Balay Ti Ili - Marcos' ancestral home
We proceeded to the town of Batac
, or as some would call it, as Marcos Town
. All clumped together across the Batac Church are the Balay Ti Ili
- the late President Ferdinand Marcos' ancestral house, Marcos' birthplace on the other side (or so I'm told, I'm actually confused about this), and in between is the Marcos Mausoleum
. Behind it is the Marcos Museum
situated on the ground floor of another house.
The Balay Ti Ili is off limits to the public. In the mausoleum, Marcos' body is still lies in a refridgerated glass coffin in a barely lit black room.
His body is very well preserved. That is, if it really is him in there. He looks like a perfect wax figure more suitably displayed at Madame Tussaud's and there's no condensation on the glass. The guy died in Hawaii while in exile and no one knows exactly when his body was brought back. If it is indeed a wax figure, then where is his body? And why would his widow Imelda want to bury him elsewhere when the reason why he's been encased in glass since his death in 1989 is because the governments that succeeded their reign have all refused the her pleas to bury in the national cemetery - the Heroes' Cemetery (Libingan ng mga Bayani)
where the country's leaders, martyrs, and other cultural luminaries rest.
I was rather surprised with the museum. After over 20 years of dictatorship, there were only two small rooms barely filled with memorabilla.
Museum room 1
There were a couple of paintings; photographs - not elegantly framed but tackily mounted on wood; letters to the Filipino people inserted in cheap and insipid National Bookstore-bought clear hard plastic frames (National Bookstore being local bookstore chain that actually sells more school & office supplies than books); a display of his presidential car plates directly fixed on the wall; one of his less elaborate desks, and not much else. The rooms were gray and bare and almost no thought was put into the curation of the museum. Some people were coming down from the second floor, I'm not sure if there was more to see up there but I weren't allowed up when I asked. The white colonial house to the right is supposedly his birthplace which I'm told is also open to the public. There were groups of local tourists milling about while we were busy checking out the museum.
When I asked the guard if we could still enter, he just flatly said no and that there was nothing there. Strange. A friend of mine did say however that it was open to the public, only that she got there too late and was refused entry as well.
Apart from the dreary and lackluster quality of the museum, what also caught my attention was the scarcity of the staff. There were tourists everywhere, running around and doing whatever they pleased. One would expect tighter security in a place like this, with guards all over and CCTVs in every corner. There just one guard outside the mausoleum who would lock up the place and disappear until someone showed up to view, and another one inside who ensured that no photos were taken. But that was it! This was the home and resting place of a former President and should still be treated with respect regardless of his reputation.
Until his time, the Philippines had not seen nor could imagine a worse President, one who plundered his own country not unlike the other dictators of the world. However, he is part of our history and should be safeguarded for reasons of cultural preservation, historical education, and to stand as a reminder of just how absolute power corrupts absolutely. Marcos was the perfect epitome of this. A ruthless megalomaniac who would stop at nothing to realize his goals, Marcos lived like royalty in a country stricken with poverty. This is common knowledge. But what many may not know is how his vanity extended to monumental, if not nationwide proportions. Aside from his three-story high bust carved out of the mountains of Benguet
- his own Mt.
Can you see him?
Check out the green bits in the north - Apayao, Kalinga, Mt. Province, Ifugao & Benguet
Rushmore, Marcos actually had his bust scuplted on the landscape in the northern region of Luzon. (I've included a map here) The mountain province had been divided into the provinces of Apayao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ifugao and Benguet, where each province forms his head, neck, torso and left arm folded as though leaning on a table (one of the dictator's favorite poses). Not only did he change the name of the place, but he changed their shape entirely. How was he was able to get away with this and away from public scrutiny? Maybe this was the reason behind all the land-grabbing he was unsuccessfully accused of prior to becoming President? Or maybe it's just one huge coincidence? But Marcos was as much a genius as he was evil - a terrifying combination. And if fact is stranger than fiction, and if this were to be believed, then Marcos beat out all the Van Gogh's, Michelangelo's and Picasso's on the planet by creating the world's largest and most ambitious self-portrait
Ok, I think that's more than enough on the guy.