Learning from Marcos' genius

Each Generation Writes Its Own History

By Frank A Hilario

On March 15, 2008, the UP Vanguard Fraternity Inc reviewed its standards and elevated President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos to the Vanguard Hall of Fame (Norman Bordadora, Philippine Daily Inquirer, cited by upvanguardinc.org). The First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos and son Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ R Marcos Jr were on hand to accept the signal honor, if posthumous. Better late than never!
‘Despite the persecution, the black propaganda, the virtual demonization of my father, you have kept faith and given him the recognition he justly deserves,’ Bongbong Marcos said. You expect that from a son. According to the UP Vanguard, the honor was given for his leadership ‘that has been emulated by Filipino leaders’ and for electing to leave the country to be able to live ‘at peace with his conscience (rather) than to see blood on EDSA.’
Personally, when I heard the news about Apo Ferdie being a Hall of Famer – while I was attending the combined General Membership Meeting, Induction Ceremony and Fellowship of the UP Vanguards 11 September 2008 at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo; the news was also in the Vanguard newsletter they distributed that evening – I was taken aback, to put it mildly. How dare they?! I had my own shares of uneasy days and unsleepy nights for all those Martial Law years myself, and even afterwards, so how could I myself deal with something like rewarding the bad with good?
FM, as he was also popularly called, is the 19th Vanguard member-official to be inducted into the UP Vanguard Hall of Fame (Henry Omaga-Diaz, abs-cbnnews.com). A few other personalities in the Hall of Fame are Gen Fabian Ver, AFP Chief of Staff Gen Romeo Espino, and Army Chief Lt Gen Jaime delos Santos. UP Vanguard said FM’s elevation to the Hall of Fame was ‘because of his contributions to the organization.’ Aside from that, ‘May we learn from his triumphs as well as his mistakes,’ said lawyer Gilbert Reyes, Chairman of the Board of Governors of UP Vanguard. If you say so, Attorney.
Remember FM? ‘He knew who was right for every job,’ THUG says (thehateugive.multiply.com/journal). That was part of Apo Ferdie’s genius. Geniuses, they don’t make them like they used to anymore.
Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was born in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte on 11 September 1917. He studied at UP where he earned his law degree and graduated cum laude (with honors). He deserved more; he was brilliant. He was arrested for the murder of Julio Nalundasan, the political rival of his father Mariano. Imprisoned, he reviewed in prison, bailed himself out, took and topped the bar exams of 1938. Months later, he was convicted and sentenced to jail. He appealed to the Supreme Court, defended himself and won, his very first case (Joel M Reyes & Rodolfo Sosonto Perez III, ‘Philippine Presidents,’ geocities.com). As a student, he was an ROTC Battalion Commander and was commissioned 3rd Lt (Apprentice Officer) in the Philippine Constabulary Reserve (senate.gov.ph).
When he became President, he called for more heroes, so that ‘this nation can be great again’ (marcospresidentialcenter.com):
We must awaken the hero inherent in every man. We must harness the wills and the hearts of all our people. We must find the secret chords, which turn ordinary men into heroes, mediocre fighters into champions.
Not one hero do I ask from you – but many, nay all, I ask all of you to be heroes of our nation.
Offering all our efforts to our Creator, we must derive ourselves to be great again. This is your dream and mine. By your choice you have committed to it. Come then, let us march together towards the dream of greatness.
‘His greatest achievement was in the fields of infrastructure development and international diplomacy,’ everyone was saying. That is incorrect – it should read, ‘His greatest achievements were …’
Grammar aside:
Infrastructure, I can enumerate them: North Expressway, Cultural Center of the Philippines, and San Juanico Bridge to name the bigger ones. I am from Pangasinan, Central Luzon; if you’re not from there, you don’t know how much the North Ex energized Central and Northern Luzon with its opening. The opening of that big, wide road opened big, wide doors of commercial and citizen exchanges – economic, political, intellectual businesses – from your Manila, the brain of the Philippines, to our provinces, the brawn.
International diplomacy? Here is what the Department of Foreign Affairs says about Marcos and the subject of diplomacy (DFA, ‘History of the Department,’ dfa.gov.ph)
The Marcos years, 1965-1986, were marked by innovation. President Ferdinand Marcos redefined foreign policy as the protection of Philippine independence, territorial integrity and national dignity, and emphasized increased regional cooperation and collaboration. He placed great stress on ‘Asianness’ and pursued a policy of constructive unity and co-existence with other Asian states, regardless of ideological persuasion. In 1967 the Philippines launched a new initiative to form a regional association with other Southeast Asian countries called Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN. It was also during this period that the Philippines normalized economic and diplomatic ties with socialist countries such as China and the USSR, which he visited in 1975 and 1976, respectively. The Philippines also opened embassies in the eastern bloc countries, and a separate mission to the European Common Market in Brussels
Great, but edifices are vulnerable to the elements. And there are no permanent allies; there are only permanent interests. So, I’m grateful for Apo Ferdie’s infrastructure and international diplomacy, but I believe those were not his greatest achievements.
In two words, his greatest achievement was "New Society." It was his Mandate for Greatness for the Filipino people, not only for Ferdinand E Marcos and Imelda Romualdez Marcos. In one word, empowerment. I’m interested in articles of lasting value, if I may put it that way. It was his call for a ‘New Society’ translated in many ways, but which we either ignored or rejected:
(1) He empowered the local government (barangay), but the villages did not know what to do with their new authority. They did not explore it. Like Right, Power is not a noun; it’s a verb – you have to exercise it. Today, the local government units continue to complain about lack of authority, when all they have to do is exercise political will.
(2) He empowered the youth (Kabataang Barangay), but the youth largely failed to rise to the challenge of the times.  They did not search it for open doors or open windows. The youth are not the fair hope of the fatherland if all they do is dream – or scream.
(3) He empowered the military, but some had other bright ideas. The exact opposite of the youth, some took power less in their mouths and more in their minds and quickly forgot that those whom the gods wish to destroy, first they make mad.
(4) He empowered the journalists, but mostly they reported for the benefit of worldly interests, being self-centered, not altruistic, not developmental, not socially constructive.
(5) He empowered the writers, but mostly they wrote for themselves, not for history, not for the people. He largely supported them; they largely supported themselves.
(6) He empowered the thinkers, but mostly they mouthed the lines and went into limp mode.
(7) Most of all, he empowered the scientists, but while research went high-tech necessarily – good for the country and researchers, especially the University of the Philippines Los Baños and the Los Baños Science Community – research results did  not necessarily go down to the lowest levels – not enough benefits for the poor. I remember reading somewhere that Apo Ferdie donated P 20 million to UP Los Baños to build Biotech. Science went upstream; the benefits went upstream.
We have never recognized freedom for what it is. I remember Dean Ricardo Pascual of the UP College of Law telling us in the early 1960s at a lecture in UP Los Baños: ‘Freedom is like this – you have the right to swing your arm short of my nose!’ We have always been free to think, we have always been free to act not in the name of Judas Iscariot, not in the name of Pontius Pilate, not in the name of the other thief on the other cross but in the name of Jesus!
Ferdinand E Marcos failed his own vision, I have no doubt; he failed his own vision, he failed himself. And so did we, and our number is legion: villagers, youth, soldiers, writers, scientists. We failed our own Mandate for Greatness. And we’re all still there as I write these lines, in the Universe of Unheroes. It is not the leaders but the people who must make heroes of themselves. The true value of science lies not in the theory of scientists but in the application of the people.
I have repeatedly told you: Each generation writes its own history. Our forbears have written theirs. With fortitude and excellence we must write ours. – Ferdinand E Marcos
We must write that history. No, not to be done by a critical mass but by a creative mass.
There are many things we do not want about the world. Let us not just mourn them; let us change them. – Ferdinand E Marcos
We still have much to learn from the best of Ferdinand E Marcos!

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