Written in the stars

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

 As I watched on television President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. deliver his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday, July 25, I saw the exact replica of the father, Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Sr., delivering a speech many years ago.

Bongbong got his Old Man’s style of delivery – the inflection, enunciation, pauses, gestures – minus Marcos Senior’s extemporaneous way. BBM reads his speeches while FM delivered them without notes, the words lodged in his memory.

(Digressing, Ferdinand Marcos Sr. was known for his photographic memory. I was a witness to this unusual skill in a person when as a reporter my colleagues and I in the defense beat accompanied then defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile to Malacañang to present the draft of a proposed presidential decree to Mr. Marcos. The president leafed through the draft, finished it in several minutes and told Enrile, “Johnny, on page [he mentioned the page], the wordings should go like this,” and proceeded to recite the words he wanted for replacement. We were all stunned.)

Anyway, back to Bongbong.

BBM is a man of destiny, like his father. The Old Man defended himself in court in a murder case while he was in detention, and later topped the Bar exams in his time.

Like his father, the country’s 10th president, Bongbong becoming the 17th president was written in the stars.

More than four decades ago, Bongbong Marcos escaped death.

On Sept. 14, 1978, an Air Force plane bound for Villamor Air Base in Pasay City was asked to turn around and head back to the Laoag City airport. On board were Bongbong and his friends, some journalists, soldiers, policemen and members of the presidential security command.

A young psychic, Ronald Joaquin (true surname unknown), implored president Ferdinand and first lady Imelda Marcos to order the plane back so Bongbong could get down and transfer to another plane.

The Marcos couple gave in to the clairvoyant’s entreaties, even if by doing so they would be delayed in going back to Manila.

The plane that Bongbong got down from crashed in a swampy area located a few hundred meters short of the runway of Villamor Air Base.

A total of 33 persons – 15 aboard the plane and 18 on the ground – were killed. Only nine survived of the 24 passengers on board.

The plane plowed through 10 houses before landing on a rice field. The 18 who were killed on the ground were in the houses that the ill-fated aircraft hit before landing in a fishpond.

I got the information from reports in old aviation crash files from all over the world.

Sen. Imee Marcos, recalling the incident on Tuesday as this column was being written, said several of Bongbong’s La Salle classmates, including his close friend, Serafin “Jun” Camilon, died in the mishap.

One of the survivors, Imee said, was her mother’s brother, Brig. Gen. Francisco Romualdez.

“I had to identify burnt bodies by belt, ring, shoes, dentures. We had a hard time informing Serafin’s dad, Judge Camilon. It was horrific!” said Imee.

The senator said they were in Ilocos Norte to celebrate FM’s 61st birthday and for sister Irene’s 18th birthday rehearsal. She said Bongbong, Irene and her friends flew to Ilocos with them.

It was a family affair whose birthdays happen to be in September: FM on Sept. 11, BBM on Sept. 13 and Irene on Sept. 16. “Kaya’t lahat ng kamag-anak, opisyal at mga barkada ay nasa Ilocos (That’s why all the relatives, public officials and friends were in Ilocos),” Imee said.

After Irene’s debut rehearsal and other obligations, Senator Marcos said, they all flew back to Manila in two planes.

“We had already boarded our plane when FEM (referring to the Old Man) called for my brother to switch planes and ride on our plane,” Imee said.

The senator said she and her friends were annoyed by the unexplained request (as BBM’s plane was already in transit) and complained to her dad, who insisted that Bongbong transfer to their plane.

This columnist recalls that at the time (I was a police reporter in the Manila Bulletin), people fussed over the psychic Ronald Joaquin in the wake of the incident.

They called him the “Bionic Boy,” in reference to a popular TV series, “The Six Million Dollar Man,” whose main character was called “the bionic man” for having body parts made of electronic or electromechanical devices.

Ronald Joaquin was in the front pages of all the broadsheets – Bulletin, Daily Express and Times Journal – and tabloids (there were about two or three) at the time.

He told reporters that in his vision, he saw a plane crashing with Bongbong in it.

The clairvoyant surmised that if Bongbong were taken out of the plane, it would safely go on its way.

The clairvoyant had another uncanny skill: He could call anybody here and abroad without using a real telephone.

Ronald Joaquin demonstrated his skill to reporters when he called a relative abroad by dialing a toy telephone and talking to the person at the other end.

Anyway, back to Bongbong, 64.

Who would be our president today if the young Marcos, who was 20 years old at the time, was in that ill-fated plane?

*      *      *

Joke! Joke! Joke!

An octogenarian couple was recalling old times.

“How many men did you sleep with,” asked the husband.

The wife replied, “I only slept with you; with the others I wasn’t sleeping.”


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