Tag Archives: Marcos dictatorship

Utot ng Hari – first draft

Utot ng Hari
18 Nobyembre 2016, Araw ng Kandilang Nakahiga

“Huwag ninyong buksan ang kabaong
ng nakaraan,” sabi ng Bagong Hari-
harian sa lupain ng rangya at hikahos.

“Ako lamang ang may karapatang pumili
ng maaaring ungkatin mula sa tagpi-
tagping kasaysayan ng bayan.”

Bago pa siya naupo sa trono
na singkinang ng inidoro,
naamoy na natin ang hangin

mula sa kanyang katimugan.
Bakit pa kaya may nagugulat
kunwa sa sangsang ngayon

ng kanyang pinakawalan,
tila sawang lumilingkis
sa ating gunita at katinuan.

-o-

 

My apologies to dear friends and readers who cannot read Filipino. This is a first draft of my attempt to respond to the “Thief in the Night” style burial at the Cemetery for Heroes of the wax image/remains of the former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos done at noon, Philippine time by his family.

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UPDATED: More Wax than Human Remains

Duterte Marcos

More Wax than Human Remains

The late dictator’s image rendered
in wax, displayed in a Quiapo-quality
glass box, is what his family would love
to drag down from the North

all the way to sweltering Manila.
Only those who have lived
through the darkness might ask:
How many candles could they carve

out of his non-human remains?
Will his greatest admirer simply
mow us down with curses and bullets,
deaf as he is to any protest?

-o-

 

 

The above is the first draft. Here is the new version which I hope is a bit of an improvement, thanks to the generous members of my secret online poetry discussion group, The Boathouse:

More Wax than Human

The late dictator’s image
rendered in wax, displayed
in a Quiapo-quality glass box,

what his family and most touched
admirer would love to haul
all the way from the North

down to sweltering Manila.
Only those who have lived
through the darkness might ask:

How many candles
could they carve out
of his non-human remains?

-o-

 

Related reading.

THE NARRATIVE has always been that the body in the glass coffin in Batac, Ilocos Norte, lying there since 1993, is yet to be buried because the state refuses burial. As a result, the body lies embalmed until God knows when. There is an irreverent twist to it, sacrilegious even, that appeals to most cultural norms barring the desecration of the dead. In short, the message is: The state is cruel to disallow proper burial.

I have had two opportunities to visit the crypt of Ferdinand Marcos. The tourist gazer is usually led to an inner chamber inside the mausoleum just beside the family’s “ancestral house.” I enclose that in quotation marks because the house is anything but old; it is a new building designed to have fake, exposed “paletadas” so as to conjure antiquity; this is also part of the narrative. This first visit had an Imeldific air to it—the sound of choral cantatas filled the chamber.

The second visit some years later was unexpectedly and surprisingly revealing. A close Marcos family friend escorted us to the crypt. There in the stillness of the chamber (no choral cantata this time), looking down on the finely chiseled body of the deposed president—you could clearly see the veins on his hands, or so I thought—the family friend whispered: This body is just a wax replica, the real corpse had already been buried underneath. End of the narrative.


More than just a symbol

Corazon C. Aquino, Philippine President from 1986 to 1992, passed away on 1 August 2009.  I was a high school student in the 1980s when she was thrust in the limelight soon after the assassination of her husband, Benigno Aquino.  People Power would never have been the miracle it was if Cory had not stepped up to challenge the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

This Time article is a good introduction to Cory’s life.

And this more personal article from Paulynn Paredes Sicam is very touching. There is a video interview with Jessica Soho on the same page.

I have my own memories of those days and the shaky years that followed the transition from dictatorship to democracy.  It will take me a long time to unravel them.

For other recent articles on the late President, visit the homepage.

People Power’s Philippine Saint: Corazon Aquino


Pag-uwi ng Bangkay / To Bring Home a Corpse

This is a very, very old piece.  I translated it roughly into English for the first time, and feel that it sounds like a totally alien poem from the original.  The translation also needs some notes which I have provided.  I hope this one isn’t too obscure for readers here.  It isn’t my best work.  Thank you for your patience.

21-22aug92
pm951-1025–719am
pb

Ang Pag-uwi ng Bangkay
1 Setyembre 1992

Upang makapag-uwi ng bangkay
ng pinakamamahal,

Bahain muna ng kung anu-anong balita
ang mga pahayagan,
radyo, at TV — aswang,
eleksyon, 349, kidnap,
lalaking buntis, olympics —

Basta huwag lang ang mga nakababagot
na balita ng kahirapan o patuloy
na paghaba ng listahan
ng mga nasalvage, mga engkuwentro
o ng utang daw ng bayan.

Mga bagay na baka
magpauga sa kabaong
ng mga gunita.

Kaya upang makapag-uwi ng bangkay

Pagbihisin ng kunwa-kaguluhan/-kasiyahan
ang mga pahayagan,
radyo, at TV
nang lalong madaling malimot

Ang mga pinatay
at patuloy na pinapatay
ng pamana

Ng pinakamamahal
nating halimaw.

-o-

19pebrero2009
2207-2316

To Bring Home a Corpse
1 September 1992

In order to bring home
a beloved corpse,

Be sure to flood the papers,
radio, and TV with a variety
of news – vampire attacks,
elections, 349, kidnaps,
pregnant man, olympics –

Just be careful not to mention
such boring news of poverty
or the growing list
of those salvaged, of military encounters
or the alleged national debt.

Matters that might
rock the coffin
of memories.

So to ease the return of the dead

Pretty up the papers,
radio, and TV
with mock confusion/celebration
to make it easier for us to forget

All those who were killed
and those who continue to die
from the legacy

Of our dearly
beloved monster.

-o-

Philippine Daily Inquirer Headline February 1986

Notes

1 September 1992 was the expected date of the return of the remains of former dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos to the Philippines, three years after he died in exile in a mansion in Hawaii.  His regime was put to an end by a bloodless revolution in February 1986.  Some of you may have heard of it.

In 1992 Pepsi, the US multinational beverage company, was giving out considerable cash prizes daily to consumers lucky enough to find a declared single winning number. The number 349 was announced nationwide as the number on one day, but it turns out the company had printed more than one crown.  A deluge of claimants came to Pepsi offices, but media personnel said there was a minor mistake and that the winning number was something else altogether.  A legal case was lodged by consumers and the controversy continues to this day, as far as I know.  A consumer rights movement was established from the original group that called itself The 349 Coalition.  Be warned that the website is in dire need of an editor and a good web designer.

salvaged – a term from the 1970s meaning summary execution.