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‘god’ is a Woman and her name is Imelda Marcos

Lauren Greenfield’s ‘The Kingmaker’ painted an image of Imelda Marcos as she is, in the epicenter of the dark chapter in Philippine history.

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Screengrab from The Kingmaker official trailer

There is an insurmountable amount of paradox in watching Imelda Marcos in Lauren Greenfield’s The Kingmaker at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP); a thought my friend and I agreed to as we were entering a dark room 10 minutes into the film. There was no sight of distraction from the people that we passed by for they are clearly fixated on the loquacious subject. The building that now houses Greenfield’s masterpiece was among the surges of institutions built under the belt of the Marcos regime that has probably gained him the heart of the Filipinos, deeming his infallible greatness. Later, the “legacy” was continued, with lady Marcos manning whatever work needs to be done to keep their name relevant, and the film, sadly, proves her success. 

Inevitably, Greenfield’s lenses showed how bountiful the Marcoses had lived, especially Imelda, during the height of the man’s political career. Their marriage has clearly trudged through familial grounds as it showed how the lady Marcos was an active pursuer of whatever she deemed worthy having for the Philippines, an act that she completely settled as a matriarchal instinct.

“That is the spirit of mothering,” she stated. “You cannot quantify love.” Her words equaled as a retort to criticisms of her excessiveness and we learned that saying promises of love was also excessively given, thus tangibly proclaiming it in the form of constructing bridges – in the name of love and people’s taxes, the origin story of the San Juanico Bridge.

The Kingmaker painted an image of Imelda Marcos as she is, in the epicenter of the dark chapter in Philippine history, whether through the mundanely fixing herself and asking how she looks, through parading the shell of the woman constructed through time – a loving wife, a supportive right hand, “a mother of not just the country but the world” – through every syllable that eventually forms a contrasting hollow weight to her words.

“I will complete paradise for the Philippines,” was stated in an almost queenly decibel as she talked about the erection of the Calauit Island back in 1976. Paradise for the Philippines, at least in the vocabulary of Imelda, was bringing truckloads of African exotic animals. It proved to be an overnight process, a passing idea without careful thought for paradise was also the eviction of hundreds of indigenous families living on the same island. Today, paradise is the dissolving coexistence between man and animal after maintenance by the Marcoses were halted.

Paradise – paraDIES – is what they left on the Filipino people after two decades of setting up the sanctuary which they thought the Filipinos would so easily take and they did, along with the wick of fire that started the demise of the country.

But Imelda, tauntingly languid Imelda, insisted the Philippines lived its great heights during their regime. Stories of development were laced with the Marcos name, and she recalls how the country has lived in a peaceful state during the Martial Law. And she is bound to call the shots again, with the help of her son, Bongbong, and her daughter, Imee.

The saying – “Perception is real and the truth is not,” lives on heavily with Imelda and her purposeful narration of history. Her narration, however, also has a life of its own as it takes on a different course from reality, keeping some details completely caged in the dark, along with thousands of shoes she kept in her closet. These revisions are taking an inkling to information being propagated in print and online, clothed as what those susceptible to vulnerability should only know and should conform to: the Marcoses’ version of history. Yet again, the haunting testimonies and stories of the survivors – of how the San Juanico Bridge was not just used as a symbol of love but a moniker for a devise of torture – proved them wrong.

The film has nearly encapsulated what type of a person she is: one that digests excessiveness and luxury by filling all the ugly pools of the country with the most alluring things, and her own truths, hoping to blanket corruption in the most interesting manner. Behind the architects and lavishness which the Philippines was showered with dawned how they served as forefronts to the most elaborated crime in the history of the country.

In an interview with The Guardian (2019), the award-winning filmmaker/photographer recounts how her documentary got a surprise ending. “It wasn’t until Duterte won that I really saw the return of this sort of dictatorship and the movie got an ending.” She echoes the same sentiments with another subject of Philippine’s history, Benigno Aquino III, that those who cannot remember history are bound to repeat it.

Throughout the end of the film, students and Filipinos in the precipice of society, were obviously in reverent prayer for a redemption, and the nostalgia of what was once a great country served as their grounds in keeping the Marcos name alive.

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Brimming with God-complex, “I am the light in the dark” Imelda and her streaks of followers proved her to still be a placed as a powerful, sentient being, capable of loving and being loved. Even if the love is in the form of handing out a thousand-peso bill to “buy candies” (suspectedly, from the billions of pesos they corrupted from people) to a cancer patient in the children’s ward. Yet again, the act would still give her millions of reasons to let her family be handed the opportunity to rule in the proverbial loveseat which they have never abandoned.

The Kingmaker is framed through recounting the stories of the past in various narrations, of the history which we are now just grappling through the form which it had been immortalized. Its message, though, is a raging reminder that history is happening, and we can either choose to let it unravel or let it become just a painful remnant to continuously scream cries of “Never Again.”

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Marcos is still not a hero

After everything that has been, is Marcos still your idol?

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MARTIAL LAW ANNIVERSARY 2018. (Photo by Christine Annemarie Tapawan/TomasinoWeb)

When we look a few years back, we remember that one of the biggest political controversies we have encountered is Ferdinand Marcos’ burial in Libingan ng mga Bayani. The rites were private and intimate for the family and he was also given a 21-gun salute. Is this 21-gun salute an ode to the 21 years that Marcos has ruled as a kleptocratic dictator? This event has garnered negative criticism since a number of Filipinos don’t consider Marcos as a hero. It may have given peace to Marcos’ family, but it caused the victims of the Marcos rule to remember a grim chapter in their lives.

A few days into the present year, Bongbong Marcos sent out a statement calling for the revision of history books used in the academe, which he deems are only teaching the students lies about what his father, former President Marcos, has done. He believed that those from the opposition are in control of the data in published materials, that’s why it is so against his father. He also claimed that the contents of these textbooks were just used as propaganda against their family and that the allegations that his father was a thief and murderer were never proven. The thing is, if these allegations weren’t true, then why was the Presidential Commission on Good Governance recovering money from the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth? 

During Marcos’ rule, Proclamation 1081 gave the military power to arrest, detain, and execute those who are standing up against the government or those who are pushing other people to do so. A proclamation like this is set to violate a series of human rights, and yet it went on for several dreadful years. According to Amnesty International, about 70,00 people were imprisoned and 34,000 were tortured under Marcos’ term. 

In 1991, Marcos was found guilty by the US Federal Court system of ‘crimes against humanity,’ which covered torture, summary executions, and forced disappearances. The Philippine Constabulary was the law enforcing body during those times and was notorious for being liable for numerous human rights violations. Take the case of Dr. Juan Escandor, a Radiation specialist from the University of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital, who was involved in nationalist initiatives and even founded a leftist student organization, was killed by constabulary troopers that ended in a crossfire. Though authorities say that he died due to the gunfight, his autopsies show signs of torture, with his skull emptied and filled with trash, plastic bags, rags, and underwear, and his brain placed inside his stomach cavity. 

Bongbong Marcos has always justified his father’s ways. Although he acknowledged the numerous human rights violations that were committed during his father’s regime, he says that people should also remember the numerous projects his father launched, which includes thousands of kilometers of roads built, progressive agricultural policies, power generation, and the highest literacy rate in Asia. However, could these projects ever compensate for the pain inflicted on the victims of Martial Law? Even if the Marcoses’ contributions to the country are worthy of acknowledgment, it is not a valid argument to be used to push the people to leave their dreadful experiences in obscurity. Marcos apologists can’t tell others to just ‘move on’ because failing to acknowledge the people’s grievances during Martial Law is purely insensitive.  You can’t just tell people to forget such inhumane acts brought about by a leader they all trusted to lead them through progress. 

Recently, it was shared to the public that House Bill No. 7137 was approved to declare September 11 as ‘President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Day’ in Ilocos Norte, which aims to honor the late dictator. Senate President Vicente Sotto III then said that bills with local applications like this are usually easily approved in Senate hearings. This, in turn, has sparked controversy and garnered criticism from the people.

Members of different rights groups and numerous people have expressed their disapproval of this bill. They say that this bill encourages the alteration of narratives of the dark days of Philippine history under Martial Law during the Marcos regime and that it practically promotes the invalidation of what people went through during the strongman rule.

We ought to #NeverForget the numerous accounts of torture and abuse that normal Filipinos went through. In case one forgets, the Twitter account @PangulongMarcos is devoted to tweeting daily on whether Marcos is a hero today.

The approval of this bill not only pushes to erase the kafkaesque events in our history that took place during Martial Law, but it also neglects the loss of the people who mourned for the loved ones that they lost in an all-out battle against the provisions of a power-hungry government that only sought to assert dominion over the people it ought to serve. It also makes us look at tyranny straight in the eye and just be resilient about it, without being able to #ResistTyranny. After everything that has been, is Marcos still your idol?

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Why “Pinoy Pride” exists in online Filipino culture

The toxic “peenoise” that flock and bash personalities misinterpreting the culture are the same ones that gather in posts which have the slightest hint of Filipino culture.

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Artwork by Ana Victoria Ereño/TomasinoWeb

Filipinos entering the foray of different online media allowed for Filipino culture to gain an even larger audience, but it inevitably exposes aspects that would otherwise only be seen within our borders.

Emman Nimedez and Lloyd Cadena’s passing has shown how impactful online media has become for the youth. While traditional media like TV and radio broadcasting maintains the largest audience in our country, we have slowly crept into the online world with the rising presence of Filipino personalities. Though this puts our heritage on a much larger stage, it has unfortunately exposed the pitfalls in our society. Any Filipino browsing comment sections on their favorite social media and video platforms will have inevitably seen the words “peenoise” and “Pinoy Pride” on their screen at least once, usually bearing a negative connotation. How have Filipinos managed to set themselves apart so negatively online that it yielded such labels on online platforms?

“Peenoise” was a term originally coined by online users within gaming communities to refer to Filipinos who are considered to be toxic in-game. Now, it is generally used to describe Filipinos who exhibit toxic behavior online, such as trolls or bullies. On the other hand, Pinoy Pride is another aspect of “peenoise” that is less aggravating but is much more reflective of who we are as a society. Pinoy Pride revolves around being endlessly proud of a Filipino personality for achieving something that led to global notoriety. 

How have Filipinos managed to set themselves apart so negatively online that it yielded such labels on online platforms?

These behaviors, ironically enough, could be coming from the Filipinos’ prioritization of family values. The toxic “peenoise” that flock and bash personalities misinterpreting the culture are the same ones that gather in posts which have the slightest hint of Filipino culture. Our innateness to find “kababayans” and treat them like family could both be a blessing and a curse in situations where we band together to defend our identity. This is even exploited in media channels that release “Filipino-themed” videos where personalities would experience Philippine culture or would have a part-Filipino cast member be the center of the content.

Another aspect that could be contributing to these online behaviors is the lingering effects of crab mentality in our society. As this blog puts it, we are quick to throw praise and be proud of our own people once they achieve success, but are also quick to call something “cheap” if it has not achieved prominence. But this even goes beyond Filipino artists as any individual who has the slightest hints of being Filipino is quickly embraced and celebrated as if they were our own. We like living through other people’s success as if they were one of our own, yet we pay no heed to those still climbing the ladder and even go as far as ridiculing them for their efforts. 

The toxic “peenoise” that flock and bash personalities misinterpreting the culture are the same ones that gather in posts which have the slightest hint of Filipino culture.

Finally, these attitudes don’t really hinge on being Filipino, but rather being Filipino outside of the Philippines. Pinoy Pride only begins to matter once something done by a Filipino gets recognized outside of the Philippines. This can be attributed to the Filipino’s “American dream” or the notion that the ultimate goal as a Filipino is to make it outside of the Philippines. 

If we ask most college students what their goals are after graduation, it will probably be about building their careers until they can go abroad. Whether it’s nurses, teachers, or artists, they’re usually aiming for a career outside the country and for good reason. The same professions would normally be paid less here, not to mention having to work harder just to get paid half of what they would’ve made had they gone off to work abroad. 

A few weeks ago, a wave of posts took Facebook by storm as Filipinos started sharing images from Harvard and placing either themselves in the context of being Harvard students or Harvard being a university in the Philippines. While this short-lived trend was merely humorous for most, it shows how we ultimately aspire to live a life outside the country rather than to flourish within it. It shows the condition which we live in and how we’ve had to make do with subpar standards in our country.

In summary, the “peenoise” and “Pinoy Pride” attitudes that Filipinos are showing online is not about patriotism, but rather defensiveness and the desire to live better. They hinge on the strong family ties Filipinos are known to have which, while bringing a strong sense of unity, also brings to light the aforementioned “crab mentality” that some tend to have. Ultimately, it comes down to the desire to live a better life than what our current social and political situation allows. 

In summary, the “peenoise” and “Pinoy Pride” attitudes that Filipinos are showing online is not about patriotism, but rather defensiveness and the desire to live better.

Much like how we’ve stood out in beauty pageants and boxing, we also stand out as audiences but in an unflattering light. While such behaviors do not necessarily include all Filipinos, these do exist in our online space. We have the ability to change this and, while we cannot enforce it onto others, starting with ourselves can be a huge step in the right direction. Rather than embodying the bad sides of our culture, we can showcase our most prominent characteristic: bayanihan.

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Cramming Playlist: Buzzer Beats

Yeah, it’s big brain time.

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Artwork by Ayeesha Panotolan

The most dreadful time of the semester is here and with it comes every student’s best friend: cramming. We all know that it’s an ineffective and unhealthy way to retain information. Yet, we still choose to condense weeks worth of lectures into hours of late night study sessions because it somehow still gets the job done. 

Studying in the wee hours of the morning means you need something to keep you and your brain awake and functioning. Below, we’ve compiled a playlist that will surely get those neurons firing as you burn the midnight oil.

 

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