[September 21, 2011 is the 40th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines by Ferdinand Marcos. Martial law ended 25 years ago, and Marcos died in 1989. Recent years have seen attempts to remake the discredited dictator into a historic national hero. This article by noted Filipina author (and martial law political prisoner) Ninotchka Rosca, describes the content of those attempts, and how they are viewed. — Frontlines ed.]
by Ninotchka Rosca
The young heroine of a Greek tragedy elected to bury her younger brother, despite the king’s edict that he should lie dead and exposed to the elements.
Not burying the dead is violating their primal right: to lie buried, undisturbed– Requiescat In Pace.
This was the core template for one of my short stories: Earthquake Weather. I wrote it in honor of several friends killed by Marcos’s military and left exposed in front of various town halls. Being left unburied was one of the direst punishments inflicted under martial law; the other, ironically, was being buried in unmarked mass graves.
Imelda Marcos at the frozen display of the dictator F.Marcos' body in a crypt in Ilocos Norte
What to make, then, of the phenomenon of the dictator himself refrigerated since his death in 1988. Occasionally, through the years, I’d wonder how much it cost, in equipment and power supply, to turn him into a corpsicle. In a country where 80% of mothers cannot afford to refrigerate milk and baby food, this human jerky was symbolic of the excessive self-adulation of the Marcos regime.
Freeze-dried or mummified, dead is dead. Let the corpse return to the elements.
It has also become expressive of the politics of absurdity in the Philippines as recently, following a court-ordered compensation to victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime, the dead’s clan, cronies and supporters have pushed for his burial in the Heroes’ Cemetery.
One would think that the senators, congressmen and governors of the Marcos family infrastructure would have better things to highlight: good works done, nice legislation passed, lives of constituents made better. But no, it has to be about keeping alive the myth of Marcos and hence, ruling class invincibility, maintained by thought control, historical revision and an undercurrent of a message that tells the Filipino people they’re too stupid to pass judgment on someone like Marcos. Continue reading