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papa osmubal
oscar balajadia IT IS by design that if one mentions Corazon Aquino, one has also to mention Ferdinand Marcos—and vice versa. It is all but historical blasphemy if one of them is mentioned without the other getting mentioned.

It is still clear to me how these two presidents formed some kind of a dream in me and how, as a young kid growing up in a sleepy town in Pampanga, they inspired and made me a proud Filipino. That is indeed what true heroes can bequeath to their fellowmen. But then I remember them also as the very same reasons why those dreams and the pride mercilessly disappeared from a disillusioned man that I am now.

Young as I was then, I could not take a rational and firm political stand. But I was quite conscious of what was happening around me. I knew something was going on and, from what I was hearing from ordinary folks around, I knew it was bad.

Old men and women in my town praised and hated Marcos at the same time. But they hated the man more than they praised him. I was then asking why. I was puzzled, or rather bothered, by all the whimpering and sighing around me. I was just a two-year old boy growing up when the New Society (Bagong Lipunan) was officially implemented under martial rule. I did not see anything wrong with the New Society because that was the only social setup and political model I knew at the time. Old age took its toll on Marcos, and he came to the realization that he could no longer bear the burden of a nation founded on myth. He lifted martial law and prepared himself for his political downfall, or worse yet, demise. But it did not happen that fast. Nights and days dragged so slowly and people were patiently waiting in awe, with hope and eagerness for his exit. But people's patience had reached the boiling point when they noticed that Marcos seemed to have nine lives—even on his deathbed he could still do menace.

I learned from my old folks the ugliness of martial rule. They had lived under other leaders prior to Marcos's rise to power. They kept on mentioning about Diosdado Macapagal, Carlos Garcia, Ramon Magsaysay, and the like. But I knew those guys also needed radio, TV, and in newspapers to prop up their image as true leaders of a nation—like Marcos, who was indeed omnipresent in media. He was all over.

Growing up, I gradually established this boyish anger towards Marcos for only one reason—he would just suddenly come up on the TV screen to deliver something in English from his Malacañang desk while we kids were watching our Voltez V, Mazinger Z, and Star Rangers. I wanted to smash his head on a hard surface, à la Hulk Hogan, when wrestling matches had to be cancelled to give way to never-ending Marcosian announcements littered with quotes from the Constitution. (If you want children to stage rowdy and bloody revolts, simply do what Marcos was doing back then.) Aside from that, I did not see any other reason to hate him.

A kind of more mature type of hatred toward Marcos was sparked in me when one Ninoy Aquino, of whom I had never heard before, was killed. Hearing stories of the fallen man and of his struggles, I knew then there was a better man than Marcos. Ninoy's pictures were all over the newspapers. He was on TV, and for the very first time in my life I enjoyed watching the news. I had been fascinated by this one man who could have single-handedly brought Marcos' downfall, but that man was dead. I fully realized why people should be angry with Marcos and why he should not be leading the Filipino nation. All people (except the Iglesia ni Cristo members that I knew) were pointing a finger at Marcos for the assassination of Ninoy. So, Marcos was officially declared a villain in my life.

I confess I admire Marcos's intelligence. I believe he was the brightest political tactician this nation has ever produced. Philippine society will never have a mind like his in my lifetime. But even heredity fails. Look at the clowns and palookas that such a brilliant man brought up in his very home. They all inherited their mom's qualities and their family friends' habits and penchants.

I would always like to think that Marcos was really gung ho. He showed that the Filipino nation can't be bullied and pushed around. He showed how a Filipino could intimidate and ultimately rule the world. Perhaps he succeeded in intimidating the world, but fell short of ruling it mainly because he was perpetually tugging on the sleeves of his American masters. He was gung ho alright, but then his dependence and reliance on the US makes one pause and think.

Marcos was no doubt a dreamer who wanted to create a new society according to his own image. He was creating a nation based on myth. Very much like what Adolf Hitler tried to do in Germany. Where Adolf Hitler had a Third Reich (The Third Kingdom), Marcos had a "Bagong Lipunan" (The New Society). And where Adolf Hitler had Aryans (pure race), Marcos had "Maharlikas" (noble people). At the height of "Bagong Lipunan" (during Martial Law), Marcos started baptizing some buildings, streets, halls, and government-owned companies with indigenous names, like for the then Channel 4, which ran as the Maharlika Broacasting System. A nation should have a dream and myth to follow as the focus for its formation. The Americans do this with their famous "American Dream" (now heavily disseminated as "Democracy"), making Superman (strong, tall, good-looking and, yes, white—not black) as its commercial symbol. Everything that America does is based on that almighty "American Dream." Had he succeeded, Marcos would have made the Philippines a respectable and powerful nation, because he had the formula for it. He just screwed it up. This simply flaunts the simple fact that what you don't need in applying a particular political system are bad people. Bad people make a political system bad.

But a man like Marcos was doomed to fail. His heart would not agree with his mind, and vice versa. His mind and heart tackled the same agenda in very different ways. His mind wanted to work for the good of his country, while his heart clearly showed he just wanted to work for his own personal and political gain. A nation can't have a political schizophrenic as its leader to progress, let alone to survive.

My hatred of Marcos grew in astronomical proportion, so to speak, during the 1986 presidential election. Not that because I was not yet a registered voter at the time (to cast my revenge against Marcos through the ballot), but because he refuted and obliterated everything noble he popularized when he was promoting his "Bagong Lipunan" ("Sa ikauunlad ng Bayan, Disiplina ang Kailangan"; "Tayo'y Magbigayan, at Huwag Magsiksikan"; "Ang Pagsunod sa Magulang, Tanda ng Anak na Magalang"... ). What gave birth to my hatred was Marcos's belittling of a lamenting widow: "Babae lamang po ako, hindi ko kayang maging presidente." What insane man could undermine the abilities of women!

That widow was Cory Aquino.

For a while, Cory Aquino was my heroine. She was my president, although I did not vote for her. But I am proud to tell that to my parents and older sisters, who did vote for her. I remember my parents rehearsing my older sisters (they were first-time voters, not kindergarten kids) to write the names Corazon Aquino and Salvador Laurel legibly and immaculately, so that vote canvassers who had strange eye defects would have no reason to invalidate their votes or count them for Ferdinand Marcos and his reluctant running-mate Arturo Tolentino. On the way to the polling precincts, I played around tying yellow ribbons around trees in support of Aquino and her cause. With Aquino coming forward as the opposition candidate, I finally had someone to compare Marcos with. For the very first time in my life, I had been under two successive presidents. I saw history unfolding before my very own eyes. For a while, Aquino showed that she was much better than Marcos. I knew she was intelligent, although not as intelligent as Marcos. Or maybe she was as intelligent as Marcos, but not as sly. I knew she was way more kind-hearted than Marcos. That was until the Mendiola massacre, barely a year after her assuming the presidency.

Cultural minorities and farmers were massacred during the Marcos administration, and we knew Marcos ordered it done. Activists and workers disappeared during the Marcos administration, and we knew Marcos ordered it done. Cultural minorities and farmers were massacred during the Aquino administration, but we denied that Cory ordered it done. Activists and workers disappeared during the Aquino administration, but we denied that Cory ordered it done. This is historical hypocrisy.This is downright injustice.

I had mixed feelings about Aquino when she stood before the US Congress with her rehearsed speech. I admired her seamless delivery of the speech (à la high school valedictory address—not the usual political speeches delivered impromptu by such hard-nosed speakers, such as her husband Ninoy and, yes, Ferdinand Marcos) and the way it was written, although I fully knew she did not write it, in its entirety at least. The occasion officially made her administration an American puppet. The Americans were applauding and lauding the lady who defeated their own man. In that so-called People Power uprising nobody lost a battle: the Filipino people got rid of the dreaded Marcos, Aquino won Malacañang in her husband's name, America had its new political protégé in the Philippines while its old dog was basking under the Hawaiian sun sipping iced-cold beer. We should have known what that meant and what that should have given us an inkling of: what kind of a people we are, what kind of leaders we elect to power, what kind of political allies we deal with, and whose interests our leaders serve.

Thus I became a disillusioned Aquino admirer. I sometimes console myself by bringing back the time when Aquino was an immaculate saint before her own people. I always think that with what she had (or with what was put in her hands) she could have done more, she should have done more.

I know Cory was a very rich person and that her family was influential on both sides (Aquino and Conjuangco). That was not her fault, and no one should hold that against her. Her fault was that she understood the poor and yet she did so little for them. We don't ask our presidents to do miracles, we just ask them what presidents can and should do. And yet they do so little or, more often than not, they don't do anything at all.

I would never be a follower of a President Corazon Aquino. But I would keep the image of that weeping widow who was seeking justice for her murdered husband—that weeping widow who became the symbol of a suffering nation. As for Marcos, I would rather he had pursued a prolific career in writing fiction than in his kind of politics. But then again, fate is ironic and sarcastic at times. Unlike Marcos, who merited my perpetual abhorrence, Aquino eventually helped me to regain my lost boyhood admiration of her and respect when, before her death, she took to the street in protest against the tide of tyranny deluging the land and publicly urged Arroyo to resign.

What happens in the country at present is a valid indication that Cory may as well remain as the best woman President the Philippines has ever had. With the situation Filipinos are in now, the nation needs another Corazon Aquino to redeem the reputation of women in politics. As for us Kapampangans, we should really work hard to reclaim our glory as a political region that produces effective leaders and not big-toothed buffoons. And our children and their children's children will one day live to say that we did not make a mistake in choosing Aquino over Marcos

[About the author. Papa Osmubal is Oscar Balajadia of Magalang (Well, don't get fooled by that name), now a Macau resident (Sorry, where?) and married to a Chinese local (How? How come? Why?). He has been a Catholic seminarian (OK, he once opened a book at an exam in Latin and Romance Languages---but who in frigging hell did not?), a Catholic missionary (Oh, the rosary is the answer to our country's economic problems and to your alcoholism and addiction to nicotine!), a bookstore staffer (Yes, sir, listen here, we know it is urgent, so your book is on its way from Guangzhou and will be here in 8 months!), a librarian (Oh, it's Friday the 13th and I am not putting 666 as Dewey call number on this bloody book!), and a teaching assistant (OK, pal, I know you prepared for the exams so I will check and mark them!). He is currently a teacher (yawn) and has an M.A. in English Studies (yawn even more, nod off, and then snore) from the University of Macau (sorry again, where?).]

-Posted: 9:15 AM 8/28/09 | More of this author on eK!