PHILIPPINES: IN TRANSITION
Marcos remains a political name
The late president's son thrives in his position as Ilocos Norte's governor
LAOAG, Philippines » It was 20 years ago yesterday that Ilocos Norte Gov. Ferdinand "Bong Bong" Marcos Jr., the only son of the late Philippine dictator, arrived at Hickam Air Force Base with his father, mother Imelda and an entourage for what was to become six years of exile in Hawaii.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Office: Governor of Ilocos Norte
Born: Sept. 13, 1957, in Manila
Political resume: Elected vice governor in 1980. Served as governor from 1983 to 1986. Representative to the Philippine Congress from 2nd District of the province from 1992 to 1995. Elected governor again in 1998.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in political science, philosophy and economics from Oxford University, England, in 1978. Master's in business administration from Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in 1981.
Sources: League of Provinces of the Philippines; Philippine Chamber of Commerce
The Marcos regime had just been overthrown in the "People Power" revolution, and the United States flew the former president and his family out of the country to Hawaii.
Young Marcos, then 28, was serving his first term as governor of Ilocos Norte, the province where his father was born.
"It was that very dramatic time for us in 1986," Marcos told the Star-Bulletin in an interview earlier this month in the Philippines. Marcos said his jet-set lifestyle as a member of the Philippine's first family came to a screeching halt. From "traveling around all the time, being very busy all the time," he was "suddenly having very little to do."
Reflecting on the experience two decades later, Marcos said his time in Hawaii, despite the uncertainty of exile and the loss of power, helped him as a person and as a politician.
"I think I'm more laid back," Marcos said. It is a trait, he said, that has made him more reflective and able to step back when making decisions. "Take it easy, don't sweat it so much," he said. "Just relax, it will come around; you'll figure it out."
Marcos, dressed in an aloha shirt for a mahalo banquet thrown by Gov. Linda Lingle and the state of Hawaii, spoke to the Star-Bulletin during Lingle's visit to Hawaii's sister province last month.
The banquet was held at the Fort Ilocandia resort, a hotel complex originally built by the Marcos family to host guests for sister Irene's wedding reception in 1983.
Last year, Marcos visited Hawaii to sign the sister-state agreement with Lingle.
The trip brought back memories of his time in exile, Marcos said.
"My mother described it as being the most beautiful golden cage that she had ever been in," he said. "The situation wasn't very pleasant, but if you had to go into that sort of thing, doing it in Hawaii is probably the best possible option, I suppose."
Living in Hawaii also renewed his appreciation of the Ilocano immigrants who have been coming to Hawaii for 100 years, he said.
"Going back last February, it all came back to me," Marcos said.
"We hear all these stories about Ilocanos who first went to Hawaii," he said. "In '86 is really the first time I'd met any of them properly. I mean, I've met them having been to Hawaii but didn't know their stories, didn't know who they were related to, when they came, what they had to do, the hardships they had to go through."
Immigration to and from Hawaii is an everyday experience in Ilocos Norte. One can see jeepneys in the province emblazoned with "Hawaii" or "Waipahu" and decorated with colorful Hawaiian themes.
Concrete mansions built with money sent back from the islands can be seen throughout the countryside.
"They (Hawaii immigrants) have really done something with themselves," Marcos said. "Each one has a remarkable story to tell."
Marcos Jr.'s father, Ferdinand, died in exile in Hawaii in 1989 at the age of 72. Tourists regularly visit the Marcos museum not far from Laoag, where Marcos Sr.'s embalmed body lies in state.
The family is still seeking to have the former president buried with honors in the national cemetery where Filipino heroes, including two other presidents, are interred, a request the government has refused.
During his visit to Hawaii last year, Marcos also appeared in federal court, telling the judge, according to his attorney, that he was not aware of a hidden Marcos fortune that would pay a $2 billion judgment against the Marcos estate.
"If these things never happened, how could I possibly have an idea?" he said. "They were saying all kinds of crazy things. 'Did you see this or did you see that?' My life was not like that. We woke up in the morning. We go to school. You say hello to your dad, you play with your friends."
Honolulu attorney Sherry Broder, who won the case brought against the Marcos family by victims of torture in the Philippines, is skeptical.
"They (the Marcos family) always seem to find money to run for office in the Philippines, which is an expensive undertaking," Broder said.
"I think history is not finished with my father's legacy," Marcos said. He dismisses reports of corruption and the torture and killing of political opponents.
"That's a matter of opinion," he said.
"I think history has spoken, and the courts have found that Ferdinand Marcos was responsible for the torture and summary execution of almost 10,000 Filipino citizens," she said.
Marcos Jr. said he is trying to find his own path as a politician and does not really pay attention when people compare him with his father.
"You say I'm like my father, it's a compliment as far as I'm concerned. If you say I'm not like my father, it's also a compliment," he concluded.
Still, the Marcos name is likely one of the reasons Marcos Jr. is in his third term as governor.
During his time in power, the elder Marcos made sure that Ilocos Norte, his political base, benefited with roads and other infrastructure improvements, and the Marcos name is still revered by many in the province.
Term limits mean Marcos Jr. has to run for another office to stay in politics.
Marcos said he and his sister Imee, now serving as a congresswoman from Ilocos Norte, might switch seats. She would run for governor next year, and he would run for the Philippine House of Representatives.
That would be the obvious move, Marcos acknowledged.
If the Philippine constitution is changed to create a new parliament, then he and his sister would have to re-examine their options.
Whatever happens, Marcos said he is likely to stay in the family business of politics.
"I think for a while yet," he said. "I don't know how to do anything else."