By Leilanie Adriano,VERA FILES
September is the month Filipinos recall the darkest period in the history of Philippine democracy when President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law on Sept. 21, 1972.
September is also an important month for Ilocanos in Ilocos Norte who always celebrate the birthday (Sept. 11) of Marcos, their favorite son.
For the Ilocanos, the former president revered as "Apo Lakay" remains as the best president the Filipinos ever had amid accusation of corruption and human rights abuses by the military during his 20-years (December 30, 1965 — February 25, 1986) in power.
"Saan nga agkupas ti laingda dagiti Marcoses a. No adda Marcos idi a nalaing, addan dagiti annakna a mangituloy ti gagemna idi a pagimbagan ti pagilian a Pilipinas (The Marcos greatness always remains. If there was a great Marcos during his time, his children are here today to make this nation great again," said Avelina Fe Camacho, 62, school principal of Pulangi Elementary School.
Citing various infrastructure development projects that even up to this day are enjoyed by Filipinos, Camacho said Marcos legacy is being kept alive by his children and wife Imelda, who are doing well in politics. Imelda Marcos represents the second district of Ilocos Norte in the House of Representatives. Son Ferdinand "Bongbong" Jr is a senator and is being mentioned as possible presidential candidate in 2016. Eldest daughter Ma. Imelda "Imee Marcos is Ilocos Norte governor.
But not all Ilocanos are happy with the Marcoses. Carinderia vendors at the Ilocano Heroes Hall and at the Dap-ayan complain about their displacement when Imee decided to rent out the government site to a businessman who is going to build a mall.
Ferdinand Marcos"Idi tiempo ti kampania, nakasaysayaatda. Ita, aramidenda amin a kaykayatda. Pastrekenda dagiti dadakkel a negosiante, dakami a babassit ti nakakaasi. Saan konton a butosan (They were so nice during the campaign elections. But now, they do whatever they want. They invite big time businessmen here and we small entrepreneurs are left behind. I won't vote for them anymore," said a disgruntled local food stall owner who requested for anonymity.
To date, the Marcos administration in Ilocos Norte is bent on promoting the province as the center for tourism and investment, offering incentives and attractive packages for film-makers, tourists, balikbayans, and foreigners.
Construction of malls, low-cost housing and condominiums are also underway, including the establishment of the Ilocano lifestyle hub, restaurants, souvenir shops and the regular holding of festivities and events to attract more visitors.
The ghost of Martial Law, however, crops up every now and then even during the celebration. "While all Ilocanos and other loyalists in some parts of the country pay homage to 'Apo Lakay' for what he has done on his 20- year rule, we cannot also get rid of the fact that FM had a principal liability for the enormous human rights violations in his time especially during the Martial Law. Those violations were documented in writing. There were eyewitness accounts of failure of a leadership which led to his eventually being toppled in a people's revolution," said Florante Nicolas of San Nicolas town.
The Marcos birthday festivities started Saturday with the President Marcos cup (shootfest) at the Plaza Del Norte, awarding and oath-taking of about 16,000 Barangay Peace-keeping Action teams from the various municipalities and cities in Ilocos Norte.
Townsfolk are looking forward to concert titled "Da Real Macoy" featuring showbiz personalities from Manila. There will be a special dance number by the Mayors' league of Ilocos Norte.
In the succeeding days, there will be a thanksgiving mass at the Sta. Monica Church in Marcos' birth place in Sarrat and distribution of land titles to selected beneficiaries.
There will also be a literary arts contest consisting of a quiz on Marcos life, poster making, extemporaneous speech, film showing, storytelling, charcoal rendering.
Highlight will be a Little Ferdie and Imelda duet contest.
Three books about Ferdinand Marcos will be launched and the new Malacañang museum in Suba, Paoay, Ilocos Ilocos Norte will be opened.
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")