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E. Marcos, born September 11, 1917, was the eldest of the four children of Mariano Marcos
and Josefa Edralin.
Mariano Marcos was a
self-disciplined and ambitious man who graduated young from a Manila teaching school who
later became a schoolmaster in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. He plunged into politics and was twice
elected as Congressman. Josefa Edralin was a landowners daughter and a onetime town
beauty who herself, chose to teach. While Mariano immersed himself in politics, Josefa
took care of their children, Ferdinand, Pacifico, Elizabeth and Fortuna.
Ferdinands maternal grandfather, was a strong influence. The old man regaled him
with stories of the 1896 Revolution, of the Ilocano heroes he could only read about in
schoolbooks. These tales were to instill into him a passionate concern for his country and
an ambition to write history himself in his own time.
Marcos attended college at
the University of the Philippines. His record of excellence went beyond the classroom. He
won honors in the University boxing, swimming and wrestling teams. He joined the
newly-formed ROTC and rose to the rank of cadet major. He won the first gold medal offered
by General MacArthur for proficiency in military science. His baritone oratory enlivened
the school debating team. He became the most bemedaled debater, winning the President
Quezon Medal and was awarded the University Presidents medal for obtaining the
highest scholastic average over the full course of his college work.
The demands on the
students time of leadership and sports took their toll. He lost his scholarship.
Ferdinand went home to the province to ask money for tuition from his grandmother.
At that time, his father lost
the Congressional seat twice to Julio Nalundasan. The new elections pitted them against
each other once more and Mariano Marcos lost. Three nights after the elections, Nalundasan
was killed by a sniper. The Marcoses were the main suspects.
A few days before the
Christmas of 1938, Marcos sat at his evening review classes. In a few months he was to
graduate and the honor of being awarded magna cum laude awaited him. Constabulary
soldiers broke into his room and arrested him on the charge of killing Nalundasan. The
coming trial was a national sensation. In the dark cell of the Laoag jail, Marcos mustered
enough courage and energy to study for his coming bar exams. Outside the jail, he
organized his own defense in the courts.
Defeated in the lower courts,
he appealed to the Supreme Court. Though technically still not a lawyer, he obtained
permission to argue his own defense. As he contradicted the testimony of the state
witness, newspaper headlines announced his topping the examinationswith the highest
marks ever achieved in the history of the Philippine bar. A short while later, the Supreme
Court acquitted him.
During World War II
Marcos was called to arms
three weeks before Pearl Harbor and spent the first days of the war as combat intelligence
officer of the 21st Infantry Division. He was among the last troops to cross
Fil-American troops braced for a last stand against an invasion force of 85,000 men.
Though all around them the last outposts of Western power in Southeast Asia were falling
one by one, the defenders of Bataan and the nearby island-fortress of Corregidor held on
through the summer of 1942, denying the Japanese easy access to the strategic South
Pacific, from where the massive Allied counterattack was eventually to come.
In mid-January, Lieutenant
Macros, accompanied by three eighteen-year-old recruits, penetrated behind the Japanese
lines, killed more than 50 of the enemy and destroyed the deadly mortars that pinned down
General Mateo Capinpins 21st Division. He was later captured and tortured
yet escaped to rally elements of various divisions in a six-day running battle on the
banks of two Bataan rivers that threw the enemy back. For this he was promoted captain and
recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The last days of Bataan,
Captain Marcos spent guiding the American and Filipino officers chosen to lead guerrilla
resistance through the Japanese lines. Ironically captured when he himself tried to escape
the fallen fortress, he walked the Death March to the prison camp in Capas, Tarlac. He
spent four months there overcome with jaundice, dysentery and malaria. His spirit never
Released in early August
1942, he was soon imprisoned again, this time at Fort Santiago, the notorious Manila
prison chamber. He was tortured for eight days to tell where the guerrilla leaders he had
escorted through the Bataan lines had burrowed but he refused to say a word. Finally he
led his captors to an ambush in Mt. Banahaw and escaped to join the guerrillas.
He spent the next two year
fighting in the hills, trying to unite the divided guerrilla bands into one disciplined
force against the Japanese. His name became renowned as on of the finest guerrilla leaders
Though only 27, Marcos had
set records for courage and earned himself 28 medals at the end of the war. He spent the
last days of the war as civil affairs officer of Northern Luzon. He was in command of the
entire Ilocos region, which was to be his political base as freedom was restored to his
country, and the work of rebuilding began.