03 November 2009

ERF: Imelda Romualdez Marcos 2

I headed the Secretariat of the World Population Congress, held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in 1979. There was a typhoon then, devastating a number of places in Manila. Past midnight, I was alone in the huge Secretariat room, still proofreading the newsletter for the next day. Suddenly, Imelda walked in, alone. She went to the window, looked at the raging wind outside, and said, loud enough for me to hear (obviously meant for my ears), "We build, but nature destroys." (She said it in Filipino, "Kawawa naman tayo. Itatayo natin tapos gigibain lang ng bagyo.") At that moment, although I was no admirer of hers because I had worked in the anti-Marcos newspaper Imelda's Monthly in 1972 and had written the obviously anti-Imelda plays Tao and Halimaw for PETA in 1970, I could not help but be awed. She was then, as many who knew her then attest, extremely charming.

After I had written the two anti-Imelda plays, she called me and a number of other PETA people to Malacanang. When she came face to face with me in the line of handshakers, she said, "So you're the one." (She said it in Filipino, "Ikaw pala iyon.") She didn't say anything else.

A couple of weeks later, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, in a huge crowd, she saw me across the hall and shouted, "Isagani!" I remember not being able to get through the crowd to shake her hand, but I felt very good then, since I thought she remembered my name. Now, looking back, I realize that an aide must have whispered my name and pointed me out to her. On the other hand, she is reputed to have a photographic memory. I would also have remembered a playwright who made a fool of me onstage!

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