Exactly a year ago, I was part of the relaunch of a book that defied punishment during the Martial Law. It was the book that pushed a family to exile for nearly 20 years. It was our book club in the office who discovered this treasured book and talked the author into republishing it for our generation.
Since the launch of its 2013 Edition last year, it sold like hotcakes and only a few remaining copies can be found in bookstores nationwide. Luckily for us, we have eBook versions available in Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
That afternoon of June 20, 2013, the author requested me to give a speech and share to the group how the new edition of the book came about. I prepared a speech and went through all the three pages reading to a listening crowd of activists, historians, book lovers and people from the press. It was overwhelming. But what made it more emotional for me was that my wish to have this book read by all Filipinos of my generation (young and old) has finally come true.
It was an afternoon I will always remember until my dying day.
For those who have been sending me emails and asking me for a copy of my speech I gave during the launch of Carmen Navarro Pedrosa’s 2013 Edition of THE UNTOLD STORY OF IMELDA MARCOS, I have posted it here below. You can also watch the entire speech here.
It was May 2012 when I came across Carmen Navarro Pedrosa’s THE RISE AND FALL OF IMELDA MARCOS in Book Love Pilipinas- an online bookstore by Andy Batangantang, it sells some hard-to-find used books and past editions. Since January of that year, I have wanted to challenge myself to read at least one biography for 2012. I have had my share of fictions and self-helps, but never had the chance to fully explore the joys of reading a life story. When Andy posted on his Wall an acquired copy of THE RISE AND FALL, I immediately reserved it for my week’s purchase. Being a second-hand copy, I got it for only Php 120.00.
I also bought another Imelda biography (also by Pedrosa) in the form of a small book: THE UNTOLD STORY OF IMELDA MARCOS (1969) for Php 60.00.
The books arrived on May 9, 2012. Not knowing when I will start reading them, I put it on my growing pile of TBRs (to-be-read). The Shakespeare group in the office were already having challenges finishing our selections, and I still have a load of books to finish. It was only when I was invited to Iloilo for a talk on Dystopian Literature, that I found the chance to put the two books in my bag.
I started reading the first chapters of THE UNTOLD STORY OF IMELDA MARCOS on a steel bench in Terminal 3 and found myself engrossed until I arrived in UP Iloilo. Being a slow reader, the book held on to me like a lover when I traveled by land from Iloilo City to Caticlan the following day. It was a staggering 8-hour ride. I did not sleep. I did not put it down. Each yellowing page was as exciting, thrilling and nakaka-inis as the next.
The book, though tattered and torn, became more of a promise than the white sands of Boracay. Such a treat for a 60-pesos-book, wasn’t it?
These unputdownable books (THE UNTOLD STORY and THE RISE AND FALL OF IMELDA MARCOS) gripped me like cold steel for its impeccable narrative, dramatic flair and interesting Subject. It was like reading a Tele-serye in Primetime Bida, or Dramarama sa Hapon, and Imelda Marcos as the Bida-Kontrabida. Her story starts from a focal point when her family once belonged to the category of “poor relations” in the rich Romualdez clan. It continues to her unlikely adventures in Manila, her days of living in the garage, the well-planned 11-day courtship that ended in the City of Pines and ultimately marrying Ferdinand Marcos, and eventually occupying a corruptive seat in Malacanang.
These books, I said to myself, should be read by every Filipino.
When I got back to Manila, I started inquiring on Carmen Navarro Pedrosa. Who is this girl? Is she here in the Philippines? If so, is she even in Manila? I even asked people if she is still with us (if you get my drift). I wondered if she has an email address where I can reach out to her and tell her how her books moved me to appreciate the democracy that our fathers and mothers fought for.
The search for her became more of a requirement than a wish when I gave the RISE AND FALL as a suggested reading for my book club’s July discussion. After all, in our day and age of Facebook and Twitter, the web of social interconnections will help me find this Filipina author who gave me a new love for biographies. After days and hours of searching Google and Facebook, I came across Veronica Pedrosa, one of her daughters who were with her during her exile, now (like her mother) is a journalist, and a correspondent for Al Jazeera. On July 10, I messaged her in FB, and immediately got a reply with the elder Pedrosa’s email address. Yes – she has an email address!
“My mom will be thrilled!” she wrote.
I immediately drafted an email for Carmen. Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor. The universe was slowly leading me to her. In the email, I asked her if I could see her for an interview, document the event, and share them with my fellow book club members. After 10 minutes of deep breathing exercises with my eyes closed, I clicked the Send button.
In just three hours, I got a reply. She said YES!
It was on the afternoon of her birthday when I first saw her. She was outside a glaring pavement with the sun at her back, on her way to the main door of our rendezvous. Barely 5 feet 5 inches, in an abstract checkered black and white dress, and flat shoes, she entered the cafe in silent elegance. Unlike the towering and attention-seeking Imelda, this woman bowed her head as she entered the cafe, and politely whispered to the waiter adjacent to the door.
It was love at first sight.
I swallowed. The time had come.
I stood up and introduced myself with my winning smile. “I’m Orly Agawin,” I declared as I offered my right hand to my Filipino author for 2012.
“I’m sorry, I’m late,” was her answer.
“It’s our pleasure to wait,” I answered without thinking, still not letting go of Carmen Navarro Pedrosa’s right hand.
The interview for us was quite empowering. We have seen Carmen (who told us to call her Tita Chit, instead). Asked her the questions that we had in mind where we were still devouring her written biographies on Imelda.
But for Tita Chit, our interview with her on that afternoon of her birthday was an eye-opener. She realized, that after all these years, her books still remain. Despite it being out of print for decades, remaining copies of her works still fall into the hands of readers, both young and old. Her stories about humble beginnings, ruthless ambitions, political trickeries, and corruptive minds still continue and grip, even the Facebook and Twitter generation.
Now, in our hands, is the newly reprinted edition of Carmen Navarro Pedrosa’s THE UNTOLD STORY OF IMELDA MARCOS – the culprit of a work that banished her family to exile. It was banned during the Marcos years, and has been out of print for decades. Tonight, we open the fresh new covers to unravel age-old hidden facts about Imelda and her past.
We are not talking about Teleseryes, anymore. We’re talking History.
It is a no-holds-barred expose on the truth about “this” iconic figure (as some would call her), our own Evita Peron, the Jacqueline Kennedy of the Philippines. Where in fact, she is but a historical, and a political nightmare with a hidden past that was fabulously covered by a beautiful façade of jewelries, ternos, 3,000 pairs of shoes and Dahil Sa’yo! Most of us here tonight have probably read these books years ago. We are here to celebrate its return for a wider audience, but we can’t wait to go back to our comfortable reading chairs to re-read the pages.
But we shouldn’t stop there. In our hands is a documented history of a dark generation. Many have depressed, died and disappeared. Though grim and violent, this printed testimony about the woman behind the man who made all these things happen must be shared to every reading Filipino. It is a story that needs to be told. It is a period in our history as a Nation that we need to remember. Let us share this book to those who do not know, or are still in pathetic denial, of what the Marcoses did to our people. Let us continue Carmen Pedrosa’s legacy and share the output of her bravery to the world today!
As a reader, and as a Nationalist, the reprinting of this book by Pedrosa, is a dream come true. My late Tatay would have been so proud.
Thank you for this, Tita Chit! You are our Star! Your bravery, passion and love for the country transformed many of us. I love you. Really, I do! I’m so thankful to have read your works and met you! Congratulations!
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Mabuhay ang mga Manunulat at Mambabasang Pilipino!
June 20, 2013
Philippine Opera Company