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“Golden Age” Myth

Building spree for IMF-WB meeting in Manila (1976)

AP Archive

Article Date Posted

Building spree for IMF-WB meeting in Manila (1976)

AP Archive

This clip shows the frantic pace in which the Marcos administration built edifices in preparation for the 28th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Board of Governors of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, now the World Bank Group) held in Manila from 4-8 October 1976.

Most of these structures are located within and surrounding the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex, a 77-hectare area reclaimed from the Manila Bay. The genesis of other key structures in the CCP Complex is also tied to international events, including the Folk Arts Theater (1974 Miss Universe pageant), Coconut Palace (1981 Papal Visit), and the Manila Film Center (1982 Manila International Film Festival).

The first shot in this clip shows the Metropolitan Museum of Manila along Roxas Boulevard. It was designed by Gabriel Formoso and built within the span of only one month in order to open on October 4 alongside the IMF-WB meetings. Another shot shows workers putting finishing touches on the Philippine International Convention Center, designed by Leandro Locsin. It cost around USD 65 million to build, and was inaugurated on September 5 with the IMF-WB meetings as its first main event.

The next shots focus on luxury hotels being built in order to accommodate the estimated 5,000 delegates and guests. A total of 14 new hotels were officially sponsored by the government, collectively costing around USD 500 million. The first is the 700-room Philippine Plaza (now Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila), then owned by the CCP Foundation chaired by Imelda Marcos. It was inaugurated on September 26 and built at the cost of USD 50 million–the largest of the lot and at the time, the most expensive hotel to be built in the world. Also seen is the 370-room Holiday Inn Manila (now Hotel JEN), designed by Carlos Arguelles and opened that same year.

The New York Times reports:

“At the Plaza, nearly 9,000 workers have been pressed into 24‐hour threeshift operations. And because it is the First Lady’s pet project, workers, particularly skilled carpenters, have been pirated from other construction sites, details rushed and precautions overlooked until three months ago, as workers hustled ironworks of upper floors onto concrete barely dry beneath it, the entire ceiling in the grand ballroom caved in and 12 workers were killed.

“Several construction companies, most of whose leaders have some ties with the Marcos family and the manifold business interests of their friends and relatives, are harvesting a bonanza from the frantic construction pace. More than 30,000 workers have been kept busy on these projects for more than a year and a half.”

“Still other friends and relatives of the Marcos family are in on the ownership of a number of these hotels. None of this even raises any eyebrows here because this is how business is done in the Philippines. But what does concern some of the more thoughtful economists and businessmen is the huge volume of government capital committed to these projects.”

“Most of the hotels have received some or all of their financing from such Government lending institutions as the Development Bank of the Philippines, the Government Service Insurance System and the Social Security System which have lent funds or guaranteed loans in the hotel projects.”

“Secretary of Finance Cesar E. Virata admitted yesterday that the Development Bank had committed more than one billion pesos of its resources of eight billion pesos ($135 million of $1.1 billion) to the hotel projects alone, but other economists believe that its loan guarantees push this figure substantially higher.”

A year later, the Times reported that the hotels did not do well. “Their occupancy rate is little better than 40 percent. As a consequence, none of them has been able even to meet the interest payments on their loans… To avoid having the Government foreclose on them, President Ferdinand E. Marcos recently announced that he would reschedule the loans.”

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AP Archive, “SYND 1 10 76 Preparation for IMF Meeting In Manila,” YouTube video, 1:01, July 24, 2015

Miss Universe pageant in Manila (1974)

Miss Universe, Inc.

1974

Miss Universe pageant in Manila (1974)

Miss Universe, Inc.

In 1974, the Miss Universe competition was held for the first time in Asia. It was among a series of high-profile international events that allowed the Marcos administration to project an image of modernity and prosperity to the globe.

The Miss Universe stage displayed a mix of military might and multicultural color. Candidates were accompanied by honor guards from the Philippine Military Academy, as well as usherettes dressed in a white terno and sporting an Imeldific bouffant. The Bayanihan Dance Company danced the singkil, Pangkat Kawayan played an angklung medley, and the candidates sang the Ilocano folk song “Pamulinawen” (which also played in the end credits). The swimsuit competition was held at the Nayong Pilipino theme park. As part of the program’s intermissions, co-host Helen O’Connell told of how the Folk Arts Theater was completed in 70 days, and was inaugurated with a massive parade called “Kasaysayan ng Lahi (History of the Race)” before finally opening with the pageant on 21 July 1974. Spain’s Amparo Muñoz clinched the crown, and was granted use of a vacation beach house with a complete staff for the duration of her reign by the Philippine government. Mrs Marcos also gifted her a sculpture of Maria Clara made of 3,700 local shells.

1973 Miss Universe Margarita Moran went on to marry Tonyboy Floirendo. She has since been active in the cultural scene, most notably as president of CCP resident company Ballet Philippines, and as current chair of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. “I would otherwise never have reached the heights I was catapulted to had I not first become Miss Universe,” wrote Moran. “I have other roles now, but that one, the golden year of 1973, surely carved the path for the subsequent years that were to come, in various capacities, in service to my country and society in general.”

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Miss Universe, Inc., “Miss Universe 1974 – Full Show,” uploaded by tttpageant. YouTube video, 1:47:53, February 17, 2013

The Counterfeit Revolution: The Philippines from Martial Law to the Aquino Assassination

Reuben R. Canoy

1980

The Counterfeit Revolution: The Philippines from Martial Law to the Aquino Assassination

Reuben R. Canoy

As the title suggests, what Reuben Canoy does in this book is to expose the reality behind the myth of the “new society” and the “democratic revolution” that President Marcos declared he was bringing with Martial Law. As he states, this book was written to “keep that reality in sight, by probing into the circumstances and the possible reasons behind the declaration of Martial Law.” The value of this book is even more plain given the fact that it was published in 1980 while Marcos was still in power, and thus, the author necessarily had to be careful with his sources and discrete with his informants. An important book from the period.

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Canoy, Reuben R. The Counterfeit Revolution: The Uncensored Story of the Marcos Regime in the Philippines, Manila, Philippines: Philippine Editions Pub, 1980.

False Nostalgia: The Marcos Golden Age Myths and How to Debunk Them

JC Punongbayan

2023

False Nostalgia: The Marcos Golden Age Myths and How to Debunk Them

JC Punongbayan

False Nostalgia: The Marcos Golden Age Myths and How to Debunk Them focuses on disproving the “golden age” narrative that the Marcos family and their cohorts have propagated for many years. The book is timely because such myths have permeated into the consciousness of Filipinos who consume Marcosian propaganda. Using data and facts, it carefully debunks these myths and, in the process, recreates a narrative about the state of the economy during the Marcos years.

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Punongbayan, JC. False Nostalgia: The Marcos Golden Age Myths and How to Debunk Them. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2023.