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Dec 24

The Long View: Wander Woman

The Long View
Wander Woman
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:49:00 12/23/2009

BACK in 1986, an American editorial cartoon showed Ferdinand Marcos in pajamas, his fist raised in the air, a scowl on his face, and a blasé Hawaiian customs officer saying to him, “Yes, Mr. Marcos, besides martial law do you have anything else to declare?” Thus, in india-ink cartoonist’s lines, was the fall of the Great Dictator exposed.

What must have it been like in December 1985, when the Marcoses spent what turned out to be their last Christmas in power in Manila? We now know it was their last, but no one knew at the time that it was. Marcos might have been aging and ailing, but his KBL was firmly entrenched, he knew all the ins and outs, he seemed to have all the aces. After all, he wouldn’t have called for snap elections if he didn’t think he was playing with a marked deck.

And yet we know from Carmen Guerrero Nakpil that the Marcoses had been treading water for over two years. Recalling August, 1983, she wrote, “I asked [Imelda] whether she and the President had watched Ninoy’s funeral on TV, and she said, yes, they’d done so, together, in his bedroom. And that they’d been crushed, struck dumb by the enormity of what they were seeing on the video screen. She added that they had felt overwhelmingly humiliated because they had little inkling of the public mood, and that Marcos had said, ‘So, after all these years, all our efforts, our trying and striving, it has come to this?’”

Nakpil concluded, “Ninoy did not die that day on that sunny Sunday afternoon in August 1983 at the Manila International Airport, for that was when he began to live forever in the hearts of his countrymen. It was Ferdinand Marcos who died that day, and he knew it.”

Nakpilâ’s brother, Leon Ma. Guerrero, once observed that “There is in every man a secret and obscure instinct that gives him a warning of his fate,” though in every man too there must be an often superior compulsion to believe fate can be changed or mastered by a summoning of the will. If Marcos knew his fate, he could also have believed he could change it.

The final holiday of the person whom the website Hot Manila posthumously called The Man of Steal comes to mind, together with the question of whether his final holiday in power was spent in a delusional state of mind, because of the lady whom the country may yet end up calling Wander Woman. She is spending what, theoretically at least, is supposed to be her final holiday in power, too: a final holiday as prelude to what so many devoutly wish will be either imprisonment or exile.

In August of this year, Cory Aquino was laid to rest and President Macapagal-Arroyo, by all accounts, having temporized over whether to come home, made her dawn visit to the Manila Cathedral, then held a Mass at the Palace and then stomped off to seclude herself, leaving her loyalists at first waiting for instructions then quietly sneaking off to go home and watch the funeral on TV. Did she do the same? And did similar intimations of her political mortality afflict her mind in a manner similar to what the Marcoses experienced 26 years before?

She knows more than most what it is like for a president to see power slipping through his fingers, the fair-weather friends slipping away, the hallelujahs from the faithful faltering, the isolation and paranoia as those who have feasted at the presidential table scramble for seats at his successor’s. Raul M. Gonzales, her father’s press secretary, once recounted that as he contemplated having to leave office, depression drove President Diosdado Macapagal to drink. In one White Horse-addled moment, Cong Dadong even toyed with calling out the military. Gonzales recounted that he had to remind his boss that Marcos had made inroads in the military, and Ilocano officers would disobey orders to deny Marcos the presidency, and, with a sigh, Macapagal relented and dropped the idea.

In Macapagal’s day, elections were held in November, and presidents were inaugurated on Rizal Day, December 30, which is one reason the Quirino Grandstand faces the Rizal Monument and the Independence Flagpole that commemorates our becoming a sovereign republic in 1946. Defeated presidents thus had to endure a final Christmas in the Palace.

My father once told me about visiting the Garcias during their last Christmas in the Palace, and he said it was one of the most depressing things he’d ever experienced. It was like a wake, with President Garcia as the living dead. Hardly anyone bothered to show up, and there was sepulchral silence in the Palace’s great staterooms.

Those were days, however, when an unwritten tradition guaranteed defeated presidents peace and quiet after they left office, the people’s depriving them of a mandate apparently being punishment enough, making persecution by their successors politically unpalatable. Since 2001, this hasn’t been the case: when Ms Arroyo approved the arrest of Joseph Estrada, she was, in a sense, signing her own warrant of arrest. She has long disclaimed any desire to be popular, but she has surely hoped against hope she could, at least, count on some residual goodwill.

August proved, and events since then have repeatedly underscored this, that she will have neither peace nor security once her time in the Palace is up.

Marcos, talking to Time’s Hong Kong bureau chief Roy Cowan in 1974, said, “Never make a big decision when you’re angry, hungry or happy.” It’s hard to see how, in the coming months, the President’s decision-making won’t be done while under the influence of one, if not many, of these emotions. To contemplate the disgrace of imprisonment or exile is an invitation to try to trick fate. The alternative is an editorial cartoon, circa 2010, with a Portuguese or Spanish customs agent asking the blasé question, “Si, besides martial law, Señora, do you have anything to declare?”

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  1. Jim Paredes

    I really enjoyed this. I’ve often wondered how the Marcoses really felt when people showed up for Ninoy’s funeral. I also love the tidbits of history you threw in this article.

    I believe that cartoon in the Hawaiian publication was done by Corky Trinidad.

    Yes. I’m sure GMA must be having the worst Christmas too.

  2. Bert

    too grim even for an anti-gloria like me, on this time of merrymaking and well-wishing. pass muna ako.

    MERRY CHRISTMAS to you, and to you, too, Jim.

  3. Bert

    Merry Christmas, Manolo.

  4. The Equalizer

    “That little girl must be amused and laughing at us [after] tormenting us legislators and petitioners who went to the Supreme Court.” Senator Joker Arroyo

  5. SoP

    Merry Christmas to all Filipino and Kapampangans and a big fuck you to all federalists.

    GMA, hang in there, I know you tried all you could, but this means end justifies the means thing is reserved for geniuses while you’re only a dimwitted micromanager because you’re only 1/4th Kapampangan I guess your blood was mixed with dumb ethnic genes which is why you failed miserably but I don’t hold a grudge against you because you only lie and steal but never murdered as proven by the Melo commission which absolves you of mortal sins except for the crime having a weird body anatomy which makes it hard for you to find clothes that fit thus making you the most unfashionable president in the history of planet earth combined with your nasal and high pitched voice makes for a very weird president which I’m ashamed of especially you being a 1/4th kapampangan whenever you’re with other world leaders it makes me cringe because it looks like you don’t belong there you look like our maid what with your weird round face and buck tooth you’re not very presidential at all which is why you don’t get no love and respect from filipinos we all know filipinos like good looking people again it’s your weird look and your height (you must not have been fed nutritious food as a young girl or got sick or something which stunted your growth) that is your undoing.

  6. Abe N. Margallo

    This is not just blogging, Manolo. It is good writing. And this one has made me feel as if I was with your father during his visit in the Palace that one bleak Christmas:

    My father once told me about visiting the Garcias during their last Christmas in the Palace, and he said it was one of the most depressing things he’d ever experienced. It was like a wake, with President Garcia as the living dead. Hardly anyone bothered to show up, and there was sepulchral silence in the Palace’s great staterooms.

    It reminds of . . .

    How the danger ebbs and flows:
    Yet the ear distinctly tells,
    In the jangling,
    And the wrangling,
    How the danger sinks and swells,
    By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells-
    Of the bells-

    Of the tolling, the “alarum”
    The “clangor and the clamor”
    Of the “brazen bells”
    On Christmas.

    Wishing you and your readers a “world of merriment”
    (The tintinnabulation, the jingling and the tinkling
    Of “silvers bells”)
    And a blessed Christmas!

  7. SoP

    Hey Jim Paredes, glad to see you on these comment threads. You haven’t written a decent pop song since the 1970′s and I hate your schmaltzy kumbaya let’s get together around a bonfire and talk about life, spirituality and the problem that is the Philippines and how to solve it attitude to life grow some fucking balls men the only good thing I can say about you is we have a mutual dislike for benign0, who is like the bizaaro superman to your kumbaya batman persona.

  8. Abe N. Margallo

    It reminds ME of . . .

  9. supremo

    Merry Christmas everyone!

  10. Paredski's Nightmare

    Jim,

    What makes you think she’s having the worst Christmas, when she does expect to leave the Presidency anyway?

    Still in Australia, dude? ;)

    * * * * * *

    SoP,

    Why do you hate Federalists? It makes sense given that we’re an archipelago with so many different ethnicities and an obvious need to decentralize our economic development along with allowing for cultural autonomy. Or didn’t you know that?

    So you guys hate benign0, but you two guys don’t get along.

    Ang mga Pinoy nga naman… Tsk tsk tsk… *thumbs down*

  11. karl garcia

    Merry Christmas everyone!

  12. The Cusp

    “(W)hen Ms Arroyo approved the arrest of Joseph Estrada, she was, in a sense, signing her own warrant of arrest. She has long disclaimed any desire to be popular, but she has surely hoped against hope she could, at least, count on some residual goodwill.” – MLQ3
    ***********************
    There is no question that the prosecution of Estrada was the natural conclusion of the reform movement’s desire to see justice done despite the popularity of the former president.

    GMA was in effect pandering to the reform constituency early in her presidency. Unfortunately, her own legitimacy was called into question with the EDSA III forces amassed outside the Palace forcing her to call out the military to maintain her hold on power.

    Progressively, she had to turn increasingly to the traditional machinations of power to keep her in office especially after the reformist groups abandoned her in 2005.

    The same reformists that initially joined the Estrada presidency, then brought it down, supported GMA and tried to bring her down, are now with the BA3/LP camp. According to Rocamora, they are now forming the core policy unit within the administration in waiting. Their frustrations with using EDSA as a vehicle for effecting change has led them to engage in partisan electoral politics instead.

    I hope that in the coming days we begin to see the contours of what the reformist agenda would look like under a BA3 presidency. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to All.

  13. UP n grad

    Should the next administration decide to arrest congressman GMA–2nd-district-Pampanga, should Pinas Congress protect one of its colleagues?

  14. The Cusp

    A lot of things can still unfold before then, including the disqualification of Erap, which would lead to a consolidation of his forces with Villar. Meanwhile, the survey conducted by “The Center” was billed as a “catch-up” story with BA3′s lead over his nearest rival, Villar, cut significantly to 6% points.

    Could this be a manifestation of a tacit alliance between PGMA and the NP? If Erap is forced to endorse Villar, this could make the election quite close and subject to dagdag-bawas. The LP is not out of the woods yet!

  15. joril

    Manolo,

    What happens to the perks an ex-president is entitled to if she ends up serving as congresswoman in 2010?

    Just wondering aloud.

    Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.

  16. mlq3

    a representative probably enjoys more perks than an ex-president. many thanks for your holiday greetings!

  17. Hustisya

    Merry Christmas to everyone!

  18. UP n grad

    NoyNoy is at 45%. As long as the NoyNoy flipflop on Reproductive Health is ignored by Pinoy voters (women voters especially), then NoyNoy being GMA’s replacement is a done deal.

  19. Hustisya

    I believe that there is absolutely no chance for Villar to catch up. Nabili na niya lahat nang pwedeng mabili sa commercial. His billion peso worth of commercials can only do as much. Maybe it can cut some 3-4 notches more to reach 30 but that’s it. But then come election time, the worms in his closet will come out and there are certainly a mouthful of corruption issues he should explain. This time he should explain the issues personally, people will not accept it id such explanations would once again come from proxies or propagandists.

    They have obviously exhausted all the issues against Noynoy and obviously it did not affect Noynoy’s hold to voters much. The Ampatuan cheating machine has already been neutralized with the timely intervention of some stroke of faith.

    I feel that a Noynoy Presidency is inevitable. Bearing a no-el scenario and/or a successful assassination, Noynoy is already on his way to capture Malacanang. All that Noynoy needs at this time are an effective bullet proof vest, alert security personnel and throngs of diplomatic pressure that will prevent that little girl from Malacanang from declaring Martial Law.

  20. UP n grad

    A few of NoyNoyistas are sensing the inevitability of the win and have begun to swiftly position themselves for the directors-and-above positions of the NoyNoy administration.

  21. The Cusp

    The Aquino camp cannot afford to be complacent at this point. If Estrada gets disqualified by the Comelec which is set to rule tomorrow or withdraws, his supporters would tend to go for Villar (rich v poor narrative). If you add both their ratings, it is about 42-3%, within striking distance of Aquino’s 45-6%.

    GMA fearing the worst under an Aquino-Roxas administration and seeing the abysmal Teodoro poll numbers might then lend some logistical support and other forms of assistance to help Villar bridge the gap of 3-4%. It wouldn’t require a No-El situation, just the same old vote manipulation, automation notwithstanding.

  22. jose bueno

    Sen. jose ozamis maybe the forgotten hero. But i am the forgotten unwanted family member being the only illegitemate son of the only illegitemate son of the late senator who was beheaded by the japanese at the north cemetery. His necklace the only thing that identified him. its hard reading your family it’s hard reading your family’s history in history books! Merry christmas!

  23. jose bueno

    by the way my loal was cleo bueno of legazpi, albay

  24. jose bueno

    The little girl from malacanang as a matter of course would not want an aquino administration. she will do everything to prevent that.

  25. ricelander

    I think I would agree there with Hustisya that the Presidency is already in the bag for Noynoy, the son of a martyr and a saint.

    The Yellows should thus brace themselves even now; it could be the final unraveling— of the so-called “Aquino Legacy”. Where purported “legacy” was once confined to speculative rhetorics and debates presided by a media in love with the Aquinos, soon it will be put to the real squeezer, in the person of the anointed heir of it all, Noynoy. Do I sense dread, the kind of thing you feel when you see someone is being pushed to the stage to sing in front of thousands and you know the guy can’t carry a tune?

  26. taxj

    It makes sense given that we’re an archipelago with so many different ethnicities and an obvious need to decentralize our economic development along with allowing for cultural autonomy. Paredski’s Nightmare.

    Decentralization or autonomy is one thing. It’s wisdom. Federalism’s another. It’s a folly.

    Do I sense dread, the kind of thing you feel when you see someone is being pushed to the stage to sing in front of thousands and you know the guy can’t carry a tune? Ricelander.

    Same here, ricelander. Fortunately, an election is not over until it’s over. But come to think of it. Why not surveys in lieu of elections? It’s cheaper and more accurate! Hihihi.

  27. SoP

    Paredski’s Nightmare on Fri, 25th Dec 2009 3:28 am
    SoP, Why do you hate Federalists?

    I never said I hated federalists. I said fuck you to all federalists. You can say fuck you to someone and still not hate them. In fact, I like them, coz I’m a federalist myself. But I still wish them ‘fuck you’ (myself not included). You don’t get it don’t you? Your mind’s probably blowing at the moment. You might think I’m being illogical, but I’m not. In fact. I’m making perfect sense. Oh Paredski, how I wish that you’re puny little mind might understand me. I wish to educate you. Just look up post-modernism and performance art (wikipedia will suffice) and you’ll understand what I did in that post. Happy holidays, my pedestrian intellectual little Filipino friend.

  28. vickie.estella

    @ricelabder, your analog may be right if the singing is yet to start.

    In the case of Noynoy, the “show” has long started and the people are just asking for more.

    Remember, ITULOY ang LABAN…..?

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