THERE IS PERHAPS NO MORE DESTINATION within Ilocos Norte more polarizing than Batac. However much antagonism is laid on former President Ferdinand E. Marcos’ authoritarian rule, reminders of the Martial Law years remain here, not to serve as a brutal reminder to a dark bygone era, but as a glorification of a man the place considers its greatest son. As Joseph, Dave and I walk inside the mausoleum where Marcos’ preserved body is kept, a feeling of dread permeates in the air-conditioned darkness. The corpse in front of us belonged to a man who once ruled with iron fists, but was thrown out by a popular revolt before succumbing to multiple organ failures in September 1989.
Just steps away, we enter the museum where an expected partisan retelling of Marcos’ life can be found. Some of the license plates from cars he used are displayed on one wall. On another wall, the story of his whirlwind courtship with Imelda Romualdez Marcos is vividly chronicled.
Reading the accounts of a man who has been associated with seriousness and dictatorial tendencies, I sense a playfulness in his romance with his wife.
Maybe it’s the Ilocano blood in me – my dad, while born and raised in Mindanao, is ethnically Ilocano. But perhaps it’s simply Marcos’ charisma, that allows, even after his death, for legends and myths to continue to live and seduce imaginations even despite the deaths and rampant corruption that happened under his rule.
I suddenly feel cold. I shudder, then step out of a museum into the warmth of the sun.