Not with a bang but a whimper.
- Thomas Eliot, The Hollow Men
From time to time this column strives to provide historical perspective to current events. And what could be more current than the welcome news that Ferdinand Marcos has, at long last, found a permanent resting place.
Ferdy died on September 28, 1989 in Hawaii having moved there in 1986 when it became clear that the Philippines was no longer an hospitable place for him and his family to be. He didn’t hire a moving company. He didn’t have to. He and his family moved on a U.S. Air Force C-141 furnished by President and Mrs. Reagan. Because of excess baggage rules a second plane brought their personal retainers and belongings. The retainers included 88 people such as gardeners and hairdressers and the personal belongings included stocks, jewelry and other goods valued at more than $10 million. Left behind were Imelda's famous 3,000 pairs of shoes, her bed (reportedly 10 feet wide) 500 black brassieres and their daughter's pornographic movie collection. (She had been in charge of cultural affairs before the family moved to Hawaii.)
The Philippines did not want either Ferdinand or Imelda to come back to the Philippines, even after Ferdy was dead. Because of the ban on the return of Imelda and her dead husband, Imelda bought him a refrigerated casket into which Handel's Messiah was piped 24 hours a day. In 1990 she threw a birthday party for the corpse, wheeling him into the living room where invited friends and neighbors gathered round as Imelda sang a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday. He probably welcomed the tribute, if for no other reason than American culture to the contrary notwithstanding, it is possible to tire of Handel's Messiah, especially if played 24 hours a day.
In 1991 Imelda was permitted to return to the Philippines and in 1992 the frozen corpse followed. Imelda wanted him buried in Manila but the government would only permit him to return to his hometown of Batac. When Ferdie got to Batac he was placed in a glass coffin beneath the Seal of the Presidency in front of an eternal flame. He was dressed in a white native Barong long-sleeved shirt and a rainbow colored chest sash bearing medals from World War II that were presumably purchased since a U.S. State Department spokesman said Mr. Marcos was never a World War II hero. Handel was, according to reports, fired after the corpse entered its new home and a new entertainer was hired-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
According to a report by Bob Drogin of the Los Angeles Times, commenting on the unwillingness of the government to let Ferdy go to Manila, Imelda said that if Ferdie was buried in his home town it would only be a "temporary burial" until the corpse could be moved to Manila. She said "we'll dig him up and move him down and bury him again. We do that all the time." According to Drogin, a caustic aide, hearing Imelda’s comment said she’d be taking “Ferdie from the fridge” on May 1, their wedding anniversary. As the aide explained: “It’ll be very romantic. She’ll be dressed in white, he’ll be defrosting.”
In March of 1997 the corpse was once again in the news-this time because it was a dead-beat. A dispute had arisen over electric bills the corpse incurred while being kept cool and having Mozart piped into the casket. The electric bill was $214,500. The corpse was unable to pay the bills and the family was unwilling to do so.
On March 4, Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative pulled the plug. Rumor had it that without electricity the corpse was good for 7 days although ennui would probably set in sooner given the fact that Mozart doesn't play without pay. According to a utility company spokesman, after that, things would become "messy." He did not elaborate. The mayor of Batac, Jesus Nalupta (no relation to someone else with that first name with whom the Marcos family closely identified) came to the rescue. A second hand generator was used to restore power to the air-conditioned tomb.
The saga has come to an end. On September 12, 2006 a picture of Ferdy's corpse being viewed by its followers in honor of his birthday was published in the New York Times. It was accompanied by a caption explaining that Imelda had come up with the perfect birthday gift for Ferdinand. She had given up on trying to get him buried in the National Heroes’ Cemetery in Manila. Instead she was giving him a final resting place on the family property. Ferdinand is probably relieved to finally have a permanent home. Requiescat in pacem.