Now you see him, now you don’t
By Raïssa Robles
Even if the Philippine government were to bury the long dead dictator Ferdinand Marcos with military honors, his corpse might not stay buried. Because the way you and I understand the word “buried” is not the way the widow Imelda Marcos understands it.
Imelda Marcos has in her possession an engineering design for a hydraulic and refrigeration system that would continue to preserve the dictator’s body from decomposing and – for viewing purposes – would raise and lower a granite slab covering his glass coffin.
I’m not pulling your leg. I recently confirmed from sources deep inside the Marcos camp that these engineering plans still exist and would have been implemented in 1998 if then President Fidel Ramos had not put a stop to it in the dying days of his administration.
Let me rewind my story back to the beginning.
Around this time 13 years ago, the Armed Forces of the Philippines on orders of Ramos’ Defense Secretary Fortunato Abat, assisted the Marcos family in preparing a “memorial” for the dead dictator at Libingan ng mga Bayani. Five truck-loads of ready-mix concrete were poured into a 100-square meter burial plot as part of the foundation for the hydraulic system. Site preparation alone cost P3 million.
Here is how it looks now:
The burial plot was to be tiled with thick slabs of adobe. Marcos’ glass coffin would be eased into a shallow hole and topped with black granite from Italy.
His epitaph – hand-etched in black marble – would be installed. The person who told me about the epitaph recalled it said:
For him, in order to maintain democracy and peace, he was willing to sacrifice even if it forced him to admit sins or crimes he did not commit.
Interestingly, this is the same message etched in black marble at the entrance of his mausoleum in Batac, Ilocos Norte today. Note in particular the second line below:
I don’t know if this is the very same epitaph flown back from Hawaii because two sources told me that the marble for Marcos’ Libingan mausoleum has been stored all these years in his San Juan residence.
I know these because I was doing a blow-by-blow account of the bury-Marcos story as it unfolded in June 1998. The name “Marcos” had always meant political trouble and made very good copy overseas. At that time, I even hunted down the architect, Normandy Canlas, who had designed the hydraulic system and asked him why there was a need for it.
Canlas told me then:
One of the considerations is for the body to be viewed from time to time by the family.
As for keeping Marcos’ body preserved, he said that would require putting up a refrigeration unit with a steady power supply.
He told me:
The military (which runs the cemetery) won’t likely pay for that. Maybe they’ll put a meter….it will be costly.
Canlas now runs a successful building and design company and refused to talk to me recently. I think he’s related to the late Aber Canlas, Marcos’ former Minister of Public Works and Highways.
However, someone else did talk to me on condition of anonymity. The person whom I will call Mr X said Imelda Marcos wanted that kind of set-up so she could gaze on Marcos’ face from time to time. Mr X recalled that when the cadaver was stored in the Valley of the Temples in Hawaii, Imelda would go there and ask the Temple caretakers to open the casket so she could kiss him on the forehead.
Mr X said other kinds of burial plans were also now being considered, such as burying Marcos on a mountain top overlooking the South China Sea. It was the same mountain where Marcos had hidden during the Japanese Occupation.
Mr X confirmed to me that then President Ramos had set three preconditions before the body could be transported back in 1992: the body would not pass Manila but land immediately in Ilocos Norte; it would be accorded military honors befitting any Army Major and would be buried at once.
Mr X said the Marcoses had agreed to these preconditions because:
His return was the most important thing and was a big thorn off our hearts. If there were three or four soldiers, in or out of uniform, those were minor considerations.
Mr X must be right. To this day, the Marcoses have not denied there were these preconditions.
Another source whom I’ll call Mr Y told me there exists yet another design for Marcos’ mausoleum which is in Imelda Marcos’ possession:
The tomb is inside a cave dug into a mountain side. The cave has an oculus or hole in the roof to let in light. The tomb would be in the middle of a lake….very dramatic.
A third source whom I’ll call Mr Z told me that fresh burial plans started a year ago. Mr Z refused to go into details.
If Marcos is buried at Libingan will he stay buried there?
In 1998, when the Marcoses nearly succeeded in getting the dictator buried at Libingan, architect Canlas told me a curious thing. He said, quoting Imelda Marcos, that the family viewed Libingan only as “a temporary burial site where he will be buried as a president and solder. In a decade or so, he will be returned to Batac and buried alongside Doña Josefa, his mother.”
In other words, the Marcoses simply wanted to set up a memorial for him inside Libingan that would proclaim Marcos as a hero.
Implications of burying Marcos as a hero
At that time, then Congressman Wigberto Tañada warned that this would have serious implications on the pending court cases against the Marcoses. He said:
It could be misinterpreted by some of the judges handling the cases. Once Marcos is buried at Libingan it could be used as a reason not only before the courts but also before the youth who did not experience the Marcos years.
Tañada’s words were proven correct even at that time by Marcos loyalist Cherry Cobarrubias. She insisted Marcos should be buried at Libingan because “it is time to right the wrong that is Edsa” – referring to the 1986 people power revolt that the loyalists said “grabbed” power from the Marcoses.
I know that President Benigno Aquino has stated that Marcos won’t be buried at Libingan – “not on my watch.”
Which means the Marcoses will simply wait out Aquino and pressure the next president. This is what they have done since 1993. They did it with Joseph Estrada and with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who both decided in the end that it was politically wise to turn down the Marcoses’ request for a hero’s burial at Liibingan.
The Marcoses have practiced necropolitics for the last 18 years and have elevated it into a fine art.
Maybe they’ll succeed in 2016 when the new President might be Jejomar Binay and the new Vice-President is Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
What they have been doing all these years is all sounding like a bad movie.
As bad as the one below, don’t you think?
Now who among you will say – Tama na, sobra na, ilibing na! – without refrigeration.
Because who knows if we don’t, we might one day see something like this –