A short tale of two ‘Anac ti Batac’
Batac, Ilocos Norte, will lose a prime tourist attraction when the remains of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos are moved from the Marcos Museum to the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio.
When I visited the re-tooled Marcos Museum this year, I expected to see the well-worn and dusty Marcos’ signature shirt-jack barongs again, but these have been mercifully put to rest and replaced by a tightly curated exhibit that provides visitors the highlights of his charmed life: his different car plates (that a guide explained were partly replicas because the originals within reach have since been taken home as souvenirs) and photos that document a life from a rural childhood to his growth into the Lord of Malacañang.
Visitors lingered in the room on the whirlwind courtship between Ferdinand and Imelda that stops short of what the late Primitivo Mijares described as “The Conjugal Dictatorship.” There is reference to slippers and watermelon seeds because those were on Imelda Romualdez when they first met in the canteen of Congress. A lot of detail in the exhibits, but no reference to Marcos’ martial law record that hounds his memory to this day.
Museums are often described as a repository for dead things; you can extract the word museum from mausoleum. In Batac, you have both. Here the remains of “Da Apo” or “Anac ti Batac” (Son of Batac) lie, pending the transfer to the Libingan. Inside a dark, air-conditioned room (with Mozart’s Requiem playing in the background) you follow a line round a glass case with what appears to be the body of Ferdinand Marcos, in a formal barong Tagalog accented by the sash of one of the Republic’s highest honors. I could not determine the decoration because visitors are kept moving, leaving them wondering if they had seen the actual remains or a wax-effigy. Surely the remains are stored in a freezer somewhere else. Returning to daylight from the darkness inside the mausoleum, we are reminded that like Marcos, other great men are so venerated: Lenin in Russia, Mao in China, and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam.
On my last trip to Ilocos Norte, in search of other Ilocanos in history, I found out that Marcos was not the only Anac ti Batac. There was another soldier before him, Artemio Ricarte. As a matter of fact, a huge painted sign in the center town proclaims Batac as the “Home of Great Leaders.” This reminded me that long before Marcos assumed the titles “Da Apo” or “Apo Lakay,” there was Elpidio Quirino (president from 1948-1953) from Ilocos Sur.
Compared to the crowd that paid to see the Marcos museum cum mausoleum, nobody was in the nearby Ricarte museum that was free. Ricarte, like Marcos, is a controversial figure, but if you practice selective memory you can choose what part of his long life to remember or forget.
Ricarte fought in the Philippine Revolution against Spain with the rank of lieutenant general in the Magdiwang (pro-Bonifacio faction) of the Katipunan. He was elected captain general in the infamous Tejeros Convention of 1897 that saw the overthrow of Bonifacio and the end of the Katipunan with the election of Emilio Aguinaldo as president of a revolutionary government.
Ricarte fought in the Philippine-American War and was exiled—first to Guam, then to Hong Kong, then to Japan where a memorial in his honor now stands in Yokohama.
During World War II, the Japanese brought home the aging but still anti-American Ricarte; this negated all the goodwill of his early life. Towards the end of the war, fearful of his own people, he joined the retreat of the Japanese forces up northern Luzon where he passed away in Hungduan, now a fourth-class municipality in Ifugao. There a historical marker in Filipino tells us that Ricarte was first buried in Hungduan after his death on Juy 31, 1945. His remains were dug up and hidden in the caves of Hugduan in 1954, and transferred to the Libingan ng mga Bayani on March 22, 1978.
On March 23, 1997, his remains were cremated and divided between the Libingan ng mga Bayani and the Ricarte National Shrine in Batac.
We thus have two Anac ti Batac whose remains have made a long journey.
Marcos is on the final leg of his—from Hawaii to Batac, and perhaps to the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
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