REMEMBERING: “Aren’t you concerned that you’re spending millions while your countrymen are suffering from poverty and despair?”

 

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 September) – Eleven years ago on September 21, I was riding a subway train in New York when an old German who used to work as a butler in some swanky five star hotel in Manhattan in the 1970s sat beside me. He smiled and asked “are you Filipina?” I said yes and asked him why the question.

He told me he knew it was the anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law by Ferdinand Marcos. I was so surprised. So I asked him so many questions. He said “well, I used to take care of Imelda Marcos every time she visited New York.”

Apparently Imelda would stay in the hotel he used to work in and had lavish little gatherings. He said she would be constantly shopping during her vacation. Oh, what would she buy? I asked. He told me that she would really just buy random material things. But one time she called for him and gave him an expensive watch. Of course he said no. And Imelda said it was a thank you gift.

The watch at that time cost around 20 thousand pesos. That was the late 1970s so you can imagine how expensive it was. Because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut, and also because he is German and he knows what suffering was considering that he had to leave his country to flee from the Nazis, he replied to Imelda: “Ma’am, aren’t you concerned that you’re spending millions while your countrymen are suffering from poverty and despair?”

Imelda, according to him, got pissed. So the next day the German was no longer assigned to Imelda’s suite.

Before he got off his stop, the German told me to please don’t forget because he said if the Germans forget what Hitler did , it would have been such a miserable world.

And that’s my New York September 21 memory.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Jean Claire Dy is a Filipino-Chinese filmmaker, writer, media artist, and educator from Mindanao, Philippines. She holds a MA in Media Studies and Film degree from the New School in New York City. Currently, she is the head and founder of Stories Beyond (www.storie-beyond.com) an initiative that envisions to tell restorative and transformative narratives of communities beyond the single story. Her documentary film about the aftermath of the Marawi siege titled ‘A House in Pieces’ was recently nominated for best documentary in the Gawad Urian)

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