LAOAG CITY?To those who lived through the dark years of martial law, Ferdinand Marcos was a tyrant, a plunderer and a dictator. But to those who live and still enjoy the benefits under his 20-year regime, Marcos is a hero.
While the rest of the country is caught in a raging debate on whether Marcos should be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, his home province of Ilocos Norte has never vacillated on its belief that his contributions to the nation were heroic.
Marcos? body is kept in a refrigerated crypt at the family compound in Batac City.
?He built bridges, schools and paved dirt roads right to our doorsteps in the villages. No other president has done that,? says Gina Agas, a teacher at Navotas Elementary School in Laoag City.
?We continue to benefit from the structures he had built long ago. For that alone, he is a hero,? she adds.
Agas says there is no truth in claims that Ilocos school children are deliberately taught of Marcos? heroism or that there are textbooks proclaiming him to be a hero.
?In history books, for example, there is no mention of Marcos as a hero. Only heroes like Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio are consistently regarded for their contributions [in shaping the country]. Marcos is objectively described for his accomplishments as former president,? she says.
But she says she would have no qualms echoing Marcos? heroism in her classes because she lives in a community where belief is measured by what one sees and feels.
?Other people say he was the most corrupt president. I have no way of knowing that, so I could not agree with it,? she says.
To other Ilocanos, Marcos? ascent in Malacañang symbolized a collective triumph.
Simon Caday, a former political science professor of Mariano Marcos State University, says Ilocos Norte was never part of the national consciousness until Marcos became president.
?The people of Ilocos Norte are bound by common experience against their unproductive land. For long, they were neglected by imperial Manila until Marcos came into power and brought Ilocos into the consciousness of the entire country. Ay, may Ilocos pala,? says Caday, now a professor at Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.
?To Ilocanos, [Marcos as president] was their time of glory. The Ilocanos were euphoric that their great son was in Malacañang, leading a nation toward greatness,? he says.
Caday takes offense at commentaries that Ilocanos have a warped sense of history for being trapped in the so-called Marcos myth.
?To judge the Ilocanos because of Marcos is unfair. To judge Marcos based on the Ilocano psyche, history and culture would be more appropriate. Maybe I am committing a cultural bias of regionalism. But who cares? All of us are regionalists, anyway,? he says.
Other Ilocanos, however, continue to oppose moves to have Marcos buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Former political detainees during martial law say Marcos does not deserve to be called a hero.
Ilocano couple Charito and Crispin Corpuz, then in their 20s and teachers of Church of Christ in the Philippines in San Fernando City in La Union province, spent time in detention camps after being arrested for their affiliation with militant groups opposing the Marcos regime.
?Is Marcos worthy of being called a hero? Filipinos have been afflicted with amnesia. How could we forget the dark period so easily?? Crispin Corpuz says.
Edna de la Cruz-Kidd, who worked for an Ilocos Norte-based human rights group Task Force Detainees, says the issue of Marcos being a hero should be left for the individual Filipino to decide.
?But I do not agree that he should be treated as a hero by the whole nation. Treat him as your hero, but it won?t obliterate facts that he was repressive and caused the deaths of thousands of Filipinos who opposed him,? she says.