OPINION: The last soiree of Marcos

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at May 10 2019 08:37 PM

The medical and physical condition of ex-President Marcos at the beginning of 1989, and as well, the status of his mental faculties, can best gleaned from several extant sources.

The January 5, 1989 discharge summary of Dr. Livingston Wong releasing Marcos from his hospitalization ended with the following notations:

“At the time of discharge, the patient was able to sit up and eat and was able to get up and walk around his room with assistance.”

“The patient was advised to ambulate frequently and sit up frequently with much exercise both in bed and out of bed. The patient had been advised that if this is not continued he would not improve.”

“The patient was also advised with his physicians not to treat patient’s rales as congestive heart failure since the rales were probably secondary to that of bed rest and stasis.”

And as it turns out, leaving the hospital and returning home to Makiki was the at the insistence and behest of the patient himself. This was recounted by Col. Arturo C. Aruiza, the faithful and longest serving aide-de-camp of the former head of state. Aruiza had written a memoir: “Fedinand E. Marcos – Malacanang to Makiki,” which he self-published in 1991. The book is useful as it recounts factual happenings theretofore unshared with the public.

Also, as a source of additional Marcosian historiography, it is a basis for counterpoints to certain claims. The 486-page book contains inevitable ‘apologia’ and marked with potshot instances aimed at individuals who Aruiza perceived to have wronged the Marcoses, including the FBI and me. I will take the opportunity to review the book sometime during this series.

The following afternoon (January 6) of Ferdie’s return from the hospital “…..the lawyers descended upon him. They gathered in the living room which we had converted into a conference room.”

“The discussions were lively and centered on the defense strategy for the New York RICO case. The old familiar juices began to flow because Marcos was soon participating. I found it difficult to believe that only a few days ago, he had been helpless in the hospital.”

“The American lawyers, impressed with the strategy he had suggested, told Marcos they would be guided by his suggestions.”

The foregoing quotations come from Aruiza’s book.

That week--January 9 to 12, 1989--Honolulu was hosting a lawyers convention. I was informed that a Manila delegation of over a dozen attorneys will be in attendance. That was the Asia Pacific Lawyers Conference. Understandably, some in the group sought ways by which they may be able, in the very least, get first-hand information about the deposed dictator. After all, hardly anyone in the Philippines did not know that the Marcoses had fled in exile to Hawaii! Or even better, if there might be a chance to meet the Marcoses in person. Quite possibly, the lawyers' convention being held in Honolulu may have been an incentive to enroll and join.

Well, lo and behold, having gotten wind of the Manila lawyers’ presence in the island of her new domicile, Meldy decided she was going to throw a social reception for them. An occasion for another soiree. Hosting soirees, among others, she had earned a reputation for. Indeed, it was a grand opportunity for a very homesick former First Lady to play once again ‘hostess with the mostest,’ as was her wont.

One of the attendees, Eliseo Alampay, a UP-lawyer friend came to visit the Consulate for the usual ‘aloha-hellos.’ He informed me that their group received an invitation from Meldy Marcos for cocktails and buffet dinner. Bingo! Here, too, was an opportunity for me to augment my growing collection of raw intelligence about Hawaii’s celebrated exiles! Naturally, I had a proposal. Ely was happily willing to assist and play. I informed him of what I had planned to be a post-action debriefing breakfast meeting with two members of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) the morning after.
Ely was an activist lawyer of just social causes who had his successful firm in the Makati business district. I believe he has retired from active practice and is now either a gentleman-farmer or leisurely tending to his bonsai garden. I have not seen Ely in 25 years. Being the doting dad that Ely is, I am sure he will not mind my mentioning that he is also better known to old friends, these days, as the father of Roby Alampay, editor-in-chief of Business World. I actually sought Roby’s help in securing his “ama’s” (dad’s) OK to be mentioned as a source of this episode of my story-telling series.

In the midst of the partying, Imelda delightfully puts a pause in the lively gathering by teasingly inquiring “Would some of you gentlemen wish to see the President? He is upstairs, resting.”

Imelda instinctively knew this moment was what the guests came for, mainly. There can be no doubt that this was also the part of the scenario that the hostess desired to be played out. And so, in groups of fours or fives, the Manila lawyers were ushered upstairs and let in to Ferdie’s sickman’s sanctum. Caution coming from the fallen First Lady: “Please keep a little distance and no handshakes,” or words to such effect. Something like avoiding potential contamination was not just politely hinted but pointedly stated.

Ferdie was sitting up in bed, erect and propped up by pillows, dressed in red terry cloth bathrobe. He appeared hale, captured in color snapshots. Mind you, this was well before the era of cellphone selfies! He was sharp of mind, obviously in control of his faculties, smiling and in good humor, as Ely Alampay debriefed me the following morning.

Ely’s further observations: the bedroom had the trappings of a hospital unit, with medical paraphernalia, an oxygen tank with breathing appurtenances, a TV-looking monitor here and an electrocardiogram machine there. None of these was attached to the patient’s body. Detail to be observed that Ely and I had pre-agreed would be of critical relevance. Of course, none of the visitors could have known that just the afternoon before, a day after his release from the hospital, the patient was in animated conference, downstairs, with his American lawyers strategizing his RICO defense.

Among Manila menfolk, and all attorneys at that, there was much of getting-to-know you and introduction repartees, references and remembrances by association, some political banter and the ‘latest’ from home! The Marcos sickroom was getting crowded, with the ‘group of fours or fives’ which never abated, as more were ushered in. Ely recalls that by this time, there must have been at least 14 visiting lawyers present. Indeed, an SRO (standing room only) event. Then, Meldy re-enters gaily trilling, addressing her husband: “Guess who’s here?”

Ta da!!! Enter Christina Ford, Doris Duke and Chandi Hefner (Doris’ adopted daughter) all headed straight towards the ailing man, arms stretched out followed with hugs, hugs and ‘beso-beso.” And so, poof! went the “potential contamination.” But who could have objected? It was a moment of obvious joy for an otherwise forlorn, sick man beset by the stressful prospects of prison. The man of the hour was basking under the rapt attention of law practitioners, visitors from the country he once ruled.

Furthermore, he was the apple of soothing sympathy from international socialites, bosom buddies of his wife. And before the eyes of visitors who will surely bring gladder tidings about his physical condition back to Manila, unmindful that what the visitors witnessed was not in sync with the “near death” scenarios they were conjuring just few weeks earlier!

“He was in charge once more,” observed Col. Aruiza, adding “….surrrounded by interesting visitors who stimulated him and kept him absorbed and happy.” “He enjoyed himself, judging from the sparkle in his eyes.’’

Ferdinand E. Marcos could not have known that was his last soiree!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.

In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.

During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.

After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.

He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.