Marcos’ Hometown Prepares for Posthumous Return of Favorite Son
BATAC, Philippines (AP) _ Workmen labored over an 18-foot-high adobe mausoleum and villagers planned to trim trees and pick up trash in preparation for the long-delayed funeral of this village’s favorite son, Ferdinand Marcos.
Supporters of the late president, ousted in a popular uprising seven years ago, plan to bring their leader’s body from Hawaii to this northern Philippine town on Sept. 7, nearly four years after his death in exile.
Marcos’ successor, Corazon Aquino, refused to allow him to be buried in the Philippines, citing national security. After Mrs. Aquino left office a year ago, the funeral was delayed by haggling between Marcos’ widow, Imelda, and the government over details of the burial.
Marcos, who ruled this country with an iron hand for 20 years, remains a controversial figure because of charges that he plundered the national treasury and reports of widespread human rights abuses during his reign.
But among his fellow Ilocanos - the largest linguistic group in the northern Philippines - Marcos is still revered.
″The Ilocanos, especially the old people, have been waiting for this event,″ said Ida Purisima, an employee in this farming town of 40,000 people, about 290 miles north of Manila. ″We hope he will finally be put to rest.″
Plans are for his body to be put on display in an airtight glass coffin, then housed in an 18-foot-high adobe mausoleum in the rose garden of the Marcos family home. His body has been kept in a refrigerated crypt in Hawaii.
Vice Mayor Davinci Crisostomo said town elders plan a series of meetings throughout the region to spread the word of the funeral.
His staff is already busy rounding up portable toilets to accommodate the anticipated crowds. Town fathers have also organized a neighborhood cleanup campaign so Batac can present its best face.
Local police have been asked to draw up a traffic plan to accomodate tens of thousands of buses and private cars expected to crowd the narrow, concrete streets.
″We will show the tourists that our church is presentable and beautiful,″ said Rev. James Bonoan, the local parish priest. ″We will trim the trees.″
The frequent delays have created a degree of skepticism here whether the long-awaited funeral will actually take place. Mrs. Marcos describes the September funeral as ″temporary″ because she wants her husband eventually to be buried in the capital, Manila.
She has asked the Supreme Court to overturn a government ban on burial in Manila, which was the center of the anti-Marcos opposition.
Plans call for Marcos’ body to be flown from Honolulu directly to the international airport in nearby Laoag, capital of Ilocos Norte province.
The body will be brought to Batac, the Marcos family home, the following day. Following religious services and Ilocano folk rituals - such as the sacrifice of a rooster - he is to be entombed on Sept. 10, the day before his 76th birthday.