Did the illustrious weekly magazine "Bannawag," publish 4 articles of Ferdinand Marcos' exploits in Bataan in February 1949?
“Bannawag” is an illustrious name in Philippine literature and journalism, just as it is the Ilocano term for sunrise or dawn!
It is a weekly magazine first published in 1934. It contains serialized novels and comic strips, short stories, essays, poems and news features written in Ilocano, a language commonly used in Northern Philippines. It is self-referenced as the “Bible of the North.” The magazine, along with its Tagalog older sibling—Liwayway (also meaning ‘dawn’)—now belong to the Manila Bulletin group.
After World War II, when Bannawag resumed operations, Benjamin A. Gray, who was a teenaged proof reader, on inception, became its editor-in-chief. (‘Gray’ is pronounced with a soft “a,” as though a contraction of the Hispanic surname “Garay.”).
While the Philippines and much of the world have come to know and accept Marcos’ “For Every Tear A Victory” (Hartzell Spence/ McGraw-Hill/1964; republished/reissued several more times by Malacanang) as the “commissioned and ghost-written autobiography,” principal anchor of Ferdinand E. Marcos having won the Philippine Presidency in 1965, (The big lie that elected Marcos president), most avid Filipino bibliophiles do not even know that there was a sequel to that celebratedly notorious opus. It was almost a carbon copy, say a re-write, of the original but for additional pages chronicling early Marcos presidency.
That duplicate-wannabe was titled “Rendezvous with Destiny.” In Filipino, that translates to “Iginuhit ng Tadhana,” somewhat, the “political propaganda” film version of the McGraw-Hill original. Benjamin A. Gray was its author. Printed by the McCullough company, a division of Philippine Education Company (PECO) 1968, it is unknown how many copies were printed. It was unlikely a commercial venture of PECO.
Mulling over why and what for, having a duplicate and yet, even by someone not quite well known, was quite intriguing. Most especially the following, lifted from Gray’s page 247:
“One day after the Christmas holidays of 1948, Teofilo D. Agcaoili, a Filipino writer of note, called up a former classmate in college, the editor of the Bannawag.” (Gray referring to himself). “Agcaoili invited the Bannawag editor to lunch. But they were not alone. A third man also materialized. He was Ferdinand E. Marcos.” “The lunch turned out to be a special dialog centered on Ferdinand’s exploits in Bataan, a saga whose patriotism and bravery was well-known over the islands.”
“Could the story merit the pages of Bannawag? One article would be enough, Agcaoili said.” “But the editor did something better. With a story so readable, he ran a series of four articles on Ferdinand’s exploits in the war, all four articles appearing in all issues for February 1949.”
The Bannawag editor continues: “The Ilocano’s admiration for Ferdinand grew immensely. Confirming their belief that he was their new leader. The Bannawag would not publish such a saga of bravery and heroism were it not true, they said. Whatever the Bannawag published, to the Ilocanos, would be accepted as gospel truth.”
Quite apropos to this weekend cyberchat, here is what “history.com/this-day-in-history/marcos-inaugurated” notes: ”In 1949, he was elected to the Philippine House of Representatives, thanks in large part to his fabricated wartime record.”
Did Gray perhaps launch a riddling, subliminal claim that the basis of Harzell Spence’s “For Every Tear A Victory” was his claimed Bannawag ‘series of four articles?” Or was it an ego pained by his unrequited, and apparently unrecognized participation in the production of the Hartzell Spence’ book? (There is evidence that Benjamin A. Gray served as amanuensis between Marcos and Spence, during the writing of the book, while Spence was billeted in the old Filipinas Hotel. This, from my photocopies of drafts and notes I acquired from the University of Iowa/DesMoines archives, depositary of Spence documents.)
Curious and intrigued, I wanted to know. In 1990, I sought out Benjamin A. Gray through his residential address indicated at the bottom of his “Foreword.” He had immigrated to the U.S. but fortunately, his granddaughter Joy was kind enough to provide me his California address. I wrote him a respectful and pleasant letter.
Here were my queries:
a) Was the outline and/or basis of Hartzell Spence’ book from Bannawag’s “series of four articles?”;
b) Why did you write the book, considering that the Marcos book had already been released;
c) What role did you play in the writing of Spence’s book?;
d) What sources were available to you when you wrote the Bannawag series?;
e) Might it be possible that your book was a reminder that the Bannawag series deserved proper credit?;
f) How many copies of your book were printed?;
g) How do you feel about the revelations concerning the fraudulence of Marcos’ wartime record?;
h) how might I secure copies of the Bannawag series?
Never having gotten a response from Mr. Gray, I requested permission to search the Bannawag archives at the Manila Bulletin Offices facing the Muralla in Manila’s old ‘walled city,’ the Intramuros. The object of the search, of course: “all four articles appearing in all issues for February 1949.” Twice, my Malacanang Staff (I was Press Secretary at the time) came back empty-handed. They could not find the February 1949 Bannawag articles. I was incredulous. Eventually, I had to go to Intramuros myself and do the research personally! I wanted to satisfy myself beyond any reasonable doubt of my staff’s failure to find the Marcos stories.
I gingerly leafed through all the pages of all February Monday issues; 7th ,14th , 21st and 28th and I found nothing. Nothing to quarry at all. Not a single one of “all four articles appearing in all issues for February 1949” were ever written and never saw print!
Mr. Gray has long passed on, so we will never know of his intent, why the bluff in page 247 of his “Rendezvous with Destiny.” He was correct, though. “The Bannawag would not publish such a saga of bravery and heroism were it not true.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.
In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.
During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.
After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.
He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.