Thursday, May 20, 2010

BONG-BONG: KNOW THE MAN IN THE SHADOW OF THE MARCOS NAME (Part 1)

The popular “V” hand-sign (index and middle fingers flashed upright while the rest of the fingers are folded) is the universal sign for victory. It was a trademark of the Marcos political success since 1965 until the regime’s tragic fall in 1986. Throughout the succeeding regime, this sign became infamous and was replaced by another hand-sign which provokes strife and division instead of victory and magnanimity. After 25 years, we once again proudly flash our “V” sign not only for victory but for VINDICATION.

In celebration of the victory of Senator-elect Ferdinand “Bong-Bong” Marcos, Jr. and vindication of our principles, I post this article published in Lifestyle Asia magazine on their March 2006 issue.

In a rare interview, Governor Bong Bong Marcos tells Lifestyle Asia magazine what life was like growing up in the palace and the UK, the world of politics he lives in, his vision for Ilocos Norte, and what it’s like being a Marcos.


GREAT EXPECTATIONS
By Eliza Romualdez-Valtos

“THERE ARE PEOPLE DYING AROUND US AND YOU WANT TO TAKE a picture of me cooking?” was the incredulous remark of Governor Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos Jr. during the shoot at his Suba home in Ilocos Norte. “I want people to know what is important to me,” he says, suggesting instead we go along his provincial sorties to watch and learn exactly what these things are.


The son of former President Ferdinand Marcos, Bong Bong’s place in the public’s collective memory has always been that of a son expected to follow in his father’s footsteps. Photos of father and son were splashed regularly across the pages of national newspapers and magazines all throughout the twenty years of the Marcos presidency. Most were private moments between father and son: A day at the beach, Bong arriving home for the holidays from his British boarding school, President Marcos helping Bong with his homework or reading to his children, Bong’s first communion, a father and son camping expedition. Basically milestones in the young Marcos’ life, from birth up to 1986 that has been captured by the lens providing images that have now become part of the nation’s photo album.


Sharing an indelible name and being Ferdinand Marcos’ only male heir has ensured constant pressure to prove to be his father’s son. A life in politics was the only logical outcome of the Marcos background. “When I was young, I jus wanted to do business and be a private person. But it was naive of me to think that that was possible.” He candidly admits, “I cannot say that this is what I like. Politics is tough. Politics is hard. I don’t know why people want to be politicians. Me, I had no choice.”


Politics aside, there’s a lot about Bong Bong Marcos that is unknown to many. To spend time in the kitchen is definitely an activity of choice for him. A meticulous cook and a demanding gourmand, he easily falls into conversation about food. “I enjoy good food and wine,” he says. “And I love to cook,” adding that he developed an interest in cooking because of mom former First Lady Imelda Marcos. He also says that he likes giving his children Sandro (9), Simon (8), and Vincent (5) good food as a way of showing affection. My mom did the same to me,” he recalls.


Music is also an enjoyable pastime for the young Marcos. Few know he had a musical career as a teenager in the United Kingdom, where he went to boarding school, and was even a member of the musician’s union at one point. “We were unloading beer for this pub near my school for extra pocket money one day,” he recalls. “We found out the owner needed a band to play one night so we auditioned and he said okay.” He laughingly adds. “But then the owner was probably desperate because he couldn’t get anyone else, certainly not at the fees we were willing to accept!” The band played a few nights a week and soon after made rounds of the local pubs. But since all the band members were students at Worth, a boarding school for boys run by Benedictine monks in West Sussex in the UK, when school finals came, they have to go back to studying. “So that was the end of my professional music career,” he chuckles. Not bad for someone who only learned to play a musical instrument to please the school house master, who thought engaging the young man in an activity would keep him out of mischief. Marcos fondly recalls the housemaster telling him, “Ferdinand, you are always in trouble and need a hobby. Is there anything you have always been interested in but never developed?” “Music,” he answered, and that started him on the flute, which he picked-up because it was the instrument played by the lead singer of his favorite band Jethro Tull. Marcos does not play anymore— he decided long ago to just be a dedicated amateur—but today still listens to a lot of tunes.


Marcos muses, “Some people find it strange that people who are in politics actually appreciate music.” He immediately enumerates a list of politicians who do, which includes Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Ted Heath. “People think politics is harsh and ruthless, and that the appreciation for subtle and fine things such as music cannot be a part of it. That’s not true. In every person there is a need for that part.”


Does studying music make a better politician? Marcos answers in the affirmative. “Like politics, music is made up of different notes put together to express new ideas in new forms. Learning it is like problem solving, where sometimes, the best way is to take a step back and attack another way. That is an important skill, not only in politics but in all kinds of problem solving. You have to be able to throw out all the old premises and try something else. All great discoveries have been made that way, and that’s why I think musical training makes you a better decision maker, and hence a better politician.”


Marcos is matter-of-fact when he talks about his ‘old man’, as he likes to refer to his father. “My dad was like that. He worked out of his intellect. He was more of a cerebral sort of fellow. My mom works off her emotions and that was their difference.” And whom does he take after? “Well, I work with both but I’d really rather work with my intellect. In fact, I view working with my emotions as a weakness— since I don’t trust my emotions. I prefer to examine all the options. I’m a bit of a square that way.”


There were moments though, when emotions seemed to dominate his existence. One such time was when he was sent to school at Worth in the UK. He was 12. “It was lonely and tough.” Bong explains, “My parents broke the news to me gently, although I had an inkling of what they were going to say. You have to be pretty dim not to realize what was going on since they were asking about schools and making calls. Then one day both of them came to my room and I knew that they were about to tell me.” Marcos paused for a moment, trying to recall exactly how things happened. “My dad told me that the problems in the country were becoming worse and that he would have to declare martial law soon. For security reasons, he said it would be best that I go abroad. He explained his fears, telling me that I would be the first person people would come after to get to him. I said fine. After all what are you going to say? No? So that was that. I was packed off and my mom went with me.”


One of the memories the young Marcos will remember for the rest of his life is seeing his mom and aunts driving away from school after driving him off. He never before felt so alone in life. “I remember thinking, “Oh God! What’s going to happen to me?”


What eventually happened were “8 years of immensely fun and enjoyable times in England” admits Marcos. “I learned a lot. I enjoyed not being the son of the president with all its trappings. I enjoyed the difference, the slight culture shock every time I’d go back and forth. I enjoyed being in the Philippines again, and then when I left, I’d enjoy England again. My life was of course really schizophrenic because there was a very unique life in the Philippines and then this pretty much ordinary life in England.

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