During times of crises, Filipinos never fail to show compassion and solidarity. When the Taal Volcano spewed ash, Filipinos from different walks of life exerted effort to help those affected by the eruption – some willingly shared food and water to those in need, while some washed volcanic ash off windshields of passing cars so that drivers could safely reach their homes. Others organized to donate whatever was needed in evacuation centers.
It is also during crises that acts of outrageous insensitivity stick out like a sore thumb. There were internet trolls who spread fake news at a time when information was crucial in risk mitigation. There were bloggers who bashed politicians who were actively helping evacuees. There were also lawmakers who held a plenary session in calamity-stricken areas to take advantage of the situation.
Worst of all, some enjoyed a lavish dinner to “honor” a convicted plunderer while the Taal evacuees suffered from hunger and thirst.
Amid the Taal Volcano crisis, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) held a “fancy sit-down” dinner to celebrate its 50th anniversary last January 15. To mark this auspicious event, they chose to “honor” CCP’s founding chair, Imelda Marcos. (READ: FAST FACTS: Imelda Marcos, the ‘Iron Butterfly’)
Netizens reacted angrily to this, as they called out the said government institution (as well as the Marcoses) for their lack of delicadeza. As people observed how disconnected the CCP leadership is to the masses, a few days later, the CCP defended its appreciation dinner with pronouncements that the event raised funds for the survivors of the Taal Volcano eruption.
While the CCP’s hosting of this event was indeed worth calling out, such unbefitting conduct should not have come as a surprise given the participants’ history.
It is for this reason that I raise another question concerning the recent glorification of Mrs. Marcos: how do we understand the link that ties Mrs. Marcos, the CCP, and the arts? I believe that what truly makes the appreciation dinner disturbing is its potential contribution to Marcos historical revisionism. The dinner is also worthy of our criticism because of the context that enabled it. (READ: Edjop, Imelda Marcos, and the fear of forgetting)
In all fairness, as the CCP’s founding chairperson, the CCP, of course, found it fitting to “honor” Mrs. Marcos. As the CCP vice president Chris Millado noted, “[I]t cannot be denied that Imelda founded this [CCP] during the Marcos years, that Imelda was the main patron for the establishment of this institution.” Simply put, it is impossible to celebrate the founding of CCP without remembering the role that Mrs. Marcos played in its establishment.
Aside from the historical link that intertwines the CCP and Mrs. Marcos, the connection between the current CCP chair Margarita Moran-Floriendo and the Marcoses cannot be denied too, as the former Miss Universe 1973 Moran-Floriendo is married to the son of Antonio Floriendo Sr. – a Marcos crony known as the “banana king” and who served as Imelda’s dummy in many multi-million real estate deals in New York. (READ: DOCUMENT: Full decision convicting Imelda Marcos over illegal Swiss foundations)
Beyond these connections, it must be remembered too that the Marcoses have long been regarded as “patrons” of the arts. During the Martial Law years, they sponsored artists by sending them to study abroad or commissioning them to produce works of art. As such, a good number of artists in the Philippines were indebted to the Marcoses. It is perhaps these decades of involvement (or investment) in the Philippine art industry that enable the Marcoses to continue to participate in art circles.
But do not be mistaken – such acts of “generosity” and “care” for Filipino artists were instrumental in advancing the Marcoses’ political propaganda. For instance, during the Martial Law years, the Marcoses commissioned Evan Cosayo to depict themselves as “Malakas” and “Maganda.” The production of such images contributed to their systematic reconfiguration of Philippine myths, in their attempt to convince the people that they were the “First Filipinos” of the “new” Philippine society. The painting also created an image of the Marcoses as “parents” of the Philippine society, which meant that they should always be obeyed and respected in return for their “care” and “kindness.” (READ: TIMELINE: How the Marcoses made their political comeback)
So yes, it was wrong for CCP to host a lavish event to “honor” Mrs. Marcos amid the Taal Volcano crisis. It was right to call-out the CCP leadership for such a distasteful act. However, we should, at the same time, express strong concern over the continued influence and involvement of the Marcoses in Philippine arts and politics.
While one can argue that the event is unrelated to any pro-Marcos propaganda, it must be noted that a government-sponsored glorification of a Marcos could help put the Marcoses (and the Martial Law years) in a good light. It contributes to the promotion of the Marcos-led “golden years” that never were. Hence, condemnation of the extravagant dinner at CCP should imply not only disgust against insensitivity, but also vigilance toward activities that promote Marcos-led deception and propaganda. – Rappler.com
Fernan Talamayan is a doctoral student at the Institute of Social Research and Cultural Studies, National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan. He received his MA in Sociology and Social Anthropology from the Central European University, Hungary, and his MA in History from the University of the Philippines Diliman.