PATTAYA, Thailand (MindaNews/18 November) — The synonyms of the word defiled include debased, degraded, poisoned, tainted, tarnished, destroyed and ruined. The Libingan ng mga Bayani has just been defiled – debased, degraded, poisoned, tainted, tarnished, destroyed and ruined – with the burial of one of the worst dictators in the history of humanity.
But – for all the efforts of this shameless family to foist their patriarch as a country’s hero who should be honored with the deep affection of a grateful nation – the dictator will go down Philippine history as the most defiled ruler ever.
No way you could put him side by side with the Presidents we’ve had who continue to be beloved by a people who could not forget how privileged they were to have him in Malacañang. This was certainly true for Ramon Magsaysay. For all the things we abhorred in the Presidency of Erap Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Marcos was far far more defiled.
There will be those of course who would contest this claim for there are thousands of Ilokanos who blindly love their dead paisano, loyally holding on the memory of a Malacañang ruled by a despot. And recently the country witnessed many more across the islands who have been hit with amnesia and voted the dictator’s son who claimed that it was during his father’s Presidency that the country had its golden years. Never mind the thousands tortured and killed. Never mind the beginnings of State corruption that continues to haunt us until today. Never mind the wars that his father caused that has continued to claim lives on both sides of the fence.
But just because there is an upsurge of devotion to the Marcoses, promoted by those who have benefited from the dictator’s coffers – including the current President, his allies including those in the Supreme Court whose loyalty echo those of most Ilokanos – and even if they might now constitute the majority in the country, such a phenomenon can never erase the historical fact that once upon a time we were ruled by a heartless despot. Even if those who keep the light of the truth burning constitute only a small minority, the Marcoses will forever be thrown to the dustbin of history.
From where I write this essay – in Pattaya, Thailand – one could not help but contrast the fake hero back home and King Bhumibol Adulyadej. When Marcos died in Hawaii, he was unlamented. Victims of his ferocious rule collectively thanked the heavens, thinking that his curse had ended finally. No love was lost at all, except the loyalists. The country then – proud of the historic moment of EDSA – ignored him.
On the other hand, when he died on 13 October this year, there was a spontaneous outburst of love from the Thais not just in their native country but all over the world. All the people in Thailand wept bitter tears. So deep was their sadness at the passing of a beloved ruler that they went out of their way to honor him in whatever way they could. Truly the King – who had done everything he could to serve his people, visiting the most isolated villages, comforting the elderly and widows, finding ways so the people have a livelihood, showing kindness and gentility wherever he went – was loved through all the years that he reigned. While there is a law in this country that penalizes any one who speaks ill of the monarchy, such a legislation was not needed at all. For the Thais could never speak ill of their King who they would eventually regard as a demi-god who is showered with expressions of love.
This love and affection was palpable as soon as one reaches the Bangkok airport. Thousands of his photos are plastered all over the airport along with black-and-white ribbons. Everyone either wore black or had black ribbons pinned to their shirts. Travelling on the main road from Bangkok to Pattaya, there are giant billboards put up by business companies and communities expressing their grief at the King’s passing.
There was going to be a month-long mourning and everyone was expected to remain sober. Regular programs of most TV channels were suspended; in their place were documentaries of the King as ruler, family man, provider for the country including the indigenous peoples, sportsman, musician and all other facets of his accomplished life. Even at the famous Pattaya beach, the mood was subdued as shrines in honor of the King were put up in strategic junctures, surrounded by all kinds of flower arrangements. And the crowd that wanted to pay their respects to the dead King at his palace, had thousands queueing many coming from the provinces and standing under the sun for hours.
And all kinds of art work erupted in every corner. Pupils in elementary schools did paintings of their beloved King. So did professional artists who exhibited their works of art at malls and galleries. A sculptor made a giant bust of the King. Thousands of people gathered from church grounds to even a dam site to form the King’s name and then photographed from above the ground ending up on front pages of the newspapers. Songs were being composed and played on radio. And at night markets, black shirts with the King’s face was a prized thing to own.
Looking at all these scenes from wherever Marcos is now – if conservative Catholic doctrine would have us believe, he would be in hell as he has never sought forgiveness for his sins (but I do have problems believing in this doctrine myself based on the Lumads’ belief that there couldn’t be such a harsh punishment on anyone no matter how evil) – Marcos would envy King Bhumibol. If their paths ever cross “out there,” who knows the former would tell the latter how envious he is with what he has never achieved. But the King would only flash a wise smile. And what a sight the two of them would make: a defiled ruler on one side and a beloved one, on other.
How lucky and privileged the Thai people have been with a ruler like King Bhumibol. For here was a ruler who truly embodied the “genuine divine right of kings,” not by virtue of a power that he would use to dominate over all his subjects but by the “right” to be righteous, just, caring and compassionate. All traits that seemed to have evaded our defiled ruler. For all the historical revisionism that the Marcos family can pay for with their stolen wealth – and the social media unfortunately has been their main tool – they could never whitewash what their patriarch did along with the belligerent stance of the rest of the family hoping to redeem a patriarch only because they, too, have benefited from the largesse arising out of an unabated corruption that has been passed on to all the administrations that followed the dictatorship.
A requiem benefitting the beloved ruler in Thailand is in the works. When this ritual will be beamed across the world, we will see just how deep the Thai people’s love is for their highly esteemed King and how united they are in their collective grief.
On the other hand, today – 18 November 2016 – here we are Filipinos fragmented as ever with a dictator’s family, allies and loyalists tarnishing a sacred cemetery (delighted that finally they got what they want all these years) while tens of thousands continue to scream their opposition to this desecration. And surprise of all surprises, millennials – who were originally thought of as not caring about social issues and have been thought of as Bongbong’s main supporters – joined this new outburst of anger and discontent. While the ire was directed at Marcos’ family and the Supreme Court, some placards seen at these rallies already connected Marcos to Duterte. For after Duterte paved the way for this sham to take place today at the Libingan.
The requiem for Marcos already took place a number of times. But salivating for this kind of requiem at the Libingan – as an act of remembrance for the supposedly glory days of the Republic under his dictatorship – his descendants have slapped the face of the Filipino people, especially those who took the brunt of his dictatorial powers.
With this new development – fully backed up by the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of government – in the end, the requiem is really for us Filipinos. As we question the righteousness of this whole controversy, all the rallies in the streets today become the act of remembering all those who have died to make this Republic truly just and free. But for now, as the dead defiled despot struggles to claim a spot in the hearts of his people and with a crowd out there giving in to his desire, we might as well paraphrase the song in the musical Evita; don’t cry for me Philippines! [Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is Academic Dean of the Redemptorists’ St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) in Davao City and a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. He is author of several books, including Desperately Seeking God’s Saving Action: Yolanda Survivors’ Hope Beyond Heartbreaking Lamentations, and two books on Davao’s history launched in December 2015 — Davao in the Pre-Conquest Era and the Age of Colonization and Si Menda u gang Baganin’ng gitahapan nga mao si Mangulayon. He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English (A Sojourner’s Views) and the other in Binisaya (Panaw-Lantaw)]