Friday, June 26, 2009

From Mondo Marcos ... Bongbong's Sonnetina


In both the last two posts — featuring my Ferdinand Marcos poem and my Imelda Marcos poem — I've referred to a third sonnetina that completes my "Marcos trilogy." This third starring none other than Bongbong Marcos . . . or, more properly, Ferdinand Emmanuel "Bongbong" Romualdez Marcos Jr., the only son of Imelda and Ferdinand. His two given names, Ferdinand Emmanuel, the same as his father's, thus the Jr.; the nickname "Bongbong," originally meant to be used, I'm sure, only within the family but now the most notorious element of his public persona; and Romualdez, his mother's maiden family name. Thus Bongbong's full name is indeed a true hybrid of his parents' names, in the same way his face (see below) is quite a striking mix of both his parents' faces, so that he seems (at least to my eye) to resemble them both equally.

Once, in the late '80s, when I performed the first two Marcos sonnetinas at a poetry reading to a mainly Asian American audience, someone yelled out, "Cheap humor!" Well, I gotta admit, those two poems are cheap humor; the Marcoses are such easy, obvious, unavoidable targets. This third poem, spoken by Bongbong and written several years later, features even more heightened slapstick than the earlier two. I really cranked up the cheap humor: my Bongbong poem is downright cheesy and campy and over the top. Enjoy . . .       (oh, wait . . . first read the Ferdinand poem and then the Imelda poem before this one.)

Bongbong Marcos Goes to Confession
with Jaime Cardinal Sin After Visiting
His Father, Ferdinand Marcos,
Lying in a Glass Coffin, in the Family
Mausoleum, Open for Tourists
— a sonnetina
Bless me, Cardinal, for I have grievously sinned.
My last confession . . . do you really need to know
all that? Damn it all, I'm Governor Bongbong
Marcos, son of the late President Marcos

and the one and only Imelda — Madame Marcos.
Actually, Cardinal, I lied. I haven't sinned
at all. I need an exorcism. Do you know
how to do one? Each night I hear: "Bongbong,

save me." Then the clock tolls Bong Bong.
The voice continues, "I'm cold under glass; Marcos
doesn't deserve to be gawked at by sense-
less yokels. Hell would be better, though heaven knows

I'm innocent, Bongbong!" Cardinal, I just don't know
what to do. Would you send away my Daddy Marcos?

I hope the cheap humor comes across: I couldn't resist, for example, the well-known and well-remarked juxtaposition of "Cardinal" and "Sin" (the actual name of the Philippines' actual cardinal back in that day); or Bongbong saying "I lied; I haven't sinned" (here an unremarked irony). Look for stuff like that; the poem is full of such slapstick silliness. But hey, how can you avoid that, when your speaker is named "Bongbong"!

Oh, incidentally — just an aside, not really something germane to the poem as such — isn't it interesting that both father and son have Emmanuel as part of their given names? Emmanuel, "God with us," a name for the Christ. Wow. Might there be some messianic, self-exceptionalist projection at play there? (Not to mention that their first name is Ferdinand . . . the first name of Magellan, so-called discoverer of the Philippines.)


The picture on the left shows Imelda kissing the glass coffin of Ferdinand. I couldn't pin down a source for this picture, which appears in many webpages across the internet. Nevertheless, an interesting reversal of Snow White asleep in her glass coffin, about to be awakened by Prince Charming's kiss. Well, here it's the man inside the glass, and the kisser is the woman. Though some people have wondered, because Ferdinand looks so darn good (and young) under glass, that what we're looking at is a wax figure and the actual corpse is elsewhere or perhaps directly underneath. Who knows? It's that trademark Marcos weirdness.

The picture on the right is of Bongbong Marcos arriving at Honolulu Airport in 1996, three years after the family returned to the Philippines, to testify in a court case where a group representing a deceased Filipino treasure hunter was seeking $1 trillion in damages from an incident where allegedly Marcos's soldiers stole a 1-ton solid gold Buddha from said treasure hunter. Do read the Honolulu Star-Bulletin article which the photo illustrates; it will give you a glimpse of the strange events that continually surround the Marcos family as well as an impression of Bongbong's fascinating personality, often overshadowed by the larger-than-life reputations of his parents.

The Bongbong sonnetina is forthcoming quite soon in Mondo Marcos: Martial Law Babies Write About Marcos and His Martial Law, edited by Frank Cimatu and Rolando B. Tolentino. Today's blog appearance of the Bongbong sonnetina is meant as a kind of advance advertisement for Mondo Marcos, which will elaborate more of the weird world of the Marcoses.

Oh! I should share with you my own family's involvement in the weird world of the Marcoses. During the late '60s and early '70s, my father Martin Gotera, a very vocal critic of the Marcos regime, wrote a column in the US-based Philippine News, a loud anti-Marcos voice in print. As such, he was (supposedly) on Ferdinand's infamous blacklist. As a child, I never quite knew what being on the blacklist meant; perhaps that was why we never traveled to the Philippines during those days? Was my father afraid of being arrested? Or, worse yet, salvaged or disappeared.

On the other side of the coin was my stepmother, Carolina Matsumura Gotera. She was most definitely a Marcos supporter — a very avid one. In fact, she was one of Imelda's Blue Ladies. These women were her informal ladies-in-waiting, a kind of clique or close social circle.

No one could be farther from or more reviled among the Marcos faithful than someone on the blacklist, and no one could be more "in" the Marcos inner circle than a member of the Blue Ladies. And in my family, we had one of each! When Papa (re)married Carolina, I was grown and didn't live at home any longer, so I never witnessed up close how my father and his wife reconciled this gap. My stepmother quite often talked about her high-society adventures with the Blue Ladies, and my father would just smile. It was that Marcos weirdness right in my own family.


On another front, the sonnetina front: I'm currently in touch with the poet Michael Heffernan, inventor of the sonnetina. I'll report back with details on our discussions about the sonnetina and how it developed. Stay tuned. Also, I'll let you know when Mondo Marcos is out. Take care.

Added on 27 July 2009: it occurred to me today that some readers may not know about the sonnetina form. Look at my June 18 post with the Ferdinand Marcos poem; there is a brief explanation of the sonnetina there.

Added on 27 July 2011: Yo yo yo, Mondo Marcos has landed!


8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Vince,
I think it would be very interesting to hear your poetic voice telling of the interesting marriage between Blacklist and Blue Lady--perhaps as a Filipino Orpheus.

Polly Forns said...

That was fabulous! Fun to read, the trilogy was! Thanks!

Vince Gotera said...

Hello, anonymous! Could you come back and post again to say who you are? Thanks for the suggestion. The poems I'm posting here are older ones, mostly published already. I like the idea of the "Filipino Orpheus."

Polly, hello! Thanks so much. I appreciate that you're reading the blog so often. Hope you are well.

Waldo said...

I have a little story to add to the weirdness of the Marcos world. Back during the floods of 1972 my father had the dubious opportunity of "riding" with Marcos and his entourage as they surveyed the extensive flooding of Northern Luzon. Because of the flooding he was stranded and needed a plane ride back to Manila, while Marcos and handlers needed an American who looked official for photo ops and my father (although only a regular civilian) looked the part! It took him 5 days to get back to Manila!

Vince Gotera said...

Waldo, I hope you see this VERY late response. Sorry! That's a fascinating story, quite emblematic of how the Marcoses ran things on appearance and not substance. When the Pope visited the Philippines during martial law, Imelda had high walls built along the route he would take from the airport to the palace so he wouldn't see the poverty of the people. If you see this comment, could you tell me who you are? Thanks.

Generic, whether or not you're on the up and up with this comment, I appreciate the sentiment.

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