POSTSCRIPT / July 5, 2022 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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They hit the ground running or partying?

We were made to expect during the election campaign to see the victorious “unity” forces hit the ground running, but we’ve just been treated instead to the sights and sounds of the Marcoses partying in the Palace.

A carry-over from the last world war, “hit the ground running” was what assault troops did as soon as their boots touched the ground after jumping off a train, plane, landing craft, or whatever. There was no moment to lose.

The former first lady Imelda R. Marcos turns 93 on Saturday, July 2. Photo: Instagram/ @bongbongmarcos

In the more sedate turnover of political power to a new administration, it is presumed that the incoming camp already has a national development plan as it hits the ground running.

While the formalities dictated by need and protocol are coordinated by the teams on both sides, the moves at least for the first 100 days are to have been planned and are now ready for implementation.

The weekend was disturbed, however, when photos and videos appeared on social media showing partying in Malacañang. The occasion that critics promptly denounced was the July 2 celebration of the 93rd birth anniversary of the President’s mother, Imelda R. Marcos.

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Sought for comment, the Malacañang Press Office said, “We will only be releasing statements on issues where public interest (or) welfare is involved.”

Why no comment? Imelda as a public figure has long influenced government policy and foreign relations, yet an event honoring her does not merit a statement for supposedly being not of public interest nor involving public welfare?

That July 2 event is of public interest and a proper subject of fair comment. More so as public funds were spent, plus the fact that it was held at Malacañang, the official residence of the President’s family.

The Press Office simply failed to anticipate the criticisms of partying in the Palace at this time. As the inquiring public abhors an information vacuum, the empty air invited speculations, mostly negative.

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You may have seen the photos posted on Instagram by Michael Manotoc, Imelda’s grandson and son of Sen. Imee Marcos. One picture showed Bongbong speaking before the attendees at Malacañang’s Rizal Hall.

Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba (2nd Dist., Ilocos Norte) also posted on Facebook photos showing Bongbong and Imelda standing beside a portrait of Mrs. Marcos and her late husband.

“Wishing our Aunty, the First Mother (FM) now, FM Imelda Romualdez Marcos all the best on her 93rd birthday,” Barba wrote on his FB post. There were also video clips on Twitter.

Still, as a newsman who has watched the parade of administrations beginning with the first Marcos, I think that that party for Mrs. Marcos need not be blown out of proportion.

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The late dictator had acknowledged his wife’s stellar power, referring to Imelda as his “secret weapon” whom he sent on delicate and difficult missions with astonishing results projecting far into the future.

In September 1974, for instance, Marcos sent her to China to work out the opening of diplomatic ties. She was received warmly by Chairman Mao Zedong, who kissed her hand the moment they met and soon agreed to open China to the Philippines.

Imelda convinced China to sell cheap crude to Manila in the midst of a global oil crisis, to import Philippine products, and respect Marcos’ imposing martial law in the Philippines. She paved the way for Marcos’ state visit to Beijing in 1975.

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The persona of Imelda has been so compelling that she has caused the insertion of “Imeldific” in the dictionary. It may not be entirely complimentary but the word now means “ostentatiously extravagant, sometimes to the point of vulgarity.”

In her Philippine Star column “From a Distance” on March 5, 2016, the late Carmen N. Pedrosa wrote about the staging at the National Theatre in London of “Imelda’s Rise and Fall”.

The show was the product of the creative collaboration of David Byrne and DJ Fatboy Slim. Byrne was well-known in the US through his band “Talking Heads” while Fatboy Slim (real name Norman Cook) is a famous disc jockey, musician, rapper, and record producer.

Byrne said in an interview: “I set to work reading about Imelda’s life and times, to see whether there was a story beyond the shoes and the rise and fall of a glamorous and very public dictator’s wife. I knew right away that, despite my misgivings about Madame Marcos, I had to find a way to understand what made her tick.

“The first story I latched on to was that of the relationship between Imelda and Estrella, her former maid and best friend, as detailed in a biography by Carmen Pedrosa. xxx

“Marcos once said: ‘I was born ostentatious. They’ll list my name in the dictionary someday. They’ll use Imeldific to mean ostentatious extravagance.’” They did.

In the AustralianFilipina magazine of Sept. 29, 2014, writer Violi Calvert did an engaging review of “Here Lies Love” the musical she experienced Off-Broadway in New York, also by Byrne and Fatboy Slim.

Calvert mentioned an interview where Imelda answered when asked what she would like written on her tombstone: “Here lies love”. The songs telling the story of Imelda’s rise and fall with Ferdinand, were set to discotheque music in a clubby atmosphere.

The return to power of Imelda and her dynasty could inspire a re-production in London and New York, where HLL in 2014 bagged no less than five awards in the 29th annual Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Achievement Off-Broadway.

Calvert said the New York show was immersive theater where the audience bopped with the music as they are shepherded by ushers in neon-light pink jumpsuits.

To add to the multisensory experience, historical footage was flashed on the screen and walls, transporting the audience to Mendiola and EDSA circa 1986.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 5, 2022)

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