Friday, September 1, 2006

Ferdinand Marcos: Forever My President

by Gloria Y. Adams, NCC; M.Ed.

As a statesman and leader, President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos had always fascinated me. He has been my idol from the glorious beginning of his public career as a pressured and celebrated young student who topped the national lawyers exam to his bitter end in exile. I have often been misunderstood by those who profess to “know” FM well. I nonetheless reply that I have idolized FM since he became a lawyer, a war hero and then an elected official in the homeland. His sharp mind, based on the many writings and speeches he had authored and delivered, could transform any serious researcher into an instant follower. More so if one reads and researches as extensively and intensely as I do. To the detractors of the late Ilocano leader, I say: Judge me not for I do not make any rash judgments on anyone’s ideology or belief. I believe in democracy, fair play and just rewards. I likewise practice a philosophy learned from revered forefathers that credit should always be giventowhere it is due. My conclusions, I daresay, are as fair as any focused citizen can possibly put together.

For a start, because he had served longest as president, it is a fact that countless people benefited from President Marcos. Sad but true, they discarded him both as a person and as a leader when he no longer wielded power. Like many die-hard followers, I have remained loyal. I have not yet found his fabled mental strength and intellectual power in anyone who has succeeded him. I own a vast collection of Marcosiana collected in the Philippines, books written by him and about him. These enable me to objectively discuss, argue and express admiration for the man. Unfortunately I cannot yet share it with anyone who wants to read them. For those whose views and words are bitter to swallow, I ask: Have you read at least one of FM’s books and books written about him---pros and cons, one or two perhaps?

I realize that after observing and reading about the presidents who had succeeded him, President Marcos, in my opinion, still towers dominantly as the best president the Philippines has ever produced. I state this without hesitation, with a chest full of pride and conviction. Marcos will always be my president.

For me, President Marcos’ leadership is unsurpassed. It was suited for the temperament of a developing Southeast Asian Christian country whose culture had been violated and crossed with those of western conquerors. As a striving economy in the so-called Third World, FM was able to harness the best minds of foremost ward leaders and industry managers in the country like Carlos Romulo for foreign affairs (after he became a top United Nations official); Rafael Salas as executive secretary who later earned prominence in global population management; Cesar Virata as prime minister; Vicente Paterno for industry and investment; Roberto Ongpin, Leonides Virata and Jaime Laya for finance and fiscal management; Jose Aspiras for tourism, Blas Ople for labor, Arturo Tangco for agriculture; Juan Ponce Enrile for defense; Andres Castillo for banking, Ramon Farolan for customs, and many other young turks and rising technocrats of that era who had recognized the dynamic ways of genuine leadership. Although many were concerned at first, he declared martial law because the situation had required it. But he infused discipline into the national consciousness that no Filipino leader had ever attempted. Today, many Filipinos agree that national discipline is what the country needs badly. What succeeding presidents are addressing and doing now are mostly the legacy of the visionary Marcos—infrastructures, highways and bridges, green revolution, miracle rice, industrial investments, development of energy resources and rural electrification, land reform, housing systems, the Cultural Center, to name only a few. The expressways of North and South Luzon all the way to San Juanico Bridge in Samar and Leyte were started under the Marcos administration. The reclamation of lands along Manila Bay was FM’s pet project. Pride in Tagalog and other native songs and literature, in national costumes and performing arts culminated in the Cultural Center. The Philippine Heart Center, the Kidney Center, the Philippine Science High School, the Atomic Center, the nationwide Barangays, a revitalized tourism industry, the export processing zones in Subic, Cebu, Zamboanga, Davao and Baguio were some high profile vital economic programs that bore sweet fruits under his powerful stewardship.

On the personal family level, few families would have produced a provincial governor and a congresswoman at the same time. This only means that in his home province of Ilocos Norte and the northern Luzon region, FM’s legacy lives on.

After the reigns of other contemporary Philippine presidents are reviewed, President Marcos will live forever in the hearts of many Filipinos as the president who did more for his country and people. Now appreciated, though silently and hesitatingly by the unsure many when he is long gone from power, FM has come back to haunt those who have been disloyal and ungrateful. Imbued with a deep sense of history, the great man—who was gravely ill by then—would never have wanted to leave the Philippines in such a tragic manner. No leader would like to go that way. I am also sure that he never expected those around him to cut away after they had no longer any use for him. Even after he had given them the best favors in their careers. Looking at the state of the country after FM and observing the kind of leadership in Southeast Asian nations that now proudly gallop in progress, I venture to say: It is a moment for Filipinos to pause and review their past. In my own biased but intensely patriotic view, I clearly see FM in the leaders of today’s Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea, and even progressive Indonesia. All are strong men, leaders with determination who wield power mainly for their nation’s good. It is so ironic that the brilliant but misunderstood Ferdinand Marcos was way, way ahead of most of these notable Asian leaders. As fate would have it, FM was too early for his own good. And the people, when deprived of able leaders, will suffer.

One day soon Filipinos may yet begin to understand lessons that Philippine history imparts about patriots of destiny. That true greatness (FM had promised Filipinos: “This country can be great again.”) can be easily erased without regret by misplaced envy and masterful political intrigue.