Editorial: Of fathers and sons

The Internet increasingly seems to be the spot mentioned by the poet Rumi: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

Recently, about 7.4 million netizens congregated on the YouTube interview by Toni Gonzaga of Bongbong Marcos (BBM).

Entitled “The Greatest Lesson Bongbong Marcos Learned from His Father,” the chat between the TV host and actress turned vlogger with 4.36 million subscribers and the son of President Ferdinand E. Marcos engaged netizens who left 125,693 comments, as of this writing.

The most popular comments compliment Gonzaga and BBM for featuring a father and son who served the country to their utmost.

Put in charge of the defense of the Malacañang Palace, BBM said FEM had reverted to his “wartime commander mode” during the Edsa Revolution. Reporting on the security threat, the son told the father, “‘Yung kalaban. Ginegeyra na tayo (the enemy is waging war against us).”

The father’s response: “I have spent my whole life defending Filipinos. I cannot hurt them now.”

Outside of the YouTube thread, though, other netizens were also as, if not more, vociferous in reacting to the interview but their passions swing to the opposite end of the spectrum.

Livestreamed on Sept. 13, 2021, the BBM interview flicked raw the scars of Filipinos who survived the martial law that FEM imposed on Sept. 21, 1972 and lifted on Jan. 17, 1981. Marcos continued to rule with an iron fist until 1986 when he, his family members, and close aides left the country at the height of the Edsa Revolution.

The intent of Gonzaga in conducting the interview can be gleaned from the image that closes the interview. BBM is shown in profile and set beside a text greeting: “Happy Birthday Bongbong Marcos.”

Yet, the personality and the topics featured by Gonzaga in that interview inevitably lead the viewer to the contested grounds of history, particularly the nine years the country was under the FEM-imposed “Batas Militar.”

Her reach to millions of followers on social media makes her a communicator of interest in informing views and shaping opinions. In 2022, the country will hold general election for the executive and legislative branches of the government.

The year 2022 is also the 50th commemoration of martial law and the conjugal dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.

The Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL), founded by FEM, has named BBM as its standard-bearer in the presidential race in 2022.

Among politicians, the narrative of “fathers and sons” is oft-used from courting new voters to solidifying the patronage of older voters. Setting in context BBM’s narrative of the Marcos family’s track record in public service, citizens must revisit or educate themselves on how other fathers and sons fared under FEM’s Bagong Lipunan (New Society).

In his study of the Lopez family, “Rent-seeking Families and the Philippine State” for the anthology “An Anarchy of Families: State and Family in the Philippines,” distinguished historian and educator Alfred W. McCoy writes that Marcos used “his martial-law powers” and “the full resources of the state” to imprison Geny Lopez, eldest son of Don Eugenio, and acquire Meralco from the Lopez family, using “legalistic maneuvers” to acquire a company “with US $5.7 million in assets for a cash outlay of only $1,500.”

Exiled in California and dying of cancer, Eugenio requested through intermediaries that Marcos allow him a final visit with his son. “Capricious and cruel towards his former rival, Marcos summoned the dying man to Manila and then refused him a visit with his son,” writes McCoy.

Despite his “anti-oligarchic rhetoric,” Marcos “never seriously moved to implement… economic democracy,” sums up McCoy.

Sifting the contesting narratives of history will not just bring to light the claims of far from disinterested participants of history. Informed and critical citizens must shape the contested future of this nation.