Cardinal Quevedo’s questionable loyalty

Orlando Cardinal Quevedo (photo by PGIN)

First, dear karikna, let me let you realize how powerful this man is. In a church of 1.2 billion members, he belongs to the top brass. He is one of only 117 existing cardinal electors (cardinals below 80 who are qualified to elect a pope) of the Roman Catholic Church, and one of only two in this country of almost 80 million Catholics. That makes this man one in many millions. Considered a “Prince of the Church” vested by the Vatican not only with religious powers but also with political might, His Eminence Orlando Cardinal Quevedo is definitely an influential man.

Last Sunday, March 31, the 75-year old church leader visited his hometown to the grandest hero’s welcome ever seen in Ilocos, next only to the arrival of President Ferdinand Marcos’ remains in 1993. Quevedo was born in Laoag City in 1939 to parents who are both natives of nearby town Sarrat. The family later on transferred to Marbel, South Cotabato. He makes history as the first cardinal from Mindanao, and the first Ilocano, too.

I must say, however, that though he is a kailian, I was disappointed upon hearing his appointment as Cardinal last January. To explain why, let me refresh your memory. Continue reading “Cardinal Quevedo’s questionable loyalty”

The Top 10 Ilocanos for 2013

Unlike last year’s inaugural list dominated by politicians, this year’s is a more interesting mix of personas who have made a significant dent in their respective spheres of influence. The youngest is 21 while the most senior, actually the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award which we are introducing this year, is seventy something. Among the Top Ten, there are more male awardees, 8. Nine are based in Ilocos while one is a US migrant.

As chair of the selection committee, let me invite you to meet the Top 10 Ilocanos for 2013 picked by the Editorial Board of The Ilocos Times, the oldest and most read newspaper in the North.

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(In alphabetical order)

Continue reading “The Top 10 Ilocanos for 2013”

No typical nerd: Meet Dane Calica, summa cum laude

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He regularly plays DoTA, watches cartoons on television, spends long hours with his barkada, and nurtures a vibrant love life.

But Dane Mikhael S. Calica is no ordinary boy. He will lead the 1,926-strong Mariano Marcos State University Class of 2013 in the Commencement Exercises to be held, April 3, at the university’s Sunken Garden. Making history, he is only the second MMSU Summa Cum Laude since the university’s birth in 1978. The late Gemma Ulep, who finished accountancy in 1999, was first.

Calica obtained a General Weighted Average of 1.1994. His transcript of records, peppered mostly with 1.0s and 1.25’s, shows that his lowest grade was a 2.0 in Invetebrate Zoology from Prof. Wilnorie Rasay. He has 1.75 in three subjects: Entomology and Comparative Anatomy, also both under Mr. Rasay, and English 2 under Dr. Aurora Reyes.

In 2009, Calica graduated as first honorable mention at the Ilocos Norte National High School-Special Science Class. When this Laoag City native took the MMSU College Freshmen Admission Test, his score of 156 was highest among around 5,000 hopefuls from various provinces in Northern Luzon.

An advice

In his speech during the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Graduation Ball, March 21, Calica shared that an unsolicited advice given him early on helped define his college life. He was referring to this writer who did a story on the CFAT topnotcher. I was sure that Dane is intelligent but, because he shunned extra curricular activities in high school, the reason why he graduated only third in rank despite having the highest grade average, I had doubts as to whether he would fully enjoy what a university education has to offer. After the interview, I told Dane that there is so much to learn outside the four-cornered classroom and that he should aspire for a well-balanced college life. I also told him that our people expects him to do great things and so he should use his gifts well. He did not say anything. The incoming nursing freshman just let out a shy smile.

Continue reading “No typical nerd: Meet Dane Calica, summa cum laude”

The magic of Robert Caluya

It was one day when I decided to follow the example of Bruno Mars, the Filipino-American who performed “The Lazy Song” which goes, “Today I don’t feel like doing anything I just wanna lay in my bed…”

We spent weeks and months preparing for the September 1 launch of ilocostimes.net, and the days leading to the event had me deprived of sleep and the other pleasures I enjoy. At the La Tabacalera last Saturday, Sept. 1, when Governor Imee Marcos beamed a wide smile after her historic first to the website, and to a thunderous applause of an appreciative crowd composed of leaders from government, business, the academe, the media, and literary circles, I knew we have accomplished something. And I also knew I deserved to be completely lazy the next day.

I was in my bed comfortably doing Facebook yesterday, Sunday, trying to do nothing important, but while looking at pictures taken during the launch, a status update caught my interest and kept my mind working: Robert Caluya is writing a book. The musical genius who has led Ilocano students to international choral championships wants to pen a personal account of his twenty-five years as choral conductor. He has already written the first few pages.

I immediately “liked” his status update, but I felt it was not enough, so I also wrote a comment, “Superlike!” Continue reading “The magic of Robert Caluya”

As Rudy as it could get

I received a text message from someone thanking me for an article I wrote the other week.  It read, “Herdy, my son showed me your post, ‘Senator Fariñas.’ I am humbled by your kind words. Thank you so much! All in God’s time!!”

I did not know how to respond to the message. Should I have said, ‘You’re welcome, sir’? But I was only expressing my thoughts, speaking out loud about the best senator today we should have. So I put off sending a reply, and then I got busy with a lot of things, including the opening of classes and the reprinting of The He(a)rd Mentality which is now sold out in bookstores.

But the other day I got a call from a Capitol staff, asking me if they got my number right. The congressman wanted to confirm, I was told. Then I received another call from the politician’s son, checking if I received his dad’s message. Shortly after, the congressman sent another message of thanks, to which I finally decided to reply: “My pleasure, sir. Will you kindly inform us when your schedule is not so tight so we local writers and bloggers can host dinner for you soon?” It was three in the afternoon. He replied right away, inviting us for dinner that very night, and insisting that he hosts it. He said he’d invite our colleagues from radio as well, lest he be “accused of favoritism.”

So we found ourselves at the Golden Cow Restaurant in Laoag (original location was at their house in Brgy. Barit, but there was a paint job going on) for a night of spirited storytelling and sharing of insights by arguably one of the most revered politicians in the country today: Congressman Rodolfo “Rudy” Castro Fariñas, he of the Corona impeachment fame.

Apparently, it was the first time Fariñas was talking to the local media regarding his experience in the successful removal of the chief justice from office. There were, dear karikna a lot of amusing “off the record” tidbits I could not share with you, but based on them, I could surmise the following: Continue reading “As Rudy as it could get”

Boy from Currimao tops fisheries exam

This young man makes me proud to be from Ilocos Norte.

Jerick Christian P. Dagdagan, a cum laude graduate of the BS in Fisheries program at the Mariano Marcos State University, landed at the top spot of the Fisheries Technologist Licensure Examination held last month.

It was not easy for Dagdagan. Unable to find a review center (MMSU and CLSU had none due to lack of registrants), he found himself doing self review. He said he just consulted his teachers at the MMSU College of Aquatic Sciences and Applied Technology when there were items he could not understand.

The difficulty is coupled by the fact that he did not immediately review after graduation. He finished his studies in 2010 but, due to financial constraints, opted to work immediately as a fisheries development advocate at the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Regional Office in San Fernando, April to August.  He would later move to Davao to be assistant manager for technical operations at the Jorona Aquatic Resources and Training Corporation until April this year when he decided to prepare for the board examination.

Eldest of four children of Vicente, a security guard, and Mary Grace, a nurse at the Governor Roque B. Ablan Memorial Hospital, Dagdagan was the typical carefree teenager. In an interview, Dagdagan confessed to your karikna that taking up fisheries was only his last recourse. He would have taken up nursing or chemical engineering but, due to late enrolment, lost a slot in those programs. The reason: he was “nabarkada” and lost track of time. But at CASAT, Jeric did a turnaround. He is described by his teachers as brilliant and determined. He was active in school organizations and was sent to competitions, both academic and cultural. He was also the college’s bet in table tennis.

It is actually a double treat for the family living in Brgy. San Simeon in the coastal town of Currimao as Jerick’s brother Jake Valentin, who graduated last April, also passed the board exam.

The morale of this story: If you want to succeed, pagbabarkada is the key to success. Joke!

Jerick’s story is actually a lesson on the often unappreciated relationship between will and destiny.

Super Imee

Okay, the title may sound hard sell at first, but you just have to talk to people who saw her in action when Typhoon Mina pounded Ilocos to believe this is apt.

“Ma’am, pahinga naman po kayo, hindi po kayo Superwoman,” a young staff had to remind Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos who had a maximum two hours of sleep in the two days Mina unleashed her wrath in the Saluyot Republic.

She would be in one town talking to municipal and barangay officials one minutes and, faster than you can say “I love you, Imee,” she would be seen in yet another town consoling a widow. And these are not just photo-op visits. Manang Imee personally made calls to coordinate with various government agencies, inspected damaged infrastructure and crops, and made sure relief goods reached the intended recipients.

But believe me, dear karikna, her presence alone was even more valuable than relief goods. When Manang Imee visits a place, observes a media colleague, “people feel no longer alone and neglected… somehow, they feel safe.” Oh, yes, the lady radiates sunshine in the middle of a storm and a nasty tornado.

Imee checking on victims in Sarrat (photo from Imee Marcos facebook page)

Young and dynamic, the Capitol’s media staff were quick to post pictures and updates on Facebook to reassure Ilocanos, here and in diaspora, that government is responding well to the situation. Deeply moved, Ilocanos in Hawaii and elsewhere showered Manang Imee’s facebook page with messages of gratitude and admiration. Continue reading “Super Imee”

Tina, Helen, Christian, and Mary

FOUR human beings pervade my consciousness these days, and they happen to be all mothers.

First is Tina Tan, whose recent appointment as Tourism Officer of Ilocos Norte made me so happy, I almost had permanent cramps on my facial muscles due to oversmiling.  Thanks to Manang Imee for getting only the best and the brightest to work in the bureaucracy.

I can name many a reason why Tina is best fit for the job, but I will limit my list to only three due to lack of space.

First, she loves Nature, being highly involved in ecotourism and environmental protection groups.  And she goes beyond lip service.  My students she led in a mangrove cleanup in Pasuquin would attest.

Secondly, I think Tina has reached a point in her life when acquiring material possessions is no longer the order of the day, as she and her husband are a highly accomplished business team.  I am not saying the rich don’t steal–the case of Manny “Dagat ng Basura” Villar belies this–but I think Tina is so accomplished in her life (finances, family, romance) that she really just wants to contribute something good to the community. I can vouch for Tina’s integrity.  I dare predict she will not be corrupt.  Her son Eugene, a very unassuming and respectful boy, is my student at MMSU.  Eugene shows how successful Tina is in her most important role–as mother.

Third, and most importantly, Tina Tan is most fit for to be tourism officer of this beautiful province because she is a woman who knows how to celebrate life in ways big and small.  From food served in A-restaurants to dirty ice cream and ice scramble sold in the streets, from high fashion to indigenous stuff in the mountains of Adams, from Kings and princes to paupers like me—Tina Tan finds something interesting she is generous and vivacious and childlike enough to share to the world.

How do I know a lot about her?  I am a fan of her Blauearth blog which I have previously featured in this space, and this forces me to name a fourth reason, although I only promised three.  Tina Tan sends the message across clear and perky enough to attract men and women from everywhere to go pack their bags and explore Ilocoslovakia.

Way to go, Tina!

Continue reading “Tina, Helen, Christian, and Mary”

Nang pitong araw na hindi nag-smile ang araw

NAMISS natin sobra ang maliwanag na sinag ng haring araw.  Kung dati ay panay ang reklamo natin dahil sa init ng panahon, ngayo’y ating napagtanto na di hamak na mas mahirap ang basang-basa at madilim na buhay.

 Nakalulunos ang pinsalang idinulot nina Ondoy, Pepeng, at ang pampagulong si Quedan.  Ilang buhay ang nasawi, mga bahay na nagiba, ari-ariang tinangay ng agos, at mga kinabukasang nawala na parang bula.

 Gayunpaman, ang trahedyang ito ay patunay na naman ng pagkamasiyahin ng Pinoy, ng ating kakayanang bumangon mula sa anumang pagkakalugmok, ng ating magaan na disposisyon sa buhay. Napangingiti na lamang ako kapag nakikita ko ang mga biktima ng mga pagbaha na panay pa ang pagkaway at pakyut sa likod ng mga reporter sa telebisyon.

 Marami akong mga kaibigan sa NCR na labis na naapektuhan ni Ondoy. Habang naglilinis sa kung anuman ang natira sa kanilang mga putikang bahay ay panay pa ang hagikhikan. Itong si Dennis, ang kaibigan kong nasa Amerika, bagama’t nalulungkot at sinira ni Ondoy ang kanilang bahay, kagamitan, at pati na rin ang bahagi ng kanilang kabuhayan sa Cainta, ay labis ang pagpapasalamat at wala namang nasawi sa kanyang mga mahal sa buhay. Natatawa siya nang ikuwento sa akin na ayaw pa sanang umalis ng kanyang tatay sa kanilang tahanan bagama’t napakataas na ng baha, subali’t napilitan din itong lumikas nang lumulutang na ang hinihigan niyang kama. Continue reading “Nang pitong araw na hindi nag-smile ang araw”

Honest janitor hailed in world wide web

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I USED TO HAVE a great disdain for government employees. I always imagined them as inept, inefficient, corrupt, and good only in petty gossiping. Your karikna also considered them as insensitive, arrogant and proud, what with clerks acting like the proverbial “langaw na nakatungtong sa kalabaw.”

As fate would have it, however, I myself am now a civil servant, and, providentially, with an agency highly regarded for its exacting standards and well-earned feats. Thus, I now swallow, with little difficulty, some of my words, and acknowledge that there are actually honorable men and women in the service of the Filipino people.

Make no mistake, there are still many rotten tomatoes in the basket, but the refreshing virtue of a few overshadow the stench of many.

Leoncio A. Pagtama, 52, a janitor at the MMSU College of Engineering (CoE), is one of them good fellows, and he is increasingly gaining popularity in cyberspace due to his honest deeds.

Pagtama, who joined MMSU in 1983 as a casual employee, has, on several occasions, returned lost items ranging from wallets containing thousands of pesos to calculators and watches. Continue reading “Honest janitor hailed in world wide web”

Portrait of a writer as Ilocano:A tribute to Sozimo Ma. Pablico (1938-2009)

(Sosimo Ma. Pablico, agriculture columnist of The Ilocos Times, passed away last April 22 at age 70. Survived by his wife Barbie and son Paul Ethelbert, his remains lie in state in San Fernando, La Union.)

I FIRST knew about SMAP (read as ismap, by which he was fondly called) when I was doing research as a graduate student in Sociology. I came across an article he wrote about Ilocano rituals and practices for the dead, which was published in a national daily. Short but instructive, his article was of great help to my study.

When I applied for a teaching post in MMSU, I was excited to meet the man, to tell him how much he has inspired me as a writer and social researcher. Thrilled I was to be assigned to the Social Sciences Department of the College of Arts and Sciences where he belonged, only to find out that he had retired a few years earlier. I had to be content with looking at his face in a group picture (which proudly adorns a wall in our office) with other “pillars” of the department.

Later on, SMAP and I would cross paths, albeit only in the pages of The Ilocos Times where I write an opinion column, and where he was the agriculture columnist. Having no agricultural background, I must admit that I could not fully understand most of his articles. Behind the technical jargon, however, I could sense his intense desire to uplift the life of farmers, and to promote efficient and sustainable farming methods and strategies. In his writings, I felt the energy of a man many decades younger his age. Continue reading “Portrait of a writer as Ilocano:A tribute to Sozimo Ma. Pablico (1938-2009)”

Petty Aquinos

Last Friday, two out of twelve convicts in the Aquin0-Galman double-murder case were released after their sentences were commuted by Malacanang.

My heart has always bled for these men.  Having served as a prison volunteer in the past, I met the news with much happiness and relief.

Whether or not they killed Ninoy is now out of the question.  They have suffered long enough and they have always shown remarkably virtuous behavior under incarceration.  Their kids grew up without a father, their families struggled in pain.

Rolando de Guzman, 0ne of the freed convicts, was already bedridden after suffering from four strokes.  I was teary-eyed while watching videos of him being brought of jail on a stretcher.  Felizardo Taran, the other guy, was likewise sickly.

But Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, speaking on his family’s behalf, condemned the move “in the strongest possible terms”.  He accused President Gloria Arroyo of “petty vindictiveness” for the commutation.  Noynoy contends that it was meant “to increase the hurt” and as “a way to get back” at their family’s anti-administration stance.

It escapes me why Cory Aquino and her kids Continue reading “Petty Aquinos”

Legalize Marijuana

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So, Michael Phelps, that guy who won eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympics, the most in human history, was caught on photo in an apparent act of smoking pot.

The photo (which I am not posting here out respect for him) was met by mixed reactions of disappointment, dismay, and puzzlement.  For why would a legendary athlete, who has the world on his hands and history on his side, resort to Marijuana?

Michael did not disown the picture and in an admirable fashion atypical of real drug users (like the Philippines’ Alabang Boys), he says: Continue reading “Legalize Marijuana”

Academicians critique priest’s book on Aglipayanism

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FR. ERICSON JOSUE is one of few Catholic priests I admire. Besides being bright and hardworking, he is humble and sensitive. We have known each other since our early teens (when he was still so lanky while I was then too fat), and I have always held him in high regard.

While other priests were busy attending parties, grooming expensive dogs, and constructing an ostentatious swimming pool in the Bishop’s Palace, Ericson had been busy writing books. Only in his early thirties, this son of Pasuquin has already published his second research output. “Out of the Depths”, which came out last December, tackles the phenomenal rise and eventual decline of Aglipayanism.

Well-meaning scholars must be given support and due recognition, and so I encourage my students and friends to read the book, if only to generate intelligent and enlightened discourse, a rarity in the Church (and government) these days.

Here, allow me to share excerpts of an interview conducted by students with Professor Fides Bernardo A. Bitanga, who teaches Sociology of Religion in the Mariano Marcos State University. Bitanga is also the new Editor-in-Chief of Sabangan, a social sciences publication in MMSU.

Continue reading “Academicians critique priest’s book on Aglipayanism”

PITAKA NG PAG-ASA: Isang pagpupugay kay Leoncio Pagtama at sa lahat ng tulad niya

BAGAMA’T KINORONAHAN NA ang Pilipinas bilang bansang may pinakatalamak na korapsyon sa bahaging ito ng Asya, ako’y naninindigang honest ang Pinoy.
Maniwala ka sa akin. Bilang certified burara, mahaba ang listahan ko ng mga pagmamagandang-loob ng aking kapwa. Marami na akong nawala… pitaka, cellphone, laptop, at kung anu-ano pang mga mahahalagang bagay, ngunit karamihan sa mga ito ay isinauli.
Tugma dito ang resulta ng isang pagsasaliksik na isinagawa ng Reader’s Digest (RD). Ayon dito, mas honest pa nga ang Pinoy kung ikukumpara sa mga mamamayan ng ilang bansang “first world”.
Noong nakaraang taon, nagpakalat ang RD ng tigtatatlumpung (30) cellphone sa tatlumpu’t dalawang (32) mga lungsod sa iba’t ibang dako ng mundo. May pagkakakilanlan ang bawat cellphone kaya’t maaari itong isauli ng makapupulot kung gugustuhin nito. Tinawagan din ng RD ang mga cellphone upang magbigay ng direksyon sa mga taong nakahanap kung paano maisasauli ang mga telepono. Continue reading “PITAKA NG PAG-ASA: Isang pagpupugay kay Leoncio Pagtama at sa lahat ng tulad niya”

Ananda, is Marcos a hero or a villain?


Dear Ananda,

On September 21, you will turn three. To us, your family, that day will always be a great cause for joy. You came to the world and brought color to our dull lives.

As a child, you are carefree, fun-loving and adventurous. Your cheerful disposition and ready smile makes you a friend to all, both young and old. Fittingly enough, your name means “Eternal bliss”.

But happiness is not what many Filipinos associate with the day of your birth. It is, at most, a day in question.

When I was still working in Manila, we would usually spend September 21 by vilifying Ferdinand Marcos, the iron hand behind Martial Law-—recounting him as a sinister dictator, a scary monster, a shame. The younger generation of Filipinos, apathetic they seemed to be, were admonished not to forget the lessons of Edsa and to value their freedoms.

When I moved here in Ilocos and taught at MMSU, the story was totally different. Everyone was lamenting at how Manila-based historians, academics, and opinion makers have been very unkind to Marcos. My colleagues, who conducted a research on how the common Ilocano recounts Marcos, attest that people here only have words of adulation on the greatness, sincerity, and visionary leadership of this great son of the North.

Was Marcos a hero? Twenty years ago, the answer was an easy NO. In 1986, Marcos was sent into exile and the nation heralded the dawn of a new era in Philippine democracy.

As I write this piece, it is September 11, the birthday of Henry Yumul—my kuya, your lolo. But it is also the birth anniversary of Ferdinand Marcos, and for which reason this day has been declared a special non-working holiday in Ilocos Norte by virtue of a presidential proclamation. Justifying the declaration, Malacañang said that it meant to “exemplify the leadership of the former president to be emulated by all leaders, youth and the future generation”.

You see, Ananda, yesterday’s villain could be today’s hero. Sociologist Peter Berger was right: the past is malleable and flexible, changing as our recollection interprets and re-explains what has happened.

This is also true in the case of Erap Estrada, an ex-convict. In 2001, he was booted out of office on allegations of corruption. Today, however, Erap sounds like a statesman when he speaks, and Gloria Arroyo makes it possible. With corruption many times more rampant and unabashed in the present presidency, Erap now looks like a saint, and our people begin to look at Edsa 2 as a big mistake.

Don’t get confused, Ananda, Edsa 1 is different from Edsa 2. In fact, we even had a third version. This is not unexpected in a country in perpetual search of a Messiah. When Cory Aquino assumed office, everyone was in high hopes. It looked like the rebirth of a new Philippines. Alas, Cory missed that chance. Our economy dipped further, and the nation was in for more darkness, not only because of the frequent power outages during her term but more because our people, failed with their expectations, felt like flies that jumped out of the pan and into the fire. The people thought Marcos was the enemy and that everything will turn out right without him. They were wrong.

Still, Cory Aquino, simply by ousting Marcos (thanks to a disloyal military, the church, and the US of A), has been extolled several times as a hero, landing in the cover of Time Magazine, and being listed alongside Ghandi, Mother Theresa, and the Dalai Lama as Asian greats. Never mind that the Mendiola massacre that killed militant farmers happened during her time, and never mind that a toothless land reform program resulted to the death of tenants in the Cojuangco family’s Hacienda Luisita.

Fidel Ramos came later and promised us the gateway to dream paradise that was Philippines 2000. The life and of Mang Pandoy (God bless his soul!) is a sad proof that we were, then again, just taken for a ride. Then Erap, then Gloria… until the next Messiah. The 2010 elections is just around the corner and candidates are now beginning to posture themselves as the hope, the answer, the future. I have a suspicion that Juan de la Cruz will again fall in the same trap of empty promises and blatant lies. Redemption remains elusive.

The Marcoses are back in power and in style. Imelda who, to this day, is innocent in the eyes of the law, remains graceful as a swan. She has bounced back in good form. The Marcos children and kin have returned to power as well. They have moved on.

But how about Cory? It escapes me, Ananda, why Cory Aquino, to this day, cannot find it in her heart to forgive the soldiers who were implicated in the assassination of his husband 25 years ago. We all know that those lowly soldiers, if indeed they participated in Ninoy’s murder (the solicitor general opines that they did not), were just pawns of still undetermined masterminds. These foot soldiers have languished in jail for over two decades, and their families have tremendously suffered as well. Cory has become president, her son Noynoy is now a senator, and Kris Aquino has long been torturing us with her annoying presence on television—what else could Cory ask for?

Meanwhile, the remains of Marcos remain in a refrigerated crypt. His being laid to rest still depends on public opinion and political alliances. Erap would have given a green light to a decent Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani had he not chickened out to public opinion. If only Erap knew that he would be ousted anyway, he would have done that one brave act. It appears that the Marcoses are now allied with the Arroyo administration, but the president from Pampanga has enough controversy to last for ten lifetimes, the least that she needs is another reason to be hated all the more. “It doesn’t matter the place anymore at this point in time. If you’re a bayani [hero], you are a bayani wherever you are,” intimated Imelda Marcos recently. You see, wisdom comes with age. Hey, don’t ask me about Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales. Of course, there are always exceptions.

Love is known to defy reason. It is enough to think that Marcos loved us Ilocanos dearly, and that it is but fit that we show our love for him in return. Marcos was no saint. Like everyone else, he too had his own share of excesses and shortcomings, but to say that all he did was evil sure sounds unfair. You will soon be aware that we, members of your family, also have our own share of follies. I am confident though that our love for each other is enough to help us see the best in each one. Be inspired by our feats but make sure you learn from our mistakes.

But let’s call a spade a spade. To me, at least, Marcos was an outstanding social architect. He knew just exactly what he wanted for our country and he had a blueprint on how things can get done. From infrastructure to participatory democracy to Cultural Revolution to educational reforms and values reorientation, Marcos did more than his fair share. One of my students at MMSU commented that Marcos was not a good leader because everything he did was only for selfish ends. It made me wonder if the student knew that his enjoyment of excellent education in the state university is due to the late president’s labor. It is either that his remark was born of ignorance or that his English professor needs to clarify what “selfishness” means.

What then is the truth about Marcos? “There are no truths, only interpretations”, says the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. To tell the truth is to tell a lie. We Ilocanos have every right to write our own version of history, but we have no right to brand other versions as lies. There are as many truths as there are many people who search for it.

You can only convince a person whose loved one disappeared for eternity (desaparecido) due to political reasons during Marcos’ time that Martial Law was a gift from heaven as much as you can make people, whose lives Marcos brightened, believe that his regime was a time of darkness.

But even people’s deepest convictions change. Uncle Gerry, who was a student activist during Martial Law, was incarcerated in the 70’s for joining the resistance movement against Marcos. Today, he is one of the staunchest defenders of the former president. You should only talk to Uncle Gerry about Marcos if you have at least five hours to spare, although I still doubt if such time would really be enough for his narrative on the greatness of the man whom Carlos P. Romulo extolled as “The quintessential Filipino”.

I am not sure, Ananda, how your generation would look at Marcos. But let me warn you: don’t believe everything that you read in books. All the more should you be cynical about the information you get from media. Remember that even popes commit mistakes. Yes, you should not even believe everything that I am saying here. As man’s search for truth is a lonely and painful sojourn, we can only provide you with tools of discernment. The world is unkind to the vulnerable and weak of heart.

You were born on September 21, a day of many questions. But when we see you play, hear you laugh, witness you explore the world, and watch you sleep soundly at night, we shed off our cynicism, forget about the painful crisis that besets our land, and begin to believe that, yes, there is still hope.

Ananda, you are an answer.

Happy 3rd birthday, dearest child. We love you.