Ferdinand Marcos was elected in 1965 during the country’s golden age of democracy. The Philippines at this era was an emerging global player. Manila was in a race against Tokyo for Asia’s economic leadership, and Filipinos didn’t need a visa to travel anywhere.
Today, the Philippines is back in the global headlines: coverage of mass-killings and human rights violations amplified by a foul-mouthed leader that even Trump and Putin couldn’t come close to emulating.
More than two decades after his death, Marcos was finally buried in November 2016 under a cloak of secrecy by a president who thinks like a mayor. Having a final resting place at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is hardly a defining moment of the Marcos legacy. Years prior to this pretentious hero’s burial, millions of Filipinos have elected Imelda, Bongbong and Imee as senators and governors.
Once near the pinnacle of economic success, the Philippines had a promising future that was stolen by a dictator. We managed to send the family into exile in 1986 but in less than a decade, we elected the family back to power…. and now we blame Duterte for coddling the Marcoses and supporting Bongbong’s electoral protest against Leni Robredo.
The Filipinos’ character of surviving against insurmountable obstacles is well-documented with its diaspora of nurses, caretakers, engineers and workers around the world. This penchant for self-sacrifice could possibly be rooted way several hundred years back when the Spaniards first introduced Catholicism to the Islands.
“Ordo Salutis” or the “Order of Salvation” is a theological concept that cuts across Christian religions from Lutheran, Calvinist, Catholicism, Protestantism – that the road to salvation is a series of steps that could only be achieved together by both God and humanity. For Catholics, it starts with developing Faith and ends with achieving Divinity.
The Ordo however was twisted by the Conquistadors to tame the population, which you still regularly hear today during Sunday mass across the peninsula: “the greater the sacrifice, the better it is, for you will be rewarded in the next life”.
I am not really a fan of Rizal, but you have to admire the man – he was the first one to figure this out, revealing his belief thru his first masterpiece, Noli Me Tangere. The real-life Friars realized the dangers of having the fictional Padre Damaso destroy the alternative reality: “turn a blind eye to the abuse, and be rewarded in heaven later”.
For three-quarters of a century after Rizal’s execution and the Spanish Revolution of 1898, the Philippines almost broke the mold that had trapped similar Catholic-occupied territories, until Marcos stopped the momentum. Abusive and authoritarian leaders until today prevail in populations once ruled by the Portuguese and Spaniards: Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Paraguay, Colombia, Bolivia….. the Catholic South.
The Philippine Constitution guarantees the separation of Church and State. Yet these are inseparable twins embedded in the cultural DNA of Filipinos and almost all the former colonies…. the Church evangelizes the virtues of sacrifice, the State provides the circumstance for sacrifice.
Until the country develops a national consciousness distinct from its misguided religious beliefs, Filipinos will continue to elect leaders who will ensure conditions that maintain poverty, hunger and abuse – the “sacrifices”. The cycle will again restart in the next presidential election in 5 years. The likes of Marcos, Estrada and Arroyo will always be exonerated since Filipinos believe that the real rewards will come in the life-after.
After almost 500 years, we still haven’t learned.
My dear fellow Filipinos – Duterte isn’t the one keeping the Marcos legacy alive.
We only have ourselves to blame.