THERE is no better time to talk about the Marcoses than at this time: pre-EDSA 1986 anniversary, a Bongbong Marcos candidacy for Vice President, a Romualdez running for Senator, and the Marcosian rewriting of history at its most divisive.
And most effective.
We can call it many things: a generation gap. The failure of our history curriculum. The success of bourgeois education. The protection of the interests of the wealthy. The blindness to history.
The way we react to it is as expected. We implore the youth to learn about Martial Law. We demand that they know better than to campaign for, or vote, for the Marcoses. We ask that they listen to the voices of those jailed and oppressed, raped literally and figuratively, by the Marcos regime. We demand that they change their minds about the Marcoses, make sure that they do not get back into the highest position(s) in the land.
Yet it seems we are not ready to answer questions about the Marcoses. We disengage from the more difficult questions about our culture, the questions that can only be important because these are being asked.
And then we wonder why a Marcos has dared run for Vice President, and why so many don’t mind declaring their support for him.
A question of culture
History and its re-writing is something that the Marcoses always engaged in: who else would think of having the Malakas at Maganda creation myth re-painted in the images of Ferdinand and Imelda?
But where the Marcoses are clear about manipulating history to their benefit, the rest of us aren’t even on the same page about what we must do with the historical artifacts that remain of our Marcos past.
Case in point: why is there no real discussion about Imelda’s contributions to culture? What did that mean for nation then, and what does it mean for nation now? While we are not having that discussion, someone like Carlos Celdran has created a career around his love for Imelda, on the premise of the ex-First Lady’s cultural contributions. And we let him get away with it, with nary a squeak.
And then we wonder why the youth would think the Marcoses a gift to nation.
Then we wonder why the youth cannot wrap its head around the fact that these cultural institutions were used as ideological state apparatuses for Martial Rule. We wonder why we cannot speak of these cultural institutions and its current dysfunctions to be grounded in a Marcosian rule that had the true good beautiful as cultural priority.
The more important question we fail to ask: which Presidential candidate has a platform for culture that will actually dare break apart these Marcosian cultural institutions, and put up a new Ministry of Culture that can be the real and new authority over these imeldific, outdated, and dysfunctional cultural offices?
About those jewels
Intricately tied to the question of culture is history, and there is no talking about history without discussing Imelda’s jewels, now assessed to be worth $21 million dollars (P1 billion pesos), which this government cannot wait to auction off – the better to earn from it, the better to claim it as part of this government’s savings? – before this Liberal Party ends its term.
I’ve said it before: keep those jewels, build exhibits around it, create a whole culture and tourism program around it. Those jewels can be a gift that will keep on giving, if we only know to harness it as a vestige of a terrible horrid past, and re-imagine it as a way of giving back to nation.
It also provides a wonderful teaching moment, one that a younger generation will be unable to turn their backs on, because it is proof of the kind of decadence, the kind of shameful display of wealth, that represents the Marcosian delusion. It is a display of excess that can easily be contextualized in the poverty and need of that time, the violence and oppression of the people.
Someone in the Presidential Commission for Good Government (PCGG) has apparently listened, and now they say that there will be a public display of these jewels before it is auctioned off.
But why auction it at all? These jewels can forever be our national assets, the value of which can only go higher as the years pass, the possibilities for tourism and culture, history-telling and education, endless and infinite.
It has been said by this government that they would rather get rid of vestiges of the Marcoses’ decadence, because it represents such a bad time in our history. But it is this horrible moments in our past that are just as important to remember, because these are the ones that are constantly being re-written, that are always at the risk of being forgotten. It is this Marcos past, that bears repeating, over and over again, because it is true. And we have these jewels, we have art collections, we have gowns, and mansions, to prove it.
To sell these jewels would be to lose out on the opportunity to create something out of history, not just in terms of earning from it as part of a tourism program, but in terms of learning from it, analyzing it, discussing it, reconfiguring it to highlight various aspects of the Marcos years, Martial Law included.
Seems like the best way to teach our youth why they should not vote for Bongbong Marcos yes? Seems like the best way to show the forgetful what the Marcoses put nation through, and what these kids of Ferdinand and Imelda have yet to apologize for.
The question of course is which Presidential candidate will dare have a vision for these jewels, and all the rest of the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth? Who will dare decide to have a program for history, one that will bring in our academicians and intellectuals, young and old, to actually engage the public in a discussion about what the Marcos years were about, and why its re-writing is a dangerous thing?
Because look, a Marcos just might win the Vice Presidency.
That’s just too close to the presidency for comfort.