UPDATE (April 16, 2016): If you are looking for a film about the People Power Revolution, I highly recommend this documentary instead. I don’t recommend A Dangerous Life.
A Dangerous Life is originally a miniseries that aired on HBO (long before they made full-fledged series like Game of Thrones). It focuses on the last three years of Ferdinand Marcos’ rule in the Philippines. It was later edited into a 162-minute film. The story follows fictional American journalist Tony O’Neil (played by Gary Busey), as he covers the events following the assassination of Ninoy Aquino up to the People Power Revolution. (Reviews of A Dangerous Life can be found here and here.)
This post is a walkthrough of the movie, as uploaded in YouTube. Since some scenes were cut in the movie version, I point out where these cut scenes are supposed to appear and describes or shows them (as the case may be).
Watch the movie below while following my commentary.
00:08 “I am returning to the Philippines because my country is now in crisis.” The film starts with the interview of Ninoy in Taipei on the eve of his death. He had chosen to stop by different countries on the way home from Boston to elude any Marcos spies. After warning the interviewer of his impending demise, he states “so this is the danger.” Cue title card.
00:40 Imelda Marcos (played by Tessie Tomas) enters the scene. Armed Forces chief-of-staff General Fabian C. Ver (played by Merwyn Samson) tells her of Ninoy’s arrival. “I warned him not to come back when I saw him in New York three months ago. (See also this, this, and this.) He wants to grab power,” Imelda warns Marcos (played by Ruben Rustia).
01:21 Tony steps out of the Manila Hotel, headed for his car. He knows of Ninoy’s arrival (after all, he was assigned to cover it), but no news of it appears in local newspapers. This early, I would like to point out that Tony is a forgettable character, and his story arc is overshadowed by the dramatizations of events following that fateful day on the Manila International Airport (MIA). Some people may have their issues with this strategy, but I believe the movie would have worked without Tony. After all, this premise is the reason A Dangerous Life has been compared with the 1982 film The Year of Living Dangerously (based on the book of the same name; they both follow the story of a fictional journalist, played by Mel Gibson, as he covers the failed coup against Sukarno of Indonesia in 1965).
02:30 We, the viewers, are treated with a view of Manila as Tony and his driver/cameraman go to the airport. If we did not know any better, we may have mistaken these 1980s scenes for 21st century Manila. In fact, every time I walk around Manila, the movie’s theme plays on my head.
04:27 Men in barong (MIBs, hehe) fetch Rolando Galman. A man in an Army uniform shakes his hand as he enters the car.
The Army man may allude to Pablo Martinez, former Philippine Air Force master sergeant, who was among those convicted for the Aquino assassination (read 1990 Sandiganbayan decision convicting Martinez and 15 others for the Aquino-Galman double murder and 10 dramatic lines from the Sandiganbayan ruling on the assassination of Ninoy).
In 1994, after becoming a born-again Christian, Martinez confessed that he brought Galman to MIA under orders from then Deputy Commander of the Aviation Security Command Colonel Romeo Ochoco (who disappeared after the People Power Revolution), then Philippine Constabulary Brigadier Gen. Romeo Gatan, and Herminio Gosuico, a businessman from Nueva Ecija who has ties with Danding Cojuangco. None of them were ever charged with regard to their roles in the killing. Meanwhile, Martinez walked free from prison in 2007 after he was pardoned by then-President Gloria Arroyo and died seven years later, on 07 May 2014, after he was hit by a sports utility vehicle while biking along Roxas Boulevard (see source; see also Interaksyon’s article on the Galmans 30 years after Rolando Galman’s death).
However, the filmmakers could not have known Martinez’s story since the film was released six years before that revelation. This scene may have been wishful thinking on their part.
05:34 “The very fact that we can land is victory enough.” Again, archive footage of Ninoy being interviewed on the way to Manila is shown (Longer footage here). From here, archive footage are interspersed with scenes shot for the film.
The film shows one version of the Aquino assassination. Another version (the government-sponsored one) blames Galman for shooting Ninoy. Yet another version states that Galman was dead even before being brought to the airport. An editorial cartoon from those days show Ninoy and Galman meeting in the afterlife. Galman says, “Naunahan pa kita rito” (“I have been here long before you came”).
09:00 Cory Aquino (played by Laurice Guillen) is awakened from a bad dream by a telephone call. The person on the other line, from Kyodo News Agency, asks for confirmation regarding rumors that Ninoy had been killed. In reality, it was Ballsy (Ninoy and Cory’s eldest child) who received this call (source).
09:47 Tony and fictional opposition journalist Ben Balamo (played by Jaime Fabregas) arrive at Malacanang Palace for a press conference a day after the assassination. The Marcos government blames Galman, called a Communist hitman, for killing Ninoy Aquino. Later, the US State Department clears Marcos from responsibility with the assassination, which Tony does not believe.
12:35 24 August 1983. Ninoy’s widow, Cory, arrives home with her two daughters. In this world, Ninoy and Cory only have two daughters (her three other children are not seen). After Cory says, “we will not rest until the people who ordered your father’s murder pays with their lives,” the film cuts to the mammoth funeral march to Manila Memorial Park. The series, however, shows Cory speaking at the funeral mass at Sto. Domingo Church (sorry no video). She says:
If my children and I appear to be brave during this, the most difficult period yet of our lives, it is because we know that this is what Ninoy would have expected of us.
And so today, I wish to thank all the Filipino men and women, young and old, who have demonstrated to me, to my children, to Ninoy’s mother and to his family, that Ninoy did not die in vain (read full eulogy here).
14:03 After Cory’s speech, the series proceeds to the funeral march. Once again, archive footage is mixed with Tony reporting about the march. Writing about the event 25 years later (or in 2008), then-Malaya columnist and editorial board member Eusebio S. San Diego described:
From the moment the funeral march started at past 10 a.m., throngs of people swelled in every corner and intersection, especially in the Mabuhay (formerly Welcome) Rotunda at the boundary of Manila and Quezon City, Quiapo, Liwasang Bonifacio, the old Congress building on P. Burgos Street, Rizal Park, US Embassy, Roxas Boulevard and Osmeña Avenue (formerly South Superhighway). When the procession reached the Magallanes interchange in Makati, the mammoth crowd was estimated as close to 2.5 million.
At the Sucat interchange on South Luzon Expressway, thousands of people were waiting for the arrival of Ninoy until the funeral procession reached the final resting place of the icon of democracy whose famous words before he was assassinated were: “Filipinos are worth dying for!” (source)
14:41 Tony convinces his boss to let him stay in Manila. He attends a dinner at the Balamo residence.
“Pinagsasayahan nila ang pagkamatay ni Ninoy.” Emilio (uncredited, but according to IMDb was played by Val Victa), Ben’s nephew says. He then tries to convince his sister Celie (played by Dina Bonnevie) to join him in protests against the dictatorship. He reminds her that their father “stood up to Marcos” and died because of it. Celie tells him, “I am not a Marxist, and I don’t believe in violence.”
Emilio replies, ” Well, I’m not either. Only Americans are stupid enough to think that everyone on the Left is a Marxist!” Ben reprimands his nephew and asks him to apologize to Tony. He does so, and Tony accepts it, “That’s okay. Not all Americans support Reagan.”
17:35 Tony then attends a Palace reception for a US Senator Hatfield. The first name is never given in the film, but Senator Hatfield most likely refers to then-US Senator Mark Hatfield from Oregon. The New York Times on August 30, 1983 reported that Senator Mark Hatfield was in Manila when the government announced that it had identified “Ninoy’s killer” as Galman: “President Marcos went on television today to reiterate his view that there had been a plot by leftist subversives. Speaking to a group of dignitaries that included Senator Mark O. Hatfield, Republican of Oregon, Mr. Marcos said the Communists were the only ones to benefit from the assassination” (source). In addition, another article from August 28, 1983 reports that Senator Mark Hatfield was bound for Manila to inspect military installations and visit Marcos (source).
Marcos, Senator Hatfield and his wife, and Imelda shake hands with the invited guests. Also among them is Imee Marcos (played by Jacinta Coehlo, her only role), the eldest child of the Marcoses. In this world (and like the Aquinos), the Marcoses only have one child. The others do not exist.
“Quite a few of my guests have headaches,” Imelda replies after Tony tells him that his beautiful young friend has a “headache”.
“These are anxious times, Mrs. Marcos,” Tony says. The US Ambassador also does not come, and sends his sincere apologies through Mike Heseltine (played by James Hardy). Mike, another fictional character, is working in the US Embassy in Manila. Tony’s boss had earlier advised Tony to talk to Mike “to get the real story” about the assassination. Unfortunately for Tony, Mike simply echoes the Marcos’ government’s story that Galman killed Aquino.
19:56 Marcos introduces his most trusted military men to Hatfield. Except for Metropolitan Command or Metrocom chief Prospero Olivas, these men were part of “Rolex 12”, so-called because all members supposedly received a Rolex watch from Marcos (see also: Before ‘Rolex’ 12, there was ‘Omega 5’)
20:31 Imelda sings “Feelings” to the party-goers. For those expecting “Dahil Sa Iyo”, she sings it later in the movie (in English) during the campaign scene. There’s not much information online about “Feelings”, except apparently that Imelda in exile recorded it in an album! A New York Times article in 1989 reports:
Imelda Marcos has released her first record album, on which she sings her husband’s favorite love songs. Her producer says a music video is to follow. ”This is all so new too me, but it’s nice to be recognized for something positive, something beautiful, like music,” Mrs. Marcos said Sunday at a reception to promote the album, titled ”Imelda Papin Featuring Songs With Mrs. Imelda Romualdez Marcos.” … On the 12-song album, Mrs. Marcos sings four solos, ”Feelings” and three songs in the Tagalog, and a duet with Ms. Papin, who produced the album (source).
While Imelda sings, Marcos continues to blame the Communists for killing Ninoy. Talking to Hatfield, he says that despite “reforms” favoring the Communists, they have made the government “look bad” by the assassination.
22:04 Celie sings “Kailangan Kita” (original by Leah Navarro) to Tony. The two are in a relationship, in spite of Tony being already married (his wife enters the film later).
With regard to Dina Bonnevie’s role as Celie, the Wikipedia article for A Dangerous Life reads: “Though uncredited in the film, her performance was highly praised by Philippine media.” Whether or not those accolades translated to awards, I do not know.
Personally, I like least the parts of the film that deal with Tony’s personal life.
24:50 Tony’s report, painting an unflattering picture of Marcos and Imelda, airs on American television. The Palace picks it up via satellite, prompting Imelda to call Tony to the Palace.
The US has always stood by Marcos, until almost the bitter end. Only during the EDSA Revolution did US President Ronald Reagan realize that Marcos had to go.
25:35 The Manila Film Center, one of the most infamous legacies of Marcos rule. While the scaffolding of the then-under construction film center indeed collapsed on 17 November 1981, and workers were indeed buried alive, it is not known how many died nor whether or not their remains are entombed in the structure. This and this are good reads about the subject. You may also watch this i-Witness documentary from 2005, including what Imelda has to say about the tragedy.
26:23 The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). My professor on the Introductory to Political Science course told me (and my class) that the reason the CCP was built was to attract the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to set up its headquarters did. The gamble worked; to this day, the ADB headquarters is at Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines.
26:36 Smokey Mountain. The landfill no longer exists; future plans for the site include a Smokey Mountain Remediation and Development Project.
27:30 I wonder if scenes like this indeed happened to unfriendly journalists. And I wonder if Imelda really had someone to put her shoes on for her. If I weren’t doing this walkthrough, I would skip this part since it makes me cringe.
Imelda explains all those building projects. She said that she made Manila the greatest city for every Filipino. Before Marcos, the world looked down on the Philippines.
31:24 Tony calls his wife Angie. She tells him that she is headed to Manila. Of course, Tony is worried.
33:01 Imelda calls a press conference, to clear her and her husband’s name in the Aquino assassination.
34:48 Students protest in Mendiola calling Marcos to step down, two days after the press conference. Celie joins the protest, which ends in the shooting of protesters by snipers. Her brother Emilio is killed; Celie is arrested and taken to Fort Bonifacio (Yes, before it became the city for high society, Fort Bonifacio has a dark past. It was the prison camp for those arrested during the dictatorship, including Ninoy.)
I have not found any news articles regarding a protest rally ending on a shooting at Mendiola on 21 September 1983, or on any other day in Mendiola until Marcos fled. I am aware, however, of the Escalante massacre (on 20 September 1985, at the twilight of Marcos rule) and the Mendiola massacre of January 1987 (occurring eleven months after Cory Aquino assumed the presidency).
38:30 Seeing the carnage at Mendiola, Cory decides to join the marches at Makati with the middle class.
39:29 The military tortures Celie using the infamous silya elektrika, in an effort to gain information about the New People’s Army (NPA). Detainees throughout the dictatorship suffered such torture by the military. The culture of impunity was at its worst during Marcos’ rule. Yet, this same culture persists today.
The Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation honors those who fought, died and were martyred during Marcos’ rule: both well- and little-known. The list presently includes 226 names.
Back to the movie, this scene reminds me of the scene in Dekada ’70 where Jules (played by Piolo Pascual) is also tortured using the silya elektrika.
40:19 Ben tells Tony about Celie’s arrest. Tony then asks Mike’s help to get her out. She was released.
43:16 Tony covers the rallies in Makati. The middle class, the businessmen who stayed silent when martial law was declared in 1972, has joined those demanding Marcos’ resignation.
43:43 Marcos announces the formation of the Agrava Fact-Finding Board. It succeeded an earlier fact-finding board, headed by then-Chief Justice Enrique Fernando, which met strong public disapproval.
The miniseries version has Tony interviewing Juan Ponce Enrile (played by Joonie Gamboa) for a short bit. When asked if he believed Galman killed Ninoy, Enrile says “no comment”, and leaves quickly. The miniseries version can be seen below (starting at 1:14 until 2:04):
44:31 By this time, Marcos had sidelined Enrile in favor of Ver. In response, Enrile started a movement that called for reforms in the military, and later planned to overthrow Marcos. We meet Colonel “Tiger” Tecson (played by Roy Alvarez), Colonel “Gringo” Honasan (played by Rez Cortez), and Lieutenant Colonel “Red” Kapunan (played by Johnny Delgado). Tiger is a fictional character, and only exists to serve as Angie’s love interest. (Yes, I am spoiling the film simply because I like least the plot about Tony and Angie.)
The three take their anger on a sign board with Marcos and the then-national motto “Isang bansa, isang diwa.” (In the movie: “One nation, one goal.”) I remember commenting on the video above five years ago: “Mas kamukha pa ni Ruben Rustia yung signboard kesa kay Marcos!”
45:49 Metrocom chief General Prospero Olivas and Ver face the Agrava Fact-Finding Board. By March 1984, the Agrava Board’s version of events had begun to contradict the government’s version of the Aquino killing (source).
48:19 Imelda presented to the Agrava Board a letter written by Ninoy in 1980. I cannot find details about this letter (if it indeed existed).
49:15 We are back to the Tony-Angie part of the movie. In a straight tone, Tony admits his relationship with Celie. Angie leaves Tony, but stays in Manila for her work.
51:20 A “expert” (whose identity I do not know) tells Tony that based on the video, Ninoy could not have been killed on the tarmac. The expert thinks Ver organized the plot, and tells Tony that “a ground engineer saw everything.”
The ground engineer then testified in a closed session of the Agrava Board that he saw a military man behind Ninoy shot him on the fourth step from the bottom. Whether or not this ground engineer existed I do not know. The 1990 Sandiganbayan ruling does not mention him.
55:34 The Agrava Board releases two reports on its probe of the Ninoy killing. The majority report identifies Ver as having a direct hand in the killings.
The 1990 Sandiganbayan ruling notes:
Justice Corazon Agrava, chairman, came out with a separate report on Oct. 24, 1984 which concluded that the murder was the result of a military conspiracy plotted by B/Gen. Luther A. Custodio, Sgt. Claro M. Lat, Sgt. Arnulfo de Mesa. Sgt. Felomino Miranda, CIC Rogelio Moreno, CIC Mario Lazaga and Sgt. Armando dela Cruz. The day following, however, the four other members of the Agrava Board made a separate report and disputed the findings of chairman Agrava in the sense that a greater number of military officers and men participated or were involved in the conspiracy and that Chief of Staff Fabian C. Ver and Metrocom Chief b/Gen. Prospero Olivas, were in on the conspiracy.”
Ver and 25 others were charged before the Sandiganbayan as a result. They were cleared of all charges in 1985 (seen later in the movie). In 1986, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial. By 1990, the Sandiganbayan had convicted 16 of the accused, excluding Ver who had fled in 1986.
56:26 The Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) boys – Honasan, Kapunan, and fictional Tiger – believe Ver would be acquired. Angie then captures Tiger’s eyes.
Honasan suggests that they should protest.
57:19 Celie tells Tony she no longer believes in non-violence, that she no longer wanted Tony in her life, and that she was joining the NPA. Tony tells Ben to stop her, but it is too late.
From here comes Tony’s most memorable line for me, “Your goddamn country’s like a gangster movie!”
My favorite line from Ben also comes from here. Replying to Tony, he says, “It’s really not that bad, Tony. You must understand. We’ve had 400 years of Spanish Catholicism and 50 years of Hollywood!” (I think it’s longer than 50 years.)
1:00:22 Marcos is furious when Honasan, et al. tell him about RAM. He believes that the movement is an attack on him, and that he would not tolerate it. “There must be no dissent in the Armed Forces. None!”
1:02:32 Tiger brags about RAM to Mike (and to the US Embassy, by extension). However, Mike stresses that Marcos should stay.
1:03:13 Imelda brings Marcos a newspaper reporting that he only has a few months to live. His physician is later stabbed to death and thrown in the swimming pool at his house. Again, I do not know if this really happened.
1:04:50 Marcos announces on American television that he is willing to hold a snap election. See real life video (from This Week with David Brinkley below):
After the interview with Marcos, the miniseries shows opposition leaders meeting at the Aquino residence. (See video below, from 1:43 to 3:05)
While Salvador “Doy” Laurel (played by Cris Vertido) stressed that he was the lone opposition candidate against Marcos, Joker Arroyo (played by Robert Talabis) tells Cory that they have gathered a million signatures for her. Joaquin “Chino” Roces led the Cory Aquino for President Movement, which collected 1.2 million signatures convincing Cory to challenge Marcos. (I remember two friends asking me on our way home whose statue is depicted at Mendiola. Yes friends, that was Chino Roces.)
The million signatures was one of Cory’s conditions before she agreed to run. The other condition was that Marcos should declare a snap election (source). The stage was set.
1:06:28 The Sandiganbayan clears all accused (Ninoy’s security escorts, Olivas, and Ver) for killing Ninoy. Ver is immediately reinstated into service. (See contemporaneous news articles from outside the Philippines here, here, and here. And yes, Ver did say “Thank God it’s all over” and was “all smiles” that day.)
1:07:33 Cory decides to run after seeing on television Ver’s acquittal. The film cuts a small portion from the miniseries in which Cory delivers the most powerful line for me, “If they want to stop, they’re going to have to kill me!” (See video below, from 4:24 to the end.)
According to this Montreal Gazette article, Cory indeed announced her intention to run on the day Ver was acquitted, “Aquino’s widow, Corazon, is expected to say this week if she will challenge Marcos in the Feb. 7 presidential election. She indicated yesterday that she will.”
1:07:49 Marcos tells Enrile that he wants a “maximum effort” from him, and that he wants three million votes.
1:08:26 Just when everything is heating up, we go back to the main plot (or the plot focusing on our fictional characters). Angie and Mike meet at a bar by accident, argue whether or not Cory can lead the country, laugh, and then Angie asks about Tony. Seriously, just skip this part.
1:11:28 “Cory admits Red support,” Marcos uses Cory’s blunder against her on the campaign trail.
1:11:50 Mike visits Tony, showing him The New York Times articles stating that Cory would declare a ceasefire with the Communists so that they could talk. Mike warns Tony to stop giving Cory “a free ride” (press publicity), lest the country fall into Communist hands. Mike says, “This is the Philippines. Guns, goons, gold. It’s a dangerous life.” (Does this still apply today, almost thirty years on?)
The New York Times articles I found do not mention a ceasefire with the Communists. What I found focus on whether or not Communists would be allowed to join Cory’s cabinet. See “AQUINO SAYS SHE WOULD PERMIT COMMUNISTS IN HER GOVERNMENT” from 3 January 1986 and “AQUINO SAYS COMMUNISTS WOULDN’T JOIN THE CABINET” (from 7 January, four days later.
1:13:03 Tony covers an NPA camp. The NPA stresses that “the poor and the oppressed would not benefit whoever wins” and that “Cory is a Cojuangco, one of the richest families in the Philippines. Can you imagine a Cojuangco giving their lands back to the peasants?” (cue Hacienda Luisita).
The Left’s decision to boycott the 1986 elections would prove to be a blow. Angela Stuart-Santiago, in Walang Himala: Himagsikan sa EDSA, wrote that on the fourth day of EDSA:
Alas-diyes kinse (10:15) ng gabi, habang kinakalas ng mga tao ang matitinik na alambre na nakabalot sa mga barikadang bakal sa Mendiola, nagsitayuan ang mga militanteng aktibista ng Kaliwa, nagdikit-dikit, at nagsialis. Tanong ni Gus Miclat: “Bakit sila umalis at nag-disperse? Bakit hindi sila nanguna o sumama sa mga tao na sumakop sa Malakanyang?”
“Isaalang-alang sana ang kalagayan ng marami sa hanay ng Kaliwa,” sabi ni Romeo Candazo. “Nang pumunta sila sa EDSA, ang tumambad sa kanila ay mga mukha ng mga sundalo na nag-torture sa kanila. Mabigat na trip, pero tiniis nila.
Hindi lamang iyon ang problema ng Kaliwa. Nandoon din iyong pagkaka-boykot nila sa snap elections na nagbigay-daan sa civil disobedience campaign ni Cory na nauwi sa drama ng People Power sa EDSA. Hindi kasi nila akalaing ganoon na lang ang hatak ng biyudang walang alam, at lalong ‘di nila akalaing madadala ng burgis na si Cory ang taong-bayan sa bingit ng himagsikan nang walang armas. Tuloy, ang Kaliwa ay hindi naka-eksena nang husto sa EDSA. Nakibaka nga sa mga Coryista ang marami sa kanila pero bilang pangkaraniwang mamamayan lang, hindi bilang komunista. Mas masaklap, saling-pusa na nga lang sila, na-bad trip pa sila sa mga repormistang militar na tumugis at nag-torture sa kanila noong panahon ng batas militar. Kayâ nga yata sila nagmadaling umalis sa Mendiola noong nakalayas na si Marcos (source).
Tony then sees Celie. “I hope you show them the truth,” she tells him.
1:15:12 Another Marcos campaign rally. As Marcos and Imelda sing “Dahil sa Iyo” in English (I told you they would sing it here), two people shouting anti-Marcos slogans are shot at the back of their heads.
Ruben Rustia’s Marcos looks healthier than the real Marcos. That is my biggest issue with regard to Marcos’ portrayal in this miniseries-turned-movie. An article from the Los Angeles Times from January 1986 describes Marcos’ condition:
Reports from the Philippines said Marcos appears tired from the election campaign. He is often carried by aides to his campaign appearances and sometimes is propped up during speeches.
The Washington Post said Marcos, 68, “is so weakened” that he has had to cut back on his out-of-Manila campaign dates because of his failing health.
The newspaper said Marcos has already survived bouts with lupus, but each time has recovered to a “lower plateau.”
Failing health could seriously hamper Marcos in his bid to retain the presidency he has held for the past 20 years.
Yet, during his exile in Hawaii, Marcos wanted to prove that he was still strong enough to come back home and lead his people again. (Watch this newscast from 1987 , from 5:33 to 7:23.)
1:16:08 Cory unleashes her chip against Marcos. “I admit that I have no experience in cheating, stealing, lying, or assassinating political opponents.” (The real Cory says it better, no offense to Guillen.)
Another memorable line from the real Cory’s presidential campaign is in the video below:
1:16:28 Tony and Ben find out about The New York Times article stating that Marcos’ war medals were fake. It is not available on The New York Times website, but this series by Benjamin Maynigo of the Asian Journal from 2011 contain excerpts from the New York Times article (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4).
1:17:45 Marcos asks (“orders” may be more appropriate) Ben to come to the Palace. (Again, Ben is only a fictional character.) Marcos warns Ben not to publish the war medals story on his paper, but he publishes it anyway. Again, I wonder if Marcos indeed talked to his opponents on midnight.
1:20:14 Tony reports on the election campaign. He reports that an international team would observe the election (read their findings here).
The film skips Cory’s miting de avance. The miniseries show Cory and Laurel and the crowd singing “Bayan Ko”. This is the only part of the miniseries that they sing the anthem of the opposition during those days, and they cut it out from the film. (Again, I am sorry I do not have a video for it.)
This video below shows an adequate overview of the 1986 snap elections: the country’s situation, and the personalities involved. (It does not cover the voting itself, and its results.)
1:21:17 7 February 1986. Filipinos troop to the polling precincts. As we have heard from our relatives, this election was one of the (if not the) most chaotic, violent, and dirty elections in Philippine history.
My mother first voted in this election, and violence erupted in the school where she voted. This incident is captured in the movie (at 1:22:10 – 1:22:27). Here are pictures from that event (from my family’s archives).
1:23:37 Cory is confident that she won the election, and has recorded her victory speech. Marcos, Imelda, and Ver listen to it in the Palace via Radio Veritas. Ver assures the President that “the votes are organized” and that the President would lead by at least a million votes. Marcos replies, “only a million?”
Cory’s speech can be read at its entirety here.
1:25:00 The Batasang Pambansa proclaims Marcos as the winner of the snap election.
Speaking of the election, where is Arturo Tolentino in this movie? Yet another historical inaccuracy.
When I visited the Presidential Museum and Library, I asked the tour guide whether or not we would really know who won the snap election. He simply told me that the original Batasan proclamation was nullified, in favor of a proclamation favoring Cory and Laurel. But I believe we may never know who won.
1:26:40 “…fraud occurring in both sides,” US President Reagan says on television. Tony is in disbelief. Meanwhile, Cory stresses to then-US Ambassador Stephen Bosworth (played by Michael Pate) that she won the election even with Marcos’ allegedly cheating.
1:28:15 Oh no, the plot! Obviously not on good terms, Tony and Angie talk to each other. Tiger butts in. Tony asks how Tiger and the military can continue to take orders from “an asshole with fake medals on his chest”. Tiger replies, “As long as the President is the commander-in-chief, we are obliged to take orders from him.”
Tiger later uses Tony’s line to convince Major Edgardo Doromal (played by Pen Medina) to join the RAM. (Oh, the irony! But without the “asshole”.) Doromal turns against RAM, and squeals about the coup to Marcos and Ver.
1:32:22 Tiger asks for tanks from Mike (and the US Embassy). Mike refuses and warns him of a civil war “where the Communists would be the only winners.
Olivas then warns Ben to leave the country, showing him a list of people (including Ben) who would be arrested when Operation/Oplan Everlasting is put into place. Oplan Everlasting indeed existed (see this, this, this, and this).
1:35:35 Horrified by the NPA attack on a military car, Celie decides to leave the NPA and return to Manila. This chain of events leads to the saddest part of the film, which I leave for you to watch for yourself.
1:36:23 Cory’s camp gets word that the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines would be issuing a statement condemning the election. Imelda does too, and tries in vain to convince Cardinal Jaime Sin (played by Rolando Tinio) not to release the statement.
Cardinal Sin saw himself as a “critical collaborator”. A part of a New York Times article from 2005, after Sin’s death, reads:
Sin came to high office in the early days of Marcos’s martial law government and long saw himself less as an opponent of the regime and more as a “critical collaborator,” willing to make critical comments and to oppose Imelda Marcos on such issues as allowing the sale of condoms in corner stores. But he accepted the reality that Marcos was the head of state.
See also this video, on Marcos’ home movies, after Marcos fled in 1986:
1:41:48 Cory holds her victory rally, asking everyone to protest on the day of Marcos’ inauguration and to boycott products and services of crony-owned enterprises. (Guillen’s Cory does not mention San Miguel here, but the real Cory asked her supporters to boycott San Miguel products.)
Angela Stuart-Santiago wrote about the effect of the boycott:
Wala pang isang linggo mula nang unang manawagan ng boykot si Cory, may P1.78 billion na lahat-lahat ang nawi-withdraw sa Philippine National Bank at crony banks, pinakamalaki ang Security Bank & Trust Company, Republic Planters Bank, at Traders Royal Bank. Unang-unang nag-withdraw ng pera nila ang simbahang Katoliko; sa Union Bank, 12% agad ito ng deposit base. Samantala, dinagsa ng bagong depositors ang Bank of the Philippine Islands, Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, at Citibank. Kulelat bigla sa benta ang Bulletin Today; waging-wagi ang Philippine Daily Inquirer, Malaya, at The Manila Times. Walang tao sa Rustan’s; nasa SM Shoemart, Anson’s, at Robinson’s ang mga mamimili.
Salamat sa biyuda ni Ninoy, kakaiba na noon ang ihip ng hangin. Mapanghimagsik na ang timpla ng taongbayan, punong-puno bigla ng pag-asa, sabik sa mga naamoy na pagbabago, noong bisperas ng EDSA (source).
1:43:19 Enrile asks how many are committed to join the RAM. Honasan tells him only 30 percent are sure.
1:45:55 Ver informs Marcos that the coup would take place on Sunday, 23 February. Marcos tells them, “By Sunday, Johnny Ponce Enrile is finished! Be sure of it.” Unfortunately, for Marcos, he won’t be able to finish off Enrile.
Before Ver enters, Marcos is reading The Philippine Daily Inquirer, with the headline “Cory: Seven steps to bring down Marcos”. This newspaper is from 17 February 1986. This blog post details the other articles on the Inquirer from that day.
The Palace is fortified an anticipation. Enrile and RAM are doomed. Enrile tells the RAM to move to Aguinaldo, and to get the bishops’ support. He then gets Armed Forces Vice Chief of Staff General Fidel Ramos (played by Ray Ventura) to join them.
1:49:06 Angie calls Tony. In the middle of their phone call, Angie hears a radio report saying Enrile and Ramos have defected from Marcos and tells Tony.
1:50:07 RAM fortifies Camp Aguinaldo. Enrile calls Cory to tell her that they have broken from Marcos, and asks for her help. She offers her prayers. Later, she tells Joker the pain she had to endure when Ninoy was arrested because of Enrile. “And now, I’m praying for him.”
1:53:40 “The President of 1986 is not the same President who we pledged our loyalty to.” Ramos and Enrile hold the historic press conference where they announce their defection (transcript). In the Palace, Imelda orders Marcos to wipe them out.
The news bulletins from Radio Veritas during the People Power Revolution, including the bulletin on the press conference, are available at Interaksyon.
1:54:21 Cory and the nuns at the Carmelite convent pray, as she promised Enrile. Meanwhile, Marcos and Ver plan their strategy to attach Camp Aguinaldo.
1:56:27 Enrile and Ramos call Cardinal Sin. They ask the Cardinal for his help, to ask the people to help them.
1:58:05 US Ambassador Bosworth calls Marcos, telling him that the latest developments should not lead to a shooting match.
1:58:34 Ramos talks to Olivas, asking for his support. Ramos then moves to Camp Crame to check on its defenses.
2:00:20 Agapito “Butz” Aquino (played by Freddie Santos) comes to Enrile’s office and offers his support. Enrile asks Butz to call for people to come to the two camps. Butz goes on Radio Veritas to reiterate Enrile’s request. (The movie does not show Cardinal Sin making the same plea on air.)
Soon, the people come. And we see the scenes that characterize EDSA: families coming to the aid of the military, bringing them food, the festive mood, and so on.
Angela Stuart-Santiago has a comprehensive account of those four days. Read them either in English or in Filipino.
2:03:03 Marcos orders Ver to attack once the civilians are cleared. Ver suggests that they talk first with the rebels to determine their positions. Marcos then demands that Radio Veritas be taken off the air.
This is as ill as Rustia’s Marcos can get. He drinks medicine, his hands marked with bandages. There are no indications of his kidneys failing, his
2:03:40 Second day of EDSA: 23 February 1986. Marcos stresses on television that he will not resign, and that he will release artillery on the two camps to finish Enrile, Ramos, and RAM.
2:05:37 Cardinal Sin goes on air via Radio Veritas, appealing for non-violence.
2:06:48 Marcos tells Imelda that there are a million people on EDSA. Imelda tries to reassure him that the Philippines would not settle for a “housewife” as President, to no avail. Marcos storms off, goes to Ver’s office, and orders him to move.
2:07:57 Loyalist troops arrive at EDSA to invade the camps.
2:09:13 Cory brushes off a rumor that a hit squad would assassinate her in Manila. Cory returns from Cebu.
2:10:18 Loyalist tanks move toward the camps. The people at EDSA, including nuns an an old woman (played by veteran actress Mona Lisa), block their path and ask Brigadier General Artemio A. Tadiar, Jr. (played by Felindo Obach) not to proceed.
By the way, this scene was shot in Sri Lanka. Notice the many Sri Lankans in the background.
2:15:14 Sikorsky helicopters appear on the sky and land on Camp Aguinaldo. Enrile, Ramos, and RAM (“the rebels” from now on) are scared. Led by Colonel Antonio Sotelo (led by Joe Gruta), the 15th Striker Wing defects.
In reality, this happened on the third day, 24 February 1986.
2:18:10 Enrile and Ramos speak to the public, with Ramos making his famous jump.
2:18:41 In her only appearance in the movie, June Keithley (played by Odette Khan) introduces listeners of Radyo Bandido to Cory. She recounts the news that Marcos had fled (which turned out to be false) and announces that she would be sworn in as the President on the next day. Marcos is enraged as he listens to her announcement.
2:19:35 “I’m still very much in control!” These were the last words Marcos made on Channel 4. The signal is then cut off; the rebels take the station. Col. Sotelo then launches an air assault on the Palace.
Before Marcos asserts that he is still in control, the miniseries shows his moro-moro with General Ver. I do not have a video of that scene, but audio of the actual moro-moro is available here.
Later in the miniseries, Marcos appears on Channel 9 saying that the rebels wanted to harm his family and have taken over Channel 4. He then announces a curfew, which everyone in EDSA ignores.
2:20:45 The US has finally realized that Marcos must go. Ambassador Bosworth tells Marcos that a peaceful transition of power must come. Marcos and Imelda initially resist, but they start packing anyway.
2:22:33 Meanwhile, Cory confides to Cardinal Sin that she could not let Ver go.
2:23:16 Imelda asks that she be connected to Nancy Reagan.
US Senator Paul Laxalt (played by Peter Gwynne) then calls Marcos, telling him the now-famous, “I think you should cut, and cut cleanly. I think the time has come.” Marcos looks tired, his eyes red.
2:25:20 Cory is sworn in as President of the Philippines. In the miniseries, Cory announces her first appointments: Laurel as Prime Minister, Enrile as Minister of Defense, and Ramos as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces.
The miniseries does not show Marcos’ inauguration, but it shows Tony and his cameraman trying to get in the Palace grounds as the loyalists shout “Marcos, Marcos, Marcos, pa rin!”
Cory was sworn in at Club Filipino, San Juan (Here’s a video of the end of her inauguration ceremony, the singing of “Bayan Ko.”)
Marcos was sworn in at the Maharlika Hall, now part of the Presidential Museum and Library.
2:26:07 Marcos and Imelda continue packing: gowns, paintings, money, gold. Imelda gives jewelry to her employees as parting gifts.
As they cross the Pasig River, Ver brags, “We should have bombed them on that first day. Things would have been different.” Later, when ordered to surrender his gun, he says, “Don’t fuck with me!”
After the First Family and their guards leave, Tony and his cameraman enter the Palace. They capture Marcos’ medicines, films (Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and Aphrodisius’ Diary, both most likely fictional), and Imelda’s three thousand pairs of shoes. (This is a good article from Rappler about the shoes.)
2:34:04 “They’re gone!” Cory tells her advisers after US Ambassador Bosworth tells her of Marcos’ departure. “We better get some sleep. We got a lot to do tomorrow,” she tells them. They reply, “Good night, Madam President!”
2:35:16 Protesters storm the Palace. Many throw out papers and portraits of Marcos and Imelda, but others are dancing, celebrating the end of Marcos’ 20-year rule.
Throughout the movie, Mike stresses that Marcos cannot go. Now that Marcos is gone, Tony rubs in reality on Mike’s face. Tony and Angie reconcile, and they live happily ever after…well except for the Hawaii-bound Imelda, who sings “New York, New York!”
2:39:26 As the movie started with archival footage, it ends also with archival footage. The real Cory Aquino speaks before the US Congress:
Three years ago, I left America in grief to bury my husband, Ninoy Aquino. I thought I had left it also to lay to rest his restless dream of Philippine freedom. Today, I have returned as the president of a free people (full speech here).
Other scenes from the miniseries that were cut in the film: Tiger and Angie watching a cockfight, the assassination of Antique Governor Evelio Javier, and Enrile visiting Javier’s funeral while vowing to avenge him.
Blogger’s note: You won’t get away from watching the film just by reading this walkthrough.
This is my first walkthrough, but it won’t be the last. I plan to do the German films Good Bye Lenin! or Der Untergang, or Fox Animation Studios’ Anastasia, or Amadeus in the far future. Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to leave them here. Please?