Saturday, December 30, 2017

TIME WARP: Reliving the Rizal-Bracken Romance in the Al-Dub Love Team

Reliving the Rizal-Bracken Romance
in the Al-Dub Love Team
(This is  the unedited version of the article published in Women Today in 2016)

On the left: A right-side portrait of Josephine Bracken carved by Jose Rizal
On the right: A left-side portrait of Jose Rizal painted by Juan Luna

          What if televisions and social media were already existing during the time of Dr. Jose Rizal? What if instead of the Al-Dub phenomenon people would be watching a Joe-Jo love team (Joe being the pet name of Josephine Bracken for Rizal, and Jo as a shorten form of Bracken’s name)? What if we compare the historic Joe-Jo with the present talk-of-entertainment-world Al-Dub? Hmmm... Quite intriguing wouldn’t you say.

          Allow me to borrow Herbert George Wells’ Time Machine and take you back in time and give some enlightened glimpses of the romance between Jose Protacio Mercado Rizal (1861-1896) and Marie Josephine Leopoldine Bracken (1876-1902) at the same time make some candid comparison of their “love team” with that of Richard Reyes Faulkerson Jr and Nicomaine Dei Capili Mendoza, a.k.a. the Al-Dub.

          Around 120 years ago, Josephine Bracken heard about Jose Rizal’s skill and success as an ophthalmologist and was eager to meet him if he could do something about her foster father’s blind eyes. Meet they did. An acquaintance that developed like a modern day soap opera complete with spicy moments and unexpected twists.

          Jo (Bracken) was already anxious to meet Joe (Rizal) after the many good things she heard about the Filipino hero, his talent and intelligence. Jo’s kilig (tickled pink) moment was switched on the very first time Joe started a conversation with her. Jo was immediately mesmerized. She was, shall we say, “hero-strucked” in an instance.

Alden Richard and Maine Mendoza
(“People of the Year”),
on the cover of People Asia
(December 2005 – January 2016)
          In the same manner, like reliving that instance in time in 1895, in the Eat Bulaga soap opera parody Kalyeserye (street series), Yaya Dub (Maine Mendoza), which is already “star-strucked” beforehand about actor-singer Alden Richard, felt her first kilig moment upon seeing Al (Alden Richard) in the show’s live split screen monitor. Deja vu!

          This is but one coincidence. There are more similarities between these two century-elapsed love pairs. In addition, there are also interesting contrasts that only the keen imagination can underscore.

          Back in 1895, Jo accompanied her foster father, Mr. Taufer, coming to the Philippines. She served as his alalay or personal assistant. When Joe and Jo got quite attached to each other, Mr. Taufer was the first to vehemently object. He even tried slashing his own neck in protest. Eventually, as the saying goes, sa tamang panahon (in the right time), Mr. Taufer gave his tentative consent for Joe and Jo’s relationship.

          Fast-forward to the present, Mendoza was cast as Divina Ursula Bukbukova Smash or Yaya Dub for short, initially as personal assistant/yaya to Wally Bayola’s Lola Nidora character. In this storyline, Lola Nidora forbids Yaya Dub to meet, more so to have a relationship with Alden. The cunning lola even used her ailments to dissuade Yaya Dub from meeting Alden. Later on, however, she also gave in to the saying “love can be achieved sa tamang panahon.” Or did she?

          What about the villains and the kontrabidas? How do they compare and contrast?

Jose Rizal
          In Rizal’s time, his family was lukewarm in accepting the Joe-Jo relationship. A couple of Joe’s siblings didn’t mind it at all and are happy for whatever makes their brother happy. Some like Maria was suspicious about Bracken. Rizal’s mother for her part was worried about the burden that his son is carrying in his heart and mind. She knows that no Catholic priest will marry the two unless Rizal retracts his charges against the friars and Catholic Church of sexual misconduct and political corruption.

Josephine Bracken
          The real kontrabidas were in the Catholic Church hierarchy and their puppets in the persons of whosoever sit in the Spanish colonial government in the Philippines. Yes, the obispos and prayles who gossiped about Joe-Jo living together without the benefit of church wedding, while they themselves wallowed in sexual exploitations and perversions, abusing women and having mistresses. The very charges that Rizal accused them, which he refused to retract, and thus the Bishop of Cebu forbid all priests to marry the two, constituting the burden that he carried until his death. Yes, the guardia-civil, who constantly harassed them upon the instigation of the prayles, even if they were peacefully living unmindful of the intrigues sowed against them.

          Notice the similarities and the contrasts with today’s Al-Dub love team kalyeserye? Since the start, Alden and Yaya Dub have gone through literally a labyrinth of obstacles, and that’s just for their first meeting. Lola Nidora (Wally Bayola), Lola Tinidora (Jose Manalo) and Lola Tidora (Paolo Ballesteros) are acting like prayles concocting all sorts of impediments to prevent Alden and Yaya Dub’s love from getting even to first base. The Tres Lolas’ bodyguards are like guardia-civil always on the follow-the-lolas’ biddings.

          The Joe-Jo love team was, shall we say, the newsmaker of 1895, while Al-dub is the newsmaker of 2015. The huge difference, though, is how it came to be. In the case of Joe-Jo, it was the gossiping clergies of Dapitan that started it all, while Al-dub’s popularity was ignited by the fans of “Juan For All, All For Juan” segment of Eat Bulaga. In a trivial funny way, the Joe-Jo’s affairs was blown by the Bishop of Cebu’s fart into scandalous wind, while Al-Dub, curiously, was initiated by a mere burp by Yaya Dub on live television.

          No matter what the friars and their cohorts gossiped or dastardly stirred up against Rizal and his beloved Josephine, their marks in the Philippine Revolution stood firm. The incidence and the surrounding circumstances became a blot in the Catholic Church’s reputation rather than on Rizal.

Alden Richard on the cover of
Inside Showbiz (October 2015)
          With regards to Al-Dub, the Manila Times did an editorial cartoon that criticized the pouring reception towards their love team. The editorial cartoon depicted that several national issues in the Philippines are being ignored because of people’s seemingly magnetized attention to it. Even such social impetus did not deter the fanaticism towards it. On the contrary, the newspaper even got lambasted by Netizens because of the cartoon criticism. Al-Dub is like the Marvel comic book character Juggernaut, unstoppable the moment it started moving.

          Coincidentally, the initials of the lovers’ names – R & B – are also akin in some silly way: Rizal to Richard and Bracken to Bukbukova. Now that’s “Rhymth and Blues!”

Maine Mendoza on the cover of
Style Weekend (March 11, 2016)
          By now, you’re getting the point. Al-Dub is much like Joe-Jo with a certain entertainment twist and sans the heroic aftertaste! Plain in simple, if Rizal had his “Sweet Foreigner,” Alden has his “My Bebe Love!” But the deja vu continues.

          Historically, written exchanges between Rizal and his mother and siblings showed our national hero defending his beloved Josephine, praising her person and everything she did. Presently, we hear Alden’s Lola Babah trying to belittle Yaya dub. In a debonair’s move similar to Rizal, Alden tells her lola, “Lahat sa kaniya ay mahal ko” (“Everything about her, I love”). In both circumstances, neither Jo nor Yaya Dub, nor any normal woman, for that matter, wouldn’t get tickled pink or giddy.

          Even in the waving of hands, we can relive the Joe-Jo experience in Al-Dub. In the Joe-Jo affairs, we read Bracken waving goodbye to Rizal several times. The last time was with tears in her eyes seeing her beloved uttered the words consummatum est as he felt the bullets hit his body. During the Spanish times, waving of hands, whether to greet or to bid goodbye, was done in a demure way akin to what beauty pageant contestants are doing today. Yaya Dub, on the other hand, has a more entertaining and amusing waving of hands, the so-called Pabebe Wave, which is a running gag-parody of a beauty queen’s gesture.

          Rizal wrote beautiful verses and created wonderful arts for his dulce extranjera. Bracken cooked delicious food and took good care of Rizal while they were in Dapitan. In contrast, Alden sings “Wish I May” and “God Gave Me You” (which he also did a duet with Yaya Dub) for the Dubsmash Queen. Yaya Dub, for her part, using dubsmashes and pabebe waves, fought tooth and nail for Alden.

          Finally, a revolutionary coincidence for Josephine Bracken and Maine Mendoza. The role that Bracken played in Philippine History is not merely limited to being the wife of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. She also supported the cause of the Katipunan and helped, in whatever she can, in the Philippine Revolution against Spain. Mendoza, for her part, is not merely a wacky dubsmasher love team partner of the national male hottie, Alden Richard. She also has a much profound side being a vocal supporter of the cause of the Lumad.

          In a frivolous thought, it can also be noted that both Joe-Jo and Al-Dub are accidental lovers. Although the women of both love teams already carry admiration for the men, both couples met nonchalantly and both were love-strucked the moment they saw each other’s partner. The Joe-Jo love team lasted for 22 months, give or take a few days? How long will the Al-Dub love team last?

          The Al-Dub Kalyeserye touches on the most popular topics: love and the predicaments and scruples of people. This is the reason why it has gained so much following. It has reached phenomenal proportion. On record, with over 41 million in total tweets in 24 hours, it has overshadowed the tweets for the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-final match between Brazil and Germany. Worldwide, it is the most tweeted event of 2015-2016. It is the talk of the town; the talk of the entire archipelago; nay, the talk of the entire world. It is a love team of global magnitude. Who knows, Enochian extraterrestial beings from Alpha Aquilae could also be watching Al-Dub and deliberating on coming to Earth for a close encounter with them.

          Al-Dub has become so popular that even international celebrities are tweeting about it. Who knows, Pope Francis might be the next one to tweet, or he may have already secretly offered to marry them if they really end up with each other, sans the comedy scripts. Speaking of Pope Francis. Would it been different had Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio lived to be the Bishop of Cebu and, hypothetically, allowed Rizal to marry Bracken? That would be something. Rizal’s Last Farewell could have been Now and Forever! Then again, his martyrdom could have been diverted to a different path and we wouldn’t have a national hero.

Alden Richard and Maine Mendoza (Al-Dub)
with Wally Bayola (Lola Nidora) and Jose Manalo (Lola Tinidora)
on the front page of the Philippine Sunday Inquirer (August 16, 2015)
          There’s an argumentative tenet that says “Nothing lasts forever.” Even the expansion of the universe, scientists are now saying, has an endpoint. Well, perhaps the only forever in the universe, biblically speaking, is God and life-everlasting. The Joe-Jo love story, sadly, went to a somewhat tragic trajectory. Rizal died on the firing squad, Bracken became a widow, went revolutionary for a while, disinherited by her husband’s family, remarried, and died poor and lonely.

          At present, for three years Al-Dub is on a roll, full of unexpected turns and twists. The Chinese would say that no matter how delicious the viand, there would come a time that people would shun from eating it. At present, we could say that the Al-Dub phenomenon is merely peaking. What would happen after a hundred Saturdays more?

          Where would the Al-Dub love story leads? Will it follow a similar path that the Joe-Jo love story went? Is the love team altar-bound, an event that didn’t happen to Rizal and Bracken?

          The kilig should now progress to satisfy itself. If Rizal and Bracken, against all odds, went on to marry each other under Heaven’s witness, what would be the next step for Alden and Yaya Dub? If their families would not allow their union, would they elope and marry each other in the same manner. If, on the other hand, everything went their way, will they really go “all the way?” That would be the “grand celebration” for Eat Bulaga!        

          There’s no such thing as an endless series. They kept on floating the word “forever,” even in commercial endorsements. Take a cue from a rubber band, it is very elastic, but if you stretch it beyond its elasticity it would eventually snap. Forever lies in the sense that a rubber band is circular. It goes round and round endlessly. Applying this principle to Al-Dub, the kilig factor continues to captivate its audience. For how long? Only time, twist and taste can tell.

          The phrase “sa tamang panahon” must now have a clear storyline and, of course, conclusion. Twisting the storyline several times may be good, but too much twists can also lead to a boring wall. Filipinos have a peculiar taste that dramatically changes the moment they sense repetitions. This is true even in comedy. The moment giggles turn into forced laughter, it’s over. Perhaps the word “forever” will have a tangential meaning if and only if Al-Dub translates into reality. If and only if Alden Richard and Maine Mendoza, not merely the characters they portray, really, truly, falls in love with each other. The soap opera will not end, but continue to the “reality” level, where they would encounter what Rizal and Bracken experienced in their relationship. Hopefully, it would go a different path, and Alden and Maine would then “live happily ever after!”
Alden Richard portrayed Jose Rizal
in the GMA7 TV series Ilustrado.

          One more startling coincidence: Alden Richard won his first Best Actor Award (29th PMPC Star Awards for Television) for his portrayal of Dr. Jose Rizal in the TV historical drama series Ilustrado (2014).

                                                          o     O     o

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Huling Ngiti: Ang Pamamaalam ng Aking Ina

Nieves C. Laoagan
(July 28, 1933 – October 12, 2017)
Beloved Mother

Ang Pamamaalam ng Aking Ina

Nang si Papa ay pumanaw sa daigdig,
Ako’y musmos pa noo’t mura pa’ng isip.
Si Mama, pigil man ang kanyang pagtangis,
Ramdam ko’ng binabata niyang hinagpis!
Mahigit limampung taon ang nagdaan;
Ngayo’y si Mama naman ang namaalam.
Pilit mang pigilin ang nararamdaman;
Litaw ang luha’t labis kong kalungkutan!
Kalungkuta’y nanuot sa aking diwa;
Ang dating buo ngayon ay parang giba.
Diwa’y tila nauupos na kandila;
Ano pa’ng dahil, liwanag nitong dala?
Hindi maiwaksi sa aking isipan,
Oktubre 12, 2017 – ang sanhi ng kalungkutan:
Hatinggabi, sa papag ng pagamutan,
Nang si Mama sa akin ay namaalam.
Ako’y bumubulong sa kaniyang siping:
Mama ko, huwag ka munang mahihimbing.
Hindi pa panahon, marami pang piging;
Diwa mo’y magbalik, ikaw ay gumising!
Pisngi at noo ng aking Inang mahal,
Habang hinahaplos, ako’y nagdarasal.
Hirap man sa paghinga at nangangatal,
Labi niya’y gumalaw, pili’t umusal.
Nang wala siyang masambit na kataga,
Sa aki’y lumingon, dumilat mga mata.
Saglit na ngumiti, ako ay natuwa,
Iyon pala’y kanyang huling pagbabadya! 

Mama ko! Mama ko! Ako’y nagpasigaw.
Mga luha ko’y nag-uunahan sa pag-apaw.
Tumigil ang paghinga at ang paggalaw;
Wala na si Mama sa mundong ibabaw!
Isang hiyaw – sa DIYOS nagmamakaawa;
Iginigiit, katuwiran kong aba:
Ang daming masama, bakit hindi sila?
Ang Ina kong ubod bait, bakit siya?
Patawad, PANGINOON, ako’y pangahas;
Batid mong higit, guhit ng aming palad.
Ikaw ang nagtatakda ng bawat landas;
Ako’y isang mangmang sa dunong mo’t lakas.
Marami ng dinanas na dusa’t sakit,
Aking Ina – kaya di ko maigiit
Dagdag na hininga, baka ang kapalit
Sa kanya’y higit na hirap at pasakit.
Payo ng mga kaibiga’t kamag-anak,
Ako’y magpakatibay, magpakatatag.
Ngunit pa’nong gagawin umano’y dapat
Kung sa Ina ko hugot ang aking lakas?
Marami ng naganap sa aking buhay;
Mga nakamit na karangala’t tagumpay,
Kasama-sama kita’t laging kaakbay
Sa basbas ng MAYKAPAL na ating gabay.
Kung ako’y lukob ng kawalang pag-asa,
Iyong sinasabi sa tuwi-tuwina:
Pasensiya na, at huwag mabahala,
Darating din ang sandali ng ginhawa.
Huling ngiti mo’y sa isip nagwiwika;
Bagbag na puso ko ay pinapayapa;
Kabagabagan ay pilit sinasala
Upang ang galit sa akin ay mawala.
Sa mga pagkakasala ko’t pagkukulang,
Patawad, Mama ko, sa kabagabagan.
Nawa’y kamtin ligaya’t kapayapaan,
Sa piling ng DIYOS, sa ati’y lumalang.
Kay hirap tanggapin ng iyong paalam,
Datapuwa’t ako’y hindi isang paham.
Di ko mapangyayari ang inaasam,
Tunay na MAYLIKHA lamang ang may-alam!
Sa’yong pamamaalam, Mama ko, patawad
Sa mga pangakong hindi ko pa natupad.
Sa mga kapalaluan kong walang katulad,
Iyong pagpapatawad nawa’y igawad!
Sa lahat ng hirap na ‘yong naranasan,
Mula sa sandali ng aking pagsilang
Hanggang sa sandali ng iyong paglisan,
Patawad sa mga nagawang kasalanan!
Dumating na ang sandali ng paglipat
Sa Tahanan ng DIYOS – Dakilang Pantas.
Ipamanhikan mo akong iyong anak,
Patuloy na gabayan at bigyang lakas.
Mga dalangin ko’y dinggin nawa ng DIYOS;
Sa piling Niya kamtin ligayang lubos.
At habang mundo’y patuloy sa pagkilos.....
Mama ko, tulang ito’y hindi pa tapos!

(Isinulat, Oktubre 16-17, 2017)

Monday, September 11, 2017


          First of all, let us examine what the word “dictator” really means. In ancient Rome, a “dictator” is a magistrate with supreme authority, elected or appointed in times of emergency to deal with grave problems or threats of national proportion. Looking at different standard dictionaries, we could sum up the following definitions: “A stern ruler with absolute power and authority;” “one who is decisive in his command, whose pronouncements are meant to be taken as the final word;” “a leader who imposed his thoughts, wills and visions upon his subordinates;” “an assertive, strong-willed and unyielding leader;” “one who impose his orders with authority;” “one whose commandments must be followed to the letter;” “one who will defend his cause to the utmost limits available;” and the most basic is “one who ‘dictates’.” It came from the Latin root word dictatus, which simply means “to speak (aloud).”
Lesson of History
          The word isn’t bad at all. In fact, during ancient times, being branded a “dictator” is an honor bestowed to the greatest of men. If you look at world history, all the great leaders of the world at one time or another were called a “dictator.” From Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar, to Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro. Even Abraham Lincoln was called “dictator” by his political opponents.
          History also proved that great deeds were accomplished through authoritarian leadership. The Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, triumphs in war, independence of many nations, etc.
          So, you see, the word isn’t bad at all! I would rather have a dictator as a leader than a yellow-bellied sycophant.
          Taking the above premise, let us start looking back in time and reminisce the legacy left behind by President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos (1917-1989).

Ferdinand Marcos and his family after winning the 1965 election.

          “History will judge my father (Ferdinand E. Marcos) properly.” – Senator Bongbong Marcos, in an interview by Kara David in the TV program Powerhouse.
President Marcos and his son Bongbong, 1960s.
Marcos with Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, when they were still the best of friends.
From left to right: Senators Lorenzo Tañada, Estanislao Fernandez, Lorenzo Sumulong, Raul Manglapuz
and Ferdinand Marcos, in the middle of discussing means to impeach then President Diosdado Macapagal (May 12, 1964)

The “Tenant Emancipation Decree”
written in President Marcos’ own handwriting
(September 26, 1972).
          Can Marcos be considered a revolutionary? Before many eyebrows start flying, let’s profile the man through his writings and principles. In his book The Democratic Revolution in the Philippines (1979), he wrote: “The Democratic Revolution is a rededication to the historical aspirations of the Filipino people, but it makes demands not only on the political authority itself but on the very foundation of that authority: the people,” and “The fundamental reason for building a new society involves the outstanding fact of our age: the rebellion of the poor. This is a rebellion over which the might of government can have no avail, for the poor are, in many ways, the people for which government exist.”

          It gets more intense in the succeeding book, An Ideology for Filipinos (1980): “What this (democratic) revolution requires is a political leadership that finds reason to institute radical reforms and, more important, has the courage to act on behalf of the people, and thus against the (oppressing) oligarchy, including its power brokers in the ranks of the intellectual elite.” He summed it up with his rallying cry: “Of what good is democracy if it is not for the poor?!”

          Among the poorest poor and the most exploited in the Philippines are the peasant farmers. Land reform was the priority program of the Marcos presidency. But the fact is that before Martial Law was declared, the Philippine Congress was occupied mostly by landlords, oligarchs owning huge landed estates, and feudal vassals, and any and all attempts to pursue a genuine land reform program will not even reach first reading. Marcos had enough of this: “Our people have known enough of exploitation. It is time that our people shared equitably in the fruits of their labor and their land.”
          On September 26, 1972, just five days after declaring Martial Law, Marcos decreed the entire country a land-reform area. A month later, he enacted the “Tenant Emancipation Decree.” It was put on paper with his own handwriting: “Decreeing the emancipation of tenant farmers from the bondage of the soil, transferring to them the ownership of the land they till, and providing the instruments and mechanism thereafter....” Marcos wrote it with his own hand because he felt it was both the pioneering and milestone program of his “New Society,” and to show his sincerity. For he knew then: “If land reform fails, then the entire program of the New Society fail.”
Man behind the “New Society” salutes
(Independence Day, June 12, 1973).
          President Rodrigo Duterte is being recently lambasted by rightist and oligarchic elements for having an independent foreign policy. That is, a foreign policy not solely, mendicantly, dependent on the U.S. He is, however, not the first president to do so. In 1975, then First Lady Imelda Marcos went to Cuba. She learned from Fidel Castro (1926-2016) that “after 30 years, any lease agreement between sovereign nations concerning land occupancy becomes permanent, and may only be abrogated by mutual consent.” This was based on Cuba’s experience regarding the Guantanamo Naval Base. That is how the base inside Cuba became US property. Since sovereignty was absolute within the premises of the said base, and the lease agreement cannot be unilaterally terminated. Upon knowing this, she immediately told President Marcos knowing fully its parallel consequence on Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base.
          The US military bases in the Philippines were established through the Parity Agreement in 1947, which also started the so-called “mendicant foreign policy.” Interesting to note that it was President Manuel Roxas (1892-1948) who initiated this policy. Claro M. Recto (1890-1960) and Jose P. Laurel (1891-1959) opposed it. President Roxas even made a public speech of loyalty (according to Recto, more like subserviency or sycophancy), “kissing the American anus,” at the Kelly Theater on April 15, 1948.
          After the abolition of the 1935 Constitution, and the ratification of the 1973 constitution, subsequent amendments and provisions thereafter was made and the military bases became renegotiable every five years. This made it possible for the Philippine Senate under Jovito Salonga (1920-2016) to vote for the removal of the bases in 1991. President Cory Aquino (1933-2009) was for the status quo; she doesn’t want her benefactor to leave. In reality, it is Marcos that we should thank, for the removal of the US military bases. Senator Salonga, for his part, paid a dear price for disobeying President Aquino. He was voted out as Senate President and his financial backer in the business community withdrew their support for his presidential bid.
          Aside from this, current brood of students of activism should also know that it was during the Martial Law era that Claro M. Recto’s dream of cutting the chain of “mendicant foreign policy” became a reality. On April 1972, President Marcos initiated the establishment of diplomatic relations with socialist countries of Asia and Europe, which led to progressive trade relations and cultural exchange programs. This in turn marked the end of the Philippines’ period of mendicant policy in foreign affairs and the beginning of a new era of self-reliance. Recalling history, Marcos went to China in June 1975, where Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976) shook his hand and told him “You must lead the Third World.” The following year, he visited Moscow and established diplomatic ties with Russia.
President Marcos and Premier Chou Enlai signed the communiqué opening diplomatic ties with China
          We owe it all to Recto’s dream and Marcos’ act of defiance against the US. Perhaps, the foremost reason, more than the allege charges of abuses he committed, why he was stabbed in the back by “Uncle Sam” and ousted from office.
This leaflet was circulated by rightist groups in an attempt to destroy the Marcos image.
So what if the Marcoses befriend the Communists? That’s what Independent Foreign Policy is!
“A leader without vision and direction is like a cabbage without leaves..... But I see in you a visionary, a man with purpose..... Go, you must lead the Third World!” – Chairman Mao Zedong’s statement to President Marcos upon meeting with him in his state visit in China (1975).
Warm handshake from Mao Zedong greets President Marcos in China, June 1975,
where the Chairman told him: “You must lead the Third World!”
President Marcos writes his autograph on Muhammad Ali’s coat
during the champ’s courtesy call at Malacañang (June 30, 1976).
Ali’s wife Veronica looks on beaming at the back.
          In looking back at the legacy of President Ferdinand E. Marcos, let us sieve through the debates between the anti-Marcos and the Loyalists. Let us dissect the arguments to three main premises: The state of the Philippine economy during Marcos’ time, and the presuppositions “Is Marcos a thief?” and “Is Marcos a human rights abuser?”
          Anti-Marcos proponents would argue that the Philippines was the “sick man of Asia” during the Martial Law era. Looking back at history and World Bank records, however, says otherwise. The “sick man of Asia” connotation perhaps better pertained to the Philippines that Marcos inherited from President Diosdado Macapagal (1910-1997). Based on World Bank data, the Philippines’ Annual Gross Domestic Product grew from 5.27 billion dollars in 1964 to 37.14 billion dollars in 1982, and Philippine GDP per capita more than quadrupled from 175.9 dollars in 1964 to 741.8 dollars in 1982, the second highest in Philippine history. Though it fell to 568.8 dollars in 1985. This despite many compounding factors, including extremely high global interest rates, severe global economic recession, and significant increase in global oil price, which affected all indebted countries in Latin America, Europe, Asia, and the Philippines was not exempted. All in all notwithstanding the 1984-1985 recession, GDP per capita grew at an annual rate of 5.8 percent. Indeed, according to the U.S. based Heritage Foundation, the Philippines enjoyed its best economic development between 1972 and 1979. The economy grew despite two severe global oil crises in 1973 and 1979. World Bank data also show that Philippine Agriculture, crops (rice, corn, coconut, sugar), livestock and poultry, and fisheries grew at an average rate of 6.8, 3.1 and 4.5 percent, respectively from 1970 to 1980. During the Marcos’ Green Revolution, the annual rice production in the Philippines increased from 3.68 to 7.72 million tons in two decades and made the Philippines a rice exporter for the first time in the 20th century. Mathematics doesn’t lie. No other president before or after Marcos was able to achieve this.
          The anti-Marcos accused the former president of stealing tens of billions of dollar from the government coffers during his rule. The Loyalists would say that nothing is conclusively proven up to now regarding that matter. The reality of which no factual or physical evidence has been presented in any court except for intangible allegations. In fact, most of the cases filed against the Marcoses both here and abroad were already dismissed. Marcos himself was quoted as saying: “I have committed many sins in my life. But stealing money from the government, from the people, is not one of them.” How do we go about checking this?
          Again let’s do the Math, or the logical estimates, at least. How much money is there really in the Philippine coffers during the Marcos administration? If we include the local and foreign funds, donations and debts, how much money was there available for Marcos? Now, let’s go to government expenditures, how much money do you think his government spent with all the infrastructures built during his time? Five of the eight major dams and 17 hydroelectric and geothermal power plants still fully functional today were constructed during the Marcos era. By 1983, the Philippines became the second largest producer of geothermal power in the world with the commissioning of the Tongonan 1 and Palinpinon 1 plants (It is worth mentioning that because of the focus of the Marcos government on renewable energy sources, the country’s dependency on hydrocarbon fuel was at its lowest from the late 1970s to the early 1980s.). Aside from this, more than 90 percent of the bridges, more than 70 percent of the roads and highways, over 40 percent of the state colleges and universities still existing today throughout the country were built by the Marcos government. Not to mention the Light Railway Transit (LRT) system, sea and air ports, irrigation and flood control projects, water supply and drainage facilities, the Kidney, Heart and Lung Centers, thousands of public markets, hospital and health facilities, arts and cultural buildings, etc. Marcos also spearheaded the development of 11 heavy industrialization projects including steel, petrochemical, cement, pulp and paper mill, and copper smelter.

          Historians will one day ask: What would the Philippine Archipelago be without the Pan-Philippine Highway? What would Luzon be without the Candaba Viaduct, the North Luzon Expressway and the South Luzon Expressway? What would Visayas be without the San Juanico Bridge? What would Mindanao be without the Atugan Bridge?

San Juanico Bridge, the longest bridge in Southeast Asia when it was built (1973)
          In the latest El Niño occurrence, the entire archipelago suffered from drought and water shortage. The supply of water for irrigation of Bulacan and Rizal were cut-off just to maintain a reduced supply of drinking water for Metro Manila. Imagine if Angat, Ipo and La Mesa dams were not constructed during Marcos time. We would be exporting water from China, perhaps. On the other extreme, imagine if Magat and Pantabangan dams were not constructed. Northeastern and Central Luzon would turn into giant lakes during typhoon season. Imagine if the flood control system of Metro Manila was not rehabilitated during Marcos time. The inundation, destruction and damage after Typhoon Ondoy and the 2010 habagat onslaught would be more than tenfold. By the way, the Marcos government master plan of the flood control system for Metro Manila and surrounding suburbs was scrapped and construction discontinued during President Cory Aquino’s regime, allegedly because “it was a Marcos project.” No alternative plan was ever set in place. The same fate happened with the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, which could have prevented the energy crisis of the 1990s and impending energy crisis to come.

          The 1986 revolt that ousted Marcos happened at EDSA. But did you know that EDSA, the highway we know today, was paved and concretized by the Marcos government? How much do you think all the aforementioned projects cost? Add the social services, the salaries of government workforce (civilian, police and military), and the miscellaneous expenses of the national government. I wonder, was there anything left to steal? The bigger wonder is the possibility that Marcos didn’t steal a centavo but, on the contrary, forked out billions to finance and complete his administration’s massive infrastructure projects. The biggest wonder is where did he get the money?
Alam niyo kung ano nakakatawa sa larangan ng pulitika sa Pilipinas? Yung mga nagsasabi noon na nangurakot si Pangulong Marcos ay sila na humalili sa kapangyarihan ang kapit-tuko sa pork barrel kung saan “legal” ang kanilang malakihang pangungurakot. Kaya mabibilang mo sa daliri, kung mayroon man, ang mga major infrastructure projects na nagawa mula 1986, pagkatapos ng EDSA Revolt, hanggang ngayon. Samantalang ang pinagbibintangan nilang si Marcos, heto at hanggang ngayon ay pinakikinabangan natin ang mga proyektong kaniyang ginawa. Isang halimbawang mahirap buwagin ng paninira ay ang Maharlika Highway mula dulo ng Northern Luzon hanggang dulo ng Southern Mindanao. (Do you know what is laughable in the arena of Philippine politics? Those who accused President Marcos of plundering, those who succeeded him to power, are the ones massively stealing money “legally” through the pork barrel. That is why you can count with the fingers of your hand, if there is any, major infrastructure projects accomplished after 1986, after the EDSA Revolt, up to the present. While the innumerable infrastructure projects of Marcos are still benefitting the Filipino nation up to the present. One example that is hard to tear down is the Maharlika Highway from Northern Luzon up to the Southern Mindanao.)
          Economist-journalist and long-time critic of Marcos, Hilarion “Larry” Henares, once made a ponderful comment about the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses. That even if you summed-up all the money in the Philippine treasury from Aguinaldo to Marcos, there is no such amount. So, again, where did Marcos get the money? Interestingly, even the late former Senator Jovito Salonga, in his many years of endeavoring to solve this mystery, came up blank.
Marcos’ book The Democratic Revolution in the Philippines (1979)
          Enrique Zobel (1927-2004), founder of Makati Business Club and former chairman and president of Ayala Corporation, may have an answer.  In his sworn statement before he died, he estimated Marcos’ wealth to be around 100 billion dollars, and said his riches were not ill-gotten but came from the gold bullions obtained from part of the treasures looted by Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita (1885-1946) during World War II, which is known as Yamashita’s gold or Yamashita’s treasure. Marcelino Tagle, former director of Caritas Manila and 1967 Ten Outstanding Young Man awardee, corroborated Zobel’s statements. In the 2003 book Gold Warriors: America’s Secret Recovery of Yamashita’s Gold by Sterling Seagrave (1937-2017), this claim is again elaborated. Though the book was full of conspiracy theories, half-truths, speculations and impossibilities, certain intriguing incidents and events were described vividly within its pages. Moreover, a Rizalista, Tatlong Persona chronicle revealed that the source of Marcos’ wealth was from gold hoards taken at several Yamashita treasure sites, at Fort Santiago (Manila), in Norzagaray (Bulacan), in Teresa (Rizal), in Isabela (where the deepest section of the Magat Dam now lies), to name a few. Furthermore, the “Yamashita’s Treasure” was a combination of gold hoards from Asia and that of the Hitler gold hoards taken from Africa and Europe smuggled to Bandung, Indonesia, estimated to be around 1.3 trillion dollars as of the middle of 1980s.” Supposed to be there were nine major “golden buddha” sites and 172 minor sites were the Japanese buried the amassed treasures. Aside from these, “four ships full of gold were sank in Philippine waters after the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” Whatever the truth behind the Yamashita’s treasures is another story in itself

          By the way, on his book, Neither Trumpets Nor Drums, former Vice-President Salvador Laurel (1928-2004) revealed that in 1989, President Marcos, on his last breath, offered to give 90 percent of his wealth in exchange for allowing him to return to the Philippines and be buried besides her mother when he died. VP Laurel agreed to act as go-between, but Cory Aquino, because of her vindictive character, refused to even talk to her vice-president. Cory denied Laurel just 3 minutes of her time saying she was very busy, while she allowed an hour of chit-chat with visiting actor Tom Cruise. “Cory’s refusal,” according to Laurel, was “her biggest mistake.” Laurel further noted that “we could have paid off our foreign debt.” Remember that our foreign debt in 1989 was more than 30 billion dollars. Did Marcos have that much wealth? Laurel believed so. But Marcos certainly didn’t steal it. As mentioned earlier, the Philippine government treasury didn’t have that much money even if you include foreign borrowings and donations.

          To the third premise, the allegation of human rights abuses, Marcos defenders would argue that he was not directly involved. Most of the cases happened during the time when he was already perceived to be at ill-health. He was not the one signing the arrest warrants nor ordering the alleged torture, abduction or killing, and he was not at his full faculty during the time. According to Amnesty International, most of the human rights abuses emanated from the Philippine Constabulary and the Philippine Army controlled by then General Fidel V. Ramos and Defence Minister Juan Ponce Enrile. While this may be true, the fault, however, still falls on command responsibility.
          The alleged victims were said to number more than 120,000. That many? One might want to check the list. Were they all happened during Marcos’ time? I’m very sure this list will shrink considerably upon close scrutiny. Every administration has a share of its gruesome acts of human rights abuses. Has everyone forgotten the 1987 Mendiola Massacre? How come no one, no command responsibility prosecution was made accountable for this grave killing of peasants?
          As we remember Marcos’ undoing, we should also recall his one last act of statesmanship. At the height of the EDSA Revolt, General Fabian Ver (1920-1998) was coaxing President Marcos to launch an all-out offensive against Ramos and Enrile, but he refused because many civilians will be caught in the crossfire. That part was seen on television, but not once was it replayed. Had Marcos agreed to Ver’s plan, the scenario would be like the Tiananmen Square carnage in China. Thousands would have perished. Colonel Irwin Ver, then head of Presidential Security Command (PSC), in a Rappler’s interview recalling his last days at Malacañang, remembered Marcos ordering him for “strategic withdrawal to Ilocos.” When he apprised the president that they still have the capability to defend the palace for a long time, the latter responded: “I don’t want us to be shooting at our own people. We must resolve this peacefully.” In the young Ver’s own account: “Here’s my president who many thought was a monster, his back forced against the wall, and though armed with tremendous firepower at his disposal, would not fight his way out, but clear in his mind that he would rather avoid it. At the point when the only option left was to defend the seat of presidency, he chose to leave. He would not fire back at those who were ready to shoot him down. At that moment, I felt deep in my heart that I have served the right commander-in-chief.” Marcos’ last act of ceding power rather than see the shedding of a Filipino’s blood is a legacy in itself.
          Incidentally, some miswritten books and Internet blogs should be corrected: Marcos didn’t flee to Hawaii. He wanted to go to Paoay, Ilocos Norte, but he was “kidnapped” to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, before being taken to Hawaii, on the adamant insistence of Cory Aquino to U.S. Ambassador Stephen Bosworth (1929-2016) that Marcos should be exiled outside of the Philippines immediately. There are documents, tapes and records to this effect.
Marcos family in the Malacañang ground.
USSR Ambassador Sholmov pins the Supreme Soviet Jubilee Medal of Valor on President Marcos in recognition of his deeds and act of heroism against the forces of fascism and militarism during World War II
Incumbent president Ferdinand Marcos and senator Arturo Tolentino
won the 1986 Snap Presidential Election but the mandate was robbed from them through the EDSA Revolt. With the aid of Imperialist America, Marcos was forcibly taken to Guam then to Hawaii.