First day

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

Over dinner of savory chicken soup with ginger and lemongrass, prawns, prime beef tenderloin, and guava-basil sorbet, President Ferdinand Marcos welcomed family and friends in Malacanang last week, marking the Marcos family’s historic return to the Palace, 36 years after a people’s uprising toppled Marcos Sr.’s government.

Tycoons and businessmen spotted during the June 30 inauguration and the dinner that night included Ramon Ang, San Miguel Corp. president and CEO; Inigo Zobel, dubbed as Marcos’ BFF; father and son Andrew and Kevin Tan; the Aboitizes;  Dennis Uy, founder and chairman of Converge ICT; Manuel Pangilinan, chairman of MVP Group; siblings Tessie and Hans Sy; Frederick Go of the Gokongwei Group; Lucio Tan III, the grandson and namesake of the taipan, and the family of real estate king Manuel Villar Jr. There were others also spotted during the dinner, including Bryan Lim of Suyen Corp.; Maynard Ngu of Cherry Mobile; Norman Wee of the Wee Group; and construction queen Alice Eduardo.

But a tycoon who graced the event said there were more politicians and lawmakers than tycoons and businessmen, unlike previous inaugural dinners. Other invited tycoons were on trips abroad, sources say.

There were a lot of celebrities, too, in the inner circle spotted during the June 30 events, including Isabelle Daza (whom Marcos gave away at her wedding in 2016); Toni Gonzaga, Mariel Padilla, and Dawn Zulueta, wife of Anton Lagdameo, the special assistant to the President.

Celebrities or not; billionaires or otherwise, rookie lawmakers and traditional politicians alike, Marcos’ guests were all dressed to the nines, mostly in Barong Tagalog for men and variations of the Filipiniana for women.

A pianist’s pianist

Highlight of the event was Cecile Licad’s breathtaking performance, said at least two tycoons who graced the dinner. It’s no secret that Licad, dubbed by the New Yorker as a pianist’s pianist, had credited her successful career to former first lady Imelda Marcos.

The Manila-born Licad was only 11 years old in 1972 when she requested permission to leave the Philippines, then under martial law, to study in the United States. The former first lady granted Licad’s request and named her the first piano scholar of the Philippines Young Artists’ Foundation, which sponsored Licad’s eight years of study at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times published in 1988.

She also received gifts from Imelda at the time, including concert dresses and a black Steinway grand piano.

“And much later, when the pianist broke her shoe heel before a command performance, (Imelda) Marcos provided her with a pair of her own now-notorious shoes,” the article also said.

It was, indeed, Licad’s performance during Marcos inaugural dinner that wowed the audience.

Capping the night was the “impressive fireworks display,” which had everyone taking out their mobile phones to capture the burst of colors, including a huge “PBBM” lights display that appeared in the dark sky in red, white, and blue, the colors of the Philippine flag.

His inaugural speech on Friday and the dinner that followed provided hints of what one may expect from Marcos’ presidency. His speech was delivered with refreshing flair, in stark contrast to all the cussing and the jokes from his predecessor; the dinner was relatively simple – that is compared to the extravagance and lavishness that marked his father’s term and the crowd was mixed instead of the usual kingmakers who circle the wagons of those in power.

But it is, of course, too early to tell. Thirty one million Filipinos voted for Marcos, but the rest will watch with bated breath. There’s a lot of wariness, of course, given the heavy burden of the Marcos name and everything else that happened in the past.

There’s a lot to watch out for, especially with some in the House of Representatives and the Senate recycled names, ex-convicts, and alleged plunderers.

Good governance

Good governance will be a major issue for this administration, especially with the new Commission on Audit chief previously mired in controversies. We also have yet to wait and see how Marcos will face or address the estate tax controversy surrounding Marcos Sr.’s estate.

Finally, it will be interesting to see how Marcos will balance the interests of everyone, especially including tycoons and kingmakers. As it is now, we’re already hearing that some key appointments are not sitting well with some affected tycoons.

Marcos’ move to veto the bill filed by his Manang Imee, which sought to establish Bulacan Airport City as a special economic zone, also surprised the business community – with copies of the letter signed by Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez making the rounds in chat groups over the weekend.

San Miguel’s Ang is hoping to clarify all the issues raised in the President’s veto.

Now we’ll have to wait and see how all these controversies will play out. Thirty one million Filipinos are excited; the rest are anxious, but everyone, I believe, fervently wants him to succeed for the sake of this nation of 110 million.



Iris Gonzales’ email address is [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column  archives at eyesgonzales.com


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