What ‘Da Real Macoy’ means to Ilocano folkBy Cristina Arzadon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
New generation of Ilocanos won’t remember the darkest years of Philippine history the way most Filipinos had breathed and lived during martial rule which Ilocos’ favorite son, Ferdinand Marcos, declared nearly 40 years ago.
Every year when Ilocos Norte marks Marcos’ birth anniversary, the days of dictatorship continue to be obliterated in the minds of young Ilocanos.
This year, the Marcoses promised Ilocanos a festive mood to mark their late patriarch’s 95th birthday and this they got with days of merrymaking that began on Saturday leading up to Sept.ember 11.
Unlike previous celebrations when politicians of old would dominate, the event this year gathered the younger generation with performances and choreographed dances from high school and college students in a flash mob during the opening-day concert.
Organizers even provided a free Wi-Fi service at the concert grounds in Batac, enabling spectators to instantly connect to the Internet and upload photos and videos of the activities into social network sites instantly.
The event revived the 1970s era with retro dances and outfits, which reminded the young of that period of color but devoid of the images of street protests that became a precursor to Marcos’ martial law declaration on Sept. 21, 1972.
Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, who came with other members of the Marcos family, wore her famous jeans and shirt imprinted with the logo of the Kabataang Barangay, which she chaired after its creation in 1975.
The organizers also devoted a day for younger students to participate in various contests, ranging from literary, quiz bee, poster-making and extemporaneous speech to storytelling with a common theme, “Da Real Macoy.” The contests were meant to inculcate in their minds who Marcos was through their creative and artistic talents.
Marcos’ birthday did not come to pass without commemorative activities held at the former presidential residence, Malacañang of the North, in Paoay town.
Once run by the Philippine Tourism Authority, the former presidential vacation house has been administered by the provincial government beginning last year. The once-crumbling structure has undergone a face-lift and is now staffed with provincial government personnel.
It was converted into a Malacañang Museum housing well-preserved memorabilia from the Marcos regime and other cultural and historical artifacts in time for Marcos’ birthday.
His birthday was marked with the release of new books authored by Ilocano writers. These chronicled chapters of the Marcos presidency, including a collection of stories about Ilocos Norte’s tourist destinations.
The late Ilocano political science professor, Simon Caday, once said in a commentary that no amount of criticism will tear down the Ilocanos’ reverence for Marcos.
“Marcos brought Ilocos Norte to national consciousness when he became President. That was the Ilocanos’ time of glory,” Caday said last year at the height of a raging debate on whether Marcos should be considered a hero.
Caday, who belonged to the generation of martial law babies, once joined a group of young Ilocano professionals who were bound by a common goal to educate the youth on asserting their rights against oppressive regimes.
Before he died early this year, Caday’s lingering argument to his colleagues was that it was wrong to judge Ilocanos for supposedly having a warped sense of history by continuing to perpetuate a heroic Marcos in their minds.
He said the collective respect was brought about by the Ilocano psyche that Ilocos earned national significance when its native son occupied Malacañang.
It is up to martial law veterans to continue retelling the stories as to that dark period of Philippine democracy, he said.
And at a time when the Marcoses are at the helm of Ilocos Norte governance, most Ilocanos from near and far seem to approve of how Governor Marcos has converted a once laid-back province to a bustling commercial hub that has become a blend of homegrown businesses and Metro Manila’s neighborhood supermarket chains and retail stores.
Despite silent protests from businessmen who continue to be displaced by the strong competition, Governor Marcos continues to roll out business activities from leasing public buildings to developers, building more commercial belts away from the progressive downtown district to the doorsteps of schools and known tourist stops.