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Patronage and Pornography: Ideology and Spectatorship in the Early Marcos Years

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 June 2009

Vicente L. Rafael
University of California, San Diego


In the aftermath of the February 1986 “revolution” that forced Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos out of the Philippines, the government of Corazon Aquino turned the presidential palace, Malacañang, into a museum and in doing so meant to put the Marcoses legacy of excess on display. A guidebook on the presidential palace describes one instance of that excessiveness, in which the doors leading to the Grand Staircase are said to have “depict[ed] the Philippine legend of ‘Malakas’ (Strong) and ‘Maganda’ (Beautiful), the first Filipino man and woman who emerged from a large bamboo stalk. Mrs. Marcos liked to think of President Marcos and herself in terms of these legendary First Filipinos.” They identified so thoroughly with this myth that they had portraits of themselves done as Malakas and Maganda in the palace—seminude and emerging from a forest of bamboo stalks (see Plate 1). In 1985 they even commissioned a group of Filipino academics to rewrite the legend that culminated in the celebration of the Marcos regime.

Power and Popular Culture
Copyright © Society for the Comparative Study of Society and History 1990

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1 Malacanang, A Guidebook (Quezon City: Kayumangi Press, Inc.; 1986), 13Google Scholar. For various lowland versions of this myth, see Francisco, Demetrio S. J., Myths and Symbols Philippines (Manila: National Bookstore, 1978), 4143Google Scholar. See also Ramos, Remedios F., et al., Si Malakas at Si Maganda (Manila: Jorge Y. Ramos, 1980). I am grateful to Doreen Fernandez and Ambeth Ocampo for bringing the commissioned rewriting of the legend to my attention.Google Scholar

2 Numerous accounts of the Marcoses on the campaign trail can be found in various Philippine magazines and newspapers. For this paper I've relied on the following: the series of essays by Kerima Polotan in The Philippine Free Press [hereafter, FP]: “Marcos '65: The Inside Story of How Marcos Captured the Presidency,” March 29, 1969, pp. 2–3, 50–60; “The Men, The Method,” April 5, 1969, pp. 4, 54–62; “The Package Deal,” April 12, 1969, pp. 2–3, 46–51. See also Navarro-Pedrosa, Carmen, The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos (Manila: Bookmark, 1969Google Scholar), ch. 15. Rama, Napoleon G. and Manila, Quijano de, “Campaigning with Marcos and Osmena,” FP, August 30, 1969, pp. 24, 181–82Google Scholar; Tutay, Filemon V., “Marcos VS. Osmena: ‘Nakakahiya,’” FP, September 20, 1969, pp. 23, 64–72.Google Scholar

3 Rama, Napoleon G. and Manila, Quijano de, “Campaigning with Marcos and Osmena”, 2.Google Scholar

4 Pedrosa, , The Untold Story, 216.Google Scholar

5 For accounts of the Marcos romance, see Spence, Hartzell, Marcos of the Philippines (New York and Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1969), 237–67Google Scholar. Originally, this book appeared as For Every Tear a Victory (New York: McGraw Hill, 1964)Google Scholar. See also the biographies of Imelda Marcos, Pedrosa, , The Untold Story, ch. 1112Google Scholar; Polotan, Kerima, Imelda Romualdez Marcos (New York and Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1969), 7982Google Scholar. For interviews of the Marcoses from exile in Hawaii, see “Marcos Remembers”, Asia Week (July 5, 1987), 28–33; and “Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos”, Playboy (August, 1987), 51–61. The romance between Ferdinand and Imelda was also of central importance in the Marcos campaign movies, Iginuhit ng Tadhana (“Drawn by Destiny”) in 1965 and Pinagbuklod ng Langit (“Joined by Heaven”) in 1969. Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate copies of these films. See Rama, Napoleon G., “The Election Campaign in Review,” FP, November 15, 1969, p. 5.Google Scholar

6 Spence, , Marcos, 217.Google Scholar

7 Ibid., 207.

8 Ibid., 240.

9 Pedrosa, , The Untold Story, 153.Google Scholar

10 Ibid., 154.

11 Spence, , Marcos, 5.Google Scholar

12 Ibid., chs. 3–6.

13 Ibid., 194.

14 Ibid., 28.

15 See for example, McDougald, Charles C., The Marcos File (San Francisco: San Francisco Publishers, 1987), 5108.Google Scholar

16 Pedrosa, , The Untold Story, xv.Google Scholar

17 Polotan, , “Marcos '65,” 59.Google Scholar

18 Pedrosa, , The Untold Story, 203.Google Scholar

19 Polotan, , “Marcos '65,” 56.Google Scholar

20 Polotan, , “The Men, The Method,” 5960.Google Scholar

21 Guevarra, Joe, cited in Pedrosa, The Untold Story, 156.Google Scholar

22 Pedrosa, , The Untold Story, 216.Google Scholar

23 Ibid., 222–3.

24 Querol, Rosario Mencias, “What Are First Ladies For?,” Weekly Graphic (02 24, 1965), 87 [hereafter, WC]Google Scholar

25 WG (December 30, 1970), 1.

26 I owe a great part of my discussion of film to the work of Benjamin, Walter, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations, Zohn, Harry ed., trans. (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 217–52.Google Scholar

27 Quirino, Jose A., “Another Kind of Bomba,” FP, December 6, 1969, p. 18.Google Scholar

28 Daroy, Petronilio Bn., “The New Films, Sex and the Law on Obscenity,” WG, December 30, 1970, pp. 79.Google Scholar

29 Cited in Quirino, “Another Kind of Bomba,” 16.

30 Ibid., 18.

32 Ibid., 36.

33 Polotan, , Imelda, 87.Google Scholar

34 Ibid., 86, 220.

35 Ibid., 184.

36 See for example, the works of Mijares, Primitivo, The Conjugal Dictatorship of FerdinandImelda Marcos (San Francisco: Union Square Publications, 1976), 129275, 400–11Google Scholar; Hawes, Gary, The Philippine State and the Marcos Regime (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), especially chs. 15Google Scholar. See also Bresnan, John, ed., Crisis in the Philippines (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), chs. 47.Google Scholar

37 The literature on the history and structure of patronage in the Philippines is enormous but not always instructive. The more significant ones include Hollnsteiner, Mary, The Dynamics of Power in a Philippine Municipality (Quezon city: University of the Philippines Press, 1963)Google Scholar; Friend, Theodore, Between Two Empires (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965)Google Scholar; Steinberg, David Joel, Philippine Collaboration in World II (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1967)Google Scholar; Landé, Carl, Leaders, Factions and Parties: The Structure of Philippine Politics (New Haven: Yale Southeast Asian Studies, 1964)Google Scholar; Corpuz, Onofre D., The Philippines (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1965), especially 93140Google Scholar; Machado, K. G., “From Traditional Faction to Machine: Changing Patterns of Political Leadership and Organization in Rural Philippines,” Journal of Asian Studies, 33:4 (08, 1974), 523–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Doronilla, Amando, “The Transformation of Patron-Client Relations and Its Political Consequences in Postwar Philippines,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 16:1 (03 1985), 99116CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Ileto, Reynaldo, Pasyon and Revolution (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1979)Google Scholar; Kerkvliet, Benedict, The Huk Rebellion: A Study of Peasant Revolt in the Philippines (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977)Google Scholar; Mojares, Resil, The Man Who Would be President: Serging Osmeiia and Philippine Politics (Cebu City: Maria Cacao, 1986Google Scholar). The vicissitudes of patronage under the colonial regime of the United States is thematized by the essays in Stanley, Peter, ed., Reappraising an Empire: New Perspectives on Philippine-American History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984)Google Scholar; and in Paredes, Ruby, ed., Philippine Colonial Democracy (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1989Google Scholar). My own discussion of the historical origins of patronage and notions of reciprocity in the early Spanish colonial era is found in Rafael, Vicente L., Contracting Colonialism: Translation and Christian Conversion in Tagalog Society Under Early Spanish Rule (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988), 110–35.Google Scholar

38 Kerkvliet, , The Huk Rebellion, 125, 250–60, 266–69. See also the works of Landé, Steinberg, Friend, Machado, and Mojares cited above.Google Scholar

39 See Landé, Leaders, Factions and Parties, 1518,Google Scholar 24–25, 72–75, 62–68, 79–81, 111–4; Machado, “From Traditional Faction to Machine”; and Glenn May, “Civic Ritual and Political Reality: Municipal Elections in Late 19th Century Philippines” in A Past Recovered (Quezon City: New Day Press, 1987), 3052,Google Scholar which suggests that the commodification of patronage was a process with roots in the latter half of the Spanish colonial period, just as different parts of the country were going through a more thorough going transition to a capitalist economy. The indispensable guide to the economic and social processes entailed by such a transition is McCoy, Alfred and Jesus, Ed. J. de, editors, Philippine Social History: Global Trade and Local Transformations (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila Press, 1982).Google Scholar

40 See Mojares, especially, The Man Who Would be President, 7181, for a succinct summary of the importance of money in Philippine politics.Google Scholar

41 Polotan, , Imelda, 195.Google Scholar

43 Ibid., 233–4.

44 Ibid., 235.

45 Ibid., 237.

46 “Three Images of Imelda”, FP, December 13, 1969, pp. 92–94. By the latter half of 1970, the Philippine Free Press became increasingly critical of the Marcoses. Its editors came to be convinced that Ferdinand intended to stay in office beyond his constitutionally mandated second term, which was due to expire in 1973. There were widespread rumors that Imelda was going to be fielded as a candidate for the presidential elections and that her election would maintain her husband as de facto president. The fear of a Marcos dynasty was compounded by reports in 1971 of secret plans for the declaration of martial law, the declaration of martial law in 1972 and the shut down of the Free Press along with other media critical of the Marcoses.

47 Polotan, , Imelda, 212.Google Scholar

48 “Three Images”, 92–93.

49 Ibid., 93–94.

50 Ibid., 94.

52 For elaborations of the theoretical issues informing my account of patronage and spectatorship in post-colonial Philippines, see the closely related essays of Stephen Greenblatt, “Invisible Bullets: Renaissance Authority and its Subversion,” Glyph, no. 8, 1981, 40–61; Pye, Christopher, “The Sovereign, the Theatre and the Kingdome of Darknesse: Hobbes and the Spectacle of Power,” Representations, no. 8 (Fall 1984), 85106;Google Scholar and Flesch, William, “Proximity and Power: Shakesperean and Cinematic Space,” Theatre Journal, 39:3 (10 1987), 227–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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