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The Long Week, February 7, 1970

The Long Week

By Kerima Polotan

Bombs, Guns, Stones—Violence, Hate, Death.

1.

February 7, 1970WHEN THE WEEK began, it seemed to hold no surprises. The country had seen how many Congresses open before and except for a mugginess in the afternoon, rare in January, the Seventh held no special portents. The young had, of course, taken over the streets and were on Ayala Street, thrusting leaflets at passerby: An Appeal for a Non-Partisan Constitutional Convention. All week the week before, they’d been pretty busy, demonstrating in front of Malacañang. A particularly “militant” group had roughed up an army sergeant moonlighting as a photographer; they had peppered the air with elegant language, the accepted idiom of student activism, amplified many decibels with the aid of loudspeakers, language like: Putang ina mo! Ikaw Marcos, bumaba ka rito, napakayabang mo, 27 ang medalya mo, halika nga dito at tignan natin ang galing mo! I am from Cabiao, kung talagang matapang ka, bumaba ka rito at papatayin ka namin! x x x

Bukas, ang aabutin mo rito kung akala mo ay minura ka na, ay hindi pa namin naaabot ang pagmumura sa iyo. Mumurahin ka namin ng gabi. Putang ina mo x x x Putang ina ninyong mga Americans kayo, sino ang pupuntahan ninyo diyan, ang demonyong Presidente namin? ‘Yang gagong Pangulo namin diyan, bakit ninyo pupuntahan, gago naman iyan?

True to their word, they had frothed umaga, tanghali, at gabi, heroically cursing Mr. Marcos to his face, in the house where he lived, shocking even the hardened veterans of the Presidential Guard Battalion, but now in the afternoon sun, their young, clear faces turned Congressward, they seemed indeed, ten deep, and miles and miles of them, the hope of the fatherland.

Inside Congress, however, the familiar peremptoriness of security guards greeted guests—even the most inoffensive looking specimen got thoroughly sniffed at from head to foot and if you didn’t smell at all as if you had legitimate business on the premises, you were quickly waved off to a side door where khaki’d arms blocked the way. You thrust a press card and the guard’s sangfroid remained undented—one prepared, therefore, to offer a fistful of identification papers: credit card, driver’s license, insurance bill, plumber’s reminder, grocery list, beauty parlor receipt, but remembering from somewhere that occasionally a double whammy worked, one fixed the fellow with a look: left eye shut, right eye open, and then a whisper: Tsip, puede ba?

It worked, and one was suddenly inside, to one’s utter disappointment. One had not fought one’s way through to stand guard over a half empty hall, along with half a hundred TV cameras, and the minor functionaries of this Republic, the second officials, the junior assistants, who strutted and poked and pointed—“Mahina ang audio!”—but there were compensations. Eduardo Cojuangco, the husband of Gretchen Oppen, was there, in expensive barong; and so was Joe Aspiras, the ex-press secretary, in barong; and also Joe de Venecia, whom the papers called a Marcos Liberal, who had just shed (again according to the papers) an old love and acquired a new one, in coat and tie; a dear friend from Dumaguete: Herminio (Minion) Teves, the younger twin of Lorence, in coat and tie; Rafael Aquino, the Sorsogueño from Butuan City, in coat and tie. All brand new diputados, eager to be of service to the country, but already practised in the art (and craft) of winning people and influencing friends. You could tell—they strode as though they belonged (and did they not?), crossed their legs, scratched their colleagues’ back, held languid cigarettes, laughed their rich solid laugh. But no Rufino Antonio, poor man, with all his troubles—he should have stuck to selling motorcycles. However, with Antonio not there, was Roquito far behind? One glimpsed through a clump of faces, the Northern congressman, short, dark, chubby, smiling a genuine Ilocano smile, winning, irresistible, the kind where the charm comes straight from the solar plexus. You could see where Special Forces was written all over him.

The old-timers were drifting in—Pablo Roman, who owns Bataan; Fermin Caram, who owns Filipinas; Ramon Mitra, who doesn’t own Palawan (yet), but does have a pair of sideburns reaching down to his knees and the start of a gross look; Carmelo Barbero, Carlos Imperial, Floring Crisologo, Constantino Navarro. On this side, the Supreme Court Justices, in black robes; across the floor from them, the cabinet: Carlos P. Romulo, Juan Ponce Enrile, Franciso Tatad, Gregorio Feliciano, Leonides Virata, and Manang Pacita, wearing her hair shoulder-length, dressed in a bright Bonnie frock. Beside the cabinet, the lady justices of the court of Appeals; Cecilia Muñoz Palma, in a green terno, and that stalwart of the legal profession, Lourdes San Diego, who is said to know her law like some women know their beauty ritual, in a wine colored terno.

Where one sat, craning behind the backs of security, one was hemmed in, on the right, by TV announcers—“our very own Henry Halasan” in an off-white suit, demure and dimpled—and, on the left, by the military (the navy, the army, the air force) all in white duck. An attractive woman in a brief checkered dress desired to hurdle the railing that separated her from the military and one gallant junior aide extended a strong arm. She stood on a chair and lifted a leg and one could hear the military gasp in delight; my, my! If only all the subversives in the country had thighs like those—but after a while, the lady began to prove a nuisance, because she desired once more to return to the floor, and so executed that Open Sesame exercise and then once more, back with the military; and so on, three or four times, like a see-saw, and by then, the TV announcers’ Adam’s apples were bobbing up and down, and the junior aides were beginning to weary of her dance.

Then the Senators—Roy, Sumulong, Pelaez, Aytona, Tañada, Laurel, Padilla, Puyat, Eva Kalaw, feminine every inch of her, who walked in like Isadora Duncan, in a blue terno, but instead of wearing the panuelo across her shoulders, she’d wrapped it around her neck, and, voila! it was a scarf. However, the most beautiful neck on the floor that afternoon belonged to the Senadora from Laguna, Mme. Helena Benitez, the great and good friend of the Filipinescas dance troupe, who works very hard to get them their dollars and their accreditation; such a good sport, every chance she gets, she puts in a good word for them, they ought to make her muse or something.

One neck that looked different was Father Ortiz’s, buttoned high like a proper cleric’s, and if one hadn’t known him from previous invocations, you’d mistake him for chairman of the board of some multi-million peso mining corporation. All that eloquent talk of revolution has not affected the good and comfortable lives that many priests live. One remembered Father Ortiz from the NP convention of ‘67—he wasn’t Rector then—when he had also read a stirring invocation. He was to repeat his warning here, this afternoon, but in stronger words: “Our unsafe streets,” he said, prompting a Church non-lover to ask: if our streets are unsafe, how’d he get here? A people awaited redress, the young wanted change, the Rector said, an entire country trembled on the edge of revolution, the priest went on, but one thought, skeptic as usual, there were many voices today telling Government what was wrong with it, how many were telling the Church what was wrong with her?

Lift your seat, Mother, and look beneath the holy ass with which you’ve sat heavily on Property and Privilege for centuries, your banks, your estates, your tax-free schools—in the town where one comes from, the bishop owns a department store, a printing press, a tailoring shop, a pawnshop that preys especially on students, but daily, like the Pharisee, he bestows the blessings of Rome on a populace that sniggers behind his back because ten years ago, his family could barely eat in the province where he was born, but when he became bishop, he transported his entire clan to his diocese, and now each is propertied and privileged. Dialogue and keeping one’s cool being the fashion these days, one confesses an instinctive distrust of many fashions, including the fashion of thinking the Church can ever be revolutionary; confesses, further, to a habit of equating all the Church says with what one knows about it, personally; knows with one’s blood and mind: the Church flashes a shibboleth and you think you can grasp it and fight the evils of the world with it? The Irish father who talks endlessly of social justice likes to eat and drink well, and rides only with the rich of his town. That luckless priest who led a strike two years ago in the South is out of a job and out of a reputation, and is teaching in a diploma mill in Manila because his superiors chased him out of the province: what sayeth the Church to this?

The leaders of the Christian Social Movement live in low cost housing villages like Bel Air and Urdaneta; they speak to their servants in Tagalog; to their children in English, among themselves in Spanish—when their wives go to market, they say Espera to the fish vendor: these will lead a revolution? The Church reminds one of a greedy old whore, and like a greedy old whore, she won’t get off her back, even with the house next door already afire, because a couple of visitors are still in the parlor jingling their money, and she must have that too before she takes off.

THE HOUR WAS late, Father Ortiz said, and how right he was, for here came now the ladies of the congressmen and their senators. Most favored was the terno, no one was in pantsuit, and muted colors predominated. Was that a diamond that sparkled on a breast? Impossible to tell from the distance, but by their chins and their humps your could identify them: Mesdames Lopez, Puyat, Aldeguer, Roy—and Virginia Veloso who sat in the last seat, front row, two arm’s lengths away from Imelda Marcos, exactly as they had sat together in class 20 years ago in Tacloban, when Mrs. Veloso had been the darling of the social swirl and Mrs. Marcos had partly paid her way through school working in the library.

Flanked by Senator Puyat and Speaker Laurel, both suited, Mr. Marcos stood on the rostrum, in a barong. He looked rested. He bowed to the Supreme Court, he looked up at the klieg lights, he glanced at his watch. He’d worked his way from the front door to the rostrum, shaking hands, murmuring greetings—the amenities. One after the other, the two gavels banged: “For my part, I declare the House open for the session,” said Speaker Laurel, an old sad man with long white hair who must now live with the memory of a Bicol hill and a dead son. “For my part,” rasped Senate President Puyat, “I declare the Senate open for the session,” then the invocation that would have the editorial writers the next day tripping over each other, praising it, but meaningless to this one citizen until the Church gives up its pawnshops. And finally, Mr. Marcos’s quick descent to the microphones three steps below and the State-of-the-Nation address that would all but be forgotten in the terror with which that long week ended…

Thirty-five minutes he spoke, forty, if you counted the applause before and after, to a hall that had been fuller in previous years. But the persistent talk of assassination had finally worked its poison, and the overzealous guards had kept out more people than they should have. Some nuns there were in the mezzanine, their arms folded, looking quietly at Mr. Marcos; a row of impassive-faced diplomats sat below, among them the Honorable Mr. Addis whose garage the students had burned down a couple of years ago; and no more than half a hundred citizens—non-military, non-political, non-official—brown, sober, thoughtful, scattered through the hall.

While Mr. Marcos and his retinue walked out of the hall, to their fateful encounter with the papier mache crocodile and the cardboard coffin, the reporters on the floor swarmed all over the Opposition, cornering Senators Salonga, Aquino, and Roxas, who dutifully cleared their throats and gave their verdicts. Aquino said it for the trio—“Mr. Marcos should have addressed his speech to his cronies.” One watched them, holding the reporters at bay, recoiling every now and then from a too obtrusive microphone—Senators Salonga is a fine man and a good Christian; he has a sharp mind, people think; is a legal luminary, and if all that means, does he offer you a cup of coffee when you call on him, he certainly does. In the privacy of his office, he sounds almost like an old friend and you can put your guard down, but not quite all the way down, because the warning bell in the back of your mind doesn’t quite stop ringing. Why is that? It’s probably the smile. Most people smile with eyes and lips together, and so, indeed, does the senator from Rizal, but not all the time. Often, he smiles only with his lips, and his eyes take on a waiting, wary look, and when that happens, it leaves the onlooker disquieted.

As for Ninoy Aquino, he looked as if he’d recovered completely from Caroline Kennedy’s devastating character sketch of him—walkie-talkie in the swimming pool. Now he shifted his roly-poly body from one foot to the other; he scratched his ear, he inclined his head, he tucked his hands beneath his armpits. Such a checkered, meteoric career Ninoy’s has been—at 17, youngest correspondent in the Korean War; at 19, Southeast Asian expert, even if much of what he turned out was, according to some, a rehash of other experts’ books. And then in rapid succession, mayor, governor, senator, and, who knows? In ’73, if the stars are kind and the cards are gentle, President? Some people are appalled at the possibility of a boy President, but why not? If the children have taken over the streets with their stones and their clubs and their gasoline-soaked rags, why not Ninoy in the study room, whittling a slingshot? Perhaps, it’s because there will always be something underdone about Ninoy—ambition or insight or judgment—something that skipped the slow, natural process of ripening (Kung baga sa mangga, kinarburo).

And that shaggy-maned Capiz senator, Gerardo Roxas, who has stopped at last talking of his illustrious father—now, he shook his head, and his thick crop of graying hair threatened to fall, but didn’t. “No controls?” said he, who had miraculously escaped an “assassination” attempt in Capiz last November. “Ask the travellers, the students abroad, or the banks.” He would take to the air later that night, at 9, in this continuing comedy skit of Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo, to deplore with much tongue-clacking, the violence outside Congress—“…The first President,” intoned Senator Roxas with ill-concealed glee, “to be stoned in the history of this country.” Well, better that, Senator Sir, than to be spoken of now as “…the first President in the history of this country to sign away Philippine patrimony,” or to be known as the son of such a President; better a stone on the head than the memory of such a treachery, and then to revel in that singular betrayal and make political capital out of it.

ONE EMERGED TO find confusion outside. The President and his wife had sped away—“Binato si Marcos!” and the crowd milled in the lobby. A Congress employee manfully paged cars through the loudspeaker, but the system was not working, and no cars came. The sky was dark; there was the smell of smoke, the ominous ascent of embers; the Congress flag flew at half-mast for Salud Pareño of Leyte. Who was the enemy and who, the friend, was not clear at all. Below, the students hooted. Upstairs, the helmeted police waved and pushed. All stood in the lobby, milling around like so many aging cattle: come and go, duck and dart. One crossed the driveway to the embankment overlooking the fray, there was some running, some stoning, some swinging of clubs, and then a flurry behind us, and we turned to follow two policemen, one of them with a profusely bleeding mouth, dragging a pale and frightened boy in a brown T-shirt. The police would bring them all up, those they’d caught, seat them briefly in the corridor, and then disappear with their catch somewhere, while one alternated between lobby and embankment, driven from one to the other by confusion, and then curiosity. The approach to the driveway was guarded by soldiers (you could tell by their long guns and their silence), but the center was a melee of cop, Metrocom, congressman, and onlooker.

“Do you have a child below?” asked a cop from the shadows. “Because if you don’t have any,” he said, “go home.” No, was one’s certainly reply, and felt a vague, grateful stirring where one had nourished ten of them.

Right or wrong, one had kept one’s children off the streets all their lives, a canon, one had warned them clearly, they were not to break while they lived under one’s roof. They went to school and then came home. They had duties and chores, and tonight, while the police chased some other mothers’ children down below, one’s own young were at home getting supper for the small ones, washing the dishes, and locking up the kitchen before turning to their books—altogether not a popular kind of activism, not any kind of activism at all, not modern, but one’s personal, though passe, idea of parenthood. Parents surrender quickly these days and pay for their easy abdication with the broken skulls of their sons and the crushed legs of their daughters.

2.

AT FIVE P.M. the following Thursday, one sat in a roomful of police officers, listening to them recount their own version of Monday’s affray. There were colonels, majors, captains; police, PC, Metrocom—aging men with thinning hair and heavy paunches, looking (for a change) like what they (perhaps) really were: fathers.

“I have a son at Araneta U and I was afraid he was there,” said someone. Senator Pelaez’s name came up and another snorted audibly: “That guy,” he said. “He stood there, waving his hands, pacifying the crowd, saying ‘Stop it! Stop it! We’re here to protect you! Go ahead and demonstrate!’ Binato ikamo, pati siya nag-cover.

The force that secured Congress January 26 was called Task Force Payapa and was under the command of Colonel Jasmin, assisted by Major Izon. It consisted of an indeterminate number of PC soldiers, Metrocom troops, a Marine complement, and firemen, but on the shoulders principally of MPD’s Colonel Gerardo Tamayo fell the job of policing the rally. “I fielded only 270 men, 30 of them anti-riot,” Tamayo said, and everything was going on peacefully, until the Kabataang Makabayan ng Makati, arrived. They marched in singing, driving a wedge through the crowd and moved up to where the convent girls were, right up front. Earlier, the police had given the students two concessions they’d asked for, according to one colonel—the demonstrators had resented the two loudspeakers broadcasting the proceedings from inside Congress and now desired that the offending amplifiers be turned off. “This was done.” They also asked permission to use what one PC officer, reconstructing the evening, kept calling the “foyer” but was probably the elevated platform just below the flagpole, beneath the embankment, but whatever it was, permission was given and the students moved nearer the driveway.

Luis Taruc spoke and was, thank God, booed. Roger Arrienda, the only “revolutionist” who wears diamonds on his fingers and holds rather noisy court at Front Page Restaurant, spoke, and was booed. There was a squabble over the demonstrator’s microphone. Edgar Jopson of the NUSP was sending his rallyists home but Gary Olivar of the U.P. wanted to speak, and then—Colonel James Barbers picks up the story—“at exactly 5:55 p.m., the President came out, with the First Lady.” They booed him, but Mr. Marcos reportedly smiled: “Kumaway pa,” says Barbers.

You could feel the restless current up front—hands tossed (that’s the word the police use) this cardboard coffin, “but you know how the security is, there could have been a bomb inside, and so we tossed it right back. It returned; we tossed it back, like volleyball, you know. Then, the crocodile.” When Barbers heard the first stones, he pushed the President inside the car so hard Mr. Marcos hit his head and came up with a bump (“Police brutality! Someone laughs), but the President pushed his way out again because “we had forgotten Imelda” who stood outside protected by now by someone called Big Boy. (Big Boy would get a pop bottle in the face.) Colonel Fabian Ver’s men gave the Marcoses “body cover” and the car rolled away.

Did Tamayo, at this point, order his men to charge the youngsters? A Manila Times employee insists he did—“Rush them!” or words to that effect, Tamayo’s supposed to have said—but Tamayo says he didn’t. What he ordered his cops to do was to arrest those who had breached the peace. “Look,” Tamayo explains, “they were throwing stones, bottles, and clubs—would you like a picture of one cop who lost four teeth, and a picture of another cop who had to have ten stitches in the head, and a picture of another cop who got a nail in his knee?” The police say the troublemakers—“extremists”—came prepared; they had brought stones, the kind you buy at rock gardens; and clubs, dos por cuatro, nailed together. When the melee started, the police say, the boys ripped the clubs apart, and they had a lethal weapon, a sturdy dos por dos topped by a vicious nail. “On the other hand, our truncheons are made of rattan.” All right, but did they beat up even the girls? Not true, the police say, those girls are trained to be hysterical at the approach of a policeman, to drop to the ground and scream “Brutality!” at the top of their voices. And the missing nameplates? “Torn off by the students themselves,” someone declares with a very, very straight face. “Those extremists moved according to plan,” says Barbers who opens a book, Riots, Revolts, and Insurrections by Raymond Momboisse, and proceeds to read aloud a few pertinent quotes: The professional agitators use children, women, and old people (in Monday’s affray, two old veterans) to embarrass the police. Their aim is to cause bloodshed, it doesn’t matter whose; “to manufacture martyrs,” to gain a cause celebre, to precondition the public mind about police brutality. If there are police horses, they stick them with pins, or roll marbles under their feet, or slash away with razors.

How about police brutality? The TV showed them clearly beating up the fallen… A police officer says, “The trouble with these TV people is they like to position themselves behind police lines—they run when we run. Why don’t they station themselves behind the KM and shoot their footage from there?”

“Did you notice the demonstrators had more cameras on their side than the legitimate press had?” asks a police officer. “How quickly they spread the rumor that three students had been killed, and one body was at the NBI, being autopsied!” When someone raised a clenched fist, the stoning began. “Their technique is getting better and better. Even that tight romantic embrace the girls give the boys when they’re about to be arrested is part of their technique.” Some rookies “perhaps” got carried away, admitted an officer, but this was no tea party, as the long bloody hours of Friday subsequently proved.

Meanwhile, as the police reviewed their “facts” Salvador P. Lopez was being roundly scolded by Mr. Marcos in the Palace. Tuesday, he had called his faculty together to pass a resolution condemning police brutality; holding the Administration responsible for Monday’s labo-labo; and decrying the growing pattern of Fascist oppression in the country. Then, he decreed a certain per cent of their month’s salary be put into a common fund to help the students—totally unnecessary, according to a later clarification, because the University has a regular fund that provides for this—and after telling his faculty “I want a 100% attendance tomorrow,” adjourned the meeting. Wednesday’s papers carried pictures of Lopez being cheered on the steps of the U.P. for joining the students’ noble cause, but as anyone who has heard of Lopez from his Herald days could have foretold, the denouement of this episode was quite a surprise.

Putting together everything that columnists and U.P. activists themselves said afterwards, Lopez didn’t exactly approach the altar of student militancy with, beg pardon, clean hands. He saw in Monday’s mauling a chance to throw a smokescreen over his own not-so-little troubles at the U.P., among them, a brewing rebellion of some faculty who thought his policies oppressive and wanted “democratization”—whatever that means in Diliman; his pay had also just been raised to P48,000 (he says without his intervention) amidst loud yelps from his underpaid employees; and—this is a beaut—Lopez wasn’t exactly the favorite anito of the campus radicals. They distrusted him, in fact, and as one student leader, speaking over the radio hours after Friday’s terror, put it: “He was like a Pontius Pilate (in the Palace), washing his hands of us when Marcos began berating him! Of those who went to see Marcos, we know who are really for us, and who aren’t.”

So Lopez and his safari went to the Palace, Thursday afternoon, hiring buses which they left at Agrifina Circle, walking from there to Malacañang, in buri hats, umbrellas, and scarves, taking care to give their better side to the camera—Lopez was always getting snapped doing something momentous, his broad face turned symbolically somewhere, that mouth open, his large hands spread, but, you see, he’d been taught all the tricks of success by a master, the great CPR himself, whose ashtrays he had probably fetched in his Herald and UN days, and he’d learned the fine art of accommodation. He was against whoever had just turned his back, and was for whoever faced him at the moment, and when he walked into Mr. Marcos who asked, first, if the resolution was the best the U.P., known for its proficiency in English, could master (“This reads like a student resolution!”); second, if in condemning police brutality, Lopez had all the facts?); and third, in “holding the Administration responsible for the pattern of repression and the violation of rights,” wasn’t Lopez making “a general gunshot accusation”?

If Lopez had been sincerely convinced about the justice of his cause, he would have stayed firm, wouldn’t he, now, but having patently espoused the students’ cause out of convenience, Lopez, again out of convenience, began to backtrack. He apologized to Mr. Marcos for the wording of the resolution and said it was not possible to “include all the specific issues”; moreover, it was not a resolution of accusation, Lopez now said, but “a declaration of concern.”

Lopez would have only one ally among the columnists in the next few days. Amando Doronila—who is not really as churlish as he sounds. If you took his column away, Mr. Doronila could still earn a living, assisting at Mass or lecturing on The Verities or chopping off the hands of those who pick their noses in public. The fact that Mr. Doronila alone saw in Lopez’s embarrassing docility the equivalent of an intellectual Tirad Pass or Custer’s Last Stand is not enough basis for concluding they’re two of a kind. Lopez, like a man who has worked hard all his life, looks forward only to retirement and a regular paycheck in the sunset of his life. Mr. Doronila, however, desires, above all, to die at the stake, sunset or sunrise, it doesn’t matter, for a belief he holds dear: the Doronila Monomania, part of the messianic syndrome, — a self-righteousness that makes you want to puke; the conviction that he alone is right all the time (isn’t Mrs. D. — ever?).

One recalls that curve one threw him about the word media, and the flurry with which he tried to hit it. Dr. Doronila, who likes to make these very important pronouncements above government, foreign affairs, economics, juvenile delinquency, the stock exchange, the penal system, democracy and similar topics, obviously didn’t know what hole media had crawled out of; probably thought it was Greek, as in Jason and Media (sic), and most Greeks may wear skirts but they’re not plural beneath, if you know what we mean. One’s concern for Dr. Doronila is such that one must warn him about bad grammar: it’s like bad breath, no one tells you about it, not even your best friend.

3.

THE CLIMAX of that long week came Friday, January 30, the inevitable finis to endless days of obscenity, ranting, and clubbing, but this time, the Putang ina mos came out of the barrels of guns, crackled above the sound of fire and breaking glass, exploded in the thud of truncheon against flesh.

The trouble erupted at 6:15 p.m., just as Edgar Jopson of the NUSP, and Portia Ilagan of the NSL, were leaving the Palace front door. Since 3:30 that afternoon, they had been closeted with Mr. Marcos in a dialogue, during which they had repeatedly demanded that Mr. Marcos put down in writing his pledge not to seek a third term. According to eyewitnesses, Mr. Jopson was particularly insolent, elementary courtesy obviously not being part of the standard equipment in the activist’s kit.

(In one’s youth, when you used obscenity, you washed your mouth with soap and water afterwards, but you can see how liberated the take-over generation is today: “All right ‘yan, brod, basta’t for the country, putang ina nating lahat!”)

Jopson and Ilagan had promised Mr. Marcos there would be no violence because the demonstrators had marshals to police the students, they said (they had demanded that the police—a few traffic cops—and the PGB be withdrawn), but in the lobby of the Palace what should greet the two but—irony, irony—the sound of bulbs breaking; and above the ominous rumble of running feet, the noise of exploding glass, rose the familiar obscenity of their fellow revolutionaries: Hoy, Jopson, putang ina mo, lumabas ka rito at tingnan natin kung ano ang mangyayari sa iyo!

By then, their brothers in militancy were ramming Gate 4 open with a commandeered fire truck whose driver they had first mauled. They set fire to another parked car inside the gate. They threw Molotov cocktails, pillbox bombs, and stoned the windows of the Malacañang clinic.

Back at the Palace front door, continues this eyewitness, “Jopson and Ilagan looked suddenly sick, like two kids who’d bitten off more than they could chew. The Palace grounds were dark, and at first, we thought they didn’t want to walk back to their friends because of the darkness. Colonel Ver offered to light their way with the headlights of his jeep. Jopson nervously refused.” This boy who, for hours, had ranted in the study room, talking to Mr. Marcos as though Mr. Marcos were his houseboy; who’d gestured floridly like some latter-day Napoleon dictating surrender terms to a beaten foe at Austerlitz-on-thePasig, would not walk, alone, in the dark, to his friends. His courage stopped short of that one simple act.

Hadn’t they, Wednesday that week, flaunted a sign outside Gate 3: “We too can suffer, we too can die”? Ah, yes, but not in the dark, and not alone, and not without the cameras. They clung like children to the very people their group had cursed without letup—accompanied by one PGB captain and a security man, Jopson and Ilagan were ferried across the river and seen safely out of Malacañang Park.

Before the wild night was ended, four students lay dead, innocent bystanders all, and four mothers weep today. Over a hundred were in hospitals, injured; and three hundred more, detained at the MPD and in Camp Crame. Most of the casualties fell in the see-sawing battled for Mendiola bridge. Driven from there, the demonstrators had retreated to old Azcarraga, in front of a Nawasa branch office. There, they set a Yujuico bus on fire and sent it rolling towards Mendiola bridge. They set fire to parked jeeps and cars, Meralco posts; upturning Yeba’s iron railings; Yeba who had said Thursday, his great big beautiful eyes mesmerizing his audience, that woman’s mouth of his pouting now and then, that he would lead the police, and the strategy they would employ would be one of “containment.”

Hours and hours later, the radio broadcast an appeal of two U.P. student leaders for food, for money, for help. They’d been set upon, one said, clubbed and shot and arrested. The Metrocom had blocked all exits in Sampaloc, in Quiapo, in España, and picked up, willy-nilly, all those they fancied, but kind people, people who sympathized with the revolution, had put up many students in their own houses, fed and bedded them—one reproduces here, as well as one can remember, that appeal, because two things about it disquieted the listeners: the U.P. student sounded too much like a parrot, sticking to just one jargon, and for one who would bring about a better world, he reasoned with a child’s petulance: Mga kababayan, kami po ay nangangailangan ng tulong n’yo, no, pagkain, o pera, no, pakidala lang ninyo sa U.P. Student Council, Diliman, no, at matatanggap namin iyan, no. Kailangan po natin ibagsak ‘yang Pascistang si Marcos, no, kami mga anak ninyo na binugbog, binaril, no, ng mga kawal ng Pascistang si Marcos, no. Magsamasama tayong lahat, no, magkaisaisa tayo, no, para sa bayan, para sa demokrasya, no.

And the violence?

Papano, sa ganyang demonstration talagang mayroong mga maiinit ang ulo, no, pagod na pagod na kami sa mga broken promises ni Marcos, no, totoo nga, namato ang ilan sa amin, no, nagsusunog ng kaunti, nagpaputok ng rebentador, no, ngunit ang lahat ba namang iyan ay sapat na upang kami ay bugbugin, sipain, barilin, at arestohin?

They’d stoned a little, burned a little.

Sow a little anarchy—reap a little death, and death (big or little or medium-sized) is always, alas, for real.

From Yeh Yeh to Go Go, July 16, 1966

From Yeh Yeh to Go Go

 By Quijano de Manila

 

“I don’t care what they say I won’t stay in a world without love!”

 

July 16, 1966—THE SECOND British Invasion was as big a flop as the first.

The Mersey Sound such a tonic in cans, proved a messy sound when fresh, and locally provoked a no-mercy sound. Yeh, yeh, cried the four evangelists of beat. Go, go, snarled the locals—and they meant away, to hell, climb a tree, ’lis jan.

Well, at least, in this year of grace 1966, it wasn’t the Yankees we were telling to go home on the fourth of July. The Grand and Glorious got stolen from the Stars & Stripes by the Union Jack, but the show it stole but was not grand but inglorious.

Four boys had us on toast, had us on string; we were had. Our whole society. From the palace down. The constabulary and the police. The army, the navy and the marines. City Hall and the Fourth Estate. Not to mention Big Business.

Now we’re all crying aghast that the Emperor had no clothes on. We’re fooling ourselves again. The Emperor was dressed, it’s we who were naked. We got the shock treatment—and on that score the Beatles were no flop. They fulfilled in Manila what’s their mission in the world: the exposing of status and pretense. On which side of the footlights were the shams? Scriptures have the word for it: “For he has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the wise.”

To a world so anxious to be “in,” the Beatles have demonstrated how to flee so far “out” you become the most “in.” They have reversed all the maxims. Does mommy say you have to look clean-cut to get on in the world? So the Beatles wore their shags uncut and uncombed. Do the schoolma’ams teach that cleanliness is next to godliness? So the Beatles frankly stink. Are good manners and right conduct supposed to unlock the narrower doors of society. So the Beatles play the boor and won’t go see a duchess if they don’t feel like it. Is it considered elegant to understate? So the Beatles go the whole hog, whether in music or attire.

By ignoring all the prescriptions to achieve status, they have achieved status. They have proved you don’t have to be neat, clean, orderly, cultured, refined, holy or conventional to make a million, become an idol and get decorated by the Queen. Theirs is the triumph of the Outsider and their function in our time is to explode the bromides of the herd.

But Philippine society is an anxious status-seeker, especially in the world of Western mass culture. Whatever is “in” there, we would be with it. We are a conventional people, and even when we try to be unconventional it’s for a very conventional reason: because “everybody’s doing it.” We would show ourselves as much “in” as any Westerner and our grasping at the latest fashions, the newest idioms, the hottest dances betrays our craving for cultural status in western society. Now the kind of people we are is precisely the sort of audience the Beatles are tooled to outrage. So, they came, they saw, they raped. The encounter in Manila was between the authentically unconventional and those merely pretending to be. And the pretenders got exposed.

Because the Beatles are supposed to be very “in,” we had to make all that fuss over them to prove that we, too, are “in”—but do we ever ponder why the Beatles are so “in” with Westerners? We can’t blame it all on advertising and the mass media. Similar efforts of those media to build up such wholesome figures as Pat Boone and Rosemary Clooney got nowhere with a dull thud. Publicity can not sell everything. It takes more than a good pro to get you room at the top. What is it in the Beatles that speaks to the here-and-now? Because we don’t know we are outraged and say the Emperor was naked. But the Emperor’s new clothes are there only for those who have eyes for the really new and are not merely aping the enthusiasm of others.

It is a hoary chestnut that we Filipinos ape the appearance but miss the essence of our Western borrowings. Our youngsters, for instance, think that a mop of hair and a guitar suffice to turn them into Beatles—and we deplore the imitation. Yet the qualities that make the Beatles so inescapable a fact of our times are the very qualities that we need to get us moving—like the delight in doing what everybody else is not doing, or the irreverence for mores & manners, or the urge to be singular, spontaneous, original, new, or the courage to be unconventional, unpleasant, outside, not with it. These are the qualities that make the Beatles so attractive to a Westerner, that make them such authentic exemplars of modern nonconformism, of the disillusion with the old rules by which men lived. But we and our mop-haired would-be Beatles have no idea                                                                                                                                                          of that spirit of rebellion, of that taste for spontaneity.

Philippine values are held values; the scene at the airport was of a herd driving out the odd, the rum, the singular, the outrageous, the maverick, the new. It was a gesture of the Conformist Community, the Conventional Society.

Culture has been invoked to justify the tar-and-feathers. Those who look down their noses at the Beatles as mere mass cult and noise may do well to ponder if what’s deemed vulgarity by delicate souls may not really be the same kind of vitality yawping from art forms once considered low and vulgar but now revered as high culture—like the English ballad, Italian opera, and Negro jazz.

Anyway, the Beatles’ place in culture, whether pop or snob, is secure. Their two films are already classics; and it’s a very safe bet that some of their “noises”—beat madrigals like “If I Fell” and “Yesterday” and “The Night Before”—will outlive, will outlast any number of symphonies or sonatas or other long-hair stuff being written today that might just as well have been written in some other era. But the Beatles speak the language of now; they’re instant; they affirm. Their yeh yeh is in the spirit of the biblical yeah. At a time when the gravediggers seemed to be taking over the world they burst forth accentuating the affirmative. The people, yes. John Lennon said it in a memorable passage: “The Bomb? Nuclear disarmament? Well, like everybody else I don’t want to end up a festering heap, but I don’t stay up nights worrying. I’m preoccupied with Life, not Death.”

How could they not flop in a land which only wants not to be disturbed, not to change, not to be shocked? Having made a career of outrageousness, they have taken for granted that any audience that asks for them is asking to be outraged. If they made a mistake in Manila, the mistake is flattering to us: they assumed we were in the same league. But they were Batman in Thebes.

Having said that, one feels free to feel outraged at whoever organized their show in Manila, the staging of which belonged to the primitive days of vaudeville. Outrageousness is not the same as stupidity. And stupid is too mild a word for backward incompetence. Even in Thebes.

Ticket to Ride

 

Negotiations to bring the Beatles over took a year, were completed about two months ago, with the local promoters—Cavalcade Inc.—getting the Beatles as part of a package deal that included five other shows, among them the Dave Clark Five, Shirley Bassey and Johnny Mathis. You have to buy those other shows to get the Beatles because they’re all handled by the same booking company. The price of the Beatles for their one-day appearance in Manila has been the subject of much speculation, but Ramon Ramos of Cavalcade says that the price was “not a hundred thousand dollars, nor half of that, not even a quarter of that.”

Cavalcade originally intended to have the Beatles at the Araneta Coliseum, but the Aranetas very sensibly balked at Cavalcade’s plan to charge a top price of fifty pesos for the show. At the “people’s coliseum” said the Aranetas, no seat was to cost more than ten pesos. Cavalcade, fearing to lose money, wouldn’t bring down its alpine scale of prices and booked the Beatles into the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. That was the big basic bubu. As one showman remarks, no show has ever succeeded at the football stadium because promoters don’t have control of the gates. Besides, a football stadium just is no place for a show. So, everybody lost out. The Beatles flopped; the cheated audience fumed; and Cavalcade is just as unhappy as everybody else because it lost money on the show.

It didn’t expect to, of course. There were lots of tie-ups. Two soft-drinks companies “sponsored” the show—that is, financed the ads in exchange for the soft-drinks concession at the stadium during the show. The Elizaldes offered their yacht as a floating hotel for the Beatles in exchange for an exclusive TV interview. The Elizaldes, too, later had reason to regret the deal.

With so many wild rumors flying about the week before the show (the Beatles were already in town, had been landed by submarine) the promoters called a press conference that has become a joke among newsmen. Whatever they asked at the press conference the reply they got was “That’s confidential.” Had the Beatles really already arrived? “That’s confidential.” When were they really arriving? “That’s confidential.” Joe Quirino says that if anyone had asked if the Beatles really existed the reply would surely have been: “That’s confidential!”

The advance hoopla was titillating. A local company insured the Beatles for a million pesos. Word went around that the Beatles would travel around Manila in a helicopter. The PC, the CAA, Customs and the police forces of Manila and the suburbs would be on “red alert” from the moment the Beatles landed. Security measures would be the tightest since the Eisenhower visit. Invited to attend the show as “guests of honor” were 1,500 of the Philcag volunteers for Vietnam. Pro-Beatle and anti-Beatle groups were said to be readying demonstrations. A teen-age girl threatened to jump off a building if she didn’t get to meet the Beatles. Customs Commissioner Jacinto Gavino sternly ordered out of his office a middle-aged man who had tried to give him tickets to the Beatle show. “Offering complimentary tickets to government officials amounts to bribery,” said the commissioner.

In this case he had a point, considering the prices of the tickets. Tickets to ride indeed, and a lot of people would later feel they had been taken for a ride. The range was: P50 for the patron, P30 for ringside, P20 for field, P15 for grandstand, P5 for the distant heights, and P2 for the outermost steppes, where the poor plebes, cooped behind chicken wire, strained in vain to see and hear. But then even people in the front rows found they couldn’t hear a thing. This was literally, as the local cry goes, Harang!

The Beatles planed in at half-past four Sunday afternoon, July 3, to the squealing of a crowd variously estimated as from 5,000 to 10,000. The most vociferous of the welcomers were the American girls and the mestizas, most of whom were mini-skirted, bobbysox’d and booted for the occasion. Also decorating the occasion were PC troops, police troops, motorcycle cops in red cowboy hats, armored cars, fire trucks, riot squad jeeps and police prowl cars. Their first glimpse of this Philippine scenery prompted one of the Beatles to ask: “Is there a war in the Philippines?” Why is everybody armed?”

Despite George Harrison’s red jacket and Ringo Starr’s striped blazer, the Beatles, when they emerged from the plane, struck many as being dressed in a more muted style than expected. “Faded” is reporter Joe Quirino’s impression of the color of their clothes. Actually, the Beatles were mostly in beige, their shirts open at the neck. The one flamboyance that caught every eye was George Harrison’s stripped shoes. But the Beatle locks were as shaggy as anyone could have wished and newshen quickly noted the quartet’s exuberant aroma.

A white limousine instead of a helicopter was waiting  on the runway to whisk the Beatles away as soon as they had got off the plane, but this plan was frustrated by Customs Collector Salvador Mascardo, who drove up to runway and told the Beatles their hand luggage, too, would have to go through customs. This irked the troupe; they clung to their bags and swore. “You’ll go back to the plane if you don’t surrender those things,” threatened Mascardo. The Beatles finally yielded, still grumbling. When they got the bags later, they took a peek inside and sarcastically announced: “Nothing missing.” Then into the white limousine they dashed and got the hell out of there as fast as they could, while their waiting fans wailed in despair.

First stop was at the Philippine Navy headquarters, where the TV-press conference was to be held in the War Room. Two fire engines were on the ready on the Vito Cruz corner of the boulevard. No cars, except the one bearing the Beatles, could enter the Navy compound. Everyone had to get off 20 meters away and walk to the gate. Special passes had been issued to ensure that only TV and press folk would be at the conference, but newsmen griped that of the some 40 people in the War Room only about ten were newsmen: “The others must have been relatives of the brass.”

The War Room is small and narrow, with about seven rows of five seats each in the center, facing a long table on a dais at one end of the room. This is where the top brass sit during briefings. On the wall behind the table are two signs: top secret – confidential.

When the Beatles came in and sat down at the table all the photographers jumped up and went wild. During the commotion John Lennon yelped “Woof!Woof!” and Ringo pranced about shouting “Shall we dance?” Order was restored after ten minutes and the newsmen took over. “Joe, start it,” said somebody to reporter Quirino, who obliged with an inevitable query. “How many times,” he asked the hairy four in general, “do you have you hair cut?” Cooed John Lennon: “Many times!” And when was the last time? “1993!” giggled Lennon. (“That Lennon,” says Quirino, “was the most smart-alecky of all.”)

Lennon the Leader and Paul McCartney did most of the talking. George Harrison was not as loud as his clothes but revealed a dry wit when heard from. “Give it to whoever deserves it,” said he of Vietnam. Ringo proved to be the most austere, despite those jewels on every finger—“not from my wife, from my girlfriends.”

Question and answer followed the current cult of the absurd. What attracted their wives to them? “Sex.” What did their wives do when they were away? “Have a holiday.” What was their favorite song?  “God Save The Queen.” What was their second favorite song? “God Save The King.” What would they be doing ten years from now? “We don’t even know if we’ll be around tomorrow. That was ominous, as was their reply to the question: what was their latest tune? “Philippine Blues.” They can say that again. And when asked what they thought of the Rolling Stones, another top British combo coming soon to Manila, the Beatles allowed that the Stones were nice rollers, and added: “We’ll warn them!” The boys spoke more wisely than they knew.

When the half hour was up, Brian Epstein, the Beatle manager who measured out their time as though every minute were gold, cut short the cackle with a curt: “Gentlemen, that’s all.” And he rushed his wards away. Everybody agrees that Brian Epstein is proof enough that it wasn’t inspired pro work that made the Beatles. One young lady of Manila thoughtfully reports that Mr. Epstein “always looked pissed off.”

From the War Room the boys were taken to the Elizalde yacht Marima, which was waiting at the Manila Yacht Club. Two young mestizas in boots were observed screaming from the dock that, if not allowed on board, they would “broadcast” to the whole city where the Beatles were. Photographers on the dock begged for a picture of the Beatles looking out a cabin window. The Beatles were agreeable but were shooed away by Epstein. “No pictures!” roared Epstein. And out into Manila Bay fled the Marima.

On board, initially, were the Beatles and their four managers, Fred Elizalde and his sister Mrs. Menandro, Binibining Maynila of 1966 Josine Pardo de Tavera Loinaz, and a small group from Cavalcade. Two TV men from the Elizaldes’ Channel 11 were also supposed to go along but had been ordered off by Epstein, who said he didn’t care what the hell station they were from: there was to be no TV interview—though this was the deal for using the Elizalde yacht. At the breakwater Mrs. Menandro and the Cavalcade group got off. So, when the Marima proceeded for a cruise round Manila Bay, the only people on board, besides the crew, were the Beatle troupe, Fred Elizalde and Josine Loinaz. Fred Elizalde says he strictly hewed to the agreement that there was to be no company on board.

Josine Loinaz says that, away from the madding crowd, the Beatles turned out to be charming chaps—“very natural.” They lolled around on the front deck, in rubber sandals, and played tapes of Indian classical music. “I had a nice long chat with George, the nicest of them all.” Paul had a Scotch-and-Coke, the others had “Scotch-and-I-don’t-know-what.” They seemed to be enjoying themselves, were completely relaxed; only Epstein raged about, complaining about everything, until even his wards twitted him for being so cranky. Josine thinks he was so “pissed off” because he had to put up a P7,500 re-exportation bond for the trope’s equipment. He wouldn’t even allow the boys to autograph four photos for her.

Having seen to the dinner—a consommé, fried chicken, and filet mignon with mashed potatoes, carrots and sweet peas—Fred Elizalde and Josine Loinaz then got off the yacht so the troupe could dine alone. When they went back later that evening they passed a dinghy full of young people obviously coming from the yacht, which was back in the Manila Yacht Club basin. It turned out that a brother of Fred and some 18 of his friends had, without authorization, boarded the yacht. They stayed only a while, but it was the straw that broke Mr. Epstein’s cranky camel’s back. The Beatles themselves were undisturbed. Fred and Josine found them having soup on deck. But Epstein was insisting on moving the troupe to a hotel. While he raged the dinner grew cold. If the Beatles had thought of staying, despite Epstein, the prospect of a cold dinner was enough to make them change their minds. “But they were nice right to the very end,” says Josine Loinaz. George Harrison told her: “We want to come back to visit when this craze has died down and we’re not famous any more.”

Then he and his pals followed Epstein to the Manila Hotel.

Hard Day’s Night

 

Their second day in Manila was D-Day: D for Disaster. Somebody who observed them at the hotel offers an explanation for their listless behavior: the boys were starving. They had had no dinner the night before, had ordered room-service food and found it “uneatable.” During their stay in Manila they subsisted mostly on boiled eggs. Only Paul McCartney found the energy to go to sightseeing. He stole out in a car and drove around the city for a couple of hours. The others are said to have had chicken in their rooms.

The Beatles occupied a suite and about half a dozen adjoining rooms on the fourth floor. Teen-age intelligence located them as soon as they moved in, but no crowds gathered. Only a small curious group headed by a late mayor’s son showed up on the night of the transfer; and though no measures were taken to isolate the fourth floor it drew no storm troops from the pimply tribe the following day, the day of the show.

What happened that morning stole the show from the show.

Ramon Ramos of Cavalcade says that the Beatles were provided with a program of their Manila schedule as soon as they arrived and that the schedule included a call at the Palace. After the press conference and before they parted that night, Ramos again reminded Epstein that his boys were expected at Malacañang the following morning: “Eptein just rejected it.” Ramos says he didn’t notify the Palace because he still hoped to save the appointment. The Beatles had expressed a willingness to go; only Epstein was being ornery.

The next morning, Ramos, Col. Morales of the MPD and Col. Flores of the PC were at the Beatles suite trying to persuade the troupe to keep the Palace appointment. But the Beatles had now become as tepid as their manager about the courtesy call. One suspects that too much pressure made the boys contrary: they don’t like to be told what to do. Afterwards, they would say they knew nothing about the appointment. But they were right there in the room while it was being discussed, when Epstein said to Ramos, Morales and Flores: “If they want to see the Beatles, let them come here!” And when told that they included President Marcos, one of the Beatles shrugged: “Who he?” (Later, on arriving in London, they would quip of the Philippines that “we didn’t even know they had a president”!)

Meanwhile, in the Palace, from 200 to 400 youngsters, mostly friends of Imee and Bongbong Marcos and children of high government officials, had been waiting since mid-morning with the First Lady. The Palace table, set for lunch, had places for the Beatles. The appointment was for eleven. At noon, the First Lady gave up; the children could go on waiting if they wanted to but she had other things to do. The children would wait until long past lunchtime, then give up too. Imee and Bongbong Marcos tore up their tickets for the Beatles show. Imee remarked that the only Beatles song she liked was “Run for Your Life.”

That afternoon, in Malate, where the first British invaders emplaced their siege artillery, an audience of 40,000 assembled to watch the second British invaders let go with their guns. The barrage was a dud.

The matinee show of the Beatles at the football stadium was a sellout: it was also a sell. Most of the audience couldn’t see or hear a thing. In effect, the Beatles stood up their audience as they had stood up the Palace. Joe Quirino, who sat right in front of the stage, says that all he could hear was the clatter of the drums. So he watched the audience instead. He says that those in the front rows had a puzzled expression on their faces, as though wondering: “Are these the Beatles?” He has a word for the Beatles’ performance: “Lackadaisical.” The applause of the audience was “perfunctory.”

An air-conditioned dressing room had been built for the Beatles on the football field, right behind the stage, and they stayed there from early afternoon until after the evening show. The word for the stage will also have to be “perfunctory”—a small makeshift platform, a black backdrop, a scatter of glitter. A wire fence separated the stage from the front rows. Security was massed on both sides of the stage. From time to time, into the space between the wire fence and the front rows darted rabbity girls, mostly American or mestiza, to squeal and squirm and dart away again. The rest of the audience sat stolid, having stopped straining to see or hear. They had paid all that money just to sit in the hot sun. The Beatles sang one song after another, eleven songs in all. Then they just stopped and disappeared. There was no call for an encore. Nobody had swooned. Everybody griped about the sound system.

Because of the complaints, Cavalcade made “certain changes” in the sound system. “We tried to give them the best sound we could,” said Ramos. “The second show was much better.”

Take it from a Sharlie who was there: nothing but nothing could have been worse than the second show.

First point against it was the confusion at the gates, where the snafu was created by sheer stupidity and ineptitude. People had bought tickets in advance to avoid having to stand in line but found they had saved themselves no trouble: they had to fight their way in.

At the P20 and P50 gate, for instance, the waiting crowd grew bigger and bigger, and bitterer and bitterer, unable to enter because, it was explained later, whoever was in charge of the gate had gone to eat and taken the key with him. When the gate was finally opened, the crowd, now packed hard and seething, was told to form in lines. But how line up on that narrow street where military trucks were continually passing? Putting four or five ticket collectors at the gate would have emptied the street in no time; but no, there was only one ticket collector and he collected so slowly the crowd’s impatience mounted by the minute. After all it’s no joke to be crushed tight together in sweltering heat, especially if you’ve paid through the nose for comfort.

Moreover, those in charge of the gate couldn’t seem to make up their minds. The gate was closed, the gate was opened, the gate was closed again. The crowd now numbered in the thousands but was being admitted one person at a time through a chink in the gate.  Exasperated, the crowd began to go wild, booing indignantly and yelling that they wanted to return their tickets. In the crush, where everyone was swimming in sweat, women screamed, children got trod on, clothes got ripped. It was a perfect setup for a riot and what’s miraculous is that it didn’t develop into a disaster, though one heard of one girl being mashed, of another losing her blouse.

People who finally got through that chink in the gate fumed aloud that whoever had organized the show should be arrested. Had one paid from P20 to P50 to have one’s life imperiled? Nobody was in a mood to enjoy any show. Only a very great performance would have been worth that ordeal—and the performance that night wasn’t.

Inside, one found the field swarming with mopheads and uniforms; the police were massed solid on the aisles. The stage was a faraway speck in a sea of seats, all of which were arranged to produce the maximum strain in viewing. Even the lighting had evidently been designed for discomfort; one of the performers had to ask that a floodlight be turned off because it was shining into the viewers’ eyes, making it impossible for them to see. Soaked in sweat, one carved a cool drink and was offered, at double the usual prices, a choice between two pop drinks, in hot dusty bottles. If there’s anything more nauseating than a urine-warm cola drink it’s a urine-warm orange drink. One’s solace was that a lot of people that night got so nauseated they swore off those two pop drinks forever.

The first part of the show mostly featured dishonesty, being rehash, number for number, song for song, gag for gag, performer for performer, of the first part of the recent Peter and Gordon show, which many in the audience must have seen. That people were made to pay up to P50 to see a rehash of an old show is a feat worthy of a Barnum; and it’s no excuse to say that the audience only came to see the Beatles. The audience paid for a whole show, and the Beatles surely deserved the best new program that could be assembled. And if you put on a show for which you charge extravagant prices, you should at least feel bound to serve something fresh, certainly not warmed-over hash. How performers reputed to be of the first rank could have lent themselves to the imposture is a question which, one hopes, doesn’t invite one answer: that show business, too, has suffered a collapse of professional ethics. Things weren’t cheered along by an emcee who sadistically warned the audience that the Beatles wouldn’t be appearing and that each number was the last one. Did he hope to stir up a riot?

And so we come to the Beatles. So alive, original and imaginative were their two films one expected a live show of theirs to be just as different and inventive. Alas, they performed like any local combo, only not so spiritedly. There was no style, no verve, no poetry to their performance. They stood before mikes and opened their mouth, that was all. It was a one-two-three, “Now we’ll do this song.” They sang. “Now we’ll do this next song.” They sang. And so on, until they had sung, very listlessly, all the ten songs they had to sing. Then they bowed out. Who would have cared for an encore? Even the periodic squealing of girls seemed mechanical, not rapture but exhibitionism. The audience was too vexed over the poor sound, if they could hear at all, and the languor on stage, if they could see at all. Those who couldn’t see or hear didn’t miss anything.

Pouring out of the stadium, the folks who had paid up to P50 to be gypped were rebuked by the realities of their land. On the traffic island on Dakota, they saw a child asleep on the grass. Three more dirty babies slept on newspapers on the Vito Cruz sidewalk.

 

Help!

 

Their last day in Manila was suspenseful for the Beatles, who didn’t know till the last moment if they were leaving. The bags were packed, the cars waited, but they sat or paced about in their rooms in anxiety, waiting for word. Internal Revenue had announced it wouldn’t let the Beatles depart till they had paid taxes on their earnings here. Their managers and promoters scuttled back and forth, trying to get a clearance. A surety bond was finally put up. The Beatles learned they could take the 3:30 p.m. plane out.

The managers left ahead for the airport, with the luggage. The PC and the police had withdrawn security from the troupe; General Manager Willie Jurado of the MIA had announced he would extend no port courtesy to the Beatles. Courtesy? They couldn’t even get service! No porter would touch their bags; the managers had to lug the bags themselves to the airline counter.

At around two the Beatles checked out of their rooms. On the fourth-floor corridor waited two small groups of female fans, teen-agers and young matrons, who chased the boys into the elevator. Epstein had to hurl himself into the crowded lift to get on at all. The boys dashed out the backdoor of the hotel, where the cars waited. A single motorcycle cop escorted the motorcade to the airport. One car was full of security guards hired from a private agency.

What happened at the airport, according to one eyewitness, wouldn’t have happened if the Beatles hadn’t started running as though indeed running for their lives, though nobody was chasing them. On the ground floor of the airport was a small group of girl fans but otherwise no unusual crowd, just people seeing friends off. As soon as the Beatles alighted from their car they made a dash for the escalator. This drew attention to them. There were shouts of “The Beatles! The Beatles!” The teen-age girls then scampered after them. The Beatles reached the escalator and found it had been turned off. They had to run up to the second floor.

On the second floor they continued their frantic run, newsmen and the security guards at their heels. The people on the second floor may have thought that the Beatles were being hunted down and, following mob instinct, joined what they thought a chase, booing and hitting at the boys. Only Paul McCartney escaped the blows, being the fastest runner of all.

By the time they reached the customs zone the crowd had become a ferocious mob that couldn’t be kept out. The Beatles were rescued by MIA General Manager Jurado, who had gone to customs to expedite the Beatles’ departure himself. The Palace had sent Kokoy Romualdez to the airport with instructions to stop any violent demonstration and get the Beatles safely on board their plane. “Beatles here!” cried Jurado and beckoned them into a corner. Bu the crowd surged all around as Jurado swiftly but grimly processed the Beatles’ papers: he was responsible for them, all he wanted was to get them off his hands as fast as possible. All the time the crowd was whacking at the troupe and kicking them in the legs. When the papers were finished Jurado shouted: “Beatles out!” The crowd opened up but the poor boys and their managers now had to run a gantlet from customs to the waiting room. As they fled through the double line of jeerers they were cuffed, buffeted, kicked. They were all very pale. Ringo caught an uppercut on the chest; Epstein was knocked down to his knees; another manager dropped flat on the floor. The tearful girls at the scene were booed when they remonstrated and had to be escorted away by the police. American girls on the observation roof who cheered when the Beatles hove into view, running towards the plane, were likewise booed, and so menacingly the Americanitas thought it prudent to fade away fast.

When the boys were already on board and the ramp had been removed, Immigration suddenly remembered that the papers of two Beatle managers had not been stamped. So back went the ramp, down came the frightened managers, and the Beatles got an extra turn of the screw as they waited, sweating, for their two managers to come back. Finally it was all over and the plane took off with the boys who had written that song about not wanting to stay in a world without love.

They flew to New Delhi and stayed there a couple of days. “At least they’re on our side here,” said Ringo. “We don’t know what happened in Manila,” said Paul. “It was something political, I think,” said John Lennon.

A multitude of their fans, for whom Manila had become “sod,” were on hand to comfort them when they arrived in London the following Friday at dawn. “We were terrified,” said Paul McCartney of their Philippine experience. “If we go back there it would be with an H-bomb.” And George Harrison warned all entertainers against going to the Philippines—“unless you’re of fascist instincts.”

The Philippines was just as sore. As of last weekend, Malacañang had received some 200 telegrams denouncing the Beatles. Councilor Gerino Tolentino of Manila proposed that the Beatles be banned in perpetuity from the city; Caloocan City mulled a plan to ban Beatle records and movies; a Quezon City alderman proposed that the Beatle hairdo be declared illegal. Senator Ambrosio Padilla had to remind the hotheads that the various bans they proposed would violate personal rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution.

Unhappiest over the mess is Ramon Ramos of Cavalcade Inc., for which the Beatles have turned out to be a “losing proposition.”

“I know we lost but I don’t know how. The only thing we can say is that we regret the whole thing, the entire hullabaloo, from the Palace incident down. And now I hear I’ll be sued by the Beatles.”

Epstein had been reported to be consulting lawyers in London on the possibility of legal action: “The aim will be to find out who was to blame for what.”

But the Beatles themselves seem sick and tired of the Manila brouhaha and only want to forget it.

“It was,” sighed John Lennon, “a terrible drag.”

 

 

 

“Ayos na ang Buto-Buto,” November, 1963

“Ayos na ang Buto-Buto”


by Quijano de Manila

November 1963–THE cooked goose, the swung deal, the clinched victory, the mission accomplished have had rich utterance in street argot. Your ability to remember Arreglado na ang kilay will date you. Later gamier words for it are Kuarta na! and Yari na! The classic expression is Tapos na ang boksing, which will always sound unbearably sad to those who heard the great Recto saying it during the 1957 campaign.

This year’s campaign will go down in slang annals for broaching a new way to say curtains. The hot phrase wildfired through Manila during the last month of the campaign, is now to be heard wherever folk talk. Has the eighth passenger climbed into the A.C. jeepney? Ayos na ang butó-butó. Has the bingo emcee picked up that elusive number? Ayos na ang butó-butó. Has your girl finally agreed to a movie date? Ayos na ang butó-butó.

The literal meaning of it is: The voting’s over. The blossoming meanings are: It’s made, sewed up, completed, settled, on the way, in the bag, amen, fin, the end. The rites of politics required every candidate and his henchmen to claim cocksurely that, as far as they were concerned, the fight was over, the voting was over, long before the people stormed the polls. Now, as the two parties wrangle over who really won or lost, the people hurl back at them their own cry of pre-poll confidence. So what’s the use of post-poll wrangling? Ayos na ang butó-butó!

The birth of that byword was a major event of the campaign, which ended with a bang-bang-bang. The first bang was the War over the Mestizo. The second bang was the Apocalypse according to St. Robot. The third bang was the pair of avance mitings on Plaza Miranda. It wasn’t a dull campaign, and don’t let anybody tell you different. Funny things happened to the politicos on their way to public office.

The fun began with the assault on the mestizo. Just when people were thinking the NPs should be thrashed for conducting what can only be described as a hate campaign, the LPs, who had been behaving more primly, got their nice record spoiled for them by their own chief, the President, with his unhappy remark on the “mestizo arrogance” of Vice-President Pelaez. Though efforts were made to explain away the gibe, the general reaction was: Why bring up racism at all? But if that’s the point of the fuss, then the matter doesn’t end here, and the veep, too, must be haled in and declared just as guilty as the President in this matter of racism. Or maybe guiltier. The President’s tongue slipped only once; but the veep, in his campaign, at least in Bulacan, brought up the question of race in after speech, as all those who saw him campaigning can testify.

In Bulacan, the veep invariably began his speeches by denying, apropos of nothing, that he was a mestizo, or half-white. This was before anybody accused him of “mestizo arrogance.” He seemed to feel a need to explain away his European color and appearance, and his explanation was mystical: his mother had “conceived” him after St. Anthony. But though his skin was fair, his heart was kayumanggi. In other words, though he might look like a mestizo, he really was not a mestizo. Now this is equivalent to a Harlem Negro saying that, despite his looks, he’s really a Dutchman. Fellow Negroes could accuse him of being ashamed of his race. Fellow mestizos could complain that before the President is said to have insulted their breed, Pelaez had already done son, by gratuitously denying to be what he obviously is. Dark-skinned Filipinos may feel flattered that their vice-president is trying to pass for brown; but a man who’s embarrassed by the color of his skin, and apologizes for it, ultimately heightens our awareness of racial differences. Why bring up racism at all, we justifiably cry. And Pelaez is as bound to answer that question as his adversary.

Fortunately for the nation, before barricades could be put up by the chabacanos of Cavite and Zamboanga and the entresuelistas of Manila, the potential Battle of Birmingham in reserve got kicked off center stage by another act: the unturbanned magus called Robot with his clouded crystal ball. Robot’s revelations shook the local political earth. The Liberals would win the senatorial race by 5-3, or more likely by 6-2, with either Padilla or Roxas as topnotcher, followed by Tolentino, Diokno, Ziga, Climaco and Liwag. The eighth place would be contested by De la Rosa, Balao, Puyat and Cuenco, with the first two having “a slight edge over the others.”

As it turned out, the topnotcher berth was contested by Roxas and Tolentino, not Padilla and Roxas; Puyat, whom Robot placed almost outside the magic eight, landed in fifth place; De la Rosa, Balao and Cuenco ended way, way below eighth place; and the unmentioned Ganzon and Lim fought it out with Climaco for the tail end of the line.

The Robot findings, released to the press a week before election day, were published three days before the elections, and one day before the U.P. statistical center released its own poll survey, which also had the LPs leading, 6-2, with Padilla and Roxas in the first two places, followed by Tolentino, Diokno, Climaco, Ziga and Liwag, and the eighth place being contested by Balao and Puyat. As Robot, aggrieved, would later point out, the U.P. poll escaped the ire of the politicians, but Robot got it from both sides.

De la Rosa and Cuenco angrily questioned the accuracy of the poll. The NPs were, of course, even angrier. They denounced the poll as “part of the Liberal scheme to cheat” in the elections, “a smoke-screen to prepare the people’s minds to accept rigged election returns.” The Robot poll results had been “doctored” to produce a “bandwagon mentality” among voters, and their “premature publication” was an LP propaganda gimmick. The NPs insisted that they would either sweep the polls or get a clear majority.

The day after the elections, people were quipping that there was one sure loser: Robot. Its forecast had flopped.

Says Vice-President Francisco Lopez of Robot Statistics: “What we published was an estimate of the situation as of a given period of time: from late October to early November. It was not a forecast, it was not a prediction. If we had wanted to make a real forecast, we would have continued polling up to the eve of the elections.”

The trouble with this disclaimer is that Robot was using that very word, forecast, during the days it was frantically trying to decide whether or not to publish its poll findings ahead of the balloting, or wait, as it did in 1959, until the last ballot had been cast. One-upmanship finally prompted the “premature publication.” Robot feared to be one-upped by another poll organization, and decided to release its findings to the press a week before election day.

Robot Magi

The other poll organization was Index, which had, in late October, begun publishing a series of reports on voter attitudes based on a survey. Robot felt sure that the series would be climaxed by a forecast of election results. The fear was unfounded; but Robot not only didn’t want to be beaten to a forecast but was afraid the poll figures it had been gathering month after month since the campaign started might be stolen and used.

On November 2, Robot invited three distinguished citizens—Father Francisco Araneta, Professor Ariston Estrada and Judge Pastor Endencia—to read its latest survey on poll trends. Copies of the survey were read and signed by the three men, and then locked up in a vault, as proof that Robot already had those figures at that time. One-upmanship is a nervous way of life in every branch of Madison Avenue.

This was on a Saturday. The following Monday, November 4, Robot, apparently still jittery about being beaten to the draw, assembled representatives of the four leading Manila newspapers and provided them with copies of the latest Robot poll results.

Explains Robot’s Armando Baltazar: “That was for their guidance only. We wanted them to know the real score. Their columnists were making predictions and might go off on a wild tangent. The publishers could keep their columnists from going out on a limb if they knew what the figures were. But we made it clear that we did not want any publication.”

Robot’s George Cohen modifies this: the poll figures were released to the press; it was up to the press to decide whether to publish them or not, and when. On November 8, Cohen dispatched a letter to the publishers:

“You will recall last Monday that Robot wished to impose an embargo on the release of its election estimates until the closing of the polls on election day when survey results could not possibly be accused of influencing events. Robot in fact does not believe that at this stage of the election campaign a release of its survey results now would significantly affect its outcome—if at all. However, Robot does not wish to be the first polling group to be releasing pre-election forecasts—but as a public opinion/marketing research organization it feels obliged researchers do. Thus please feel free to publish the results enclosed within red quotation marks if other polling organizations or research groups (exclude informal newspaper or magazine surveys) such as the University of the Philippines, Index, et al. have or are in the act of publishing national senatorial election forecasts. If not, Robot respectfully requests that you withhold publication until the polls have closed on election day.

“Finally we wish to remind that some 15% of the voters still do not know whom they will select for their senatorial choices on November 12. This figure constitutes a 4% increase over the ‘don’t know’ers’ since September, thus indicating considerable uncertainty on the part of the voters. Thus last minute shifts of preferences are possible even on election day—which could upset the above forecast. What the forecast represents is the best estimate of the state of the public opinion at a given point of time, 26 October to 6 November.”

Through the tangle of language, the publishers presumably saw permission to publish, since the U.P. was “in the act of publishing” its own forecast. But why did Robot’s “best estimate of the state of public opinion” fail to tally with actual public opinion as expressed in the elections?

Cohen and his colleagues say that they went by trends. When they began polling in July, Puyat, for instance, was in fourth place but kept slipping, slipping, until he was in seventh or eighth place. The Puyat trend was, therefore, downward: “But he didn’t slip as much as we expected him to. He caught it in time, arrested his decline.” Robot failed to catch that stoppage and went by the general Puyat trend—which is why the forecast had him still slipping off the tail end.

Another candidate whose trend was a downward slide. De la Rosa, was popularly believed to be a sure winner. Robot was a bit more accurate here, and surprised everybody by having De la Rosa just hovering over the edge of the eighth place: “If we had surveyed more, up to a few days before the elections, we might have caught him on his way out.” The U.P. poll did find De la Rosa already out.

The three fastest risers, according to Robot, were Roxas, Diokno and Liwag. Diokno started at 13th or 14th place, rose steadily, suddenly shot straight up during the last phase of the campaign. If graphed, his progress would be a long slanting line that ends in a steep curve. Liwag started at 16th, worked his way up to 7th in a more even manner. Most spectacular of all was Roxas, who started below the eighth place and rocketed to the top. Robot’s data indicate how effective propaganda can be when skillfully used, for Roxas, Diokno and Liwag had the smartest publicity machines in this campaign.

The candidates that really got Robot into trouble were Climaco and Ganzon. Robot estimated that Climaco would outpoll Ganzon in Mindanao, 2-1. The elections proved they had about even strength there—which, says Cohen, is inexplicable, since Climaco, after all, is from Mindanao. Cohen hazards the guess that Climaco’s drive against smuggling while in Customs turned the Moro vote against him.

To people who say that Robot took a beating in these elections, Cohen points out that his organization had a near-perfect score in the gubernatorial races, pinpointing the winners in 21 out of the 22 provinces it polled. (Robot, like everybody else, guessed wrong in Bulacan.) Cohen also claims that Robot scored almost 100% in its forecast of election results in the Manila area; it missed only one winner: the vice-mayor of Quezon City. But Robot saw the Manila vote as 4-4 in the senatorial election (the actual ratio was 6-2 in favor of the NPs) and 4-1 in the mayoralty contest (Villegas actually had only about a 2-1 lead over Oca). Cohen has two explanations for the increased figures in favor of the NPs: their miting de avance on Plaza Miranda was a major event of the campaign, giving the NP senatorial candidates, and Oca along with them, the benefit of maximum public exposure, and exerting a terrific influence on the undecided vote. Cohen’s other explanation is that Manila has a large floating vote: the squatters but still vote in the city. Because it polled only actual residents, Robot failed to get a picture of the total Manila vote.

Just how much do these forecasts affect voters’ decisions? In the U.S. not at all—or so they say. In the Philippines, such forecasts, Cohen admits, may sway votes, but only if published, say, ten days or two weeks before the elections. But a forecast published practically on the eve of the polls can have little effect on them. Cohen cites an instance. In 1961, just two days before the elections, Mayor Lacson, against Robot’s wishes, published the Robot poll survey that showed Garcia was losing. The forecast, according to Cohen, did not appreciably alter voting trends. But it did have one unexpected result that has passed into political legend. The story goes that money given to the leaders to distribute on election day was not handed out because, the leaders told themselves, Garcia was going to lose anyway. Failure to flood the polls with handouts may have helped Garcia lose.

The NPs, who are usually so zealous for freedom of expression, are currently up in arms against public opinion polls. Senator Primicias threatened to sue Robot for multimillion-peso damages and to have it investigated as a foreign agency interfering with Philippine elections. Robot says its capital is 90% Filipino, that the company is run by Filipinos, and that it is in no way subsidized by World Gallup Polls. One NP who doesn’t believe the Robot forecast was “rigged to please its client” (Robot says it had clients from both parties in this campaign) is Diokno. Robot tried to assess the situation as best it could, but, says Diokno, it failed to take into account an important “x-factor”: people’s fear of the administration. As Robot was not really undecided, was already for the NP, but preferred to keep mum and express itself only at the polling booths, for fear of reprisals.

The Robot forecast appeared the Saturday before election day. The NPs had their miting de avance on Plaza Miranda that Monday night; and Robot, the second favorite target, suffered the slings and arrows for outrageous fortune-telling. The crowd the NPs drew that night was unquestionably the hugest to assemble on Plaza Miranda since the time of Magsaysay.

Holiday throngs

Manileños who attended both the LP and the NP miting de avance could not but note the “visayanization” of their city, its utter conquest by the seafolk of the South. The LP crowd was still recognizable Manileño (Villegas’s yeba urbanites) though it’s significant that the speaker who made the greatest hit with the audience that Sunday night was Climaco of Zamboanga. The other “Star of the South,” Gerry Roxas, didn’t shine so bright that night, through no fault of his own. He was rising to speak when word came that the President had not yet arrived. It turned out that the President had not yet arrived; so Roxas preceeded to the mike. As he started to speak the stage and plaza buzzed again with he rumor that the President was already there. “I rushed through my speech,” recalls Roxas, “like a locomotive.” Had he been allowed to speak at his leisure he might have proved that the witching powers associated with his province now work as well on Plaza Miranda.

The following night, at the NP miting de avance, there was again no doubt that the crowd responded most fraternally to another Southerner, Senator Roseller Lim of Zamboanga—and this on the testimony of a Pampango-Manileño, Senator Puyat. A forecaster could indeed have read in the size and temper of that multitude on Plaza Miranda the great swing of the South to the Opposition that the next day’s polls would reveal. If the politicos want a new rule on Manila, here’s a possible one: As Manila goes, the South goes. Because Manila is now the biggest Southern city in the Philippines.

Puyat says he felt rather scared when the atmosphere became so charged with passion the miting turned into a mighty dialogue between speaker on stage and the crowd below.

SPEAKER: Ano ang gagawin kay Macapagal?
CROWD: Palakolin!
SPEAKER: Ano ang gagawin kay Macapagal?
CROWD: Martilyuhin!

“I felt,” says Puyat, “that if the speaker had shouted On to Malacañang! that mob would have followed—and I fear to think what would have happened there. We politicians carry a big responsibility.”

As one listened to Puyat’s account, one had the creepy feeling, too, that our political campaigns have gotten out of hand and are becoming sick.

But during those two pre-poll days, Sunday and Monday, it felt like fiesta, like New Year’s Eve, especially since the firecracker ban had apparently been lifted and the savage things crackled underfoot, along with the watusi, as massed marchers, as torrents of torches, surged up every street toward the town plazas and the mitings de avance. As the people marched shouting, fireworks lit up the skies to the thunder of rockets. The candidates held open house all day and all night; arroz caldo and pancit perpetually simmered in caldrons in the yards. Bus rides got pelted with showers of leaflets as if it was carnival time and this was the confetti. A blaze of electric bulbs framed the portraits of the candidates, full length, in full color, in action, in the style started by Lacson: the giant figures jutting right out of the frames, waving a hand, or pointing at the beholder, or striding forward into the air. Some billboards carried multiple portraits and a title: The Four Aces, The Magnificent 7. One rode through one gorgeous arch after another and pondered the thought that politicians are the only people in the world who build triumphal arches before they have triumphed. Ah, but it seemed so right then; everybody would win; we all shared in the excitement; the very air was festive. We were having a cold wave then, and the campaigners turned out in hats and jackets, in sweaters and mufflers. The country was supposed to have gone dry, but you could get a drink in almost any restaurant along the way. They served it in pitchers and you drank it from cups or colored plastic glasses.

After all that, election day itself was anticlimactic, very quiet in Manila. Mayor Villegas began the day with a mass, breakfasted at a leader’s house, had a haircut and a mud pack, holed up at the Army and Navy. Oca voted in San Nicholas, slept out the day at a friend’s house in Lavezares. Senator Puyat and his wife voted at the precinct on Mayon in Quezon City. Voting at the same time in the same place were Senator Padilla and his wife. Contrapartidos but good friends, Puyat and Padilla hailed each other, their wives merrily chatted. Right after the LP miting de avance, which ended at dawn, Roxas gave a thank-you breakfast for his campaign staff, then flew to Roxas City, where he stayed through election day. “That was,” he says, “the first time I went to Capiz in this campaign.” Diokno, too, departed for his home province, Batangas, right after the NP miting de avance, which ended only a couple of hours before the polls opened. He and his wife were among the first to vote in Taal. Riding back to Manila, they were stopped by so many well-wishers along the way it was noon when they reached home. Diokno fled to bed and slept till evening.

In Manila, few people stayed up all night to follow the counting; but the surrounding towns kept vigil and the winners started celebrating at dawn. In one suburban town, victory was proclaimed at four a.m. by a fire engine racing up and down the streets, siren a-wailing and bell a-ringing, while the people on it yelled: “Nanalo si Mayor!” For the losers, that was a bleak day, the caldrons in the yard now cold and empty, and out on the street, in front of their gates, the mocking music of the brass bands hired by the winners to serenade the defeated with the Marcha Funebre, a cute rite of Philippine elections.

The NPs were leading in the Senate race by 6-2, then by 5-3; and there was a rumor that Terry Adevoso was sneaking out of the country: someone had seen him getting a passport. Then the tide turned: the LPs briefly led by 5-3, then dropped to a tie with the Opposition; and the talk now was that Adevoso had changed his mind about leaving. Adevoso himself says, laughing, that he had really been scheduled to leave the day after the polls, to visit shipyards in Japan; but the trip was postponed for a few days so he could make a stop first in Hong Kong to attend the opening of the PNB branch there.

The Thursday after the elections, the NPs began muttering about the slow-down in election returns reportage. They assembled for an angry conference that night at Amang Rodriguez’s office in Congress, behind closed doors, but there are guesses as to what they decided to do. The LPs were suspected of withholding returns from the provinces they controlled so they would know if they had a big enough backload of votes to cover the NP lead. If they didn’t have enough, they would know just how many more votes they must conjure up to win. Or so the NPs suspected. So, the NPs replied to the LP slow-down with a slow-down of their own, according to observers, who say that returns from such NP bailiwicks as Rizal, Quezon, Batangas and Negros Occidental suddenly dwindled to a trickle, because the NPs were withholding their returns too, so the LPs wouldn’t know just how far ahead the Opposition was. Whether this battle of slow-downs is true or not, there was certainly a freezing of the 4-4 position through the weekend.

While the NPs were conferring that Thursday night, word was going around that Gerry Roxas was protesting Tolentino’s position as topnotcher. The next day, Roxas issued a denial that he had lodged any protest: “I have not even seen Johnny Bora (Comelec chairman), much less talked with him. I’m happy enough that I’m included in the win group.” But in private Roxas said that there was an already admitted mistake in the figures credited to Tolentino. The error amounted to over 70,000 votes, which, if cancelled, would erase Tolentino’s 20,000-vote lead over Roxas and put Roxas in first place. However, Roxas’s attitude was: “Comelec made the mistake, it’s up to Comelec to correct.” Gerry said he didn’t want people to think he was so greedy for glory that just winning was not enough for him, he had to be topnotcher too.

Comelec had made no revision of the senatorial standings when election week ended. Tolentino stayed in first, Roxas in second. The Senate race was still tied at 4-4. Adevoso was still waiting for the pieces of his jigsaw puzzle to fall into place, but now said that a “4-4 result would be satisfactory enough for us.” He stressed one point: when the campaign began back in July, a poll survey showed that only two of the LP candidates were among the top eight. By October, surveys were showing that five LPs had shot up to winning positions. The party machine had been tested, had acquitted itself. The final results might not come up to expectations. “But,” shrugs Adevoso, “1963 is just a laboratory year.”

Postmortems

Adevoso sees the administration in mid-term as “a sala in which the furniture is being rearranged.” Everything is helter-skelter. A visitor who walked in might get an impression of disorder, not knowing what was going on: “In the same way, a reform administration like this one is shakes up things. People who have been hurt, or think they have been hurt, are bound to be antagonistic. We cannot expect, in mid-term that everybody will understand that what has to be done is now what’s popular but what’s right.”

The LP “rearrangement of the furniture” has certainly shaken up the country’s political sala. If the 1963 elections are regarded purely as local elections, which is what they are supposed to be anyway, then the Liberals scored a sensational success, by winning some 70% of the provinces, including such NP domains as Bulacan and Iloilo. Adevoso says that of the country’s 12 biggest provinces only two were in Liberals hands before the polls. The elections gave them six more of the topnotch provinces: Pangasinan, Bulacan, Samar, Leyte, Cebu and Iloilo.

But if the LPs think a victory on the local level presages victory in 1965, they should ponder the recent history of the NPs, who likewise scored an overwhelming victory in the local elections of 1959 but found that their control of the provinces didn’t help them any in the presidential elections of 1961.

If, on the other hand, this year’s elections are regarded as a national contest between the President and the Opposition, which is how the campaign projected the fight, then the most that can be said, if the score says at 4-4, is that the NPs didn’t win it. Their basic argument was that the people should not, for their own good, give the President a majority in the Senate. It is, therefore, immaterial whether the LPs win by a sweep or by 5-2 or only end up in a tie. As long as the LPs get a Senate majority, even if only by one vote, then the NPs have lost, because the people will have given the President what he asked for and rejected the arguments of the Opposition.

Since all the other issues, from high prices to rice queues, got tied up with this question of whether or not it was safe to give Macapagal a Senate majority, the people, if they give it to him, can be said to have rejected all the other issues too, by giving the President a vote of confidence. For though 4-4 is hardly an impressive score, it must still be regarded as a vote of confidence, since it will mean that the people do not believe that an LP Senate, which they decree with a 4-4 score, will bring on the death of democracy, the horrors of dictatorship, harder times, higher prices, more rice queues and more ax murders—which is how the NP campaign line went.

But a mid-term election is also an assessment of the administration. The vote of confidence only means that the people do not believe the President will use the Senate to make himself a dictator; it does not necessarily imply approval of his performance so far. To gauge the people’s judgment of the New Era, this year’s score will have to be compared with the mid-term scores of previous administrations. Under Quirino, it was 8-0 against Quirino’s regime, a clear condemnation. Under Magsaysay, it was 7-1 for the administration, an accolade. Under Garcia, it was 5-3, a passing mark. A score of 4-4 for the New Era would mean that, at mid-term, the people assessed the New Era as much better than Quirino’s administration, far below Magsaysay’s, not as good as Garcia’s. The grade would thus be, not excellent, not good, and not bad, but merely fair. It amounts to a repetition of what’s becoming a cliché pronouncement on the New Era: suspended judgment.

Still another way of interpreting the senatorial election results is to disregard party tags and consider the winners as having bee elected for their individual qualities and attitudes. Diokno says that the top five winners—Tolentino, Roxas, Diokno, Puyat and himself—all have one thing in common: a reputation for being “uncontrollable” by Macapagal. The people, according to Diokno, expressed their disapproval of Macapagal by voting most heavily for men who are, in one way or another, anti-Macapagal.

There’s something to Diokno’s theory, but it collapses when we consider that he and Tolentino had heir most dramatic encounters with Macapagal last year. If the people were really voting against Macapagal, it would have been more logical for them to vote for the men whose battle against the President are still fresh in the mind, being recently in the headlines: Lim, for instance, because of his filibuster in the Senate; Cabangbang, especially, because of his defiance of the Palace; and Oca, too, because of his anti-administration strikes. Since all these much-headlined foes of the President lost, anti-Macapagalism can hardly be said to have been a strong factor in the elections.

The Stonehill case, on the other hand, which was being written off as an issue, now appears to have been a factor after all, since it can now be said to have helped Diokno and Liwag win, and to have killed off Lim, Balao and De la Rosa.

Whether the campaign of Pelaez was an important factor is still in question. The vice-president probably got a score of 4-4. The massing of the South behind the Opposition is undoubtedly partly due to him; but he failed to show a similar ability to sway the voters in Luzon. The test province here is Bulacan, which was a Nacionalista stronghold to begin with. Pelaez personally campaigned there, personally proclaimed and endorsed the local NP candidates. They mostly lost. Bulacan turned Liberal.

A main factor is party organization—but it, too, must be given a 4-4 rating. The Liberals placed utmost confidence in the value of a strong organization, a smooth party machine, a rigidly disciplined team—but the results don’t justify their faith. The Nacionalistas, with a creakier machine that lacked the oil of finance, did just as well, though hindsight now exposes their grave errors. They made Ziga a sure winner by not putting up a woman candidate to divide the feminine vote; and they chose as campaign manager a man who, it turns out, could not make his personal candidates win in his own province. Puyat thinks the NP machine will have to be completely overhauled. Politics, he says, is not just an election every two years. It’s not a sometime thing but an all-the-time thing. A party machine shouldn’t be left to rust in storage until just a few months before an election; it should be kept running all the time. “Right after one campaign is over,” says Puyat, “we should immediately start preparing for the next one.” Somebody has already been putting that idea to practice, in case the NPs haven’t noticed.

Puyat still had, last week, for campaign souvenir, the hoarseness of the candidate. The two “wonder boys” of these elections, Roxas and Diokno, were still vigorously audible. Both gallantly said that the big factor in their wins were their wives, who attended to campaign minutiae. Diokno added that his children (he has eight) were a big help too: “They didn’t fall sick!”

As for the country, it looked as if a skyful of trash had been dumped on it: collapsed arches, tattered streamers, rusting tin plates, and an autumn litter of brown leaflets scattering in the wind. Walls and posts looked leprous with the rot of stickers. Worse than teen-age naughtiness were the gross splotches with which politics defaced the land. No public surface, not even the paving of the streets, escaped the tar or paint of propaganda. The gaudy billboards still stood, no longer lit up; but whatever the words on them, they all now sadly or gladly said the same thing:

“Tapos na, pare, ang butó-butó!”