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A Marcos Mystery Story
By mlq3 Posted in Daily Dose on November 1, 2021 0 Comments 13 min read
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An epic story on Ferdinand Marcos, medals, and an American historian’s claim he engaged in what today we’d call identity theft to create a wartime hero persona.
 
Marcos, medals, letters, and links
It begins with this Jan. 1, 1983 entry in FM’s diary:
Mrcos diary entry, p.1
Mrcos diary entry, p.1
Marcos diary entry, p. 2
Marcos diary entry, p. 2
Marcos diary entry, p. 3
Marcos diary entry, p. 3
Jan. 1, 1983 - The Philippine Diary Project

You can find the story of the research and articles, and Marcos’ reactions, in this briefer on the Marcos medals:
Notes on the Marcos Medals – Manuel L. Quezon III
Of interest is an affidavit that Francis Manglapus sent me, after I posted that briefer. It was put together in 1982, which shows the digging around happening back then: so, one could also conjecture FM was reacting to intelligence on the affidavit. See a precis and the affidavit’s 12 pp. below:
POSTSCRIPT, August 11, 2016
Upon reading this entry, Francis Xavier Manglapus said he would send me the copy of an affidavit that was signed in the Shoreham Hotel on September 9, 1982 by Bonifacio Gillego, based on information provided by Romulo Manriquez, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, and “the only Filipino regimental commander among Col. Volckmann’s senior commanders,” and Vicente L. Rivera, “who served the 14th Infantry both as a staff anda line officer at various times.” The affidavit aimed to achieve was to “subject to inquiry, therefore… not the authenticity of [Marcos’] awards but the basis of these awards and the production of the records and citations.”
According to Gillego, “Col. Manriquez left the service in 1947 and came to the United States in 1954. He finished law at the GW University… ” He ended up working in the U.S. Veterans Administration and at first refrained from speaking out as in-laws and relatives had been beneficiaries of Marcos (including his brother-in-law, Gen. Zosimo Paredes). Angered by an officially-sanctioned account of Marcos’ exploits, and his having been cited as a member of Marcos’ “Ang mga Maharlika” unit, he decided to speak out. He asserts that during the time he knew him, Marcos’ guerrilla activities were in Civil Affairs and that Marcos “was never involved in any patrol or combat operations.”
Gillego says that Capt. Vicente L. Rivera was “a lawyer who also has a Master’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan,” and a “respected leader of the Fil-American community in Detroit” who became chairman of the Awards and Decorations Committee of the USAFIP NL, Inc., a veteran’s organization. According to him, Marcos discharged his weapon on two instances –once at rustling leaves, in the direction of his own men, and on another occasion, when he was issued a gun –to test it. He also provided details on the organization of the Maharlika unit. Rivera asserted Marcos “at no time was he ever given any patrol or combat assignment all during his service with the 14th Infantry.”
Here is the affidavit, signed by Bonifacio Gillego, “concurred” in by Manriquez and Rivera, and witnessed by Benjamin Maynigo and Benigno S. Aquino, Jr.
Affidavit, p. 1
Affidavit, p. 1
p. 2
p. 2
p. 3
p. 3
p. 4
p. 4
p. 5
p. 5
p.6
p.6
p. 7
p. 7
p. 8
p. 8
p. 9
p. 9
p. 10
p. 10
p. 11
p. 11
The story of Marcos’ claims, relying on affidavits, is detailed by scholars in UP’s Third World Studies Center:
File No. 60: Marcos’ invented heroism | ABS-CBN News
But here’s something that troubled me even back in the 1990s, which is that I knew FM had some wartime experiences in the guerrillas.
Back in the 1990s, asked about Ferdinand Marcos and his wartime record, my aunt Nini said that while it may have been exaggerated, she knew for a fact he had been with the guerrillas, because she had received a letter from him by submarine in 1943. Two decades later, sorting through family papers, I found two letters that confirm this recollection. One ostensibly dated December 3, 1942 and the other, dated December 2, 1943. The envelope is postmarked “Posted in the Free Philippines, Mindanao,” December 17, 1943. Both are on exactly the same paper.
Marcos Letter(s), envelope
Marcos Letter(s), envelope
The first FM letter, supposedly dated Dec. 3, 1942 (but same paper as 1943 later makes me doubt it). The second FM letter, dated Dec. 2, 1943 (aligns with the envelope itself).
Marcos Letter 1, p. 1
Marcos Letter 1, p. 1
Marcos Letter 1, p. 2
Marcos Letter 1, p. 2
transcription of first Marcos letter
transcription of first Marcos letter
The first Marcos letter mentions Tony Aquino, son of Benigno S. Aquino, who’d been slated to become Speaker of the House as a result of the November, 1941 elections (he became Speaker of the Japanese-sponsored National Assembly). Tony Aquino rather famously swam the shark-infested waters to Corregidor, to report to MLQ on racial prejudice by Americans against Filipinos in Bataan (Fr. Francisco Avendaño would make a similar report to MLQ).
Oddly enough, Marcos asks for acknowledgments of the “dragoons teeth” he sent to Malacañan in January, 1942, when MLQ and family had left Manila on December 24, 1941. Here is the second Marcos letter:
Marcos Letter 2, p. 1
Marcos Letter 2, p. 1
Marcos Letter 2, p. 2
Marcos Letter 2, p. 2
A close reading of FM’s letters is interesting but let’s move on to another letter, also sent from the field, via the guerrilla network, to my aunt Nini’s sister, my other aunt, Baby. It was from Primitivo San Agustin who was a co-founder of President Quezon’s Own Guerrillas. It’s dated Nov. 17, 1943.
The late Teddy Benigno recounted his column why this connection is relevant and important.
Writing in his column (August 16, 2004) the late Teddy Benigno recalled that,
I remember Marcos as a young man, a UP law student, who every now and then ventured into our Lourdes St. neighbohood in Pasay. Two of his close friends resided there, Priming (Primitivo) and Tony (Antonio) San Agustin. I don’t know if I see any linkage here, but the San Agustin family was close as lips and teeth with President Manuel Quezon’s family. Marcos was then assiduouly courting one of the Quezon daughters. The San Agustin brothers, who later headed the PQOG (President Quezon’s Own Guerilllas) during the Japanese occupation, were probably Marcos’ entrée to the two celebrated daughters of The Great Castila.
In a 2016 article on how Marcos had his war claims rejected by the U.S. government, the authors (Joel F. Ariate Jr. and Miguel Paolo P. Reyes) pointed out that,
Listed as affiants supporting Marcos’s request for reconsideration were Brig. Gen. Macario Peralta Jr., commanding officer of the Panay guerillas; Maj. Gen. Rafael Jalandoni, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; Col. Vicente Umali and Col. Primitivo San Agustin Jr. of the President Quezon’s Own Guerilla; Maj. Leopoldo Guillermo, signal officer of the East Central Luzon Guerilla Area; Maj. Salvador Abcede of the Negros Guerillas; Consul-General Modesto Farolan of the Philippine Consulate at Hawaii; Col. Margarito Torralba, Armed Forces of the Philippines; and Narciso Ramos, minister-counselor of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC.
Primitivo “Priming” San Agustin would die in the ambush that also claimed the lives of Mrs. Quezon and Ma. Aurora “Baby” Quezon.
So this gives some indication of how Seagrave could have come up with his strange theory. Marcos had enough political promise as a young veteran to serve as a technical assistant to President Roxas after the war.
And here is where an American historian controversially enters the picture.
An American historian, Sterling Seagrave, wose writing, as time went on, became rather controversial, wrote a book about Marcos and theorized that Marcos, who’d been a friend and hanger-on of Priming San Agustin, later adopted San Agustin’s exploits as his own. Below are highlighted excerpts.
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)
In this particular theory, I think Seagrave was on to something. It’s possible his sources were people like Teddy Benigno. Seagrave makes an important distinction between Marcos having at best, a marginal guerrilla record and his other claims it was a disreputable one; but his appropriating his dead friend’s wartime exploits and passing them on as his own, is convincing to me. His 1942 letter, IMHO, suggests a lot of embroidering of whatever might have been the actual tale –not to mention saying he hung on the letter for a year.
Postscript: My aunt and my dad sued FM over his campaign biography, for which he wrote a letter of apology (but they did not drop the suit which however did not move forward in the courts during the dictatorship).
Copy of FM Letter
Copy of FM Letter
Statement, p. 1
Statement, p. 1
Statement, p. 2
Statement, p. 2
Marcos diary entry, August 16, 1970.
Marcos diary entry, August 16, 1970.

commentary Ferdinand E. Marcos Ferdinand Marcos Jr. philippine history


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