The most polarizing national political figure was born 96 years ago today in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte. He grew up to be one of the most accomplished national icons in Philippine history. He was an exemplary orator, a gifted writer, a varsity athlete (swimmer, boxer, wrestler), a UP College of Law magna cum laude, a bar topnotcher, a soldier, a guerilla, a three-term congressman (Second District, Ilocos Norte), a senator, a Senate Minority Floor Leader, a Senate President, Philippine president from 1965 to 1986.
Two schools of thought are often engaged to endless discourses. Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was a visionary leader whose New Society ideology was an anti-thesis to the old aristocrats. He may have dismantled the vestiges of the oligarchs but a new elite rose up in their stead. His alleged ill-gotten wealth has grown into legendary and mythical status. President Marcos was ostracized for clipping the civil liberties, muzzling press freedom, and emboldening the military establishment. But in the same vein, Marcos was not given proper credit for his economic development programs; his political opponents constantly belittled and demonized his achievements. Although to this day we enjoy the benefits of those developments, yet we are still reeling from the compounding interests that arose from those foreign-assisted projects. He may be accused as a dictator but very few of his laws and decrees were repealed by succeeding administrations.
There may always be scathing remarks and constant dissent towards President Marcos, but nevertheless he was unafraid to go against the tides of Philippine history. His legacy will continue to be put into litmus test and the fickleness of public opinion may not help advance it but for some quarters, his place in the pantheons of icons is already secure. And these precarious times, people will always be drawn back to a time when a strong, visionary leader was at the helm.