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Mid-term and other elections as reported by the Free Press
May 2013 is a mid-term election. The classic chronicle of a mid-term, and particularly interesting as it reported trends that have become par for the course in modern campaigns, is Nick Joaquin’s Ayos na ang Buto-Buto, November, 1963:
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.
Four elements of the present day are there: the slang of the day; questions of ethnicity, class, and race; controversies about surveys; the ole-fashioned speeches, stumping and rallies.
But other features of campaigns past are long gone: while party-switching is still there, the era of the party convention as a process that mattered, is history, consider this relict of things past in It’s Up to You Now! from 1953:
The Filipino people know that the presidential nomination was not handed to Magsaysay on a silver platter. He had to go to the provinces, campaign among the NP delegates. For one who had just joined the party, it was not an easy task to enlist the support of the men and women who were to pick the Opposition standard-bearer at the coming national convention. Magsaysay’s task became harder because he was to face a man who had done much for the party—Camilo Osias.
There was talk that Laurel, Recto and Rodriguez would double-cross Magsaysay at the convention; that certain arrangements would be made in order to create a deadlock between Osias and Magsaysay; and that once this deadlock existed, Laurel would then be railroaded by the conventionists, thereby making him the party candidate for president.
Magsaysay would then be drafted for the Senate under the NP banner. Thus, the Opposition senatorial slate would be stronger with Monching heading the list. Left no other choice, the best Cabinet member Quirino ever had would accept the senatorial nomination, whether he liked it or not.
The prophets of gloom were all wrong. Laurel, Recto, Rodriguez and Tañada had no such plans; they were motivated by good faith and the best of intentions when they invited Magsaysay to join them in a crusade for a clean and honest government under a new regime—an NP regime.
That era –when parties actually mattered, because leaders had to cultivate loyal party followers– preserved in time, so to speak, as seen in other articles, from the height of one-party rule in United behind Quezon, July 15, 1939 to Why Garcia won, November 23, 1957; but as parties withered, new-style politics would take its place. See Nick Joaquin’s In this corner: Lacson, May 11, 1957, for a profile of the new-type of leader; and in The Winners ’61, Nick Joaquin quoted Macapagal describing how a campaign begins a long time before the official campaign period starts:
President Garcia, it is said, had originally regarded the large popular vote for Macapagal as a directive from the people to make Macapagal serve in the government: there were hints from Malacañang that the vice-president would be appointed secretary of foreign affairs. But after a consultation with his council of leaders, Mr. Garcia decided not to give Macapagal a job.
“From that moment,” says Macapagal, “I decided to build up and strengthen the Liberal Party, to begin campaigning for the presidency, and to beat Garcia in 1961.”
He started campaigning during his very first year as veep, circled the country three times during his term: “It took me a year the first time, two years the second time, a year the third time.”
At first President Garcia allowed him to use a navy cutter, the Ifugao. Macapagal started with the most inaccessible areas: Palawan, the isles of the Badjaos, the Turtle Islands. He had, while still in the foreign affairs department, negotiated the return of the Turtle Islands to the Philippines, had raised the Philippine flag there. On his second trip, he covered the isolated areas on the Pacific coast. When he submitted his schedule for his third trip, which was to have included Batanes, President Garcia smelled what the vice-president was up to and forbade his further use of the Ifugao. Undaunted, Macapagal used inter-island steamers.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” he says. “On the steamers I met more people.” He ate with the third-class passengers, surprised them by cleaning up his plate, though the food was staler than most people could stomach.
In his wanderings, Macapagal reached places where the last government official people remembered having seen was Governor-General Leonard Wood. “I think,” says Macapagal, “that Wood was the one government official who tried to reach every place in the country.”
Macapagal was not always the politician in his four-year odyssey: he has an eye for the odd and the beautiful. In a coastal town in Samar he saw a man who was said to be 150 years old: “He was like a mummy, he looked dead already, but he could still talk.” Macapagal becomes lyrical when describing the brooks in Camiguin: “They are the most beautiful brooks I ever saw—water flowing over white stones. If I were an artist I would paint those brooks.”
At the same time that he was trying to reach every place in the country, he was building up his party. He saw the need for uniting the opposition but saw no hope for union as long as the Progressives clung to two ideas of theirs: first, that the Liberal Party was rotten to the core and could never return to power and, second, that they, the Progressives, could win by themselves. When negotiations for union in 1959 lagged, Macapagal abruptly ended them: “I saw it was useless to negotiate until I had proved to the Progressives that we could win in an election and that they couldn’t.” The Progressives tried to reopen the negotiations but Macapagal firmly repulsed them: “I just told them that we had already lost a month of the campaign. After all, I felt that union in 1959 was not important. What was important was union in 1961—and I could get that only by proving myself right in 1959.”
And there is the story of how every election brings with it an innovation, a raising of the ante. There’s the rise of the celebrity candidate, exemplified by matinee idol Rogelio de la Rosa. Nick Joaquin’s classic The “Untimely Withdrawal” of Roger de la Rosa from November, 1961 shows the first steps of a phenomenon that has become part of the political landscape today:
The Yabut broadcast started a run on the bank. From noon of November 3, the bakya-and-salakot crowd began storming Roger’s house, wanting to know if his slogan—“We Shall Return To Malacañang With Roger De La Rosa As President”—had indeed shrunk to a starker notice: “No Returns, No Refunds.”
His henchmen say they were afraid there would be trouble that night, so ugly was the temper of the idol’s fans. The early-evening crowd, mostly from the suburbs, eventually dispersed; but by two o-clock in the morning another crowd, from more distant hinterlands, had formed in front of the senator’s gate and was demanding to be let in. These indignant visitors were admitted and staged what practically amounted to a sit-down strike in the large nipa house on the senator’s lawn.
“Let us not move from here,” said they, “until he himself comes and tells us what he really intends to do.”
Noon came, and they were still there, squatting inside the nipa house and along the driveway, but their leader had still not appeared to them.
Only a few of them were allowed inside the senator’s residence, and there they found not Roger but his brother Jaime, who, when asked about Roger, replied with a scathing attack on the administration.
One thing must be said for Roger: he really drew the peasant crowd, for the faces one saw on his lawn that morning had the look of the Philippine earth: burned black by the sun and gnarled by misery. The men were in cheap polo shirts, the women in shapeless camisolas. It was obvious they had dressed in a hurry. One heard that this one had come all the way from Quezon, that one all the way from Cagayan; a man said he had flown in from Mindanao. All had a common complaint: why did they have to learn about this from Yabut? Why hadn’t Roger taken them into his confidence? They all claimed to be volunteer workers who had used their own money to spread Roger’s cause. If Roger backed out, they would lose face. How could they return to their barrios if they had lost face?
They all clung to the hope that all this was but more “black propaganda.” Their boy had not withdrawn; or if he was thinking of doing so, they would persuade him to continue the fight: let him but appear before them.
A cry rose up:
“Matalong lumalaban, huwag matalong umuurong (To go down fighting, not to go down retreating)!”
Had he lost heart because he had run out of funds? There was still some money they could scrape up among themselves; one man said he had already contributed P3,000 and was willing to contribute more; after all, there were only ten days left of the campaign. It didn’t matter if Roger was a sure loser.
“Let the votes we cast for him,” cried a bespectacled woman from Binangonan, “be a clear picture for 1965!”
The cheers that greeted this seemed to indicate that the Roger extravaganza would, by insistent public request, be extended for another ten days. Poor deluded rustics who did not know that the decision had already been made! They could cheer and argue and weep all they wanted; they were standing outside a closed door. Their fate was being settled, without their knowledge, in other rooms of other houses behind other doors, while they offered their very blood to the cause.
But as the day climbed toward noon and no Roger showed up, hope became feebler, the mutterings became darker. Inside the nipa house and all over the driveway, angry knots of disciples debated what to do.
Some said they would still vote for Roger, even if he had withdrawn, even if their votes should be “nulo.” Others cried that Roger could commit himself but not them to another candidate. The angriest spoke bitterly about the quality of Pampango blood and swore that they would, in protest, go over to the Garcia camp. A few still wistfully hoped that Roger would come and tell them that the show would go on.
By five that afternoon, the hope was dead. Roger had appeared on TV, with Macapagal; the withdrawal had been announced, the change of stand had been made.
That night, Roger’s house stood dark and silent. Gone were the noisy folk who had filled the lawn all day. The angry ones made good their threat and went over to the Garcia camp that very night. The undecided ones crept back to their barrios, wondering how to save face. The trip back must have been agonizing: whichever way they looked they saw that handsome face smiling from posters, from billboards, from streamers hung across roads, promising Malacañang to all these pathetic folk who had hitched their carretelas to a star.
In Winding it up, November 1, 1969, Nick Joaquin reported how the helicopter made its entry into campaigns:
The Helicopter has become today’s campaign symbol, as the jeep was in the ’50s, the railroad before the war. It is an apt symbol. When the man-made cyclonew appears in the air, turning and turning in a narrowing gyre, things fall apart, mere anarchy is loosed, the ceremony of innocence drowns in a tide of dust, and the blinded crowd leaning to the whirlwind gropes in sudden darkness to greet the good who lack conviction or the bad who reek of passionate intensity.
It’s pentecostal scene. First that crowd gathered round an open space, hot and bored from waiting. Then a faint whirr in the sky. Heads lift eyes squint exclamations become a roar, children jump up and down pointing to the tiny gleaming spiral in the air, to the swelling windmill, to the violent cross abruptly, deafeningly, overhead, blotting out the light. And suddenly a mighty wind plunges into earth and explodes into whirled fog, a typhoon of dust. The crowd falls apart, screaming. People stagger, crouch, press hands to eyes; but even those who have run to cower behind wall or tree cannot escape the hot blast of wind or the clattering fallout of soil. All at once the pall of dust lifts, the wind sinks, and people gray with dust from head to foot straighten up and slap at their clothes, looking foolish..
Meanwhile, the arrived candidate, himself immaculate, descends on his ravaged welcomers, is garlanded, poses for pictures with the local satraps, is escorted to the transportation. The crowd surges after him. Sweat has turned the gray of dust they wear into trickles of mud on face and neck.
Left behind on the field is the helicopter, now looking too small and innocent to be capable of the tornado it stirred, that moment of unloosed anarchy, dark and dangerous as a election campaign, disrupting the ground and leaving on the body of the people a film of filth. Centuries of stony sleep now vexed to nightmare every two years.
“The Helicopter,” says President Marcos, “has completely revolutionized campaigning. When I first ran for President I went around the country twice – and each round took me one whole year. In this year’s campaign I will have gone around the country three times in one year and it has been less tiring, less fatiguing, than in 1964-65.”
The article contains as concise a summary of political strategizing –and the grueling requirements of personal stamina and organizational logistics– as has been published anywhere, concerning Philippine elections, courtesy of Nick Joaquin quoting Ferdinand E. Marcos:
“One of the things we discovered in our post-election critique was that we spent too much time in small provinces; we had attempted to follow the example of Macapagal. We spent as much time in a small area like Batanes as in a big area like Pangasinan. This, of course was not correct. Manila has over 600,000 voter and Rizal over a million — but we spent the same amount of time campaigning in Marinduque, a smaller province, as in Rizal. So, we decided that, in l967, we would try out a new schedule, proportioning time to each area according to its size. And not only time but also funding. The funding in l967 had been scattered gunshots — no system to it, none of the delicate accuracy of aim required.”
So, the ’67 polls were used to apply lessons learned from the mistakes of ’65, and also as a trial run for strategies contemplated for ’69.
“There were many things we tested in l967. However, when you are in politics, always, after an election, the question comes up: How could we have improved on this? Or you say: This should not have happened.”
And what happened in ’67 that should not have happened, that certainly must not happen again in ’69?
“Manila. We were pushed into participating in choosing a local candidate. The national leaders must not be pushed into that. There should be a middle body to absorb the shocks. So, we created a mediation committee, an arbitration committee of the junta, which chooses the candidates.
“A second mistake was, again, funding. It was coursed only through a few men, If any of them turns against you, the lower levels are lost, you are lost. So, there had to be a re-routing a re-channeling of funds, materials, campaign instructions. There must be alternatives; in the armed forces you call them lines of communication. In politics there must be an alternate organization to take over in the event of a crisis.”
The President says he doesn’t specifically have the Salas crisis in mind.
“I use the word crisis to mean any unexpected stoppage in communication between those above and those below, since on that continuing communication depends the effectivity of an organization. Stop that and it’s the end of the organization. So, you must have alternate lines of communication.”
It’s to be inferred that the campaign was not delayed in the takeoff stage by the Salas crisis because the “alternatives” realized as necessary in ’67 had already been established — and that these “alternatives” can also prevent “stoppage” in case of, say, a Lopez crisis.
From the trial run of ’67, work moved on to the actual planning of the ’69 campaign, which is marked by an intensive use of the helicopter (to overcome the limitation on the campaign period), the computer (to get the proportions right between effort and geography), the public-opinion survey (to check on mileage) and a controlled budge, meaning limited funds.
“I want that clarified,” says the President, “because ‘unlimited funding’ is one of the fables of political history. People think we have an unlimited amount of money. That is not true. I am trying to limit expenses.”
But so rooted is the belief there’s a fear to buck it; one might be dropped in favor of someone willing to continue the fiction.
“That is why most Presidents, I mean their leaders, want to give the impression of having unlimited resources. They are not to blame at all. But it is apocryphal, legendary, a myth. It is not true that a President has unlimited funds. There is never any limit unless you set a limit. Even President Magsaysay, President Garcia and President Macapagal, they themselves told me, this I got from them, because I wanted to know, and they said that the money is never enough, no matter how much you think you have, there is never enough. Unless you set a budget and stick to it. Because they will assume the sky’s the limit and if you don’t come across you’re dead. Unless you tell them point-blank: the myth is only politics.”
And there’s still the clutter of the tried-and-tested. In Final round, November 1, 1969, Napoleon Rama reported that the battle of the billboards was also a battle of perceptions:
As of last week, the propaganda people of both camps were still setting up posters and billboards along the highways, on the theory perhaps that nowadays people travel more and farther.
One notable new feature of the current campaign is the uneven propaganda battle of billboards, leaflets, pins, buttons and television time. The battle of the billboards is no contest. The Marcos billboards far outnumber the OK signs. In fact, in many provinces, Osmeña billboards are nowhere to be seen.
Osmeña operates on the theory that billboards in the presidential contest serve little purpose. Billboards, he maintains, are necessary for the senatorial candidates because the voters are apt to forget some names in a field of 16. But in the presidential competition, Osmeña continues, no voter need be reminded of the names of the two protagonists.
The Marcos boys have another interpretation: “It’s simply that the OK camp hasn’t got the logistics.” To which taunt the Osmeña persuaders reply “since we haven’t got kickback money, we are using our logistics where they count most.”
All over the land, the landscape is dotted with Marcos or Marcos-Lopez billboards and streamers. The Marcos billboards are multi-colored, larger-than-life affairs, the largest and the most elaborate on the campaign scene, and perhaps the most expensive ever put up by any presidential candidate.
The November polls will put to the test Serging’s theory that billboards are of negligible importance in presidential elections. The outcome should settle a question of great interest to future budget-conscious presidential candidates. Billboards represent one of the biggest items in the candidate’s budgets. Confirmation of Serging’s theory would save future presidential aspirants a tidy sum.
While the propaganda contest is unequal in many other respects, the Osmeña persuaders are not far behind the administration drumbeaters in radio blurbs, jingles and commentaries. Because of limited resources, opposition propagandists take care to feature on radio and TV only effective impact programs or “spots.”
And here, Nap Rama’s article leaves us at the cusp of the world we live in, today, where mass media is king; and how every candidate since then, has had to battle it out not just in terms of content, but presentation:
One good radio program is worth a hundred mediocre ones. The old saturation theory of radio propaganda may well be on its way out.
In the television battle, NP programs outnumber LP presentations 20 to 1. The NPs run several half-hour television political dramas featuring top television and movie stars. But the scripts, more often than not badly written, concentrate on name-calling and vulgar language instead of issues. Even Marcos partisans are critical of these programs.
Teodoro Valencia of the Manila Times, who is certainly not an Osmeña fan, is unhappy about such programs. Last week he wrote: “Radio, television and press propaganda can be overdone. The NP seem to be overdoing the media advertising and propaganda. The ‘overkill’ can work in reverse. As it is, the NP have a 90-10 advantage in media advertising. If the propaganda can be good all the time, well and good. But if the tempo or the quality declines some more, the preponderance of propaganda can boomerang.”
LP strategists meet the TV onslaught with one-minute spots depicting crime and poverty, and, occasionally, television interviews with the LP presidential candidate himself or top LP leaders. Newspaper columnists are agreed that Marcos is not as effective as Osmeña on TV. Here is columnist Apolonio Batalla of the Manila Bulletin on the two presidential candidates as TV performers: “The other evening we watched Senator Osmeña being interviewed on TV in a program sponsored by the UP Institute of Mass Communication. His manner was forthright, his answers were sensible and direct, and his exposition was simple and spontaneous.
“We also watched the President being interviewed in Malacañang. Although he revealed what to us is significant—the Philippine economy has ‘taken off’ (probably in the Rostovian context), he was as usual lisping and groping for words. The delivery of the message was not effective. He would create the impression that he was merely relaying the message and that he did not know much about it. Considering that he could have made capital of the ‘take-off’ study, his delivery was tragic….
“We have sneaking suspicion that the President declined the proposal of some student groups to share the same platform with his rival because he had been told that he would be no match for Osmeña on TV. In that case his advisers observed correctly. On TV, Osmeña would make mincemeat of the President.”
The observation is a bit exaggerated. But the point made has not been lost on the LP bright boys, who have scheduled more TV appearances for Osmeña.
Newspaper columnists and opinion-makers sympathetic to the incumbent President and the First Lady outnumber those inclined to Osmeña, 8 to 2. What is keeping the Cebu senator from being buried is his headline-baiting tactic of making provocative statements during his daily press conferences with newsmen covering his campaign.
“Some people have been complaining that Osmeña gets into the news more often than Marcos does,” said veteran newsman Feliciano Magno, whom the Daily Mirror assigned to cover the Osmeña campaign. “We can’t help it. Osmeña is quicker on the draw and makes superior, more newsworthy statements at press conferences.”
Articles and items added as of January 21, 2013
Cover, April 20, 1946 issue
It’s Up to You Now!, by Leon O. Ty, November 7, 1953
My Years with the Free Press, by Frederic S. Marquardt, August 30, 1958
The death of The Guy, by Quijano de Manila, March 18, 1961
The Nation: 1965, by Quijano de Manila, June 12, 1965
Cover, April 5, 1986 issue
Madonna Power, by Teodoro M. Locsin, December 22, 1990
Articles added as of January 13, 2013
The Other Manila, by Quijano de Manila, December 13, 1952
The Masks of Filipinos, by Teodoro M. Locsin, June 17, 1961
The Week the Free Press Said Goodbye, by Gregorio C. Brillantes, December 12, 1964
The Choice, by Teodoro L. Locsin Jr., August 28, 1971
Year Ender and Men and Women of the Year
That was 1967 By Quijano de Manila (1967)
Men of the Year: Joseph Estrada and Chavit Singson (2000) By Manuel L. Quezon III
Corazon Aquino: Person of the Century By Manuel L. Quezon III (1998)
The Survivor: Man of the Year (1987)
Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. Man of the Year By Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. (1971)
Gaudencio Antonino, Man of the Year (1966)
Ferdinand E. Marcos, Man of the Year (1965) By Napoleon G. Rama
Diosdado Macapagal: Man of the Year By Napoleon G. Rama (1962)
Trinidad Legarda: Civil Leader of the Year: (1953) By Quijano de Manila
Ramon Magsaysay: Man of the Year By Leon .O. Ty (1951)
Osmeña: Man of the year By James G. Wingo (1940)
Joaquin Elizalde: Man of the Year (1940) By James G. Wingo
Manuel L. Quezon: Man of the Year (1933) By James G. Wingo
New additions, December 14-15, 2012
- Who owns this city? Editorial for October 3, 1908
- Marquardt Recounts Post-Landing Experiences, September 21, 1946 by Frederick Marquardt
- The Plight of the Displaced Population, February 22, 1947 by Federico Ayson
- They Saw Manoling for the Last Time, April 24, 1948 by Leon O. Ty
- In this corner: Lacson, May 11, 1957 by Quijano de Manila
- Strange Victory, November 23, 1957 (unsigned)
- The Phenomenon of Teilhard de Chardin, December 9, 1967 by Gregorio C. Brilliantes
- That was 1967, December 30, 1967 by Quijano de Manila
- Final round, November 1, 1969 by Napoleon G. Rama
- Remembering Teodoro M. Locsin, January 26,2002 by Manuel L. Quezon III
New additions, December 1-11, 2012
- No More Divorce? April 9, 1949 by Teodoro M. Locsin
- The Mind of Recto: The Wound and the Bow, June 21, 1952 by Teodoro M. Locsin
- Del Pilar, December 13, 1952 by Leon Ma. Guerrero
- Calle Azcarraga, March 4, 1961 by Quijano de Manila
- Quezon and Osmeña, December 15, 1962 by Frederick Marquardt
- From Yeh Yeh to Go Go, July 16, 1966 by Quijano de Manila
80 years of the Free Press, August 13, 1988
80 years of the Free Press
After 80 years, the commitment to people and country lives on
Free Press, August 13, 1988
By Gigi Galang
FOR a publication that’s a byword in Philippine magazine publishing, the Philippines FREE PRESS ironically began life as a newspaper during the first decade of the American occupation of the Philippines. Its maiden issue came out on January 20, 1907 and contained both English and Spanish sections. Owned by Judge W. A. Kincaid and edited first by Percy Warner Tinan and then by Pat Gallagher, the first FREE PRESS was set up as an organ of the Moral Progress League, a group engaged in a crusade against vice in Manila.
The early venture proved to be a dismal failure. Unable to generate enough revenue, the paper, after only a year in circulation, stopped publication in 1908. Before the year was over, however, the FREE PRESS would experience a quick revival at the hands of a Scotsman and this time to stay and become an institution in the Philippine scene.
R. McCulloch Dick had worked on newspapers in the United States and Hong Kong before coming to the Philippines in 1900. Shortly after arriving in Manila, he found employment with the Manila Times, first as reporter and later as editor. It was during his eight year with the Times that Dick thought of reviving Kincaid’s Philippines FREE PRESS.
In 1908, Dick asked Martin Egan, then correspondent of Associated Press in Manila and managing editor of the Manila Times, to allow him to take the two-week vacation leave due him. He explained that he was going to sound out some businessmen on his idea of a new publication. Granted his leave, Dick set out on his project.
Of the 12 businessmen he approached to help bankroll the project, two came out in favor; three or four were lukewarm; the rest predicted doom. Despite lack of financial support, Dick went ahead and put his lifetime savings of P8,000 as capital for the venture.
Meanwhile, Kincaid had departed for the United States, but he had left behind a power of attorney with Charles A. McDonough. It did not take long for ownership of the defunct paper to change hands. With Kincaid’s approval, Dick paid the token amount of one peso for the newspaper’s list of subscriptions, name and goodwill.
A magazine for harmony
On August 29, 1908, a new Philippines FREE PRESS reappeared with Dick as reporter, editor and publisher rolled into one. Now in magazine format, the FREE PRESS was printed on 16 pages of cheap paper and newsprint. As before, it contained English and Spanish sections. The new edition was priced at five centavos per copy.
In the maiden issue of the new magazine, Dick spelled out the policy that his publication would adopt:
The FREE PRESS will be conducted as an independent journal. It’s chief aim will be to promote, in its humble way and in so far as it may, a friendly feeling between Filipinos and Americans think they are, and the Americans are much better than some Filipinos think they are. In any case it holds that more is to be gained by harmony and mutual forbearance than by suspicion, irritation and discord.
The new FREE PRESS offices were located at No. 44 Escolta, on the second floor of the same building which housed Manuel Pellicer, Manila Shirt Factory and Dry Goods Store, and another fledgling publication—the Daily Bulletin, which had offices and printing plant in the building. By arrangement with Daily Bulletin owner Carson Taylor, the FREE PRESS was printed by the Bulletin press.
Joining Dick on the staff were Don Alberto Campos who stood as first assistant and later editor of the Spanish section, Percy Warner Tinan who took charge of the advertising, and F. Theo Rogers who helped solicit ads and refused to be paid for his services. Rogers was later to become the magazine’s general manager.
Years of hardship
The early years were a struggle for the magazine. After just seven months of publication, Dick original investment had been exhausted and he was compelled to borrow P2,000 at 8 per cent interest per annum to continue publishing.
It was during this touch-and-go period for the FREE PRESS that dick displayed a strict sense of frugality. One of the off-cited accounts of his parsimony related to the time when the Spanish section editor left his light on overnight. When Dick discovered the deed the next morning, he called the electric company to find out how much it cost for a bulb to burn all night, then ordered the business department to deduct the amount from the Spanish editor’s salary.
After another six to seven months following the P2,000 loan, Dick had borrowed another P1,000 to keep the FREE PRESS going. The fresh capital infusion proved sufficient to sustain the project. Shortly after, the FREE PRESS began to turn a profit.
When the Bulletin transferred offices to the Cosmopolitan Building the FREE PRESS went along because of the printing services. The magazine continued to be printed on the Bulletin press until 1921 when the FREE PRESS finally erected its own building on Rizal Avenue and installed its own printing plant.
By 1925, with the publication doing good business and established as a regular reading fare, the FREE PRESS began publishing short stories, a new feature then in journalism. Not long after, it launched its annual short story contest.
In 1929, the P1,000 prize in the short story contest was won by Jose Garcia Villa for his story “Mir-i-nisa.” In 1936, the first prize was bagged by Manuel Arguilla for his “Epilogue to Reconciliation.”
The Free Press Staff
Aside from the handful of people who joined Dick in the early years of the FREE PRESS, the pre-war staff members of the magazine included composing room foreman Domingo Magsarili, writers Leon Guerrero, Frederic Marquardt, Leon Ty, Filemon Tutay, Juan Collas, Alfonso Torres, D.L. Francisco, Ramon Navas, Roberto Anselmo, Federico Calero, Jose Joven, Jose G, Reyes and Teodoro Locsin, Sr. Artist Esmeraldo Izon drew the satirical cartoons that appeared on the magazine’s first page.
By the time World War II broke out, the FREE PRESS had become the most popular weekly publication in English and Spanish. Before the conquering Japanese closed the magazine in 1941, FREE PRESS circulation had gone past 80,000 copies per week.
Besides the paper’s becoming a journalistic casualty during the Japanese occupation, both Dick and Rogers were incarcerated at Fort Bonifacio. There, the Japanese attempted but failed to destroy the formidable Dick who kept his sanity by lecturing on Shakespeare before his fellow prisoners.
After the liberation and on the eve of the restoration of Philippine independence in 1946, Dick resumed publication of the FREE PRESS. In its post-war issue which came out on February 23, 1946, Dick explained the reasons for resuming publication of the FREE PRESS in an editorial entitled, “A Word to our Readers”:
After four years of “Blackout,” the FREE PRESS resumes publication. It is not the old Free Press as our readers know it. But we trust they will make allowances. We had really intended to postpone publication to a “more convenient season,” when conditions would be normal, but demand became so insistent with so many people asking “When is the FREE PRESS coming out?” that we finally capitulated—whether wisely or not, time will show.
Besides Dick and Rogers, of the pre-war staff members of the FREE PRESS only the triumvirate of Locsin, Ty and Tutay, plus artist Izon and composing room foreman Magsarili remained. But the magazine was joined by new talents, among them writers Nick Joaquin and Napoleon Rama, Artist Gene Cabrera, and Robert Hendry who was associate editor from 1947 to 1955, and who was later succeeded by Dick Kennewick.
Locsin, aside from writing two or three feature articles each issue, wrote almost all the editorials and was for some time the short story editor. (Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. would join the editorial staff in the sixties when he was barely 20. Later, Supreme Court justices would candidly tell Locsin Senior that they preferred his son’s pieces to his.)
The nation’s premier magazine
The years following the liberation of the Philippines from Japan were exciting, eventful and glorious for the FREE PRESS. Shortly after its revival, it won more and more readers and advertisers. By the time it reached circulation of 100,000, the vigor that marked the FREE PRESS’ style of journalism had made it the most successful magazine venture in the country.
The FREE PRESS came to be known as the publication that explored every significant event and issue without regard for the influence of people involved. During the American administration of the country, the magazine vigorously campaigned for an early independence of the Philippines from the United States. It also did not waver in its expose of venalities even in the highest office of the government.
For the FREE PRESS, exposing graft and abuse of public office was nothing less than a crusade. The commitment brought unrivalled influence on public opinion. It was said that no public official could afford to overlook the publication.
Nor was recognition limited to just inside the country.
In its August 26, 1955 issue, the New York Times paid tribute to the influence of FREE PRESS on Philippine life:
“Philippine elders have laboriously learned to read English so they could spell out for themselves the printed words of the FREE PRESS.
There’s many an argument in the barrios, a long-time American resident of the Islands said recently, that is settled for good at exactly the moment when someone remarks, “Well, the FREE PRESS said…”
“One reason for is that readers write more than half of the FREE PRESS. Subscribers report on a gay village fiesta; on an energetic mayor who gives medical injections and legal advices, teaches the catechism class and ghost writes all the letters of the community; on the successful mechanization of a small farm; the problems of a little barrio where all the water has to be carried by a cart a distance of three miles; a wedding of tribespeople in Zamboanga; a community ruined by hot feelings over politics; the only Filipino woman in Congress.”
One more significant fact that might be pointed out—the FREE PRESS was a newsmagazine long before Hadden and Luce developed Time. To this may be added that the many exclusives, explosive and otherwise, written by Locsin, Ty and Tutay came from tips furnished by people who had complaints against the government, other people or articles printed in the magazine.
A touch of libel
Proof of the courage that made the FREE PRESS a standout in the industry were the many libel cases brought against Dick (for an editorial written by then staffer Teodoro Locsin) by former governor Eliseo Quirino. The court acquitted the accused with commendation for service to the cause of good government. Governor Quirino gave a lechonada for Dick and Locsin. There was also the libel case filed at the behest of then Senate President Manuel L. Quezon. Dick himself was once ordered deported by Governor General Francis Burton Harrison. The case even reached the Supreme Court of the United States. It was later dropped when Harrison left the Philippines and placed administration of the country in the hands of Vice-Governor General Charles Emmet Yeater.
In August 1958, during the celebration of the FREE PRESS’ 50th anniversary, Dick and Rogers were awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor by the Philippine government for their service to the cause of Philippine freedom. The same year, Dick received the Ramon Magsaysay award for literature and journalism.
On June 16, 1965, the FREE PRESS came out with a weekly Pilipino edition. Called the Philippine FREE PRESS Sa Wikang Pilipino, it had the same format and content as the original FREE PRESS. It reached a circulation of 40,000 quickly, largely the provincial school system which used it as reading material. Then it experimented with radical articles and “sexy” stories by avant garde writers. Circulation took a nose-dive. In December 1970, the Pilipino edition was closed; it was a flop.
The pioneer passes away
In September 1960, R. McCulloch Dick passed away. His death marked the end of his more than 50 years of influence on Philippine Journalism. At the time of his demise, Dick owned 99 percent of FREE PRESS stocks, which he bequeathed to Rogers and his own employees under certain conditions. The corporation eventually bought the stocks of Rogers who had returned to the United States and lost interest in the magazine. Rogers died in the United States in late 1963.
In the hands of Teodoro Locsin Sr. as publisher and editor, the FREE PRESS remained the fightingest publication in the country.
Twenty months before Marcos imposed martial law, the FREE PRESS painted the scenario of life under military rule:
With the courts and Congress reduced to impotence and the independent press shut up—with publishers who dare to disagree with Marcos placed under house arrest or in concentration camps where they would be joined sooner or later by outraged justices of the Supreme Court, senators and representatives who would not lick the boots of Marcos, as well as others who would not submit to tyranny—the nation would be polarized. The Philippines would be divided into Marcos collaborators and those who love liberty and are branded misguided elements (as during the Japanese Occupation) and declared enemies of the Marcos state.
Life under a regime of martial law or a Marcos military dictatorship would be little different from the life during the Japanese Occupation. How many would submit to it? And how would Marcos ever dare restore civil law? Would he dare to leave Malacañang? Would he not be compelled to declare himself President for life, that is, a dictator forever? And how long would forever be?
On September 21, 1972, martial law was declared. The following day, Marcos issued Letter of Instruction No. 1 ordering the Press and Defense Secretaries to “take over and control or cause the taking over and control of the mass media for the duration of the national emergency, or until otherwise ordered by the President or his duly designated representative.”
Newspapers and magazines, including the FREE PRESS, were closed down, Leading media men, including Manila Times’ Chino Roces and the FREE PRESS’ Teodoro Locsin and Napoleon Rama, were arrested and imprisoned—without charges.
With the government clampdown, the FREE PRESS ended its many years as the country’s premier weekly magazine. It was not until 1986, 14 years after it was closed down, that the FREE PRESS reappeared in the country.
The magazine came out shortly before the February 7, 1986 snap elections to join the candidate Corazon Aquino’s campaign for the presidency.
After the EDSA revolution and the accession of a new regime, the FREE PRESS was relaunched as a fortnightly publication. But if the frequency was altered, the commitment to good government and the public interest never wavered.
That commitment—from the very birth of the magazine in 1908 to the present—in a sense explains the return in August 1988 of the FREE PRESS as a weekly journal of news and opinion.
Eighty years now lie behind the FREE PRESS. Unless catastrophe once more descends on the Philippines, it is certain to complete its first century of publication and offer more years of service to the life of the Filipino nation.
The Ruling Money, August 29, 1970
The Ruling Money
By Quijano de Manila
Anatomy of the Republic as a plutocracy.
August 29, 1970–THE RICH are different,” said the American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, who spent his youth singing hooray for the difference and the rest of his life suffering from it. Though a great writer, Fitzgerald was a naïf. He knew the rich had the power to escape the usual penalties attendant on living at all in this world, but he thought the power to be a special quality bred in the rich by their money—a special strength or glamour, or magic even, that made them able to charm their way out of the consequences of what they did.
This, of course, is bull. As the Ted Kennedy drowning case showed, the rich can get into a stupid funk just like you and me. They get away with it because they are indeed “different,” not as Fitzgerald mystically thought but as Hemingway bluntly put it when fed that line about the rich being different. “Yes,” said Hemingway, “they have more money.” Because the Kennedys have more money, son Ted could be given the benefit of the doubt—though it would be hard to say whose doubt that was. Not the American public’s to judge from the polls.
The Kennedy case did dent a Philippine superstition about the United States: that there, unlike here, rich and poor are equal before the law. But the larger superstition that implies still persists, which may be put this way: if money is power, then the American common man has more power than, say, the Latin American, not only because of the greater amount of American money but because of its more general distribution.
In a densely documented exposé entitled The Rich and the Super-Rich, the American economist Ferdinand Lundberg explodes that superstition. More than 30 percent of American wealth, he found out, was owned by only 1.6 percent of the adult population of 103 million. Since the government owned 20 percent of the wealth, that left less than half of the wealth to be divided among some 98 percent of the population, as of figures for the 1950s.
Of the top 1 percent who are rich, a fraction (0.11 percent) are super-rich; they own 45 percent of their group’s concentrated wealth.
The rest of the American people may be considered poor, and not just in comparison with the rich and the super-rich.
Of the have-not majority, 21.89 percent have gross estates averaging $ 15,000— “just enough to cover a serious personal illness.”
Another 18.4 percent of the population were “worth $6,000 on the average, which would probably largely represent participation in life insurance or emergency money in the bank… or two or three shares of AT&T.”
The remainder of the have-not group form the super-poor and they are the 50 percent of the population that own only 8.3 percent of the wealth. “They had an average estate of $1,800—enough to cover furniture, clothes, a television set and perhaps a run-down car. Most of them had less, many had nothing at all.”
Half of the US population are composed of the super-poor while a fraction of 1 percent are super-rich!
Even if we regard the group in between as “middle class” we are still without an argument for the United States as a popular democracy—that is, where the people have the power. Money is power, but the American “middle class” don’t have that kind of money. They may have two cars in the garage, a TV in every room, insurance and savings accounts—but all that doesn’t make them the ruling money. Of a population of 103 million, says Lundberg: “We see that 1.4 million households own 65 percent of the investment assets, which are what give economic control. Automobiles and home ownership and bank deposits do not give such control.”
So, there goes the picture of the United States as a “people’s capitalism” with a widely diffused ownership of industry. The statistics are indeed impressive: in 1962 more than 17 million Americans owned shares in business enterprises and the figure was believed to have swelled to 20 million in 1968.
But: “Most stockholders own trivial amounts of stock; anybody would qualify as a stockholder if he owned only one share worth 10 cents. We are already aware that 1.6 percent of the population own more than 80 percent of all stock, 100 percent of state and local government bonds, and 88.5 percent of corporate bonds.”
And the “people capitalists,” how much do they own?
“Less than 20 percent of all stocks in 1963 were owned by some 15.4 million people.”
And the rest of the 103 million Americans had no share at all in this “people’s capitalism.” The gap between rich and poor that’s supposed to be narrower in the United States turns out to be a Grand Canyon.
But at least, surely, the American masses do have political power? Lundberg says that this, too, like the “Affluent Society,” is a delusion. Without economic power there’s no political power; and the American masses are either too cowed or too indifferent to exercise even what power they have.
“Officials nominated by either one of two major parties are periodically elected at local, state and federal levels by a largely inept electorate that in most elections fails to participate to the full and in general turns out far below 50 percent. Whether the electorate fully participates makes no difference because most of the candidates are handpicked by nominating caucuses of the two major parties rather than of one party as in Russia. The caucuses function in default of popular activity; the populace simply has no political drive of its own. If Russia permitted a Socialist Party and a Communist Party (joined behind the scenes) it would be on all fours with the United States in respect of parties in the field; the candidates in the field might be politically identical twins, as is often the case in the United States (Johnson versus Goldwater). Money plays a large role in the manipulation of this system—much larger than is usually conceded.”
Not the people but the super-rich finance the “system” and the financing is “down payment on future influence in government.” Since the people cannot or will not actively participate in government, Lundberg calls the set-up in the United States an “oligarchy by default.”
“Writers, focusing attention on Central America, refer caustically to the ‘banana republics’—those countries, economically dominated by the United Fruit Company, whose political leaders are bought and sold like popcorn. Conditions in the United States, mutatis mutandis, are not nearly so different. Even in such a presumably distinctive Latin American feature as the intervention of the military, the United States now clearly overshadows anything in this line the Latin American republics are able to show. Except that the United States has such large numbers of industrial and office workers, rather than landless peasants, it has few features to which general descriptions of Latin American society do not apply. It might almost be said that there’s a growing tendency to mold the United States, apart from its industrial features, upon the ‘banana republics,’ this making it the Banana Republic par excellence.”
On top of the pile is a “well-established hereditary propertied class.” It’s the ruling money, the privileged oligarchy, the super-rich one percent. And it didn’t even earn its money or privilege.
“Great wealth in the United States is no longer ordinarily gained by the input of some effort, legal or illegal, useful or mischievous, but comes from being named an heir. Almost every single wealth holder of the upper half of 1 percent arrived by this route.”
No more room at the top.
The rest of the Americans find how insecure “affluence” is when they lose a job.
“As was shown in the 1930s, Americans can become destitute overnight if deprived of their jobs, a strong support to mindless conformity. As a matter of fact, many persons in rather well-paid jobs, even executives, from time to time find themselves jobless owing to mergers, technical innovations or plant removal. Unable to get new jobs, they suddenly discover, to their amazement, that they are really poor.”
Ability, skills, talent, merely personal qualities, cannot be depended on as assets in the exploitative society.
“The incandescent Marilyn Monroe, as big as they come in filmdom and a veritable box-office Golconda, died broke.”
For that matter, so did poor Scott Fitzgerald, his talent worn out and wasted in the Hollywood dream factories, in the service of the big money that awed him when young.
Insecurity—Thoreau’s “quiet desperation” —is the American way of life.
How is the Philippine picture similar and different?
“FANTASTICALLY LOPSIDED” is how Lundberg describes income distribution in the United States. The Philippines money graph would provoke the same exclamation.
In May, 1969, the Senate committee on economic affairs issued a report on the country’s development from 1955 to 1968.
The most depressing finding was that, in a period of 13 years, “there has been no substantial change in the structure of our economy.” We were still an agricultural country of low productivity, with 58 percent of the labor force tied up in food production, only 11 percent engaged in manufacture. We had no capital-goods industry to speak of; our industry was more assembly than manufacture; and our manufacture was limited to durables like furniture and non-durables like cigarettes, had remained static since 1958, was heavily dependent on imported raw materials.
As a result, our foreign-trade deficit rose from over $147 million in 1955 to over $301 million in 1968: “The deficit in the last two years alone [1967-68] is greater than the combined deficit from 1957 to 1966.”
The national income had increased by 94 percent during the 13-year period, from almost P8 billion in 1955 to almost P15 billion in 1968. But again, this was partly a depressing finding. Despite an increase in average family income, and a shrink in the bottom group of society, the income structure had not changed either. The gap between rich and poor remained just as wide, or had widened further.
“In 1965, as in 1957, the 10 percent of our families who comprise the highest income bracket received 40 percent of the total income, leaving 60 percent of the income to be divided among 90 percent of the families.”
The figures for 1957 may be broken down thus:
2.8 percent of Filipino families earn over P5,000 a year.
17.1 percent earn between P2,001 and P4,999.
This 19.9 percent of Filipino families may be regarded as our “middle-class”—and it’s as meager as the incomes that make it comparatively well-to-do.
78.12 percent of all Filipino families earn less than P2,000 a year.
These are our poor and they comprise almost 80 percent of the nation’s households.
In this group are two subgroups that may be called the super-poor, because the figures on them are:
17.7 percent of Filipino families earn less than P1,000 a year.
11.6 percent earn less than P500.
Or almost 30 percent of the nation’s households living in stark misery.
Now for the other end of the scale.
1 percent of the nation’s families earn over P25,000 a year. These are the rich.
And one-tenth of this 1 percent earn over P100,000 a year. These are the super-rich.
So, in a country where 50 percent of the households live in poverty and 30 percent in utter misery, 1 percent of Filipino families live in affluence and a fraction of them live in super affluence.
Do these happy few constitute, as in the United States, an oligarchy?
Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., who helped prepare that Senate report, thinks so. The 1 percent on top are the ruling money not only because they monopolize the wealth but because they control the sources of wealth (land, industry) and the forces of wealth (banking, politics). But the Philippine picture differs from the American in that we are still, more or less, in the robber-baron and nouveau-riche stage.
There’s still room at the top.
THREE LAYERS of wealth have accumulated since the turn of the century and Senator Aquino identifies these layers with lands, politics and banks.
“When the Americans came, a group of young lawyers started titling lands: this was the beginning of the big estates. Gregorio Araneta, for example, became the lawyer of the Tuason family that claimed this tremendous tract of land from Sampaloc to the Marikina Valley. The original source of the Philippine fortunes was, therefore, land—either Spanish grants, like the Ayala estate, or the acquisitions titled during the 1900s.
“The second generation of Filipino wealth came from government connections. In the 1920s when Quezon was financing his independence missions, certain people got choice contracts from the government, like the Teodoros of Ang Tibay, the Madrigals of the shipping line.
“Then we have a third generation of millionaires: those who got concessions from government financing institutions, like the sugar barons. The Philippine National Bank was set up and it financed practically the entire sugar-mill construction of the period. The movement was from Negros Occidental to Iloilo and the sugar barons—the Lopezes, the Javellanas, the Aranetas—started taking over virgin forest.”
The PNB marked an important development: Filipinos—or, at least, some Filipinos—began to have access to capital. Previously, all banks in the country were foreign-owned. Not until 1938 was the first Filipino private commercial bank founded: the Philippine Bank of Commerce. And only after the war, during the Garcia era, did the native entrepreneur really understand why he should have his own bank.
“This cue was Garcia’s Filipino First. The Americans in the Philippines, the British, the Chinese—they had their own banks. But Filipinos had only the PNB to rely on and even there they were not, so to speak, getting the lion’s share, because the Chinese were more adept in the lagay system. So, we began putting up our own banks. The Rufinos set up the Securities Bank, the Santos family, their Prudential Bank; a group of sugar planters (Sarmiento, Antonino), their PCI Bank; and young professionals, graduates of foreign schools, came back and put to use what they had learned by establishing a bank of their own : the Far East.
“There was this proliferation of banks because the Filipino had suddenly realized that money begets money and that he who holds capital can control the economy. The development of native banking system spurred activity in all directions. Now, for the first time, the Filipino had his own capital. On it, he could borrow foreign funds to use for his own development. So, you had the opening of subdivisions, another source of funds, of capital, and you had the rise of local manufacturing industries, all financed by local banks. This is a healthy sign: the Filipino is becoming the master in his own house.”
But Senator Aquino sees one great danger: the Filipino who becomes master in Juan’s house may not be Juan de la Cruz himself. Juan may find that the foreign exploiter he kicked out has been replaced by a native one. “The Spanish exile, Salvador de Madariaga, warned that a country can become the colony of its own people.” And the hurt is that it’s Juan’s money that will be used to make him poorer and his master richer. As the taxes that Juan pays to the government too often are used merely to enrich a few politicians, so, in the banking system, the money of the depositors, of the people, may be used merely to capitalize the owners of the banks.
Senator Aquino says that this is already happening.
“That’s why when Licaros became governor of the Central Bank he came up with the controversial Circular No. 306. This circular makes it official, in writing, that there are tremendous arrears (unpaid debts) in private banks—arrears accountable by the majority stockholders, officers and directors of private banks. In other words, they borrowed money from their own banks, they used the money that people had deposited with them—and they are in arrears. So, according to Licaros, the entire private banking system must never have more than 5 percent in arrears. [The present rate is at least 10 percent.] And he has suggested to us in Congress an amendment to the General Banking Act to penalize bank directors, officials and stockholders who borrow more than their equity in their bank.”
Such a curb, if imposed abruptly, would, thinks Senator Aquino, result in financial chaos: the rich who have been growing richer through two decades by using the depositor’s money would have to be given time to restructure their loans; and the senator also sees how these rich folk who compose a “syndicate” that controls the banks might evade the curb by lending their banks’ money to one another.
“But Licaros says that the moment you go from your bank to another, the application for a loan will have to be examined by two sets of people; it becomes an arm’s-length deal; you will have to put up some collateral; and if there’s somebody on the board of directors who’s not a member of the ‘syndicate’ he could raise hell if the loan is not aboveboard. Licaros maintains that, while this may not completely eliminate the practice, it would minimize it. My contention is: unless we restructure the banking system to break the stranglehold of a small elite of the affluent, this country will definitely become a colony of its own people.”
Already, warns the senator, around 50 super-rich families have become, in effect, the oligarchy that rules our lives.
“These 50 families or so control the private banking system and they now control about 50 percent of the total money in circulation. They are interlocked among themselves through marriage; they join together to buy up foreign corporations. So, already in control of capital, they end up owning the sources of capital. And this new breed of colonizers is sometimes more rapacious than the old ones.”
A public-utility firm previously foreign-run is taken over by the super-rich Filipinos—and what’s the first thing they do? Raise the rates. The service remains just as awful, or gets worse. This, grimaces Senator Aquino, is the fulfillment of Quezon’s wish: a Philippines run like hell by Filipinos.
And it’s not only in the private sector that the 50 super families are taking over. They have also become the State; at least, they alone seem to know how to use it. For their own profit, of course. A good illustration of this is the priority they enjoy when it comes to loans of government funds. Those funds are supposed to be the people’s money. Do “the people” ever get a crack at it?
COMPOUND INJUSTICE it cannot but seem that the elite 10 percent who get 43 percent of the nation’s income should also monopolize the State funds available for capital.
The monopoly, as exemplified during the Marcos era, has been examined by Senator Aquino.
“We cannot get complete solid detailed data, but this much we know. The government has granted around ₱4.5 billion in loans during the Marcos administration. Of this, from 40 to 50 families got 2.3 billion, either by borrowing directly from, or getting their foreign loans guaranteed by, government financing institutions. In other words, some 40-50 families got almost 50 percent of the total loanable funds of the government.
“One family got a loan guarantee for ₱300 million; another, for ₱263 million; a third, for ₱178 million. Sunod-sunod na ‘yan.”
Just the names of those families betray their political connections; those actually—and eminently—in politics enjoyed even larger drafts.
“Two senators each got over ₱400 million; a congressman got ₱180 million. Now what could you possibly say about that?
“It’s true the loans may be not money given out by the government but money borrowed from abroad, on guarantees of the Philippine government—but if the borrowers fail to pay it’s the government that will have to pay.”
In snide terms: to favor 40 or 50 families, the government is willing to risk bankrupting 38 million Filipinos. And these favored families may not even have to risk a signature. A joke in banking circles is that if you belong to the elite just the sound of your name (and the proper amount of kickback, of course) will suffice to get you a government loan. Once the deal is set you can line up your housemaids, chauffeurs and gardeners and make them sign the deed; you’ll get the money just the same.
One gigantic loan being negotiated by a top favorite of the regime had Senator Aquino worried because it looked at first like a direct loan from the government—which is supposed to be lean on funds. Though even a government guarantee for such a huge loan still seems too great a risk, Senator Aquino is more or less resigned to letting the favorite get it— “as long as he himself signs for it.”
Making the State’s fiscal machinery exploitable by an elite is not peculiar to the Marcos administration. Every Philippine president, says Aquino, spawned his own set of millionaires. Quezon did it, to fund his own political machine, and the millionaires he created repaid love with love. “When the T-V-T became obnoxious to Quezon he called in his group of millionaires led by Madrigal and told them to put up a newspaper chain and they came up with the D-M-H-M.” Even the “freedom of the press” depends on the requirements of the ruling money.
Under the Republic the successive sets of millionaires have been identifiable with their respective gold mines.
“The first set was the surplus-property millionaires under Roxas. Then you had the immigration-quota millionaires under Roxas. Then you had the immigration-quota millionaires under Quirino; the import-control millionaires under Quirino and Magsaysay; the reparations millionaires under Garcia; and Macapagal’s government-financed millionaires: the Todas, the Delgados, who put up the Hilton. Under Marcos we have the money-manipulators, the quick artists who dabble in stocks and make money on such manipulations as the devaluation of the peso.”
Of each new set, a few millionaires will survive the passing of the regime, the rest will sink back to obscurity, as a Tony Quirino fades away with the passing of his brother. Those who survive “institutionalize” themselves; they can still be tagged according to their respective eras—a Dindo Gonzalez from Quirino times; a Chiongbian or Antonino or Rustia or Tantoco or Durano from Garcia days; a Toda from the Macapagal era—but where, before, they were identified with a specific administration, now they can influence any administration. They can join the “syndicate” of the super-rich who control the nation’s wealth, the money supply, the banks and the State funds; and it’s this elite, says Senator Aquino, who really control the economic and political destinies of the country.
“Why do I say political? First: these bankers who control 50 percent of the total money in circulation can gang up against any political candidate, or, for that matter, can meet together and agree among themselves to support a particular candidate. Now, big politician needs big money. Big money only comes from big businessman. Big businessman gives big money to big politician. Then big politician repays the favor. That’s the cycle of corruption.
“Second: big businessman gets to feeling it’s more economical to seek public office himself instead of funding candidates who may become unreliable or recalcitrant. This is the beginning of the businessman turned politician. So now we have millionaires and bankers and industrialists going into politics to protect their interests. Not content with economic power, they want it combined with political power. And if they can’t run themselves, they make their wives run for office. This is the development of the dynasties.”
The senator thinks this “pyramiding” of wealth and power unhealthy.
“When the wealth of a country is used by a handful to make the rest of the population virtual slaves, that is unhealthy because it’s no longer a democracy. This is what the young activists denounce as feudalism: a small group of families controlling the destinies of the bulk of the population.”
Moreover, by controlling the politicians, or by being in politics themselves, the elite families ensure that no attempt to reform them out of power can ever succeed. How impose tax laws or inheritance laws to redistribute the wealth when those whom these laws would hurt control the Palace and the Congress and the courts?
Nevertheless Senator Aquino insists that a beginning can be made.
“For example, in the matter of the government loans, I propose that any such loan over half a million be granted to a corporation only if 40 percent of its shares are offered to the public. A corporation not open thus to the public should not be granted a government loan. Why should the money of the people go to one rich family to make that family super-rich? Only public-held corporations should enjoy priority.
“Another thing I would propose: rigid anti-trust laws. In the United States you can’t have what are called ancillary businesses. For example, you are General Motors, you have to purchase tires. You can’t set up a tire company because that would give you undue advantage. Nor a battery factory, because that’s also related to your main line.
“Now the Meralco: it generates 90 percent of the total power in this country. It’s putting up a transformer company. So, that new company will have a 90 percent captive market. If you were an individual wanting to put up a transformer company of your own, how can you compete? You would be fighting only for a 10 percent free market. But Meralco, which, under the law, may not make more than 12 percent profit, can pass all its income to that ancillary transformer company.”
That’s how the rich become richer.
And that’s why they will block anti-trust laws, anti-monopoly laws, inheritance-tax laws, land reform, tax reform, and every attempt to diffuse and equalize wealth.
But the situation is not entirely hopeless. The ruling money is also a built-in bomb.
“Divine Providence,” says Senator Aquino, “has provided for certain checks to self-perpetuating royalty, as can be seen in what happened to European royalty.”
The built-in bomb is in-breeding.
“Sila-sila ang nagasawahan,” laughs the senator.
THE INCESTUOUSNESS of ruling money ensures its downfall better than any socialist law—especially in the Philippines, where energy seems to drain out of a family in two or three generations.
In two generations the Quezon, and in three generations the Legarda, family is faced with extinction. The Castelvi were authentic bluebloods but in barely a century slid from top drawer to déclassé. The Ayala-Zobel business empire rides the impetus brought in by two outsiders, McMicking and Soriano; the direct heirs have turned to art and culture. Of the two boys who inherited the Cojuangco hacienda, neither is running it; authority has passed to those who married into the family. The department-store Aguinaldos were a tycoon family before the war; the third generation has run out of steam. A similar attenuation of spirit imperils every big business family in the country, whether it be the Elizalde or the Yulo or the Roces, and the trend is to bring in outsiders: the family itself can no longer supply the talent. The Madrigals have to employ professional managers to run their businesses; so do the Lopez brothers, who own the biggest fortunes in the country but, alas, cannot count on their sons to take over and carry on.
This is our protection against “dynasties”: that they don’t last long enough to be a dynasty.
“Therefore,” says Senator Aquino, “you really cannot talk of old fortunes in the Philippines. The oldest fortune today would not be more than a hundred years old. It’s money without pedigree. All of it started, somehow, somewhere, in corruption; then the children gamble it away.
“It’s a phenomenon: how the children of the rich tend to backslide. They join the jet set, or they go into art. It’s very rare for the children of the founder to take over the business and improve it. By the third generation you get the young heirs stricken with guilt and social conscience, and the rich hippies rebelling against their own Establishment, and the alienated young who take pot because they have so much money. The rich plant the seeds of their own destruction.”
Even if there are competent heirs to take over the family business, outsiders must still be brought in and allowed to occupy positions of power.
“You are a millionaire with 20 industries and three sons. How can they run all those industries? The era of the individual swashbuckler, the one-man show, is passing; Gonzalo Puyat, Amado Araneta—they are a vanishing breed. Modern industry demands so many different special talents you can only be chairman to a board composed of those talents. And whereas, before, a family could raise a million and start an industry, today capital is in terms of tens of millions. You would have to invite 20 or 30 other families to join in—and the diffusion of wealth begins. It’s no longer a closed family corporation, a tayo-tayo outfit where father is the president, mother is the treasurer, and the children are the directors. You have to hire professional managers.
“This is the new development. An elite is developing which Adolf Berle calls ‘the powerful without money.’ Before, you could have power only with money. Now, you can have power without money, by becoming the professional manager of a giant corporation, not because you own stock in it but because of sheer talent. For example: McNamara of Ford, Lyn Townsend of Chrysler, Knudsen of General Motors. They are technical people who rose from the ranks to wield tremendous power without money. The same thing, I submit, is happening in our country: the rise to power of technical talent who do not come from landed families. A classic example is Leo Virata.”
The trend is most visible in the Marcos cabinet.
“To the credit of Marcos, no other administration has given so much opportunity to the technocrats. The President has realized that to come up with a government for the 1970s he can no longer rely on the old political talent; he has to backstop his political organization with an army of technocrats. That is why he brought in management experts like Ponce Enrile, Alex Melchor, Cesar Virata, Gerry Sicat, Placido Mapa. The age of the technocrat has come.”
What this means is that technical talent is becoming a counterforce to the ruling money. If they should put up a candidate for president against the candidate of the plutocrats, the technocrats could change Philippine society without a revolution—because, says Aquino, the presidency is armed with revolutionary power. “I have always contended that the successful Philippine revolution will be a Palace coup.” A young president elected to power by the technocrats, should he wish to destroy the Establishment that opposed him, has only to use the laws that empower him to take over all public-utility and communications companies, seize their assets and equipment, recall the franchises. With one stroke he could raze the Establishment. No president has yet dared use this power of his against the plutocrats because every president has owed his position to them.
“But the elite have now realized the implications of this terrible power concentrated in the hands of the chief executive and that’s why they’re going to make their influence felt in the Constitutional Convention, to have that power diluted. This is one of the current moves of the elite.”
The senator is strongly against such a dilution of presidential powers, even if, ultimately, he is not so despairing of the elite as he may sound.
“The advantage of the money establishment in this country is its resiliency. It is not rigid, you can move it; it is not impervious to public opinion. Look at the Church: it is changing. The Filipino elite may not even have to respond to the challenge, because they will do the challenging. They will grab the leadership again, this opportunistic elite of ours. And they are pragmatic, they are innovators. They will lead the Revolution. They realize that, if the old system is not changed, their hard-earned money will go.”
THIS OPTIMISM may be justified. Ours is, after all an Establishment that hardly deserves the name, so barely founded is it; and many of the plutocrats can remember the days when papa rode the buses and mama was the neighborhood usurer. Money itself upstart has no nose to turn up at upstarts, nor can “society” crystallize in a country where each change of regime brings on a crop of parvenu.
Despite the great distance, the view from the bottom is still of room at the top. McMicking and Soriano began as accountants for the Ayalas; and Gregorio Araneta, as the Tuasons’ attorney. With the rapid attenuation of blood, today’s plutocrat, when considering an applicant, whether for manager or son-in-law, may not be so concerned to ask what family he comes from as what business school: Harvard? Wharton? Since it’s talent that counts in such schools, their Filipino graduates today are apt to be poor boys who made it aboard on fellowship or grant. If, says Senator Aquino, we spent as much effort searching for such talent to send to good schools as we spend searching for shapely girls to send to beauty contests, we would be hastening social reform.
That the rich can be scared into conscience was proved by the number of balls canceled in the wake of the riots and by the sudden swell of the Christian Social Movement, at whose meetings, one hears, Mr. Manglapus has only to shake a warning finger to get, like another Savoranola, the greatest ladies stripping off their jewels to cast at his feet. But even apocalypse may at last come to feel like something one can live with; and the latest communiqués from the front—Bantay and Cadiz and Cotabato, Expo and Customs, ballroom and fashion salon—indicate that the powerful have recovered from shock and it’s business as usual. Optimism over their voluntary reform should therefore be tempered by the thought of the Bourbons who came and went, and came back again, having learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
If one has any doubts about who rules and owns this country, one has only to consider the curious upsurge of violence by the “forces of the law,” as if the Establishment, having got over its scare, would have us remember who holds the fire power. Polcom is supposed to have reported an increase of violence but most probably didn’t say if the increase was of violence done by the people or done to the people—and included the burning of that barrio in Bantay, the massacre of those barrio officials in Tarlac. One could then go and ask on which side the police always are during labor strikes; or the PC, when peasants are being burned out of their property or being shot down in cold blood; or the courts, when the question is the defense of Establishment property. Since ours is a plutocracy, they rule the country who own it—and the police agencies are their private security guards. That’s the best index of where power resides—and how uneasily.
In Canton, an island on the river served as castle for the ruling of money, which was foreign, in the days when such enclaves in China could keep a snigger at the gate: No dogs or Chinese allowed. There were tycoon of taste in Canton and the enclave they built was beautiful—tree-shaded lanes, a splendid mall, lordly manors spaced by lawn or garden—but they didn’t know whom they were really building for. They are long gone now and, in what was their Forbes Park, Chinese workers share the houses from which, before the Revolution, money ruled.
In Havana, there are similar relics from the days of the ruling money: elegant villages, a yacht club, a polo club, exclusive beaches. Again, the tycoon, both native and foreign, of Batista days didn’t know for whom they gilt a ceiling or marbled a floor. They couldn’t take it with them—and the people have taken over. In the stylish villages, the great houses are now clinics or colleges or rest homes for workers. The yacht club is a fishermen’s cooperative and on weekends turns into a rendezvous for proletarian boating aficionados. On the beaches once exclusive to those who had the color of money now swim every shade of sepia, every kind of black. The polo club has been turned into a boarding school for young talent and on the grounds where the jet set gamboled teenage Cubans paint, sculpt, dance, compose music, stage dramas, put on concerts—and all as wards of the State, which scouts for talent.
“For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”
Next time you ride past Forbes Park, remember: the ruling money never knows for whom it builds a Versailles.
Kit and Larry: The boys in the back room, July, 1970
Kit and Larry: The boys in the back room
By Quijano de Manila
July 1970–THE boys in the back room will have been there a year come August and they’re moving towards their first anniversary amid distressing rumors that the first shall be the last.
The back room is the Malacañang Press Office and the boys supposedly besieged there are Kit and Larry—or, to give them their official titles, Press Secretary Francisco Tatad and Assistant Press Secretary Lorenzo Cruz. From their back room come the Palace bulletins on what’s happening in the front room, for their job is to report on the President, as well as hand out the chronicles on the Palace gathered for the front page. Their other job is to act as liaison between the press and the President.
How well have they been doing their twin job?
There is said to be some dissatisfaction with the President’s image these days and, of course, the Press Office gets part of the blame. Discontent with its work has been read into two recent happenings: the removal of the press secretary from the cabinet, and the appearance of Government Report as the publicizer of the executive office.
On the other hand, the newsmen whose regular beat is the Palace are also said to be not quite happy about how the Press Office facilitates their coverage and this has led to a guessing game on who among possible replacements could work more harmoniously with the press. Until recently, the name of Sweepstakes Chairman Nereo Andolong was most loudly dropped—but it now seems to have been dropped for good. No new names have cropped up; the names that plague the back room are mostly of old grudges spreading scareheads.
Last month, an interviewer even told Larry Cruz the exact date on which the Press Office to be revamped: June 23. The day has come and gone, but Kit and Larry are still in the back room. Nevertheless, there are people who go on insisting that a “big revamp” there is in the offing.
“It seems they are more sure about that,” smiles Larry, than the President. I think only the President knows when we are to be booted out, or if he wants to. I don’t think he wants a revamp. As far as I know there are no plans to revamp the Press Office. We have not had any inkling at all.”
As Larry sees it, the current intrigues are not news; they are merely the sequels of the power struggles that erupted last year when the ten press secretary, Joe Aspiras, decided to run for Congress and a number of people began jostling for the position about to be vacated. Since the contenders were veteran newsmen, the selection of so young an unknown as Kit Tatad—prematurely announced in Joe Guevara’s column—could not but arouse antagonism. The vets had been passed up for a little pup of an “interloper.” Larry Cruz happened to come on Tatad at the MOPC at around this time and he asked Kit if he really had been offered the Press Office. Kit Tatad said yes, but he had not yet accepted. And if he should accept, would Larry be willing to join him as assistant press secretary? It was Larry’s turn to flip. Kit was compounding his chief crime: he was only 28 and he would take on as assistant secretary somebody who was only 27! Together, Kit and Larry as the boys in the back room would be the Children’s Hour in the Great Again Society.
Not that Larry Cruz was a greenhorn, whether as deadline byliner or as political drumbeater. His father is the Daily Mirror editor and from college (FEU, liberal arts, unfinished) Larry had passed to the news desk of DZMT, later became news director of Channel 5. In 1961, during the last months of the presidential campaign, he worked briefly for the NP propaganda. “I had a very minor role preparing radio news; it was merely a technical job. When Garcia lost, we disbanded. We went to the office one morning and fount it abandoned: no more air-conditioners, no more typewriters.” Larry moved on to the news directorship of the Herald radio station, then to an associate editorship on the Graphic. In 1965 he became the Manila bureau director for Asia Magazine. After the 1965 campaign, Larry was introduced to Blas Ople, who was scouting for talent. “It was Blas Ople who actually ran the 1965 campaign; his was the strategy group. It was so effective the President decided to retain it. Blas got a bigger office, a bigger staff, and he was doing all the speeches of the President, major and minor. Actually his writers’ group was a technical service—Blas Ople & Associates—but after the 1965 campaign they had only one client: the President. And Blas Ople said to me: ‘Why don’t you join us? So I joined him on a part-time basis. In the 1967 campaign I was backstopping for Ariel Bocobo, who was NP spokesman. Just before the 1969 campaign I thought of resigning from Asia Magazine and I told Blas I could work full time for him. So I was deeply involved in the 1969 campaign.”
Larry had married young, in his teens (he’s the father of four), but the need for security was out-itched by a liking for new horizons. The Blas Ople group was such a frontier; now, in mid-campaign, Kit Tatad offered another.
Kit and Larry had known each other since the time they had covered the foreign office for their respective news agencies. A pioneer campus reb, Kit Tatad had left the UST without graduating, went to work for Agence France, then shifted to the Manila Daily Bulletin, where he became a columnist. Something he wrote attacking Kokoy Romualdez brought him to Kokoy’s attention. ’Tis said that Kokoy had known the young man only a few months when he proposed Tatad for the press secretaryship.
The move to revamp the Press Office, to gear it to the campaign, started in the summer of ’69. Joe Aspiras was still nominally the press secretary, but it was his assistant, Jake Clave, who was doing the work. Aspiras would have liked Jake to succeed him as press secretary—which would have meant that Johnny Tuvera, the “brain trust” of this group, the Ilocano bloc, would have been the assistant press secretary. Unfortunately, Jake Clave was not acceptable to the Waray bloc, which opined that “si Jake masipag, pero ang estilo niya nagsisilbe ng café.” The complaint was that no new ideas were coming from the Press Office; a new-idea man would have to be put there, preferably a young man with imagination.
Andolong clearly wanted the position, other names in the running were newsmen Johnny Perez and Gene Marcial. Then out of the blue dropped the name of Kit Tatad—and his backer was the Waray bloc. This almost united the other contenders in an effort to stop the “interloper” and “upstart.” Then Joe Guevara jumped the gun by revealing that Kit had already been offered the position.
“That was,” relates Larry Cruz, “when we met at the MOPC and I asked Kit how true was the rumor. He said: ‘It’s true. The President had me called to the Palace and he told me they were thinking of asking me to become press secretary and would I accept. I told him I felt very flattered and would consider the job a challenge. But first, I would have to talk to my publisher (Hans Menzi of the Bulletin).’ But before Kit could do that, the news came out in Joe Guevara’s column and Menzi was mad. Kit had to resign at once from the Bulletin.
“Then he found himself in a very embarrassing position, jobless for about two months. Andolong was campaigning hard to get the Press Office. So, nabitin ang appointment ni Kit.
“At that time I was working full time with Blas on propaganda. I was editing a magazine and a tabloid. Kit said: if he got the appointment, would I come in as assistant secretary. I told him the President didn’t know me; I did not know how the President felt about me. But Kit said: “Sigue na, if I take the job I would like to have somebody I can work with.’ We had worked together, we went around together. I read him, he reads me. We have the same likes and dislikes. I told him I would have to talk with Blas Ople.
“I explained the situation to Blas around June. ‘Blas,’ I said, ‘Kit is in a dilemma because he was offered his job, nabibitin, and he would not like to work with Gene Marcial [then rumored as a possible assistant press secretary], so there’s a problem. Blas said: ‘Let’s work for you.’ Afterwards, Kit asked Blas: ‘What about Gene Marcia?’ Gene Marcial was close to Kokoy but it was Kokoy who had named Kit for the Press Office. Then it was intended that Gene would take over at the Graphic when Luis Mauricio became NP spokesman. But when Mauricio was named the party spokesman he didn’t resign from the Graphic, he just went on leave. So, Gene Marcial was out again. According to the talk, he was so disgusted he had this rift with Kokoy and then he joined Osmeña.”
Meanwhile, in mid-campaign, he Press Office was becoming demoralized because the question of he secretaryship was still up in the air. Since the anti-Kit forces would not yield, a dark horse was sought.
“Blas Ople talked it over with the President on the telephone: ‘How about Johnny Gatbonton?’ [Gatbonton is the ex-editor of Asia Magazine.] Said the President: ‘Sound him out.’ So Blas called up Johnny, who was in Hong Kong, and Johnny turned it down flat. Then somebody said: ‘Why don’t we try Chitang?’ But Carmen Guerrero Nakpil said: ‘I don’t think I’m cut out for that kind of job.’ So, Kit na. Blas told the President: ‘Mr. President, you have to decide one way or the other soon.’ And the President asked Blas: ‘Whom do you support?’ And Blas said: ‘Kit, because we know how he works and we read him and he’s not so bad.’
“That meeting was in the morning. That afternoon I went to the movies and didn’t come home till ten in the evening. I found an order to report to the Palace at four the next afternoon to take my oath. Kit and I had already been appointed. We came in on August 16.
“What Jake Clave can’t forget is what Kit said in an interview just before his appointment. Kit said he wanted to invest the Press Office with a new style, a new image. Jake Clave said to Johnny Tuvera: ‘Tang na! What style and what image!’ They have not yet forgiven Kit. Terrific ang intrigue, which lasts up to now.”
The back room the boys took over in August of last year had been in crisis for two months and they waded into chaos.
“We were lost,” shrugs Larry. “We didn’t know how things were. Clave stayed just long enough to give me the key to his drawer ad brief us, but we found out later that there were so many things he failed to tell us. So, for the next three months we were groping. But the important thing was to get the stories across; the problem was how to handle the newsmen.”
Setting the back room in order had to wait while Kit and Larry concentrated on the task at hand: to report on the President’s campaign and to help the press cover it.
“The press was sounded out before our appointment and they had no objections to Kit. They had objections to Andolong and they still have up to now. The impression he tries to create is that he’s financing the radio commentators—and newsmen will be just as well off once he is press secretary.”
The appeasement of Andolong was to cost the Press Office some prestige and funds.
“Andolong was told: ‘Nering, paciencia ka na muna; we have a commitment to Kit.’ So there was this compromise. Inalis sa amin ang National Media. Before, the National Media was under the supervision of the Press Office. Its funds were taken away from us, they did not trust us with the money. So it’s now under the Office of the President. Aspiras, since he’s a favorite there, was the only one who really controlled it—which means Clave and Tuvera also, since they are with Aspiras; and the money was used during the campaign. You see, there’s inter-action.
“As Andolong told me, Kit was to be given pen and paper, no money. Anyway, Kit and I were glad that campaign funds were not to come from us. We would have, not money, but talagang press work, and that’s what we consider the challenge. Nering was in charge of the provincial press and the radio. Jake financing and Blas was in charge of special projects, of which we were a part. But Blas had to account for all our expenses—for example, if we ordered a thousand Imelda pictures. In other words, malinis ang pasok namin, clean slate.”
No extra funds, aside from its own budget, were transferred to the Press Office?
“A little, but not a fraction of what Aspiras and Clave had. We only got that little extra when we went out on campaign trips—say, five thousand for one week’s expenses.”
The expenses were bedding and boarding the newsmen who went along on the trip—and here Kit and Larry learned of a sly practice of the Press Office, the same practice exposed by Kerima Polotan in a recent article. Besides the legitimate bed and board while on the road, he newsmen might be treated to a night on the town and provided with the usual entertainment—but the Press Office kept an account of each newsman’s special entertainment: what it was and how much it cost.
“Why should you take a fellow out, say, to a night club and then keep his chit to use against him later on? That is foul. But it was the practice before. Kerima was not talking about us, she was talking above Clave. It was Clave who kept the chits. So, everyone is attacking the Press Office for doing such a thing.”
Another thing the new back-room boys learned was that certain newsmen who went along on a trip received a “baon” from the Press Office.
“When we came in, that was the system. On every trip the newsmen were given an allowance of a hundred pesos a day; so for five days that’s five hundred. We asked: Is that necessary; shouldn’t we try to remove a system like that? But it was accepted fact, inherited practice, and we could not change it during the campaign. That wasn’t possible then, but certainly we chose the people na bibigyan. They expected it, no longer as a bribe, but as part of the standard operating procedure.
“Then we discovered that, apart from these regular dole-outs, some newsmen were getting five hundred pesos a month from the Press Office. After the campaign we said: ‘Ihinto na ’yan at masama; dapat ma-stop.’ No more of these news photographers who, when they take a picture, tumataga. No more libre this and libre that. They don’t look on it as bribes any more but as our duty to them.
“We have stopped the regular dole-outs. Now when we go on a trip, our fund is very small, only for transportation, board and lodging. Night clubs, all right we take them out. I don’t want them to feel that nagmamalaki o nagmamalinis kami, no. When we are out in the provinces, we live together, we sleep in the same room, it’s my job to be with them.”
Though the new arrangement has caused gripes, Larry feels he can stomach the gripes better than he could stomach the system he inherited and had to continue during the campaign.
“That’s what we didn’t like about the job at first: to be party to corruption. That’s why we said: After the campaign, wala na, clean slate.”
The first year of Marcos II has, however, turned out to be more grueling than the campaign. Young, mod, restive, unconventional, and supposedly liberal and progressive of ideas, Kit and Larry were both to find themselves, during the demos, on the wrong side of the generation gap, an anomaly made flagrant by the kind of hair and habiliments the press secretary affects. The boys in the back room look as if they belonged behind the barricades instead.
“People who know us,” says Larry, “ask how we can take it—but they don’t know the situation from inside. We do. We know the President is not fascistic, definitely not. Pinagmumura si General Raval; pag ang military ay nagexcess, pinapatawag—but that’s not printed. We know what his instructions were on the students, on the activists: no shooting. When some students were killed, talagang masama ang loob namin, but these were individual actions. We knew what the President’s instructions were. So, no quarrel. The students say he is a fascist; we don’t think that the people are saying he is. The students make a mistake in thinking that their minority opinion is the majority opinion. I think the President has been held back a bit in his progressive policies (like trade with the socialist bloc) because of the troubles. He has to stop the anarchy that’s threatening the country and this can’t be done with wishy-washy stands. So I think he can’t help but abandon his liberal policies to firm up against the Communists.”
And against the Now Generation.
Would this explain the removal of The Hair from the cabinet?
“Two months before the actual de-cabinetization, Kit was told about it. The President called him and said: ‘There’s a move to reduce the cabinet.’ There were originally twelve cabinet positions created by law. In Magsaysay’s time, because then Press Secretary J.V. Cruz was so good at press releases, a cabinet position was created for him by executive order. Then, one cabinet position after another was created. President Marcos elevated some offices to cabinet rank, like the PACD, the SWA, the Panamin. One reason was to give them emphasis; another reason was political. For example, the PACD and the Panamin, if they’re not of cabinet rank, they could engage in politics; if they are of cabinet rank, they have to work in earnest.”
But the result was a swollen cabinet: 27 positions. After the elections the attacks began. Could a cabinet position be created by executive order? And there was pressure on the Palace to return the cabinet to the original size defined by law.
“The President asked Kit: ‘How do you feel about it?’ This was around February. Said Kit: ‘The rank is not important, Mr. President, except as it affects our operations. For instance, if we want other government offices to help us in disseminating information, we can summon the necessary people because we have cabinet rank.’ So, Kit submitted a position paper on why the press secretary should be retained on the cabinet. The President read it and said: ‘Okay, you stay.’ The original plan was to remove from the cabinet only those positions created during the campaign—and the Press Office was not one of them. But Maceda wanted us to be decabinetized. He had started this long before the attacks on the cabinet as a whole. He was singling out the Press Office.”
Why was then Executive Secretary Ernesto Maceda so hostile to the Press Office?
“Maceda wanted to be all powerful,” replies Larry. “He wanted to control everything under the executive department. Can you imagine an executive secretary going over the overtime operations of another office? One day he returned some overtime statements we had sent for his approval. Imagine an executive secretary writing our administrative officer to say: ‘Do you mean to tell me that all these people actually rendered overtime on holidays like Christmas and New Year? I can’t believe such patriotism. They should be given the Pro-Patria Award!’ But our office is manned 24 hours a day, even on Saturdays and Sundays. Of course, because walang hinto ang balita. It’s just like a newspaper office or a radio station. The drivers, the messengers, the typists, they work on holidays. So, Kit wrote Maceda: ‘Such remarks are uncalled for, are unbecoming to a person of your high position, are not fit in the company of gentleman.’ Kit pointed out that it was for him to decide whether the people in his office should render overtime or not. Then Maceda replied: ‘It may interest you to know that according to such-and-such a law or administrative order, your office is under my office.’ That was published. In other words, nagkaroon ng personal enmity. A very lively quarrel, and Kit had the upper hand because we proved that the people whose overtime Maceda questioned had really worked overtime.
“Then one day the President summoned the cabinet to what was supposed to be a meeting. One by one he called to a small room those who were to be removed from office. Kit was not called. But Maceda was called. He had no inkling at all he was to be removed as executive secretary. It was like a thunder bolt. He went into that small room and he came out broken.”
Maceda had a week more as executive secretary and during that week, if Larry Cruz is to be believed, he worked to get back at the Press Office. The President was warned that Pelaez was about to launch an attack on the validity of cabinet positions created by executive order. So, though the President had originally intended to de-cabinetize only those positions he had created during the campaign, the press secretary’s cabinet rank got included in the ax.
“Among the last acts of Maceda as executive secretary was to sign the de-cabinetization orders, which included the Press Office. I said to Kit: ‘Well, Maceda died fighting!’”
The current troubles are chiefly three.
First is the, until recently, continuing Andolong campaign to get the Press Office. When Andolong went on leave from the Sweepstakes, it was assumed that this was a terminal leave and that he had finally got what he wanted—but it now looks as if he has been told, more or less once and for all, that he’s not going to be press secretary.
Larry Cruz observes that if Andolong were appointable he would have been appointed long ago—like when the Press Office was revamped during the campaign.
“And after the campaign, with all the pressure, he should have been appointed—if the President thought he was competent. He was not appointed. Then the press began to hit him for how things were at the Sweepstakes. Matagal nang gustong alisin si Andolong, wala lang mapaglagyan, because he wanted the Press Office.”
Why was he so set on that?
“For prestige. He felt that, as press secretary, he would be strong with the President, he could get back the special funds. We don’t have those funds because of our attitude: that the Press Office is not to be the doler out or giver or money. But Nering believes he can make the same money at the Press Office that he’s making at the Sweepstakes and have more prestige besides. He said to me: ‘Bibirahin ko si Kit.’ He went on leave thinking he was going to be appointed. Now it seems he cannot get it, not even as a matter of saving face. So: ‘I’ll just ask for the PNB,’ he tells me now. Director of the PNB, that’s his new target.
The talk is that, whether or not Andolong has given up on the Press Office, he certainly has not dropped the grudge fight against Tatad: he is still set on getting Tatad yanked out and will back anybody who can topple Kit.
Trouble number two is the supposed animosity of certain newsmen toward the press secretary. It seems there’s a belief that the Press Office has a P10,000 fund for newsmen that it’s not spending on the newsmen. The resentful may be spreading the rumor that, even if Tatad is not replaced, the job of liaison between press and Palace will be removed from him and a special position created to take care of that.
Larry Cruz believes, of course, that the basic grievance is the stoppage of handouts. And he thinks that newsmen in general, especially those who resented the Andolong campaign line, are all for the new policy at the Press Office.
“But if you ask somebody who was getting money before and now wala, if you ask him: ‘Are you happy now?’—naturally he will say he’s not happy. In other words, if that’s to be the measure of our competence, then we are incompetent.”
Trouble number three is the feud raging between Tatad and the Clave-Tuvera group, who, says Larry, have never forgiven Kit for displacing them, though they were moved up to the President’s office as executive assistants.
One irritant is a body of research materials gathered by the Clave-Tuvera group while still at the Press Office, and which they still hang on to. Though the materials were gathered for the Press Office and continue to be housed in a Press Office room, the folk there say they have no access to those materials and have had to establish a research library of their own.
Another irritant is the Tuvera-edited Government Report, which, however the boys in the back room may pooh-pooh it, is a thorn in their side. Something that, logically, their office should be doing is being done by the competition. Tatad, in fact, is supposed to have claimed that he thought up the idea first and this has led to an amusing war of words between him and the Tuveras.
Larry Cruz says that he and Kit were really planning to put out a regular report on the doings of the government (a tentative name for the gazette was Ang Bansa) when, without their having been notified in advance, the Tuvera Government Report began appearing in March. The back room had to scuttle its project.
“What we were thinking of putting out was an information bulletin. Press work, not propaganda. We have done away with propaganda in the Press Office. Our work is legitimate press work; we are press officers. But Government Report is not an information bulletin. It is a pugnacious and combative publication. It is intended to answer the attacks of newspapers on the administration and to defend what image of the administration it feels has been distorted, even putting out distorted and malicious reports. But what we wanted was something more informative, like the bulletin the German government puts out, or the Scala of the Italians. We see ourselves as the legitimate information office of the Office of the President.”
Or as Kit Tatad puts it:
“What I did say was that I had an idea of government newspaper which would put forward government policies and/or positions before they were misrepresented, distorted or perverted by any sector; without, however, promoting an editorial policy of anger, superciliousness and intolerance.”
The boys in the back room weren’t just being envious.
“It is an injustice to me,” says the press secretary, “rather than to Mr. Tuvera to say that I should wish any part of Mr. Tuvera’s Government Report.”
Larry thinks this is an old fight.
“It dates back to our being ‘interlopers,’ because their ambition was thwarted, that of Jake and Tuvera. They saw it as a personal affront, that they were removed. I know this for a fact because every time I go up there they publicly shout that they’re supporting me and that they want me to be the press secretary—para mag-away kami ni Kit. But Kit wants this to remain a battle of words, and that it should not affect the President. This is a battle of personalities, but our role should be larger, beyond personalities.
“Kit and I are the type who will not remain a minute longer in office if we know we are not wanted. Actually, the President trusts us more than some people think. For example, we make recommendations for press releases: what should be said, what action on what problem should be announced. In a press release it’s the President who speaks. Therefore, we know how much the President appreciates our work from how much of our suggestions he uses. It was Kit who prepared three of the President’s most recent major speeches, including the Asia one.
“If the President feels we are competent enough, no mater what the intrigues, they will have no effect. Now, if the President feels we are not competent…Nobody is fighting for us, not even ourselves. Kokoy helped Kit get the appointment, but Kokoy has never influenced the Press Office in any way whatsoever. This is a very independent Press Office. He may fight for us—baka hindi. If we need a supporter at all, I would like to think we have one in Blas Ople.”
Asked how he sees the position of the boys in the back room, Ople replies:
The Press Office has an annual budget of P1,300,000 and geographically, has moved closer to the Palace. It used to be in an outpost way out near the edge of the Palace compound, it now occupies a building (wasn’t it a cantina before?) right beside the executive offices.
The new location is swankier but it still feels like the kind of scene where Marlene Dietrich says to go see what the boys in the back room will have.
That was 1967, December 30, 1967
That was 1967
By Quijano de Manila
DEHIN GOLI was 1967 and it wasn’t pogi either.
This year of disgrace stank with the lousiest polls in memory, a colossal snafu of an election composed in equal parts of villainy and ineptitude. Then Comelec had the gall to blame the mess on “lazy voters.” If the people are to blame it’s because they have too long suffered the insults of their “servants.”
The amok campaign that preceded the messy polls did good in revealing why ours is a violent society. The moral crusaders have been barking up the wrong tree, straining at the gnat of mass media while swallowing the rampaging elephant of politics. What James Bond movie can beat a Philippine poll campaign in ruthlessness? And 007 is but fiction while bloody politics is the world in which we live, move and have our being, besides spawning models for pragmatic behavior. The lesson dinned by these models, year after election year, is that one has to be ruthless, but ruthless, to get anywhere at all; and our young can now argue that, if they run wild enough, they, too, may be able to run for public office and maybe even win an election, like certain notorious ’67 exemplars. Their elders certainly weren’t slow this year in proving all over again that politicians form the largest criminal class in the Philippines.
If told that certain people in this country are allowed, every two years, to litter streets with waste paper, deface walls with propaganda, disturb the peace of the night with loudspeakers, terrorize the land with armed goods, corrupt the citizenry with bribes, and disrupt public order with their quarrels, feuds, gunfights and blood baths, we would surely say that so criminal a group belongs behind bars. What we actually say, on election day, is that this group belongs in public office; and any misgivings we may have are silenced by the admonition to be grateful that, at least, we are free to have this people to litter, deface, disturb, terrorize, corrupt and disrupt the land. Just think of all the slave states that don’t enjoy our good fortune!
Even so, Campaign ’67 was the limit. From the Gordon killing to the Alberto killing to the Ilocos Sur carnage, the campaign moved to a glut point beyond which the public might have thrown up in sheer nausea. Apparently the danger point was not reached; but the nausea could explain the resounding NO to the plebiscite proposals to increase the number of congressmen and to allow them to sit in the constitutional convention. The people have spoken, they don’t want more politicians, may their tribe not increase.
And who can blame the long-suffering public? One would have thought that, with the elections over, the politicians would be merciful enough to give us some respite from their wranglings and wearily did we applaud the ritual post-poll call to forget the animosities of the campaign and restore peace to the land. But, not surprisingly, the smoke of the savage campaign continues to darken the post-election battlefield, for violence breeds violence. The triumphant suburban mayor who warned his town’s teachers that they would feel the weight of his wrath because they didn’t support him would have been just as vindictive if he had lost; Philippine political tradition justifies vindictiveness in both winner and loser. If you win, you have been authorized a course of violence; if you lose, your only recourse is violence. And we, the hapless electorate, the supposed masters of the land, are free to vote only for winners.
Compared to political violence, civic violence, this year was pathetic, especially that “rebellion” of Tata Valentin’s fanatic peasants. In the other top crime cases – Lucila Lalu’s and Maggie de la Riva’s – the chief suspect was the Philippine press, which offered an alibi: it was conducting a crusade at the time. Detective work by the U.P. Institute of Mass Communication indicated that the press was indeed conducting a crusade, a circulation crusade. The Philippine Press Council, the watchdog of a watchdog press, may never recover from that expose of the U.P. For the local press, 1967 is the year when Lucila Lalu (for noble crusading reasons, of course) outranked the Arab-Israeli War on the front pages.
But if the press was hysterical so were other crusaders. Unpermissive though it is, Philippine society seems to see itself as a wide-open a go-go where anything goes. Actually, it’s one of the most inhibited in the world – timid, fearful, square, censor-ridden, reactionary and, therefore, hysterical, ever ready to make a mountain out of a molehill. But it imagines itself as being right there with the Now Generation, as being a with-it culture as hippie as the mod world of London and New York.
The gap between what our society thinks it is and what it really is produced comedy in 1967. A prize example is the to-do over the mini skirt. Churchmen fulminated against it, legislators threatened to outlaw it, moralists blamed the crime wave on it, and the literati debated its pros and cons. But visitors from abroad could only wonder why Filipinos were arguing so heatedly over something that just wasn’t there. One expatriate from New York complained that he had been in Manila a month already and still had to see a true mini. What passes for mini among us – a skirt barely baring the kneecaps – would be a crinoline abroad; and outside Manila even this timid mini is hardly what you might call standard. Yet we spent spirit denouncing or defending what was never more than a showpiece on local fashion ramps. Our line of reasoning seems to have gone this way: mini is mod; we are mod; therefore, the mini must be the mode among us. And those who know the true mini watched in bewilderment as we bade the little skirt that wasn’t there to go away.
Such exorcisms were in the spirit of a culture which, in the same year its haute couture dazzled Europe in the creations of Pitoy Moreno saw a band of folk mystics turn Taft Avenue into Armageddon, armed with amulets and their faith in a father anito, a mother anito, a son anito, a tribe anito and any number of hero and ancestor anitos. Avenue and amulet paired no more oddly this year than did sophisticated beach resort and witch doctors, as in the celebrated shocker of faith healer Tony Agpaoa ministering to American pilgrims in search of miracles on Bauang’s cote d’azur. We blushed to think that, because of doctor Tony, the world might think us still a primitive tribe, when here we were already able to pronounce psychedelic and maybe even understand it. But tribal we were in ’67, more curious about a woman cut up into serving pieces than in a war abroad that had the rest of world on edge; more concerned about the tribal feuds, killings and vendettas that we miscall elections than in the event of the year that may prove to be of more concern to us: the fall of the pound. Shut up in our little settlement, we hardly heard the rumblings next-door in China and scolded those who showed interest – though ’67 did hear the first serous proposals to start communicating with the Red half of the world.
The proposals stemmed from a threat early in the year of another rice shortage and the possibility that we might have to buy rice from China. (That country, incidentally, was so often rumored this year as about to collapse it began to lock as marvelous as Pisa’s leaning tower.) Happily for our souls, our bellies were spared the contagion of Red rice, saved from the outrage by what has aptly became known as miracle rice though there are those who aver that miracle rice makes for good reaping but poor eating. On a level with amulet and faith healing was the attempt to exercise the bad spirits of indolence and ineptitude from the rice fields by transforming the immemorial planting incantation, Magtanim hindi biro, into a “happy song.” The Revised Version is awful; the original was at least honest in seeing planting as back-breaking drudgery; but we cling, like Tata Valentin and doctor Tony, to the tenets of magic: you make a thing so by saying it is so. Alas, saying that planting rice is fun doesn’t remove the back – breaking drudgery from it; only machines and technical skill can do that. Another act of magic this year was the Rural Development Congress sponsored by the Catholic hierarchy. ‘The Church Goes To The Barrio,’ announced that congress. But having said so, the Church seems to believe it already is in the barrio – though the peasants have yet to feel the august presence in their midst.
However, the Church continues to be very active indeed in crusading against short sleeves, the mini, naughty movies and Sex. That, with the nation in crisis, is the Church’s idea of Catholic Action. For a typical champion of that kind of action, Manila Vice-Mayor Astorga, 1967 was a year of both triumph and frustration – triumph, because his crusade against the motels was upheld by the Supreme Court; and frustration, because, at this writing, he seems to have been rejected by the city he accused of too much fornication. Also rejected by this unregenerate city was the Iglesia Ni Cristo, which couldn’t fly Mr. Ocampo to City Hall even with Malacañang as the other engine.
For Yeba of Maharnilad, ’67 was Come On, Seven; and he provided along with Ninoy Aquino, the kindly light in the gloom encircling the Liberals. Hizzoner started the year with a bang by closing down American retail establishments, in line with Judge Jarencio’s interpretation of the retail law. Forced by the Palace to let the Americans go on retailing, Yeba took his fight to the Supreme Court. For this, he was denied garbage trucks from reparations and funds that belonged to the city. His year-long fight with the Palace culminated with the poll battle that was such a disaster for Malacañang and the Iglesia. Villegas the victor is already looking forward to a larger fight with the Palace in ’69.
Yeba and Ninoy easily top the news personalities of the year, which will have to include a dead man, poor Fenny Hechanova, who excited in a blaze of headlines because of the bizarre way he died, of gas poisoning, in a French villa. Nor can there be any question about which is the Family of the Year. The Laurels win hands down, or up, what with Speaker Pepito getting shot in cheek and chest in a night club; son Banjo running for mayor of Tanuan and winning; uncle Doy running for the Senate and almost getting crippled in a campaign accident; and Uncle Dodjie getting killed in Macao in a Grand Prix race. But ’67 should also be remembered as the year Speaker Pepito had a spat with Ambassador Blair over the “balasubas dollar.” The Loser of the Year is properly Pancho Magalona, who didn’t make it to the Rizal capitol but did give professional politicos a much-needed lesson on how to be a gentleman in politics. As for Woman of the Year, it’s a toss-up between Maggie de la Riva, who made the headlines, and Helen Benitez, who made the Senate.
Though President Marcos won the elections, using all the resources of the administration, ’67 was, news-wise, an off-year for him, his one authentic headline moment being that operation of his for gallstones. It was a quiet year for Imelda Marcos, too, compared to last year’s Summit. But for Kokoy Romualdez, ’67 meant the graduation of kid brother from the short pants of special envoy to the working clothes of an elective official: governor of Leyte.
The year’s visitors ranged from a boorish Robert Vaughn and a captivating Kathryn Grayson to a reigning pop idol, Del Shannon, who epitomized the year by just lolling back towards the end of his show at the Coliseum to sing Sunny, while the house rose for a standing ovation. But the most charming showbiz visitor of the year was Trini Lopez, and too bad he had to perform at the Rizal at prohibitive prices. Trini is a taut, tense, intense singer who doesn’t horse around onstage but does get a terrific hold on his audience – and you haven’t heard Cu-Cu-Ru-Cu-Cu Paloma until you hear Trini whispering it wistfully, as he did at the Rizal, after dedicating it to “my friend Dodjie Laurel,” whose death had just been announced.
The year continues the high climb of pop music, which is becoming indistinguishable from “serious” music – or, rather, is cutstripping long-hair music in complexity and inventiveness. The Beatles have already been recognized by eminent composers as a great musical fact and the intricate music flowering under their influence explains why. The aforementioned Sunny is a bench mark in pop music, a restructuring of the pop tune. Instead of the traditional refrain, middle section, and reprise of the refrain, Sunny simply extends the refrain, but with subtle shifts in beat in each stanza and the use of off-rhymes in the lyrics. It’s as if a sonnet were written with two octaves, or more, but without losing its form. Sunny is one hell of a great song.
The wonderful thing about 1967 is that it’s chockful of great songs. These new pop tunes are longer than the standards of the past, more sustained, more complex, more literate, more witty. A song like This Day is adult in thought and feeling, far removed from the love-dove June-moon format of yesterday’s hits. The sophistication is obvious in the words and music of such ’67 hits as Bus Stop, A Kind of Hush, Runaway, Homeward Bound, and Don’t Sleep in the Subway, Darling, the last one being memorable for its admonition to “Take off your clothes, my love, and close the door.” Even a conventional “sweet” song of ’67 like Lorelei considerably improves on the Mona Lisa genre and a progressive melody like All I See Is You just about breaks your heart with its fresh loveliness. As the year ends the air throbs to the strains of A Man and a Woman; but the memory song of 1967 is definitely Going Out of My Head, an extension of the Cole Porter style, and more valuable than a dozen pretentious symphonies. The concert halls are in the wrong part of the world; they should transfer to the discotheques, if they really want to promote great music.
What we wore in ’67 was principally paisley and psychedelic. The paisley had a brief vogue in mid-year but the psychedelic may carry over into ’68. Stripes in shirt-jacs gave way to bold prints and plaids. The color-stripped skipper so popular in the early 1950’s is making a comeback. Ugliest male style of the year was plaid for trousers, or the male palazzo pants. Colored patterns are tolerable in shorts, repulsive in longs. The Beatle bangs are being replaced by the DC-5 haircut (something like Rizal’s) that the Dale Clark Five made popular, and the Startrek, after the style of a TV serial hero. Whether to hide or show off their long hair, boys are wearing their collars higher and higher.
For the girls, the Twiggy haircut has made inroads on the long flowing tresses worn kook-style, nakalugay, that were so popular during the first half of the year. Dresses graduated from granny to mini to tent. Local thighs are still not for public eyes but the knees are definitely cut to tease. With the twiggy and the tent, the girls wear textured stockings in pastel hues, slingback shoes (with the ankle showing), mini hand – or shoulder bags, large-strapped psychedelic watches, and costume jewelry of hoop, dangling or wooden earrings, psychedelic bracelets, “nut” rings and enameled bangles. In general, the fashion is “kicky” – bare as much as you dare – and tends to low waists, low belts, low pockets, bubble pants and wrangler jeans.
Boys and girls this year shared fishnet socks, the paisley, and the three “in” fashion colors: green, pink and yellow. But where boys’ clothes are getting tighter all the time (the male shirt is now as closely fitted as girl’s blouses used to be) feminine clothes are loosening wider and wider.
Pogi dehin goli was, of course, the expression of the year and it has bred a host of variations. Pogi nga, goli nga, pero dehin naman siopil. Which means he doesn’t use Colgate. And other objections are phrased as dehin naman bonsa and dehin naman brocha. If you’re so backward you know only the original expression, you get plastered with a hoot: “Rural na yan, pare!” Kanto boys this year saluted the sexy with a reckless sigh: “Di bale majaime-jose, makamaggie lang!” And the stylish greeting is no longer Hi! But Harken! The pogi with a limp wrist is properly a pogita; and the mature pogi is either a mamords or a spidial (ideal man). It’s rural to have a shindig; the very sophisticated now put on a soiree, where nobody dances and you just eat, drink, talk and neck to dim lights. And if you’ve got a screw missing you’re a 99 – meaning you’re only 99% there.
The twiggies and pogies started out dancing the soul in ’67 (to Bus Stop), switched to the shingaling (with Helen Gamboa doing the bebe, bebe stuff best of all) and then to the boogaloo. They slow-dragged to Sitting in the Park and did the Funky Broadway to Tabatha Twitchit. Dancing has become so spontaneous the rule is maski papano – or mash-k-pops!
Having mentioned Helen Gamboa, one should go on and nominate her as the Movie Star of the Year, because she a brought a new quality to movie heroines: crisp and piquant instead of the usual soggy or tomboy types. Her Operation Discotheque was one of the year’s best jobs, a musical-agent film that outdid Sabotage in craftsmanship. The only other film that one found memorable was Cover Girls, where everybody in the cast did the best acting of their careers. The early provinciano scenes were rather painful, as are all local take-offs on hicks, but when the film moved into fashion house and a movie studio it turned into entertaining satire, broad but hilarious, and with a deadly aim. Susan Roces and Amalia Fuentes proved they could sparkle even if given intelligent material; Tony Cayado, taking all haute couture for his province was a scream; and very special mention must be made of Tita Muñoz, who, here as in Operation Discotheque, displayed a flair for cinema that shouldn’t go to waste. She shone to far more advantage in these two commercial films than in the loftier-minded Flight of the Sparrow.
Of the films abroad, A Man For All Seasons was somewhat overrated, Chaplin’s Countess From Hong Kong was terribly underrated, but Alfie and Darling lived up to their rave reviews. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton contributed three films to the year’s top crop: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Hour of the Comedians. The box-office bonanza of the year were the Italian westerns, the best of which, like A Coffin For Django, are gothic masterpieces. The latest James Bond is the slowest in pace of the series; far more shocking was Audrey Hepburn’s Wait Until Dark, which will probably still be reshowing when we have forgotten what the other ’67 films were.
And what else of ’67 is there to remember? The original a-go-gos at the Nile, complete with girls in cages; and the Sulo Friday a-go-gos, which have proved more durable. Susan Salcedo at Victoria Peak getting the place jumping with her throaty rock and sweetly winding up the night with The Party’s Over. Mike Parsons shooting the first Philippine underground film at his Pasay house; and the night at Indios Bravos that the film was “premiered.” Elorde pitifully dancing around in the ring to the boos of the crowd, the last time he fought at the Coliseum. And the fine chill that set in early in December to make this the coldest holiday season in years.
Nothing so good in ’67 as it’s ending.