Skip to main content

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

  • Vicente L. Rafael (a1)

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.

Hide All

1 Malacanang, A Guidebook (Quezon City: Kayumangi Press, Inc.; 1986), 13. For various lowland versions of this myth, see Francisco Demetrio S. J., Myths and Symbols Philippines (Manila: National Bookstore, 1978), 4143. 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.

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, 1969), ch. 15. Rama Napoleon G. and Manila Quijano de, “Campaigning with Marcos and Osmena,” FP, August 30, 1969, pp. 24, 181–82; Tutay Filemon V., “Marcos VS. Osmena: ‘Nakakahiya,’” FP, September 20, 1969, pp. 23, 64–72.

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

4 Pedrosa , The Untold Story, 216.

5 For accounts of the Marcos romance, see Spence Hartzell, Marcos of the Philippines (New York and Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1969), 237–67. Originally, this book appeared as For Every Tear a Victory (New York: McGraw Hill, 1964). See also the biographies of Imelda Marcos, Pedrosa , The Untold Story, ch. 1112; Polotan Kerima, Imelda Romualdez Marcos (New York and Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1969), 7982. 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.

6 Spence , Marcos, 217.

7 Ibid., 207.

8 Ibid., 240.

9 Pedrosa , The Untold Story, 153.

10 Ibid., 154.

11 Spence , Marcos, 5.

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.

16 Pedrosa , The Untold Story, xv.

17 Polotan , “Marcos '65,” 59.

18 Pedrosa , The Untold Story, 203.

19 Polotan , “Marcos '65,” 56.

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

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

22 Pedrosa , The Untold Story, 216.

23 Ibid., 222–3.

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

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.

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

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

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

30 Ibid., 18.

32 Ibid., 36.

33 Polotan , Imelda, 87.

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, 400–11; Hawes Gary, The Philippine State and the Marcos Regime (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), especially chs. 15. See also Bresnan John, ed., Crisis in the Philippines (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), chs. 47.

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); Friend Theodore, Between Two Empires (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965); Steinberg David Joel, Philippine Collaboration in World II (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1967); Landé Carl, Leaders, Factions and Parties: The Structure of Philippine Politics (New Haven: Yale Southeast Asian Studies, 1964); Corpuz Onofre D., The Philippines (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1965), especially 93140; 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), 523–47; Doronilla Amando, “The Transformation of Patron-Client Relations and Its Political Consequences in Postwar Philippines,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 16:1 (03 1985), 99116; Ileto Reynaldo, Pasyon and Revolution (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1979); Kerkvliet Benedict, The Huk Rebellion: A Study of Peasant Revolt in the Philippines (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977); Mojares Resil, The Man Who Would be President: Serging Osmeiia and Philippine Politics (Cebu City: Maria Cacao, 1986). 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); and in Paredes Ruby, ed., Philippine Colonial Democracy (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1989). 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.

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

39 See Landé Leaders, Factions and Parties, 1518, 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, 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).

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

41 Polotan , Imelda, 195.

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.

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; and Flesch William, “Proximity and Power: Shakesperean and Cinematic Space,” Theatre Journal, 39:3 (10 1987), 227–93.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 9 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 263 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 17th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.