Commentary PHL Vote 2022

​ The Marcos Diary: A dictator’s honest, candid description of his only son

Photo from Malacañang Museum Library

(UPDATED) Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator, loved writing diary entries. Perhaps his personal diaries are some of the few documents that we can say were truly written by the man who ruled this country with an iron hand for 20 years.

University of the Philippines scholar Miguel Paolo P. Reyes contends, in a study published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press, that there is “compelling evidence found in various primary and secondary sources and analyzed through methods drawn from book history and plagiarism detection – that not one of the books authored by President Ferdinand E. Marcos was actually written by him.”

But the personal diaries where the dictator recorded practically all the details in his daily life, including showering and sleeping, appear to be genuine. All the range of his emotions and ideas are in these journals.

Marcos had fear of death.He wrote, “Imelda dreamt of accident in airplane because of the death of President Ramon Magsaysay at Mount Manungal on March 17, 1957,” so he travelled to Leyte and Mindanao instead on board the presidential yacht 777. The man particularly disliked disloyalty and criticism and noted that Senator Helen Benitez “was personally given P200,000 for her [campaign] expenses by the First Lady . . . and yet she used uncalled for remarks attributed to me…” In retaliation, Marcos vetoed funds that the lawmaker wanted allocated for the Philippine Women’s University, which was owned by the Benitez family.

As most Filipinos know, the strongman was superstitious of the number 7.In one of his diary entries, Marcos wrote,“The Presidential yacht is No. 777, the number of votes that made me win the convention of 1964 as against Senator Emmanuel Pelaez who received 444 votes.”He was also a mythmaker who loved to spin tales about the greatness of his ancestors, conveniently omitting the fact that his father was executed by guerillas for being a Japanese war collaborator.

But while he rarely mentioned the bad tidings of his antecedence, Marcos was profusely honest in describing his headaches about his only son, Bongbong.

Marcos’s diary entry about his junior is currently flavor of the month in social media posts. It is probably the best part of the diaries as the writing shows unadulterated candor and honesty without the trappings of power that the dictator was very conscious of.

Marcos wrote the long entry on Bongbong, who is running for president in the upcoming May elections, on June 12, 1972. It was written on Malacañan Palace Manila stationery.

“I have just written the children through Rosy Lawrence. Bongbong is our principal worry. He is too carefree and lazy.

“So I wrote him the fatal secret of the Marcos man – they are brilliant but lazy. And they tend to be so careless they buckle down to a dogged unrelenting resolve to fight off sloth or a traumatic experience turns them into bitterness that congeals into a determined resolve to achieve and be victorious.

“I wrote him about me – how the political and financial reverses of father had made me bitter. It had come to a point where I had to get a scholarship to continue my studies. So I became a scholar – a server scholar in law.

“I discovered that I had a brain and a photographic memory. And I made the best of it.

“I must write him about the Nalundasan case and how I vowed to top the bar after graduating Cum Laude.

“For the boy must get character. I have told him that since we have enemies, he will have to fight the battles I fought in the past against myself and against circumstance. Although I told him that perhaps circumstance had been kinder to me because it had given me the motivation to work hard.

“I must tell him of his ancestors, his great grandfather of the revolution, the direct line of brilliant and brave men whose saving grace was the character of their woman – how many fasted like Antonio Marcos who had exceeded the record of excellence in scholarship of Rizal – but had not done much of his life because of wine, woman and soup.

“The boy must realize his weakness – the carefree wayward ways that may have been bred in him.”

We are all students of history. The Marcos diaries are readily available in the internet. Readers are enjoined to see the Philippine Diary Project, a compilation of journal entries of “famous and unknown” Filipinos in history. The Project was opened as a website in 2008 and is owned and managed by Manuel L. Quezon III, hereabouts known popularly as Manolo the MLQ grandson, the multi-awarded writer, blogger and erstwhile television host (“The Explainer”). The Project also has a Facebook page.

The Philippine Diary Project also has a Timeline of World War II and a Timeline of Martial Law. Readers can check the latter and decide if martial law was truly the “golden years.” The Project also participates in webinars such as the Human Rights Violations Victims Memorial Commission in August 2021.

Screengrab Diary of Ferdinand E. Marcos, June 12, 1972, The Philippine Diary Project website.

(ERRATUM: An earlier version of this commentary incorrectly stated the date of former President Ramon Magsaysay’s death. He died on March 17, 1957 and not 1967. We thank the reader who pointed out this error to us.)

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.