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by Jose F. Lacaba
Or, Can Spiro Agnew Forget The Marcos Inauguration And Find His Way Back To The Affluent Society?
January 10, 1970–AUSTERITY was the order of the day, but assassination was the talk of the town.
The advance ballyhoo promised that, for once, the program for Inauguration Day would be “brief and austere.” The parade would be a worm compared with the snakes of previous inaugurations; civic participation had been scrapped and military display, normally lasting a full two hours, had been cut down to 40 minutes. Even words and saliva were affected by the general parsimony: reelected President Ferdinand Marcos would deliver “possibly the shortest inaugural address in the Republic’s history.” Afterwards, there would be the traditional dinner for the guests from across the seas, headed by no less than Spiro T. Agnew, household word and Vice President of the United States of America; but there was to be no expense for Spiro in a waste of shame, the dinner would be not as before — lavish, extravagant, ostentatious — but simple and frugal. Probably limited to two courses: salabat for soup and pinakbet for viand. After the most expensive elections in Philippine history, the Ilocano in Marcos had come out.
Though austerity dictated the veto on custom and ceremony, the fear of assassination demanded that there be no skimping on security. Astrologers and soothsayers are said to have warned the President that he would be killed during his second term, and there was a great deal of talk about Oswalds and Sirhans before Inauguration Day, talk that Malacañang encouraged with its disclosure that a Huk liquidation squad was out to get Marcos. No expense was spared, therefore, to secure the President from suicidal assassins. A helicopter hovered over the Luneta to the end, the navy patrolled the bay, machine guns were perched atop the Independence Grandstand (what where they there for? would they have fired at the crowd if one crackpot had drawn a pistol?), walkie-talkies were everywhere, and the fuzz was a thick as flies in mango season. Uniformed policemen of Manila and suburbs lined the streets, Malacañang guards in barong Tagalog were deployed on the grandstand, constabulary troopers lolled behind it. Special Forces men crouched on the roof, NBI agents skulked around motorcycle cops raced up and down the boulevard, Metrocom cars were parked at street corners, helmeted members of riots squads gripped their rattan sticks, four of five rows of soldiers in civvies manned the front lines of the sparse crowd, “a modest crowd on unenthusiastic spectators” (Chronicle), “smaller than the usual crowd that packs the park during national holidays” (Times), perhaps the smallest crowd since the Philippines became independent” (Bulletin) — everybody was there, including , of course, Spiro’s Secret Service complement, on the lookout for an effete corps of impudent snobs brandishing molotov cocktails.
Only a “fanatical fool” would have dared “penetrate the security cordon,” Brigadier General Vicente Raval of the FC was quoted as saying, and he explained why: “He would never get past the security line; he would nevertheless emerge alive.” (Figure that out, if you can, and if you can’t put it down as one of the best and most cryptic non sequiturs of the past decade.”)
It was cold in the morning of Inauguration Day, hot towards noon, an uncertain weather all the way. Sun alternated with clouds and shadows, and even while the sun shone brief showers fell, brief and austere. Umuulan, umaaraw, nanganganak ang bakulaw. Umaaraw, umuulang, nanganganak ang tikbalang. Out in the park the little children played, called by their parents when they wandered too far afield, calling after the balloon man, far and whee; and were utterly oblivious of the occasion, unmindful of Rizal, whose day it was, and even more unaware that at that very moment another hero, the country’s most decorative war hero, was on his way to his second inauguration.
There was earlier a question about the proper way for Ferdinand Marcos to go to his inauguration. No postwar Philippine President had ever been reelected, as the press daily reminded us, and so a thing like this had never happened before. Usually, there was an incoming President and outgoing President to receive him and then accompany him to the Independence Grandstand, like a father giving away the bride. When the bride is without a father, what must be done? Ferdinand Marcos came accompanied by his son.
And of course, by his senior aide, Brigadier General Hans Menzi, resplendent in a white uniform with all braids, badges, and accoutrements in place. Ferdinand Marcos, his hair slick-and-span as usual, was in a barong Tagalog, and so was Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., better known as Bongbong, who had gotten rid of his crewcut and now sported a mod hairstyle, hair down low over his forehead, a la early-Beatles. Together, the father, the son, and Hans Menzi set forth from Malacañang, surrounded by scads of security men, to receive, in formal ceremony, what had been bestowed in November: a second mandate.
When they arrived at the grandstand, everybody else was there. Vice-President Fernando Lopez was there, grinning happily and now slouching towards the President to be the first to shake hands; he had himself, when he arrived, shaken hands with all the foreign and local dignitaries within reach, except Rufino Cardinal Santos, whose hand he kissed. Spiro Agnew, whose seat was right behind the President’s was there, looking like a slim, squint-eyed panda. Eugene Cernan was inconspicuous but the dailies swear he was there (when you come to think of it, do you have a district picture in your mind of the face of any astronaut, cosmonaut, or space explorer besides Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood in 2001: A Space Odyssey? Even John Glenn is difficult to visualize; astronauts all look alike, and they are the faceless heroes of the age). Gil J. Puyat, Senate President as of this writing, was there, and so was Jose B. Laurel, Jr., Speaker as of this writing, his white hair absent from the dome but becomingly long at the nape. Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion wore the black robes of his office, Secretary General Carlos P. Romulo acted as master of ceremonies, Executive Secretary Ernesto Maceda beamed in the background, Congressman Floro Crisologo was in a white (ramie?) suit, the kind austerity-conscious grandfathers used to wear when they had their pictures taken. A host of lesser known VIPs was there, too, and there was even a small group of whites in top hat and tails, looking like fugitives from a Broadway musical.
Never forget the women. Mrs. Imelda Marcos was there, and the Misses Imee and Irene, dressed in what, from a distance, look like identical ternos. (“Signs of austere times?” went a society page item “. . .Mrs. Marcos wore a strikingly simple terno and single pearl earring. No jewelry.” The terno “had a wide front panel of rich hand embroidery reportedly taken from a gown she had worn at the first inauguration of the President in 1965.”) Mrs. Mariquit Lopez was only a little less austere. (She “also picked a jusi terno, slightly embroidered more than that of the First Lady. She also wore a gold bracelet, a single pearl pendant and a pearl ring in addition to pearl earrings.”) And the Blue Ladies were conspicuously in attendance — the bakya crowd among them down on the ground, in a corner behind the platform crammed with TV cameras and technicians, and therefore unable to see a thing; and the blue bloods among them up on the grandstand, occupying the space reserved for, but disdained as too distant by, the press. You could tell they were the blue-blooded Blue Meanies by the lift of their eyebrows, the color of their skins, and the austerity of their hairdos. The bakya crowd Blues, meanwhile, had to be resourceful; every now and then a couple of them would slip past the snarling policemen and get closer to the action, mingling with the press photographers, all the while giggling and chattering like schoolgirls on a holiday.
“Ang ganda talaga ni Imelda, ano?”
“Naku, si Ramil O, ‘ando’n pala si Ramil Rodriguez!”
“Alin ba d’yan ‘yung astro. . . ‘yung nagpunta sa buwan?”
“Si Agno, hindi ko makita si Agno.”
“Sabi ko na sa ‘yo mag-high heels ka, ayaw mong makinig.”
After the solemn preliminaries — 21 gun salute, national anthem, invocation — came the small parade. No need to bore you with the gaudy details. Suffice it to say that the parade boldly gave the lie to the charge that the country has fallen victim to a creeping militarism. Militarism isn’t creeping in this country, it’s marching proudly, head held high, chest out, stomach in, and a finger on the trigger. The Special Forces and the Philcag contingent weren’t cringing nor hiding their heads in shame because of the controversy that swirled about them; they even got more applause than the PMA cadets, and it is reported that when the Philcag passed by, Agnew stood up as a gesture of respect. Note also that whoever prepared the program, when they decided that austerity call for a shortened parade, kept the soldiers and kicked out the civilians. Civic participation’s would have been a bore, of course, but the choice of what to exhibit on Inauguration Day sent tiny chills down the spine as one watched the parade of men and armaments unreel. Garrison state, anyone?
Throughout the parade, Ferdinand Marcos and Fernando Lopez stood on the proscenium (or whatever they call it) of the grandstand stage, each in his fashion. Marcos was ramrod straight, a true military man, saluting smartly when the colors passed by. Lopez had the sick look of a man who has been forced to forego his morning ablutions, if you know what I mean, and when the colors passed by he had his hand over his heart as if his heart was itchy. Obviously, the Vice President was bored by the whole affair. While Marcos struck a heroic pose from the beginning and struck to it to the end, squinting into the sun like Clint Eastwood without the slim cigar, a premature monument if ever there was one, Lopez couldn’t keep still. He scratched his nape, scratched his crotch, scratched his ears, picked his nose, rubbed his fingernails, folded his arms, dropped them to his sides, held his hands together before him, dropped them to his sides, held his hands together behind him, dropped them to his sides, stared morosely around, scowled, tried to hide his scowl by puckering his lips, and probably wished he were splashing around in his swimming pool. He was at least very human, which made him rather endearing. Besides, this was his third time to review a parade as Vice-President; he expected no surprises.
Happily for Mr. Lopez, it was all over in about the time it would have taken Barbra Streisand to finish singing Don’t Rain on My Parade and When the Parade passes By. As a matter of fact, it was over so soon that the program committee found itself with time on its hands. Things had gone so smoothly the program had rushed ahead of schedule. A little time had to be killed before the Vice-President could take his oath of office at 11:55 a.m. This — not para magpalad ng papel, as it seemed at the time — was the reason why the mixed choir and the Manila Symphony Orchestra that had already sung Bayang Magiliw and the Marcos March or something, now burst into an unscheduled singing of Dahil Sa Iyo. Naturally the First Lady, delighted, joined in the singing.
When the singing stopped, it was time for the swearing in. The oaths of office, administered by the chief Justice, were in Pilipino. Lopez and his Ilongo accent struggled manfully, but charmingly, through his oath. The President, as if to reinforce his heroic image, recited his from memory. Ako, si Ferdinand Marcos ay nanunumpa, etc., etc. patnubayan nawa ako ng Panginoon. Historical footnote: it was the first time the two highest officials in the land said their oaths of office in Pilipino.
Like the bright grade-school kid who knows the capital of every province in the country and can recite Psalm of Life at the drop of a hint, Ferdinand Marcos is something of a show-off, and he showed off superbly in his inaugural address, which again he delivered from memory. His memory is terrific but, as even so loyal a partisan as J.V. Cruz noted, ‘the President looked far more concerned with making sure that his memory did not fail him than with the substance of what he is saying.” I used to be a school orator myself and I know that, after the rigorous rehearsals, once you get on stage you’re no longer aware of what you are saying, and you won’t even care, so long as you enunciate the practiced syllables clearly and remember when to raise your voice, when to lower it, when to pause, when to make a gesture, when to take a few steps forward, and when to give the audience a long piercing look (when you can’t remember the next word that will cue you on the next sentence and the rest of the speech). Marcos delivering his inaugural address reminded me of my high school days; he looked like an earnest Voice of Democracy contestant in the elimination rounds, taking great care not to muff his lines. In fact, he ended his speech like a VOD contestant: “The wave of the future is not totalitarianism but democracy.”
The inaugural address itself sounded like a high school declamation piece. It was entitled “To Transform the Nation — Transform Ourselves” (even granting the titles need not be complete sentences, isn’t there something grammatically fishy here? We Must Transform Ourselves? Let Us Transform Ourselves?) , and it contained such gems of sophomore oratory as “. . .in the inexorable march of history no tears are shed for the fallen, no sympathies wasted on the weak. . . .” Besides being studded with high-sounding clichés (“billowing fields of green,” “faint of heart,” “in this spot of the universe, a people strong and free”) and pious platitudes (“we labored to transform this nations”), it sounded like a parody of the John F. Kennedy speeches, especially in passages such as: “, , ,cross the frontier of the new decade. . .”, “Now in all humility we inform all Asia that we know the nature and quality of our tenuous peace; and that it is also a demanding piece. . .”, “I ask not sacrifice from the self-sacrificing. . .”‘ “Let not this generation pass without seeking to learn anew that in this great meeting place of eastern wisdom and western advance . . . “, “. . .seek not from government what you cannot find in yourself. . . .”
Rumor has it that Mr. Marcos discarded all the drafts submitted by his speech-writers and labored over a draft of his own. It is not hard to believe the rumor.
This speech begins with the kind of high-flown literary Tagalog even the serialized novels and the movie tearjerkers are beginning to abandon: “Ang aking dinatnan ay isang pamahalaang nasa bingit ng kapahamakan at pagkariwara, isang pamahalaang nag-udyok ng takot bago ito nagbigay ng pag-asa; sakbibi ng pag-aatubili, hinamak ng kawalang-tiwala sa sarili, lugami ang kanyang kabuhayan, hungkag ang kanyang kaban,” etc., etc. That isn’t even constructed the way a Tagalog sentence should be constructed, and the reason is that it is a transliteration of what follows next in English: “We found a government on the brink of disaster and collapse, a government that prompted fear before it inspired hope; plagued by indecision, scorned by self-doubt, its economy despoiled, its treasury plundered,” etc., etc. If the same thing was going to be said in English all over again, what was the point of saying it in Pilipino? To impress Spiro Agnew?
He may have been impressed by what Mr. Marcos said next.
The President demanded “sacrifice” and “self-discipline” from the powerful and the privileged, demanded of society that it “chastise the profligate rich who waste the nation’s substance — including its foreign exchange reserves — in personal comforts and luxuries,” and made it clear that under his administration “wealth, position or power will not purchase privilege; wealth and power shall not outrage the conscience of our people.”
The beginning of a new decade, said the President, called for a lot of new things: “new national habits, nothing less than a new social and official morality”; “a new ethic” with which “we will surmount most of the grave problems we are confronting now; “a new heart, a new spirit that springs out of the belief that while our dangers are many, and our resources few, there is no problem that cannot be surmounted given but the will and courage.” Under this new morality, “any act of extravagance in government will be considered not only as an offense to good morals but an act punishable with dismissal from office.”
The President promised to set the example.
“I pledge a leadership of the severest quality in integrity, morality and discipline.”
(The day after his inauguration, “moved,” he said, “by the strongest desire and the purest will to set the example of self-denial and self-sacrifice for all our people,” the President decided to give away “all my worldly possession so that they may serve the greater needs of the greater number of our people.” All his properties, “by a general instrument of transfer,” were to go “to the Filipino people through a foundation to be organized and to be known as the Ferdinand E. Marcos Foundation,” the purpose of which was to advance “the cause of education, science, technology, and the arts.” As Gene Magsaysay would say, no comment — not yet.)
After the inaugural address, the President and his family went back home to Malacañang, where they signed the registry book again, as they had done the first time they moved into the place.
“Glad to be back,” Ferdinand Marcos reportedly wrote:
And Bongbong: “Me next, I hope.”
Nobody got assassinated, but Metrocom men, according to report, arrested two men they said were loitering near the grandstand on suspicion they were on an assassination mission.” One man was said to have a tear-gas gun; the other wore a PC lieutenant-colonel’s uniform and brown civilian shoes. They were taken to Camp Crame.
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.
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.”