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FM loyalists from Hawaii coming home for burial

his file photo taken on July 2, 2014 shows former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos kissing the glass case bearing her late husband and former president Ferdinand Marcos during a visit to the mausoleum on her 85th birthday in Batac town, Ilocos norte, north of Manila.Plans by the Philippines' controversial president-elect to give late dictator Ferdinand Marcos a hero's burial triggered outrage on May 24, 2016, with martial law victims warning it would whitewash the strongman's crimes. / AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE

LAOAG CITY, Philippines— Strongman Ferdinand Marcos died in exile in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sept. 28, 1989, and a plane loaded with Filipino migrants brought home his body four years later.

The same group of Filipinos in Hawaii is preparing to come home next month, intending to witness history unfold once more when Marcos is buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani on Sept. 18.

Ric Agnes, who leads the Marcos for Peace Movement (MPM) in Honolulu, said the group was happy to hear that the late President may “finally find peace” after staying in a refrigerated crypt at the Marcos ancestral house in Batac City since September 1993.

MPM is composed of Ilocano migrants and professionals in Hawaii who urged previous presidents to grant the Ilocano leader a hero’s burial with full military honors at Libingan.

Whenever the burial became a point of debate in the Philippines, MPM members organized rallies and expressed their desire for reunification in the aftermath of martial law and the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution that ousted Marcos.

Highest honor

“Ever since the death of Marcos, it has always been the desire of Filipinos in Hawaii that his remains be buried with the highest  honor given to a president and war hero. For this reason, we are planning to come and attend [Marcos’ funeral] as our expression of respect,” Agnes said on Wednesday.

“Marcos, a World War II veteran, was not just an ordinary soldier but a decorated officer. He deserved our greatest respect,” said Avelino Felicitas, 67, a former university professor who migrated to Honolulu in 2008.

Rizal Fernandez, who traces his roots to Badoc, Ilocos Norte province, said he used to help with crowd control when people visited the home of the Marcos family in Honolulu.

“There were times when we would [forgo] work and join rallies for our beloved President [Marcos],” he said.

People in Ilocos Norte have also started preparations for the Marcos burial.

Iloko blanket

In Pinili town, a 93-year-old master weaver is making the white abel Iloko blanket and a pillow case that would be among the pabaon (keepsakes) to be placed in the bronze casket of the late strongman.

Ilocano tradition requires families to place keepsakes in coffins that they believe their deceased loved ones would use or wear in the afterlife.

The blanket for Marcos will be designed and woven by Lola Magdalena Gamayo, who lives in the remote village of Lumbaan Bicbica in Pinili.

Gamayo was asked by the Marcos family to weave the abel blanket and pillow case for the burial.

But she said it would be her “gift to the best President the Philippines ever had.” “I remember seeing him visit our village when he was President,” Gamayo added.

In November 2012, Gamayo was awarded the Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan by then President Benigno Aquino III, for weaving skills she learned at the age of 16.

Gamayo said the idea of weaving a burial blanket came from Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, the late President’s eldest daughter and one of her patrons.

“[Marcos’] grandmother was a weaver, too, and we have seen his fascination of the abel cloth when he was still young,” said Melchora Ver Dragon, a retired teacher in Sarrat.

Dragon said she was still uncomfortable about the Marcos body leaving the province after it was kept preserved at the family mausoleum for the last 23 years.

“It’s a big honor for us in Sarrat that we have produced a President like Marcos. How I wish he will just be buried here so that we will not miss him that much,” she said.

Fit for President

Though no final date has been set, Marcos would be given a burial at Libingan fit for a President, Malacañang said on Thursday.

“The only ceremonies that are certain is that he will be accorded ceremonies fitting a President,” Ernesto Abella, the President Duterte’s spokesperson, said in a press briefing.

The Malacañang website said there were no laws on presidential funerals, but certain protocols and traditions were maintained.

It said a deceased President may be accorded a state funeral, which means the state would shoulder expenses and provide arrival, departure and final military honors, among other features.

The plan to bury Marcos at Libingan continues to receive intense criticism from various sectors, especially the victims and families of those who suffered human rights abuses during Marcos’ authoritarian rule.

Mr. Duterte intends to push through with the burial even if the Philippines has a law recognizing the martial law abuses and providing for reparation for the victims.

READ: Poe: Hero’s burial for Marcos ‘in conflict with law’

Sen. Grace Poe said allowing Marcos to be buried at Libingan would be in “conflict” with the law.

“Even (Jose) Rizal had a quote something that says that anybody (who) contributed to the ruin of a nation, no matter what [he or she] did can never really be considered a liberator or a hero,” Poe said. With a report from Maila Ager, Inquirer.net/TVJ

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