In response to the charge that the Marcoses will now rewrite history, Senator Imee Marcos replied that they will simply try to present their side. Indeed the past 36 years as well as the recent campaign demonstrates what an 18th century biographer said, “it is the victor who writes the history and counts the dead.”
Rarely is there a chance for the crushed to have a second chance. The 36 years since Feb. 25, 1986 when they were flown to Hawaii have been decades of difficulty and slow return to power. The 93-year-old Mrs. Imelda Romualdez Marcos sitting by herself at the National Museum on the inaugural stage, being fanned by a yaya, and in the evening in Malacañang’s grand hall, summed up the years between Feb. 25, 1986 and June 30, 2022.
The swearing-in of President Ferdinand Romualdez Jr. as the country’s 17th President was on the front steps of what in 1986 was the Office of the Prime Minister. The Batasang Pambansa, our unicameral legislative body, was in Quezon City. It now houses the fine arts collection of the National Museum.
The day’s proceedings were simple. Outgoing President Rodrigo Roa Duterte met with the incoming President at Malacañang and the latter proceeded to the National Museum after farewell honors were given President Duterte. At the National Museum, the National Anthem was followed by a multi-denominational invocation and a parade. Then at high noon, the Chief Justice administered the Oath of Office to President Marcos Jr. In his speech, the president delivered a widely welcomed speech where he declared his commitment to foster unity and eschew vindictiveness and to prioritize food, energy, peace and order, the welfare of overseas workers.
Early that morning, invited guests had assembled at PICC and because of Covid, had to be equipped with a negative RT-PCR test taken no later than 48 hours before and were ferried by bus to the inauguration site. Most were there before 9 a.m. The VIPs were seated on the street before the stage while the super VIPs were on side stages. Predictably, the bus ride back to PICC was somewhat messy.
The inaugural dinner held the same evening was at Malacañang Palace. The Marcoses had lived in the palace’s private apartments, although many later Presidents preferred to live elsewhere. When she was in charge, Mrs. Marcos made sure that it was a grand ceremonial space that proclaimed a historic and glorious past. The Luna Blood Compact is still there as are Presidential portraits—more of them now and already including a Lulu Coching portrait of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. The grand reception halls still have their pre-war European and Juan Flores wood chandeliers. Gone, hopefully not whereabouts unknown, are treasures like the Sorolla “Nereids,” 19th century portraits, Fabian and Amorsolo paintings, and the leather bound and gilt library of Napoleon’s Empress Marie Louise.
Inaugural dinner guests had been asked to come at 6 p.m.. Guests included the who’s who of the official, business, and diplomatic community. Of the members of the Marcos Senior cabinet, the ones present were former Ministers Estelito P. Mendoza, Francisco Tatad, and myself. A post-dinner concert featuring Cecile Licad was held at Kalayaan Hall in the old Executive Office building.
Glenda Barretto of Via Mare surpassed herself in conceptualizing, cooking, and serving the dinner. It was simple but memorable Philippine fare without any fancy ingredients but was delicious and beautifully presented. First came chicken tinola soup served in a small green papaya fruit sliced in half and carved with a beautiful design. The main course consisted of one prawn, a tiny two-inch diameter and quarter-inch thick steak, some green pasta and mashed potatoes, and pakô salad all in one plate. Dessert was in a small chocolate shell and a glass.
This week, President Marcos Jr. begins work faced with difficulties of Covid, the Ukraine war, and high foreign debt. His task is not easy and we all wish him well with the prayer that history not repeat itself.
When President Ferdinand E. Marcos passed away in 1989, his faithful aide, Col. Arturo Aruiza, recalled:
“every possible taunt, all manner of insult and humiliation, every chuckle of glee, every sneer over his pain, every exultation over his predicament and his humbling, every suffering that could be humanly imagined and some that could not, every conceivable mortification, a merciless hounding, an unending persecution, all these were heaped on him, … but still the President bore it all, without a whimper, without a bitter or reproving word to anyone…”
Six years from now, we all hope that the past insults and humiliations were undeserved and that the Philippines is a better place in 2028.
Comments are cordially invited, addressed to [email protected]