Marcos: Playing with history
History is a nightmare from which we should wake up. For over 30 years now, I have been researching, reading, and lecturing so that the future will stop reading like the past. But we now have a draft law approved in Congress, soon to be transmitted to the Senate, declaring Sept. 11 as a holiday in Ilocos Norte to commemorate the birthday of disgraced former president Ferdinand Marcos. I used to think that the future of history is clear because it is guided by and moves toward truth. But today, the situation is best described like the FB status: “It’s Complicated.”
For the past 19 years, people worldwide have associated the date 9/11 with the terror attacks at the heart of the United States. It brought down the iconic twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and four hijacked commercial planes, resulting in a death toll of over 2,000 innocent people. The world has not been the same since. All the inconvenient security checks and limits on cabin and checked-in luggage we endure to get on any flight today is a consequence of 9/11.
In the Philippines, 9/11 has a local application. Some people remember it as the birthday of Marcos, while martial law babies like myself remember it as Barangay Day. To mess up our memory further, History Week was celebrated in September with two holidays relevant to the Marcos narrative: Sept. 11, Marcos’ birthday and also Barangay Day, and Sept. 21, the anniversary of the declaration of martial law—which was also proclaimed Thanksgiving Day!
Proclamation No. 1495 of September 1975 declared Sept. 11 as a “Special Barangay Day” and “enjoined all citizens of the country both public and private to render civic action work during their off hours.” This date later joined the roster of special holidays. On Sept. 18, 1973, Marcos also issued Proclamation No. 1185 declaring Sept. 21 a special public holiday based on the following:
“WHEREAS, martial law, declared under authority of the Constitution so as to restore peace and order to the nation, has furthermore provided the opportunity as well as the means and aroused among the people the will to build a new society which would reflect their deepest aspirations;
“WHEREAS, in the brief span of one year the people have made great strides towards the attainment of that society and gained a momentum towards specific goals in the economic and social fields;
“WHEREAS, this unprecedented progress and the historic opportunity to discover and employ the competence of our people to achieve it are regarded by the great majority of our people as a proper object of solemn remembrance, and celebration…”
A decade later, in 1982, Marcos declared what the Spanish call a “puente” or bridge between a weekend and a holiday. Sept. 21, 1982 fell on a Tuesday, so Marcos declared Monday the 20th a special working holiday, but with classes suspended in all levels. Marcos explained that this would enable “pupils, students and teachers’ desire to join their countrymen in the nationwide and historic celebration of Thanksgiving Day on September 21, 1982, while the working men in the private sector and government employees would like to report for work as an expression of gratitude for the tremendous achievements and progress of the country and welfare of our people commencing on September 21, 1972.”
Everyone knows by now that Marcos timed important decisions and events to fall on dates with a 7 or are divisible by 7. Proclamation No. 1081, placing the Philippines under martial law, was dated Sept. 21, 1972, though it was signed (by his own admission) on Sept. 17 but dated Sept. 21. It took effect at dawn of Sept. 23, and Marcos announced this on TV the same day at 7:15 p.m.
Goaded into calling for a snap election in 1986, Marcos set it for Jan. 17, 1986, but rescheduled it to Feb. 7. With the People Power revolt, he was then driven from Malacañang and exiled to Hawaii after being in power for 21 years.
Tinkering with 7 even affects his birthday! Officially, Marcos was born in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte on Sept. 11, 1917. His centennial was celebrated in 2017 despite an unverified copy of the register of births posted on the internet that states he was born in 1916.
How can one trust someone who lies about his birth year? Marcos remains a controversial figure, his legacy contested, because he played with history. In one of his last interviews, published by Playboy magazine, he declared: “History is not done with me yet.”
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