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Looking Back

New Years ’73, ’83 unhappy ones for Marcos

/ 05:26 AM January 05, 2018

Lost to history, if Ferdinand Marcos indeed wrote them, are his diary entries for 1983. Everyone wants to read the entries on the crucial days leading to the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in August and the aftermath that marked the beginning of the end for Marcos.  All we have for 1983 are a few angry pages for an incomplete New Year’s entry. We are not sure if there are missing pages, and if these will ever come to light.

On Jan. 1, 1983, Marcos was still smarting over a challenge to his war record hurled by Bonifacio Gillego in a series of articles published in We Forum in November 1982. The articles led to the raid of the newspaper’s editorial offices on Dec. 10 and the arrest of its publisher, editor, and columnists who were all charged with subversion. In addition, a libel suit was filed separately not by Marcos but by Jose Salindong, Venancio Duque, and Brig. Gen. Sinforoso L. Duque, who claimed that the Gillego series maligned not just Marcos but all war veterans. All this provide context for the surly diary entry that reads:

“I had sought to protect the sacredness and preciousness of my memories of the war with the sanctity of silence. So I had refused to talk or write about them except in an indirect way when forced to as when I offered my medals to the dead for I believed all such medals belonged to them.

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“But the sanctity of silence has been broken by the pettiness and cynicism that overwhelms the contemporary world. And the small souls whose vicarious achievement is to insult and offend the mighty and the achievers have succeeded in trivializing the most solemn and honorable of deeds and intentions. Their pettiness has besmirched with the foul attention the honorable service of all who have received medals and citations in the last World War. They have not excluded me. But instead have made me their special target as the most visible of those who offered blood, honor and life to our people.

“So I must fight the battles of Bataan all over again. We must walk our Death March in the hot April sun once again. The Calvary of the [United States Armed Forces in the Far East] must once again be told.

“For we bleed and die again. This time in the hands of men who claim to be our own countrymen. (The Philippine News Story) The […]”

A decade earlier, Jan. 1, 1973, was spent in the Makati Medical Center at the bedside of his wife who was recuperating from an unsuccessful assassination attack a few weeks before. Marcos was in the middle of a golf game in the afternoon of Dec. 7, 1972, when news of the assassination attempt arrived. He ran to an armored car in his golf shoes and wove through afternoon traffic to get to the hospital. In his diary he expressed what he felt:

“My feeling was that I had felt in battle during the war—cold, deep, unabating fury. My mind was clear as I ticked off the things I had to do, the man who could be responsible […] Imelda saved herself as there were no security men or aide-de-camp on the front of the stage beside her by kicking at her assailant, stepping backwards and parrying the bolo—thrusts with her hands, thus her wounds in the arms and hands.”

All these one can still view in grainy black and white film on YouTube. Recovery took a long time such that on New Year’s Day 1973, Marcos wrote:

“Imelda’s wound in the forearm is infected and the doctors may have to operate it—open it up to remove the sutures of catgut which because of the infection that may have reached the suture (at the cut of the tendon) is now a foreign body that must be removed to cure the infection.

“We are all agitated by this because this is a most unhappy turn of events for the new year. But the doctors have irrigated the wound with a new antibiotic. Imelda has treated it with an old unguent and tonight it was not suppurating pus but bleeding. We should know by tomorrow.”

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He then closed with intelligence information received that his defeated rival for the presidency, Sergio Osmeña Jr., received P860,000 from Tun Mustapha for his election campaign to settle the Sabah claim.

While the Marcos diaries provide readers with a front-row seat to history, these have to be read with caution because they are self-referential and self-serving. It is Marcos’ version of the story.

Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu

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TAGS: Bonifacio Gillego, Diary, Ferdinand Marcos, New Year, Ninoy Aquino
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