St. Cory and the Evil Rose

Imelda Marcos

by Carmen Navarro Pedrosa
St. Martin's Press, 230 pp., $15.95

Cory Aquino: The Story of a Revolution

by Lucy Komisar
George Braziller, 290 pp., $16.95
Cory Aquino
Cory Aquino; drawing by David Levine

“Imelda Marcos today has a mellow beauty in which the radiance has the quality of emotion. When she speaks—of her husband, of her children, of her life—her voice becomes so full of feeling the very air seems to throb, and the great splendid eyes deepen, darken, and dazzle with tears. She has adjusted, she has accepted, she has signed, and she is happy, but whatever the effort may have cost her shows in a deepened glowing of her charm. The loveliness has become poignant.”

“The fresh-flowers look is what Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos have brought to Malacanang.”

“Mrs. Marcos has been busy with mop and broom too…. Whatever her other images—as cultural patroness, as social worker, as a great beauty—she knows that the basic one is her image as housewife: she must show she can run a palace as efficiently as she did her home.”

” ‘I do not want to be known as having some friends I prefer to others…. Nor do I want people to think I’m a social butterfly going from one party to another.’ ”

These little nuggets were culled from a collection of articles written between 1964 and 1970 by the most celebrated writer in the Philippines, Nick Joaquin, under his journalistic pen name Quijano de Manila. The collection, entitled Reportage on the Marcoses (National Book Store, Manila), was published in 1979, and reprinted in 1981. He is also the author of a gushing hagiography of the Aquino family, entitled The Aquinos of Tarlac, written in 1972, revised and published in 1983—“The Philippine pageant as only Nick Joaquin can tell it.”

The point of digging up these embarrassing quotes is not to ridicule Joaquin; he was not the only one to sing in both camps for his supper—Isabelo Crisostomo, the author of an adulatory book on Imelda Marcos has just published an equally admiring biography of Cory Aquino. As for the extravagance of his prose, well, Joaquin always was proud of his Hispanic heritage. Joaquin’s political effusions have never been held against him in the Philippines, as far as I know. Indeed, to many Filipinos switching sides is a perfectly respectable way to get on in life. Joaquin’s early writings on the Marcos couple are useful reading for several reasons. They remind us just how popular the First Family of the Philippines was in those days. Adoration of a new leader did not start with Cory Aquino. It also illustrates the extent to which Philippine politics is a matter of show biz, of images—the housewife with mop and broom, the beauty queen, the social worker. At the end of last year I asked Mrs. Marcos what she thought of Benigno Aquino as a politician. “Ninoy,” she said “was all sauce and no substance.” “Sweetheart,” said Mr. Marcos, “that is the essence of Filipino politics.”

There is a Filipino word for this: palabas.…

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