‘Great Ilocano’: Province mates ask for hero’s burial for Marcos

Mara Cepeda

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‘Great Ilocano’: Province mates ask for hero’s burial for Marcos
As they celebrate the late dictator's 99th birth anniversary, supporters say his presidency should be viewed not just from the perspective of Martial Law victims

ILOCOS NORTE, Philippines – “Thank you very much for celebrating,” Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos told people at a mall in Laoag City, where she dropped by Friday, September 9, to kick off a 3-day celebration that culminates on her father’s 99th birth anniversary on the 11th.

Kahit naudlot yung balak natin na ilibing sa Libingan ng mga Bayani, marami naman dito sa Ilocos Norte na [nagpapasalamat na] nandito si Ilocos si Apo Lakay,” said the oldest child of the later President Ferdinand Marcos.

(Even if our plan to bury him at the Libingan ng mga Bayani has been postponed, there are people here who are happy that Apo Lakay is in Ilocos Norte.)

The Rotary Club of Metro Ilocos Norte partnered with the Ferdinand Marcos Presidential Center for the annual tradition to celebrate the birthday of Marcos, who was born in Sarrat town on September 11, 1917.

They are hosting a series of events at the Robinson’s Place Ilocos Norte in Laoag City from September 9 to 10. These include a job fair, a quiz bee about Marcos’ biography and Ilocos Norte history for high school students, a debate about the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections for college students, and music and art contests. 

Organizers on Friday put up an exhibition of Marcos memorabilia inside the mall, including a “Marcos pa rin (Still Marcos)” jacket, a wristwatch with the former president’s face, and photos of the Marcos family. 

Dan Wayne Aribuabo, Grade 11 student of the Ilocos Norte College of Arts and Trade, takes pride in the event.  

Masaya kasi parang napi-feel naman namin ‘yung greatness ni Marcos as an Ilocano. Parang nabu-boost kami na dapat maging ganun din kami. Dapat we have the courage to make a change. Dumadaya sa dugo namin ‘yung happiness and greatness po,” he said.

(I’m happy because we can feel the greatness of Marcos as an Ilocano. It’s encouraging us to be just like him. We should have the courage to make a change. The happiness and greatness flows through our blood.)

BIRTHDAY CELEBRANT. The face of former President Ferdinand Marcos is painted on a kalesa during a kalesa painting contest in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte on September 9. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

The Marcos family considers the so-called Solid North provinces – Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan – as their stronghold.

On September 11, a cook-off hosted by the Bakeries and Restaurants Association of Ilocos Norte will be held at the Imelda Cultural Center in Batac.

It will be followed by a Holy Mass at the Our Lady of Immaculate Concepion in Batac, a boodle fight for Marcos supporters, and a program over dinner at the Marcos ancestral mansion. 

Ilocanos support hero’s burial

'MARCOS PA RIN.' This jacket is put on display for mall goers to visit. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

Ilocos Norte is celebrating Marcos’ 99th birthday amid the controversy over giving the former president a hero’s burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. (READ: SC orals on Marcos burial: Issues and answers)

The Supreme Court has heard both parties’ oral arguments over the 6 petitions filed by activists and Martial Law victims, who seek to stop Marcos’ interment. (READ: How justices pursued on Marcos burial on days 1 and 2 of SC orals) 

The petitioners argue that Marcos does not deserve the burial because of the killings, torture, disappearances, corruption, and media oppression during Martial Law. 

The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte originally set the burial for September 18, but the SC extended the status quo ante order on Marcos’ remains to October 18. (READ: CJ: Why use public funds to fulfill Duterte’s promise to bury Marcos?)

But for Ilocanos here, the late strongman should already be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. 

“Of course, it’s not just because I’m an Ilocano myself but because of the achievements of our President Marcos. I have seen that he has greatly affected the Philippines and in that way, I saw the progressiveness of this country,” said Karen Mae Tesora, a senior English major at the Mariano Marcos State University.

But what about the human rights abuses reported during Martial Law?

Para sa akin po kasi, napaka-biased naman po nun kasi we’re just looking at the negative part of it. Sana rin po i-consider din ‘yung positive side kasi hindi lang naman po ‘yung mga biktima o nasaktan ‘yung naapektuhan kundi buong Pilipinas din po nag-progress dahil po sa kanya,” said Tesora. (READ: Marcos years marked ‘golden age’ of PH economy? Look at the data)

(For me, it’s too biased when we’re just looking at the negative part of it. I hope they also consider the positive side because apart from the victims, the rest of the Philippines progress because of him.)

Event organizer and Rotary Club of Metro Ilocos Norte treasurer Reame Gawiran added that despite the criticism against Marcos, Ilocanos have long been waiting for a hero’s interment for him.

“For me, he has always been dear for us mga Ilocanos and kung ano man ‘yung plano na malibing na sana siya dapat doon, dapat magawa na rin (the plans to bury him should be pursued). He deserves it,” he said. 

During the oral arguments, Solicitor General Jose Calida said the more than 14 million votes that former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr garnered during the last vice presidential polls marked the end of the national trauma over Martial Law. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.