By Rolando O. Borrinaga
First Posted 11:09 PM 11/11/2009
Contrary to a local myth that was bloated out of proportion during the campaign for the 1980 local election, former Pres. Ferdinand Marcos spent only a day and did not sleep a night on Higatangan Island as a guerrilla during World War II.
This was the version of the late Dising Paculan whom I interviewed in the late 1990s, a few years before he passed away.
Instead, Paculan said Marcos and his guerrilla companions had slept at his parents’ house in Sitio Lupa of Barrio Calumpang on at least three different occasions during their 17 months together.
Paculan was the skipper of a batel (sailboat with no outrigger) that transported guns and equipment deposited in Mindanao by Allied submarines from Australia and delivered to various destinations in Luzon.
The stopover at Higatangan was prompted by a minor incident on the boat. One early morning, while sailing along Villaba, Leyte from the south, Man Dising picked up a diary that got dropped somewhere in the boat. It belonged to Marcos.
Paculan scanned through its pages and read some entries. In one item, Marcos had a list of possible contact persons in the Visayas suggested by his father (Mariano Marcos). One of these was Fidel Limpiado of Naval.
He returned the diary to Marcos and told him that the abode of one personality he had listed was along their sailing route. Marcos was interested and so they landed on Higatangan Island, their haven for that day, since the usually sailed only at night.
With Man Dising’s preliminaries and introduction, Marcos got to meet Fidel Limpiado at the latter’s house.
Somehow during that day, the guerrilla group strayed under the coconut trees in the middle of the island. Here they came upon a healthy coconut tree that had two branches. (I am not sure if this tree is still standing now. I saw it once, in the summer of 1977.)
Man Dising noted that Marcos took some time contemplating that branched coconut tree. Then he approached the tree and, with a knife, cut some short pieces of its roots, which he kept inside his pocket.
Later, Marcos approached Man Dising. He allegedly said, “Paculan, look at these roots. It shows some signs that I shall become president of the country.”
Man Dising did not take seriously this divination of Marcos at the time.
Around dusk, they embarked on the batel and sailed again. Man Dising was not sure if they proceeded to Naval and rested at the Paculan house. When they did this, they usually navigated the batel as far as it could go up the Caraycaray River, and hiked the rest of the way to Lupa. During their first stopover here, Man Dising’s family cooked lechon for the guests. And Marcos slept on top of a tall rice bin filled with palay.
In the boat with Marcos was another guerrilla colleague from a prominent family who also harbored an ambition of becoming president. Somehow, they just adopted a “may the best man win” attitude on the issue. But they already had discussions on what they would do if their wish would ever come true.
Man Dising’s contract to transport the Marcos group ended a few months before the Leyte Landing in 1944. Within three weeks after they parted, Man Dising and his boat was captured by a Japanese sea patrol, which no longer honored the Japanese safe-conduct pass issued to him in the past.
As a Japanese prisoner during the Battle of Leyte, Man Dising served as a load carrier for a company of Japanese soldiers after they landed in Palompon and hiked all they way towards north of Kananga. Somehow, he got fair treatment from a Japanese officer he was serving, who was killed during the battle against the Americans along the Yamashita south of Limon.
When Marcos became president in 1966, Man Dising was called to Manila to work in Malacañang. He met again the members of Marcos’ group in his batel during World War II; they were already holding key positions in government. His main task was to bring paper from various Malacañang departments for Marcos to sign inside his office.
Man Dising left his Malacañang job within six months of the Marcos presidency in 1966. He said he was not used to living in the city, which made him feel sick, and to wearing shoes. Also, his job suddenly brought to his house a lot of favor-seekers, hangers-on, and newly-declared relatives, which rapidly exhausted his family’s food supply.
He told Marcos he was quitting his job and would return to the province. He was enticed to stay, and was offered to become dummy head of some government corporation, and to receive a high salary even without clear tasks. But he invoked his educational handicap. Also, as a matter of principle, he wanted to raise his family “by the sweat of his brows.”
During the campaign for the 1969 presidential election, Marcos came for a political rally in Naval. In his speech, Marcos categorically mentioned his wartime association with Man Dising, who was raised by townmates from the back of the audience and brought to the stage on his farmer’s working outfit. That was their last meeting.
Man Dising was probably the first close ally and war-time buddy to turn his back on Marcos, who later made a mess out of his dictatorial rule of the country. Many townmates, and even some of his children, did not take kindly Man Dising’s decision to refuse the good graces of Marcos. But he held on to his principles and did not care.
In a final ironic twist, Man Dising passed away in his house just outside the back fence of the mansion of a Marcos beneficiary and ally a few days before the fiesta of Caraycaray several years ago. This former official has also been accused of making a mess out of a dozen years of dynastic rule of our province.
When shall we ever to dare the odds and learn from the dignity of Man Dising’s example?