Marcos Noche Buena | Inquirer Opinion
Looking Back

Marcos Noche Buena

/ 05:03 AM December 24, 2021

Noche Buena, literally “good night” in Spanish, is the Filipino term for the Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) midnight Mass and the festivities that follow. In his diary entry for Dec. 24, 1970, Ferdinand Marcos mistakenly referred to Christmas Eve as media noche, literally “midnight” in Spanish—actually the Filipino term for the New Year’s Eve celebration. In Spanish, it is “nochevieja,” literally “old night” or better still “old year’s night,” or the last night before the dawn of a new year.

Christmas 1970 was different for the Marcos family. They had previously celebrated Noche Buena in Malacañang and spent the next day opening gifts, but in 1970, they spent Christmas on a cruise to Mindoro, Iligan, and back to Manila aboard the Presidential Yacht 777. Ferdinand presented Imelda with a poem that accompanied a diamond rosary. On this trip, Ferdinand Sr. and Jr. also went hunting and brought back some mountain ducks and teal. Ferdinand Jr. shot a hundred-pound wild boar that his sisters joked was “fat enough to have been shot [defenseless] in a [pig] pen.” Ferdinand Sr. described the trophy kill as “a wild pig with its tusks already starting to ferociously stick out of its outer lip, and its mouth is pointed, and its rear shanks lean.”


The next year, Christmas 1971 was highlighted by a dinner “… well attended by both the Romualdez and the Marcos clans—more than a hundred from the old married ones to the babes in arms. The usual gifts in cash and articles. For the children each was a hundred pesos in coins in gay red and blue striped cloth bags. For the grown-ups there [were] bundles of currency in amounts from P10,000 that was for mother [Josefa Edralin Marcos] and P1,000 for the grandchildren. [The exchange rate at the time was $1 = P6.40.]

“Good natured kidding. Like [Eliza]Beth [Marcos-Keon] who kept changing her gifts for the better ones received by the younger ones like Fortuna. I kept threatening laughingly that if she kept doing it, I would give her wrist watch away.”


Marcos concluded by fat-shaming his in-laws, noting that those who lost weight compared to “most of the Marcoses [who] are slimmer.” They then spent the last days of the year in Baguio, on the heels of the daring raid on the Philippine Military Academy Armory by Victor Corpus, a soldier who had defected to the New People’s Army.

Marcos scribbled this entry for Christmas 1972: “At 11:00 a.m. Dec. 25, 1972 as we slept at 4:00 a.m. after a magulo, hilarious Christmas party of the Romualdezes and the Marcoses in the Palace complete with an impromptu program of singing and the children’s ‘Bethlehem.’” While a lot of things preoccupied Marcos in 1972, there was also a lot he was grateful for: Martial law did not meet the armed resistance he had expected, and his wife survived an assassination attempt:

“Christmas is Christmas only because Imelda is alive. I have known the deep sense of loss of tragedy—Surrender in Bataan, the death of father at the height of the Battle for Liberation—but I had never felt the complete, deep and overwhelming grief and despair that swept me when the news was told me (of course wrongly) that Imelda had been stabbed fatally at the Nayon[g Pilipino] on Dec. 7th, 1972 … Imelda wrote us all Christmas greetings with her left hand—‘First Grade scrawl’ she laughingly referred to it. She has no serious trauma.”

The insurgency continued, with fighting reported in both Mindanao and Luzon. A legal challenge on the legitimacy of martial law was raised at the Supreme Court by senators who “… question my power to decree appropriation, taxes and codes. They even threaten to conduct investigations about the decisions and acts pursuant to my proclamations, orders and decrees.

“So we are again under attack from the left and the right. This is the same old fight. But we are now faced with more sophisticated enemies.

“I am considering the idea of directing the Jan[uary] 15th [1973] plebiscite into a referendum of martial law, how long the people want it and whether the people want Congress to meet again in session. This could be done by the barrio captains under the supervision of the Dept. of Local Governments.

“With this popular mandate I could order the Congress not to meet and to await the results of a plebiscite whether it is postponed—indefinitely or to a certain day.”


There were no Christmas entries for 1973, 1974, and 1975. In December 1976, via a long-distance call from Manila, Marcos drafted the Tripoli Agreement with Defense Undersecretary Carmelo Z. Barbero.

The 1970s seem new to me, and more complicated than the 19th century which I know better.


Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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TAGS: Christmas, Ferdinand Marcos, marcos, Noche Buena
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