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George Sison tells all about the Dovie Beams tape, imprisonment during martial law, and talks with Ninoy |

Sunday Lifestyle

George Sison tells all about the Dovie Beams tape, imprisonment during martial law, and talks with Ninoy

CYBER PROUST - Jojo G. Silvestre -

On the day that George Sison was arrested, he had not had a good sleep for more than 10 days. Ten days earlier, Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator, had declared martial law. It was a nightmare for the press, for they had spoken and written against the most powerful man and woman in the land. And they were being picked up one by one.

Also arrested was Amelita Reysio-Cruz who, in her gossip column “Merry Go Round,” referred to the beautiful First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos as “You-Know-Who.” The story goes that when the soldiers came and knocked at her door, and she asked who it was, a man in a creepy voice replied, “You Know Who.” It was a joke that would be said years later, but that morning of Oct. 1, 1972 was not a good time to tell a joke.

 “I did not even think of hiding,” says George, who used the alias Conde de Makati in his pre-martial law society column. “I was afraid that if they did not find me, they would get my father or someone close to me.”

No, George thought, not his mother Prissy Sison, one of the country’s most elegant and best-dressed ladies. “They would not take her away,” he thought to himself, “for had not the First Lady spoken to Prissy about the two of them being relatives?” She told her that the same red blood ran through their veins, Imelda’s mother and Prissy’s father having descended from the same branch of the rich and good-looking De la Fuente family of San Rafael, Bulacan.

Prissy could only utter a soft “Ahh,” while George’s father — Carlos Moran Sison — when implored upon by Imelda to tell his son to stop his attacks on her, was more direct. “I cannot tell my son what to write, he is an adult. I am sorry, Imelda.”

And if George thought Imelda would leave it at that, he was wrong. When finally Imelda had been able to convince Elvira Manahan, she with the inimitable laughter, to arrange a meeting with Conde de Makati, the Conde could only ask his beloved friend, “Why did you do this to me, Elvira?” Elvira muttered in a voice that said she was truly sorry, “George, you know that I am not even a Blue Lady. But devotion kept nagging me, and you know that he is a Blue Boy.” She was referring to her famous husband, Dr. Constantino Manahan, the favorite gynecologist of Manila’s glamorous women. As the humorist Larry Henares used to say of Dr. Manahan, “He fell in love with Elvira’s uterus,” but that’s another story.

Carlos could only warn his son, “You know that I am a glib talker, but when Imelda and I had a talk in Malacañang, I could only sit down and listen. She outtalked me for three hours, and I could not interrupt.”


The George Sison of pre-martial law years was a man of many talents. He had been a painter, a poet, a composer, a television producer, and even an astrologer who predicted martial law, at a time when only another person could blatantly say the dreaded two bad words, and that was Ninoy Aquino.

To Manila’s high society and the communists who secretly read him, George was the man who wrote the column, “Social Climbing with the Conde de Makati” in the weekly magazine Philippine Graphic, owned by an Araneta gentleman.

“Luis Mauricio, the editor, whom I always bumped into in art openings, suggested that I write a column about the people I dine, party and go out with. He was referring to my parents’ friends who were also my friends,” recalls George.

 “Since there was a Quijano de Manila, why not a Conde de Makati? After all many of my subjects had social pretensions, some of them wanting to marry their children off to royalty,” says George in an interview in his Ecology Village townhouse in Makati City.

For a long time, his readers did not know that the Conde and George were one. His father even wrote the Conde, addressed to the Philipine Graphic, damning the Conde for damning the privileged and perfumed set of Manila. When George’s cover was blown, he had no choice but to publish his picture, and everyone either loved or hated him. How Imelda hated him, but, as they say, the feeling was mutual, “For how I hated the Marcos regime and the couple’s tutas and everything that they stood for,” says George, who quickly adds, “I loved Meldy Cojuangco, if there was one Blue Lady, and I kept asking her why she was in that company.”

“I meant the column to be satiric of the upper set,” he shares. “So many people aspired to belong to this social circle, so I wanted to expose the crème de la crème, that they were no different from you and me, and that they, too, had their warts. It was a world not unlike showbiz.”

His was a best-read column, lapped up by the rich, the aspiring social climbers who wanted to be in the know, the intellectual set and, yes, even the activists and communists for, as George found out later, they liked his style and the way he made fun of the powerful and the privileged and the rest of the capitalist class.

“I named names,” shares George, who was sought after by socialites and parvenus who had secret axes to grind against their friends. They all became informants to the Conde, and the Conde did not exactly like what he was hearing. “There were these two women who kept back-biting each other, and they were supposed to be close friends. I told them that if they did not stop, I would write about everything they were telling me and I would reveal their names. They did not stop, so I wrote just a little wee bit, about one claiming she could be better than the other, and they finally stopped.”

He recalls that once, a columnist in another paper, a society matron, commented about the Conde de Makati attending fashionable affairs only in his underwear, referring to his sleeveless shirt, “which I loved to wear then” at the time of the flower power scene. The Conde retorted in his column that he could understand why the lady columnist did not know what underwear was, for when she initially forayed into the world of movies, her first film was titled Ang Magmamani or translated in English, “The Peanut Vendor.” The veiled reference was rather obvious, “and proper as she was, she became very, very friendly to me.” Of course, they were all his friends.

One society matron, on the other hand, could not fully grasp some explicit sexual terms being discussed over dinner. When someone was trying to explain sodomy, she remarked in Tagalog, “So dumi,” meaning “so dirty.” The unintended play on words, from sodomy to so dumi, was not lost on the Conde who left that evening with a little entry for his column.

With tongue in cheek, the Conde commented on the goings-on in Manila’s 400, who was going out with whom, and what one was up to, as the beautiful and fashionable went about their ways, many of them trying to outdo each other. “What was worth emulating from these men and women, when they were so kuripot?” wonders George. His commentaries did not spare anyone, even celebrities, the mighty, and the couple who lived in the Palace by the river.

His entries were very smart. To cite more examples:

Mayenne Carmona once asked Cynthia Villareal, “Is the tongue important in sex?” To which Cynthia countered, “Of course, how will you say I love you?”

*   *   *

A director (or was he an emcee of a fashion show?) once got very exasperated with Gloria Diaz who insisted she must take a break after a three-hour rehearsal. “Who do you think you are?” the director jumped at her.

Miss Diaz calmly sat down, primly-and-properly crossed her legs and said “Miss Universe.”

*   *   *

Tessie Yaptinchay’s favorite pastime must be getting married. Her latest marriage is to a Sam Wueller, an Englishman whom she married in an Anglican Church in Hong Kong. I am told she gets married under a different sect or a different religion every time.

My God, do you know how many religions and sects there in are in the world today? No one, but no one, could possibly have the time or the energy to cover them all. Do I hear any objections?

*   *   *

His tirades against the Marcoses were sometimes open and explicit, or merely hinting:

The Impossible Dream (from someone’s Crystal Ball. . . fact or fiction): The floods all over Luzon are meant to open the people’s eyes (at least) to the kind of leaders we have “elected”... Christina Ford is arriving in October with Condesa Consuelo Crespi (to help in the relief operations, perhaps).

*   *   *

My favorite senator, aside from Pepe Diokno, was confronted by a San Francisco museum curator in his last trip to the USA and was asked whether he knew a local gallery owner who was also a doctor. Our good Senator said he had heard of him but had never met him personally. Forthwith our senator inquired from the curator why he was asking.

 “Well, you see, sir,” the curator said, “He very recently out-bidded us by half a million dollars for a Picasso, a Chagall and a Rubens and we were most certainly astounded.” Very few Picassos are now available for less than a million dollars and heaven only knows how much a good Chagall or a Rubens would cost.

Now who do you think our good doctor was bidding for? He once told me he was the chateau-keeper of You Know Who in Switzerland. I believe him.

*   *   *

 And speaking of paintings, the purchase of the first batch of “originals” from a London Gallery by You Know Who was done, according to a True Blue, like she was buying dresses from a bargain basement. “Is that a Picasso? — I want that. Is that a Braque? — I want that. Is that a Chagall? — I want that. . .” After she had left, our good doctor took over and bought some more originals by “lesser” painters. According to him, “Would you believe I bought one at 300 (no currency specified) and sold it to her for 80,000 and she bought it!” All these paintings were sent to her here, but she shipped them all back to Europe for safe-keeping when she felt that “the natives were getting restless.”

If You Know Who was amused, she certainly did not show it. As the Conde wrote:

One of my many top-look-and-listeners, who was present at a “special conference,” has informed me that a whole vilification program has been prepared especially for me by You Know Who. The next objective, I am told, will be my “upper” head, which will be ceremoniously labeled “DERANGED.”

I congratulate them for their accuracy. After all, I could very well be stealing from a starving people and get rich fast, instead of exposing SOME PEOPLE’s exploitations and run the risk of being liquidated. Anyone who would choose to do this is obviously and clearly mentally deranged.


When Imelda asked Elvira to arrange a meeting with George, she had one paramount reason. A few days earlier, Dovie Beams, the President’s alleged paramour, went to town whining and complaining she had been mistreated, taken for granted or abandoned by Fred. She called up Amelita and asked that she set up a press conference, and Amelita, in turn, asked for George’s help. George knew Dovie because she cut the ribbon when George inaugurated his talent management agency, which he co-owned with Tony Zulueta, Lilian Laing and actor Ramyl Rodriguez.

Manila’s newsmen and news hens all came and listened to the American actress talk and talk and talk about everything that had transpired between her and her lover. She made them listen to the tape in which he spoke of his love for her. He sang and recited poems to her, and made all kinds of sounds. Unfortunately, the President had gotten wind of the presscon and using his powers, demanded a news blackout. He succeeded but he could not prevent George from keeping the only copy of the tape of the presscon. It was said that George was the person to approach if one wanted the revealing document.

It was for the tape that Imelda sought out George. “When Elvira called and said, ‘George, the First Lady wants to talk to you,’ I thought she was teasing me, so I said, ‘Yeah, sure,’” narrates George, who was surprised when the voice changed at the other end of the line. It was truly Imelda. “I almost dropped the phone. I was very polite. ‘Good afternoon, Ma’am,’ I said. ‘What can I do for you?’

“She said, ‘Well, I just wanted to meet with you so we can exchange views. You don’t have to stop attacking us.’ She was a very fantastic diplomat. So I said, Why don’t you ask Mrs. Manahan to arrange the meeting?”

The meeting took place at the ivy-walled house of Elvira Manahan in Forbes Park.

“It was 4 p.m. when I entered Elvira’s house,” George shared. “ I remember Imelda’s waist was about 20 inches. Of course, she was wearing a corset. Her see-through dress, probably chiffon, had a leopard design.

 “She started talking. ‘You are saying that I want to become a president, I have no intention of becoming president.’”

George retorts, “Well, if you don’t, Ernie Maceda has. According to him, on his way back to the Philippines from the United States, he passed by Hawaii, and a fortuneteller looked at the palm of his hand and said, ‘You have a star, one day you will be president.’”

 “Involuntarily, Imelda said, ‘Ay, look at my hands, I also have a star.’”

George remembers the whole scene to be surreal. “It was a comedy. Elvira was laughing but she was nervous because she knew how I felt about this meeting, which I forced myself to go to, and that it was really against my principle.”

“Mrs. Marcos, on the other hand, went on and on till 10 p.m.,” recalls George, “and only stopped when President Marcos called up.”

After she talked with her husband, Imelda passed on the telephone to George. The President asked George and the Manahans to please bring Imelda home. “I had no choice but to agree, ” says George who, on the way to Malacañang, while seated in the limousine beside Imelda, thought to himself, “If my friends could see me now. They’d despise me.”

As soon as they reached Malacañang, and were ascending the grand staircase, Imelda shouted, “Darling, look what George gave me!” She proudly showed Marcos the Dovie Beams tape, while the most powerful man in the country could only look and stare.

 “Of course, Imelda was very upset about Dovie,” says George. “I couldn’t say a thing. But if I was quiet, President Marcos was absolutely quieter. He was like a little lamb munching on the food.” All the time, Imelda was ranting.

To break the tension, George took the liberty of initiating a knock-knock game. “I began saying knock-knock, and they answered, who’s there, and I said, Taft Avenue, and they asked, Taft Avenue who? And I started to sing ‘I can’t Taft Avenue’ to the tune of ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You.’ It was outrageous. Even President Marcos participated, just so Imelda would stop ranting about Dovie.”

But the scorned First Lady was not to be stopped, so George told her, “But you should not feel so bad. After all, so many kings and princes have more than one wife. Look at Prince Sihanouk.”

Imelda looked at him and said, “George, they are royalty. Ferdinand Marcos is only a plain Ilocano.”

It was a long night that stretched all the way to 3 a.m. When finally the Manahans and George were let out, he could only squirm and, when no one was looking, throw up under a tree right outside the Palace.

This happened on Oct. 1, 1971. Exactly a year later, the Metrocom people were inviting George to Crame. Martial law had been declared just as Conde de Makati had hinted in his column.

A few weeks before September 21, 1972 George and Ninoy talked. “He was a fan of Pilita, and since I produced her television show, which Ninoy claimed to have been the only reason for which he would go home on time, I invited him to watch her act at the Hilton.”

George asked Ninoy, “Did you know that martial law is going to be declared?” “Yes,” Ninoy answered, claiming he got his information from highly placed sources. “I know. And how do you know? Who told you?” he asked the Conde.

“ET,” the Conde said, referring to his extra-terrestial friend.


“It was 8 a.m. when the Metrocom arrived in our home on Tamarind Street,” recalls George. “I was told by the maid that four soldiers had arrived. So I woke my mother up.

 “They didn’t say they were arresting me. They said, ‘We would like to invite you for questioning.’ I dressed up and rode with them to Camp Crame.”

George was brought before a guy who asked him if he was Conde de Makati. “As I knew my editor, Luis Mauricio, had already been arrested, I said yes.”

The man manning the table said, “I am sorry you cannot leave,” and started filling out the papers. He didn’t know what to make of George. He shouted at another guy who was also seated in a desk talking to a newly-arrived detainee. “What case will I put here?” he asked. “Anything, just take a look at the list,” answered the other one. “Should I put 1081?” asked one. “No, that’s only anarchy,” came the reply, and the question and answer between the two soldiers flew back and forth, as neither knew what charges they would write on George’s papers.

 George couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “My God, it crossed my mind, is this my country? This is not what we were taught in school. Is this going to be our future? I had horrible mixed feelings. How can our country get to this point when we were talking about freedom, and how to fight for liberty, and this was what I was face to face with. It was like a nightmare and a joke.

“I was allowed to make a phone call, so I called home. ‘Mommy, they are not allowing me to leave, so you have to bring me some clothes and food,’” George said.

“Actually, we were put in the gym of Camp Crame. There were 86 of us and we had only three toilets, and we shared them with people who didn’t know how to use a flush,” recalls George.

In the group were 22 media men and women like Louie Beltran and Amado Doronila. George recalled “Louie Beltran saying, in his usual language, ‘Ang mga p___ i___ yan, hindi naman tayo magkakilalang lahat, eh di ngayon magkakakilala na tayo.’” (Those sons of bitches, we didn’t know each other before, but because of this, we now know one another.) The brave Louie implied that as a united force, the media people were stronger, and he would prove his point later.

Others in the group were Amelita Reysio Cruz, Haydee Yorac, Teofisto Guingona, and Bren Guiao, criminals of all sorts including a gambling lord who operated along Roxas Boulevard.

Two hours earlier, student leader Jerry Barican had been brought in. He and George were among the youngest in the group. They were assigned to keep the toilet clean, so we hired two of the detainees “whose responsibility was to remind whoever entered the lavatory that he should put toilet paper over what he expelled so the next guy would not see the whole mount.”

 “It was like club sandwich,” kids George who woke up at three in the morning to catch the running water, take a bath and perform his morning rituals. “I couldn’t understand how the rest waited for the morning when there was no water. They preferred to sleep. Sometimes, a drill officer would come and ask for a roll call, so we would all wake up and gave out the numbers, one, two, three, and then, somewhere along the line, an illiterate guy would falter, not knowing how to say 30 or 63, and we would all go back to number one again.”

The women had their separate quarters on the second floor, but most of the time, they came down and mixed with the boys. They were allowed to receive guests. Prissy Sison, who never woke up before 11 a.m., came as early as eight and brought her son food, magazines, cigarettes, and toiletry. “Three layers of barbed wire separated us, so couples and lovers couldn’t touch each other. They ended up pressing their palms against the wire and made imaginary contact.”

Any time of the day, a man would announce if there was a guest. “Mr. De Leon, you have a visitors,” and George and company would smile at the way the man spoke through the sound system. “One day, he said, Mr. De Leon, you have a wives, and we all laughed. But true enough, two women came, and Mr. De Leon had no choice but to face his number one and number two who both nagged him.”

On a certain day, they were allowed to make outside calls. Roger “Bomba” Arienda was taking too long so I had to ask him to hurry up. But he kept saying, wait, wait. I wondered why, and asked him who was that he was seriously talking with, and he said, it was his dog. Then, he gave me the phone and I listened, there was only bark at the other end of the line. Roger’s dog missed him very much.”

One night, they all were awakened by a loud thud. It turned out Joe Concepcion dove out of the bed so fast that he fell. “I dreamt that they had put wires on the bed, and I was being electrocuted,” explained Joecon.

There was a quiet man in the group who said he was a fisherman. Somehow, they couldn’t place him, as he appeared mysterious. He probably misses his family, someone said. No, George answered. He is probably a spy watching our every move. On the day the whole company was scheduled to have their haircut and other grooming necessities, the fisherman had his fingernails manicured. That, to the group, was the first giveaway, for how could a fisherman want a manicure? Still, they thought that their habits were probably rubbing off on him. Until one day, a military officer of high rank came, and the fisherman stood up at attention, short of performing a salute. A few hours after, George approached the man, and sang paeans to Marcos. “’Marcos is a great president, I kept repeating and he was just nodding.’”

Horror came to George one day when he was asked to pack his things because he was going to be transferred to the stockade, much to the consternation of his companions. He was brought to a tiny cell, which, he found out, he would share, with two student activists who had been there for the last two years. In one corner of the room was a man who was always lying down. He was Commander Sumulong. “The man was suffering from asthma, and he was so frail, I asked myself, how could such a man be the leader of rebels who would overthrow the government?” said George.

“The cell had a six-inch-tall window near the ceiling. One could jump and take a look at the outside, but it was too narrow even if one succeeded in removing the iron bars, there was no way one could force himself out.” In one corner was a window, and when they were dried, they washed them again, for there wasn’t much to do. Beside the sink was a tiny hole that served as a toilet. Whoever was brought to that tiny prison was never allowed to go out.

The two young men were fuming mad. “They warned him not to say anything that would put him in danger because, “ang mga p___ i___ mga yan ay naglagay ng wire,” so they could hear what they were talking about. “If they could bring you here,” they told him, as they knew who he was, “you can imagine what they could do with us.”

George told himself, this was it. It was a halfway house to death. He spent the whole night awake, waiting for someone to get him out of there and kill him.

When morning came, there was a knock on the door. He was told that he was being brought back to the rest of the group. George left his reading materials and Scrabble set with the boys.

He found out that Louie Beltran got the press people together and led in making known their threat that if George Sison was not brought back to the gym, they would all go on hunger strike. When they finally saw George, they told him he was lucky for in the writing of history, he was one of the few who was put in the stockade.

Christmas came and George and Jerry Barican were given the TOYD awards, for Ten Outstanding Young Detainees. Pilita Corrales, responding to his request sent through his mother, came to sing for the detainees. No, not one of his socialite friends had come to visit. But, of coure, ET, his extra-terrestrial friend, came always and told him, “Don’t worry, they are going to commit a mistake, and you will soon be out.” She also told the group that a time would come when many people would gather in the streets and the dictator would flee in shame and fear.

Came New Year’s Day, an officer asked George why he was still in the camp. “Your name is in the papers,” said Colonel Generoso Alejo. “You are one of those who have been released.”

“But as you can see, I am still here,” George said. By 7 p.m., he was told to pack up. He went home with his mother, who was with him the whole day. George later found out that when the general who was in charge of the releases was given a stack of the folders indicating those who were to be released, the man set aside George’s folder, because there were orders from Malacañang that George was not to be released.

Fortunately for George, the person who wrote the press release stating the names of those who were being released from prison included his name. And when this was distributed to the press, his name was not erased. Hence, his name came out, and the military had no choice but to give him conditional freedom. For the next seven years or so, he was asked to report regularly and was required to ask for permission if he intended to go outside of Metro Manila.

 “I had no friends when I came out, so I devoted myself to reading and that’s how I read the esoteric philosophers and authors, which led to my founding of the Temple of Prosperity.”

In 1985, during the campaign for the snap election, Elvira Manahan invited George to appear on television along with some Marcos cronies and officials. He came with his yellow Cory button. While waiting for the program to start, a production assistant told him there were instructions that he remove his Cory button because a presidential daughter was going to watch the show that night. He had no choice but to agree. He joined the rest and voiced out his opinions in favor of having a new government. That was the last time he saw his beloved friend, Elvira.


More than a decade after, Nedy Tantoco invited George to a concert of Cecile Licad at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. After the show, he was to join them for dinner at the Silangan Restaurant. When he went to his assigned table, he sat down and there in front of him was Imelda Marcos. Over dinner, Mrs. Marcos told him, “I know your father.” She thought he was the son of Louie, George’s brother. By then, George had discovered his fountain of youth and he has since been evolving younger and younger. That was around the first two years of the new millennium.

Just recently George attended a party where, upon his entrance, he had to pass a table where he knew everyone. He stopped and began exchanging kisses with the other guests, until he came face to face with You Know Who. There was no turning back. She offered her cheek. George refused to kiss her, and instead offered to shake her hand.

Those who saw told George “I should have made beso-beso with her. I gulped two glasses of wine, and when no one was looking, I went to her and asked, ‘May I have this dance?’

Imelda Romualdez Marcos gamely stood up. “She noticed his pendant of a diamond, which he had simply hung on a string. He told her it was from his late mother, and she reminded him that she and the late Prissy were relatives. George smiled, and thought, if I could have your diamonds instead, for they were real and they were spread across her chest.

 “You must know, Madam, that I was totally against your administration,” George whispered to Imelda Marcos.

Imelda Marcos answered with all sincerity, “I cannot totally blame you, George.”

And thus began the reconciliation of You Know Who and the Conde de Makati, two people who have learned to forgive and forget.

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