicly journalistically would not have been possible during the Marcosian tempest known as Martial Law. Then, story-telling when interpreted by Martial Law enforcers to be an affront to the Marcoses, was punishable as a crime under some Presidential Decree!
Much of the Marcoses’ $5 to $10 billion in ill-gotten wealth remains unrecovered. By whatever final accounting is drawn of the predatory duo’s profligate reign of bottomless avarice, the nation’s collective memory will be assailed by the reality that Ferdie and Meldy picked the peoples’ pockets at the rate of PhP20 million a day for 20 shameless years! That would be at a 1986 reckoning. At the current exchange of PhP52 to US$1, that would have been PhP71 million a day!
While their ‘comedie noire’ was enjoying an extended performance, a circus for the amusement of a coerced and commanded audience was in continuing progress. Looking back, Ferdie and Meldy were tragic-comedians in a political shadow play, their Ilocano-Bisaya version of the Indonesian ‘Wayang.’ They played actor-director-producer of a sleight-of-hand zarzuela, both deftly purveying wafts and whiffs of opiate diversionary laughing gas to a cowed, captive and mesmerized audience of innocently consenting Filipino funny bones.
But simmering underneath was seething rage that was finally lit by an assassination. Thence came the apogee that broke the national stupor. We survived! People Power rescued democracy! And are we not ever entertaining ourselves again and laughing some more?
Unlike most of the post-People Power Marcosiana literary and/or historical output, my intended story telling, via this correspondence, will depart from embezzlement and assassinations, from gruesome human rights violations, from systematic economic plunder, social climbing and political intrigue about all of which, we already know the Marcoses have been and are.
By writing down my own recollections and memories, I do not purport to present anything so profound as to hazard an academic postulation on the philosophical underpinnings of Ferdie and Meldy as human phenomena. I have no answer to the moral question: “Why did God punish us by unleashing Ferdie and Meldy upon our fair land? I have long accepted that, somehow, we deserved them! Apathy, anyone?
Nonetheless, I continue to cling to the hope that we have learned our lesson. Painfully, it appears that we may have not!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.
In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.
During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.
After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.
He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
His e-mail is: [email protected]
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.