Their paths crossed, but that alleged NPA fall guy, I am sorry to say, happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was caught in a crossfire between love and a fathers ire.#
By Simeon G. Silverio Jr., Publisher and Editor, Asian Journal
San Diego, California, November 26, 2005
Last week, Aurora Pijuan, the former Miss Philippines who captured the Miss International title in 1970, was in San Diego to raise funds for a charity project called Gawad Kalinga (Provide Help).
I was out of town when she came, and Asian Journals managing editor, Genevieve Silverio, covered the story. Genny wrote an excellent article about her visit and Gawad Kalinga.
The last time I heard about Aurora Pijuan was when I was in Manila, Philippines last September. While in my hotel room in Makati, I woke up early, sat up on my bed and turned on the television. Aurora Pijuans beautiful face was flashed on the screen. For a woman in her late fifties, I would say she is aging quite well. It turned out that she was a guest for that morning show because the Miss Philippines bet, Lara Quigaman, won the Miss International title the previous day.
It was the third time that the Philippines captured the crown, the first being when Gemma Cruz held the title, followed by Pijuan, and now by Quigaman. When Pijuan won in 1970, her victory was still a big deal despite the fact that the Philippines had already won the Miss International contest, which was just a year before Gloria Diaz captured the Miss Universe crown.
Later on in 1971, the beauty queen turned activist Nelia Sancho (whose story appeared last week in the Asian Journal), was named Queen of the Pacific. In the mid seventies, Margie Moran won the Miss Universe title again for the Philippines.
During the TV interview last September, Pijuan recalled winning the title. I later found out that the young man interviewing her was no other than her son, T.J. Manotoc, who happens to be a host of that morning show. I guess it was not by chance. The shows producer arranged for the son to interview the mother, and it turned out quite well.
I remember in 1970 when it was announced over the radio that Aurora Pijuan captured the Miss International title. A radio reporter got hold of Pijuans boyfriend, Tommy Manotoc, and interviewed him live on the air. Tommy was not known to the masa (common folk), but since he belonged to a rich family, he was one of high societys most eligible bachelors.
At the time I thought it was quite presumptuous for a boyfriend of a newly-crowned beauty queen to be interviewed. Because who knows what would happen next? Here was a girl who had suddenly acquired a much higher status in life. She was declared the most beautiful girl internationally. The best among the beauty queens who represented all the countries in the world. Is it possible that she might have second thoughts about the man in her life? Maybe she is now in a better position to choose a better boyfriend?
But I guess the couple already knew that their fate was cast in stone. Their love for each other was strong, beauty queen title or not. Or maybe Tommy Manotocs conviction that Au-Au (as Pijuan is called), would be the girl he would marry was further bolstered by her being declared as the most beautiful girl in the world. He must have felt validated that he did not make the wrong choice. Surely the whole world shared his opinion. They eventually got married and were supposed to live happily every after. Yet their storybook romance did not have a happy ending. They separated after having several kids.
In the mid seventies, Tommy Manotoc was able to shed his image as the husband of Miss International and became a celebrity in his own right. Being a sportsman, he was named as coach of U-Tex, Universal Textiles basketball team. U-Tex was always an also-ran in basketball tournaments, landing fourth or fifth in the field of five teams. Teams like Yco, which later became Tanduay, Ysmael Steel which was later disbanded, Crispa, Toyota and others vied for the championships while U-Tex and Yutivo alternately shared the cellar.
But one good year, all the stars lined up to seal U-Texs fate. Young Tommy Manotoc was the coach. And since he did not have good players like the other teams, he used the slow-paced strategy. Why not let his players kill the time with each possession? That way the opposing team, (who were much better than them), would not be able to pile as many points. The strategy worked. Near the end of the game, the lead of the better team was still within striking distance. And therefore, the last few minutes were decided by which of the two teams would get a better break. For once, luck was on Tommy Manotocs side. To the delight of the fans cheering for a Cinderella story, the U-Tex team won a championship.
When I was in Manila last July with my family, we were brought to a mall near the riverbank in Marikina. I thought the area was very familiar until I realized that it was the Universal Textile Mills of long ago. Sad to say, many of the flourishing textile mills in the country have closed shop, with only one or two remaining. They succumbed to competition with China. The industry has moved there to take advantage of cheap labor and avoid the labor unrest that has frequently hampered the operations of many Philippine factories.
A few years later, Tommy Manotoc made the headlines again. It was the height of Martial Law under dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and the Manotoc family took to the television and announced that he was missing. At first the public was unaware of the whole story. However, slowly but surely the truth filtered through the grapevine. The Manotoc family alleged that Marcos had Tommy kidnapped by the military because of his romantic involvement with the dictators eldest daughter, Imee.
At one time I recall that Imelda, Marcos ambitious First Lady, expressed the desire to pair off her daughter to no less that Prince Charles of Britain. Perhaps Manotoc, a separated family man, was not good enough for the Marcoses and had him taken care of.
Making matters worse, Manotocs family was identified with the political opposition. If I remember correctly, his mother is a sister of Pacita Manglapus, the wife of Raul Manglapus. Manglapus led the opposition groups while in exile in the United States. Manglapus happened to be abroad for a speaking engagement when Martial Law was declared. He escaped detainment, unlike the other opposition leaders like Senators Benigno Aquino, Jr. and Jose Diokno. In fact, pro-Marcos columnist Teodoro Valencia labeled Manglapus and his group as the steak commandos, an allusion to the fact that they were living the good life in the U.S. while their fellow oppositionists were either detained or hiding in the mountains of the Philippines. When Manglapus returned to the Philippines after Marcos was deposed in 1986, his first words for the press were: As I was saying fourteen years ago before I was rudely interrupted by Marcos
In addition, one of Tommy Manotocs brothers is the son-in-law of another leading opposition figure, former Senator Eva Estrada Kalaw.
But the pressure put on by the Manotoc family, especially before the eyes of the world, took its toll. One day, the Bulletin Today published a picture of a dead man laying in a grassy, tree-lined field as some soldiers looked down on him. The caption said that the dead man was a member of the communist rebels New Peoples Army that had kidnapped Tommy Manotoc. The rebel was killed when the Philippine Military allegedly rescued Manotoc.
It was the height of Marcos dictatorial powers then. He could do as he pleased. Anybody who disagreed with him was detained. One popular television host dared to make fun of the Regimes slogan Sa ikauunland mg bayan, disiplina ang kailangan (For the progress of the country, discipline is needed) by saying Sa ikauunland ng bayan, bisikleta ang kailangan (For the progress of the country, bicycle is needed). Allegedly, the host was summoned to a military camp and ordered to ride a bicycle the whole day.
The son of a cabinet secretary was involved on several occasions in shootings in nightclubs. One evening a guest at a five-star hotel disco club was shot dead just for bumping into the son in an elevator or restroom. Eventually, one of his bodyguards confessed to the crime. However the public suspected that it was the cabinet secretarys son who killed the unlucky fellow. In another instance, a very popular movie actor who allegedly dated the daughter of the same cabinet secretary was shot dead. The official report, which the movie stars parents did not deny, read that the star committed suicide. However, it was rumored that her temperamental brother killed him. That same son of the cabinet man is now a congressman in their province.
Even Imee Marcos was not spared from similar controversy. Allegedly, Imee had a confrontation with a fellow student at the University of the Philippines. Her bodyguard apparently shot the student to death. Later when her father was deposed, she was sued in a Hawaiian court for the act.
Each of these instances illustrates the point that during the Marcos dictatorship, there was no freedom of the press. Hence, the regime could dictate its own version of events and all the public could do was accept the official story, hook, line and sinker. And always, with a smirk on everyones face. Therefore, although no one in his right mind believed it, the Marcos version of Tommy Manotocs kidnap and rescue was entered into the books and the case was closed.
Eventually, Tommy Manotoc and Imee Marcos lived together as husband and wife and had children of their own. The politics of the in-laws were perhaps ignored for the sake of the couple. History repeated itself when Irene, the younger daughter of Marcos, married
Greggy Araneta, whose parents were one of the leaders of the opposition that demanded Marcos removal from office. Marcos, with all his dictatorial powers and military might, could do nothing but accept the wishes of his strong-willed daughter, Imee. Love, as they say, can conquer everything. The second time around, however, proved not to be a charm for Tommy. His relationship with Imee also ended in separation. One of their sons Borgy, is a fashion model and an occasional actor.
Alls well that ends well, as the great English poet William Shakespeare put it. Imee Marcos is now a congresswoman from her fathers bailiwick, the Ilocos region. Tommy Manotoc is living his merry life. Finally, Aurora Pijuan has her own career as a financial officer doing her share of charity work. But then, one cannot help but think of the alleged NPA guy laying dead in the photo of the Manotoc kidnapping. Why has Manotoc never publicly discussed or shared his horrible experience with anyone? Was the dead man really an NPA rebel? Or was he a prisoner on death row who was sacrificed to give credence to the Marcos official story line?
People cannot help but ask these questions. After Marcos was deposed, more evidence supporting the falsity of the dictatorships official records emerged. Marcos former defense secretary, Juan Ponce Enrile, who was tagged as the architect of martial law, publicly admitted that his ambush in 1972 was staged in order to justify the declaration of Martial Law. If the NPA story line is not true, one can only hope for the best possible scenario. That the man died of natural causes and his body was bought from a funeral parlor as a prop for Marcos official version of events. Otherwise, one wonders how the people involved can live with their conscience while being aware of the fact that the precious life of a human being, no matter how lowly his station in life may be, was sacrificed merely for public relations purposes. I am tempted to say, only in the Philippines, but I guess it happens in other countries where press freedom is absent as well.
Aurora Pijuan, Tommy Manotoc and Imee Marcos. Their paths crossed, but that alleged NPA fall guy, I am sorry to say, happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was caught in a crossfire between love and a fathers ire. May he rest in peace. – AJ