Looking Back

Marcos’ diaries and the Manila Chronicle

Armed with latex gloves and a face mask, I read through the physical copies of the Manila Chronicle in the Lopez Museum and Library. Despite my allergy to book dust, I opted to use the hard copies rather than digital ones to better appreciate the truth about the past which, to me, is a foreign country.

I was only nine years old when the events reported there were unfolding. So learning about them today is quite an experience.


Doreen Fernandez was already writing about food; Eugenia D. Apostol was on society page but covered the pros and cons of Imelda Marcos projects; and Paulynn Paredes (Sicam) was on student beat, so almost everything she churned out provided a human touch to the daily rallies and demonstrations reported on Page One.

Many of the figures: Laurel, Diokno, Aquino, Salonga, Tañada, Maceda, Melchor, Marcos, et al. are now history but some are still around like Kit Tatad who was the youngest in the Marcos Cabinet and Juan Ponce Enrile who was senior even then.


Then and now, the news remains the same: communist insurgency in the rural areas, murder, kidnapping, transport strikes, capital flight, graft and corruption. The news materials of 2017 echo those of 1970 because it seems the Philippines and the Filipinos have not changed very much since then.

Why read the Manila Chronicle instead of the Bulletin, the Mirror, or the Manila Times? Because Ferdinand Marcos, in his diaries, often reacted to the Chronicle columnists whose opinions he labeled vicious and biased against him. Reading both the diaries of Marcos and the Chronicle provides a perspective through opposite sides.

Marcos’ first day in office in his second term, Dec. 31, 1969, as reported by the Chronicle, started with an early morning round of golf with a former prime minister of Japan, Nubusuke Kishi, who was accompanied by Japanese ambassador to the Philippines Toshio Urabe, and Philippine ambassador to Japan Jose Laurel III. Marcos worked on some papers at 9:30 a.m. before meeting with 44 representatives of foreign governments who had attended his inaugural. These included US Vice President Spiro Agnew and Apollo 11 astronaut Eugen Cernan who presented a moon rock and a Philippine flag they brought on the flight to the moon. Marcos took the opportunity to remind them that President Richard Nixon promised Bongbong a ticket on the first commercial liner to the moon. The Spanish foreign minister presented a Katipunan flag and five bladed weapons (two sabers, two kris and a bolo) that Marcos accepted as: “symbols of courage and manhood that are returned to our land… our land was occupied but our hearts were not conquered.”

Next day, Jan. 1, 1970, Marcos wrote:

“[Today] I start a daily written record of my second term in office as President. This will be kept in loose-leaf so that all kinds of materials may be attached to the binder. Thus the background should be a treatise on the elections of 1969. This will be composed of my critique as well as the commentaries on the technique of victory.”

Marcos’ diary for the first day of the year pertains to his divesting of all his property to the Marcos Foundation, which fueled many speculations and commentaries for weeks. His entry:

“Yesterday I finally transferred all of my worldly possessions to the Filipino people through the Ferdinand E. Marcos Foundation. I have been planning this for many years but I felt that the beginning of my second term was the most propitious time. This was a decision arrived at after a long deliberation and was not the result of pique, anger, despair or emotion—nor is it just a political stunt. I have no further political plans.


“And it seems a burden has been lifted from my shoulders.

“The surprising thing is that the reaction of people seems to be of no consequence to me. It was a noble act waiting to be done. I feel I am above all the pettiness of men and I look down on them with some contempt but with a counter balance of understanding.”

How should we read this self-referential primary source document? With extreme caution, since Marcos took to heart Winston Churchill’s words: “History will be kind to me, because I intend to write it myself!”
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