Ang aral nina Apo at Imelda

Bongga 16 April 1989

Sa simula parang okey na rin ang premiere offering ng Isyung Pinoy: “Imelda Marcos – Paruparong Bakal.” Have we learned daw our lessons from the Marcos experience? Bakit tila raw nandito pa rin si Ma’am?

The first documentary film on Imelda Marcos since EDSA, ikinuwento ang pinagmulan ng dating First Lady, ang maralitang buhay ng kanyang kinagisnan, at ang mga landas na kanyang tinahak patungo sa Malakanyang at, pagkatapos, sa Hawaii.

Magandang supplement to your readings if you’ve read Chit Pedrosa’s and similar Imelda Marcos books. Consistent with these ang perspective ng Isyung Pinoy, na binack-up with interviews and testimonials of current credible figures like Hilarion Henares, Alejandro Lichauco, Adrian Cristobal, Manuel Duldulao, Odette Alcantara, Francisco Tatad, Steve Psinakis, Virgilio Enriquez, Ishmael Bernal, Tessie Tomas, Gloria Romero, Charito Planas, Cecile Guidote Alvarez, Pitoy Moreno, Christian Espiritu, among others.

Lumabas na Imelda is like any one of us: Filipino, with human frailties, and whom circumstances drove to be both good and bad, beautiful and ugly, generous and greedy. It was rather kind. How Pinoy. Like Tessie Tomas’ “Meldita”, the script by itself avoided getting personal, avoided judging, instead let interviewees opine for themselves and for the public about Imelda.

Ang thesis ng Isyung Pinoy is that ang traits ni Imelda ay traits nating lahat. Si Imelda ay salamin – kung ano siya, iyon tayo. In the same situation, any one of us would do an Imelda.

Halfway through the show, the docu became repetitive, interviewees were repeating themselves and repeating each other, the same with the video clips of the Marcoses, then and now, then and now, flitting from one opinion to another, one analysis to another, sometimes affirming each other, sometimes contradicting, and then starting over, once upon a time, na sa kabuuan ay sabog ang effect – parang salamin this time ng state of mind and heart ng Pinoy filmmakers and writers na lumikha nito.

At a certain point, when I was seeing too much of “Meldita”, it occurred to me na parang Sic O’clock News ang dating – ano kaya, nagpapatawa kaya sila, na pa-subtle? Pero hindi, hindi naman tongue-in-cheek ang delivery nina Gina Alajar at Alex Padilla. Ano yon? Akala ko ba, docu.

Ilang taon na ang nakakaraan mula nang umalis si Imelda, ilang aklat na ang nasusulat tungkol sa kanya, and yet parang nagsisimula pa lang ang pagsasaliksik ng Isyung Pinoy. Malinaw na sila mismo have yet to make sense of Imelda, kaya sila rin ay nagtatanong pa.

I have no quarrel with their thesis. There is something to the assertion that Imelda is a reflection of the Filipino. But I am disappointed that they didn’t pursue the thought further, that is, towards more definitive conclusions either about Imelda or about Filipino culture and the Filipino personality.

For instance, ikinuwento lang na lumuwas si Imelda sa Maynila to seek her fortune, and naging magazine cover-girl siya, tapos beauty queen at model, tapos she married Ferdinand Marcos, a congressman who would be president. That was worth a comment. Hindi ba rags-to-riches story din ito, parang kay Nora Aunor, na political ang context at mas matindi ang stakes? Hindi ba ganyan din ang maraming pelikulang Pinoy, from poverty and oppression to wealth and power? So what does it mean? Though poor, as a people we have in every one of us the power to lift ourselves up, the way Nora did, the way Imelda did, the way Sharon and FPJ do in the movies?

And what about the path Imelda took, via magazine covers, beauty contests, fashion shows to fame and glory? Showbiz na showbiz, di ba? What does it mean? Perhaps that we’re natural performers, we have a thing for cameras and klieg lights, instinctively we know it’s the fastest way to the top?

Also the docu glossed over Marcos’ role in the making of the imeldific in Imelda. I’d have followed up Planas’ remark that Imelda studied hard. I read somewhere, sa Free Press yata, na early in the marriage Imelda felt inadequate to the demands of Marcos’ political stature and she almost, if not quite, had a nervous breakdown, but that eventually, motivated by Marcos, she buckled down to work. Sana in-explore ang pagkaka-mold ng mind ni Imelda: what books did Marcos make her read, what books did she go on to read on her own, which writers influenced her thinking the most, how did she rationalize the things she did.

Finally, I’d have looked deeper into Henares’ and Planas’ comments that Imelda didn’t like to be asked or reminded about her beginnings, and Alcantara’s about Imelda being nouveau riche. In one of Pedrosa’s books, she suggests that what changed Imelda was the way she was snubbed by the old rich. It made her lie about her roots and it made her vengeful. Kung totoo ito, ang new-rich ang may problema — what to do with, how to handle, wealth and power. Obviously, Imelda handled it wrongly, or she wouldn’t have fallen so unceremoniously. But then what were her options? And what are the options of Imeldas in-the-making?

I’m not convinced that given the chance, any one of us would do an Imelda. I wouldn’t. My mother wouldn’t. My daughter won’t. While we all may share with Imelda certain traits and predispositions, still we are all individually unique with different upbringings, different hang-ups, different roles to play, except for “Meldita”.

No, Gina, we haven’t yet learned our lessons from the Marcos experience. In fact we can’t seem to figure out what’s significant and what’s not about that experience. Parang nabobo tayo ng martial law at ng censorship. Parang pumurol ang mga isip natin.

O baka naman natatakot lang tayong mag-isip at magtanong, maaaring we’re just not ready to confront our selves. We might not like what we see, mirror or no mirror.