By Severino C. Samonte

Father's advice to his son feeling lonely in England school 53 yrs ago

September 14, 2023, 1:44 pm

"Loneliness should never be shunned by anyone who wants to be a leader because if you are a leader, loneliness is always the other side of the coin, not only of freedom but of leadership. You can never be free unless you learn to be lonely and alone. You will never be a leader unless you are capable of making decisions and assuming responsibility alone."

This was the advice given by a 53-year-old father in a letter sent from Manila sometime in the last week of September 1970 to his only son who was then enrolled at the Worth Abbey School in England.

In sending the letter, the father was full of hope that it would somehow inspire his then 13-year-old son to continue persevering in his studies overseas and overcome a temporary separation from his family in the Philippines.

The father did not live long enough to see the emergence of his son as the 17th president of the Philippines in the May 2022 national elections. He died in Honolulu, Hawaii on Sept. 28, 1989 at age 72.

Yes, the principal characters in this column were the late Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr., better known by his initials "FM" and the country's 10th president who ruled from Dec. 30, 1965 to Feb. 25, 1986, and the current Philippine Chief Executive, Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., also known as Bongbong or BBM.

As one of the indicators that FM's letter and advice to Bongbong did inspire him, here's a quotation from the grateful son during the celebration of the 106th birth anniversary of his father last Sept. 11 in Batac, Ilocos Norte:

“Your legacy lives on, and for as long as I’m here, I will use everything I learned from you to continue your work. There is a lot more left to be done. What's important is making life better for the Filipinos."

PBBM recalled that his late father served as his mentor. He praised FM for "the peace and order that he fought and stood for, the development that he inspired our own citizens to build, and the dreams that he left in the hearts of many."

Incidentally, both the father and the son were born in the same month although 40 years apart -- FM on Sept. 11 in 1917 and PBBM on Sept. 13 in 1957.

Back to the letter, the elder Marcos made a brief mention of his advice to Bongbong in a speech he delivered at the 22nd National Convention of the Philippine Jaycees at the Rizal Theater in Makati on Oct. 1, 1970. He said that Bongbong, in an earlier letter to him, complained that he was feeling very lonely in England, although he was trying to do his best in his studies.

"He is all alone there in the Worth Abbey School. He wrote to me yesterday that he has learned to clean a bathroom big enough for ten boys in five minutes flat," FM said.

In that Oct. 1, 1970 speech titled "The Philippines Beyond the Seventies," FM highlighted before his audience the importance of planning for the future of the country.

He asked a question: "What will be the image of the Philippines and our part of the world after the seventies? Well, it's about time we started planning for the future. As soon as I became president in 1965, you remember, I organized Presidential Commissions that have since been working quietly to tell us, tell me, tell the decision makers, tell the planning groups, what we want the Philippines to become 20 years from now, 30 years from now?

"I even asked the military planners: Fifty years from now, what will the Philippines be doing in the matter of security? What will we do with the military bases, or with the SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization)? What will be our policy with respect to Red China? What do we expect Red China to become?"

Pointing out that the big industrial countries have begun planning in terms not of 1975 or 1979, but in terms of the year 2000 and beyond, he stressed that the Philippines must do the same, otherwise, it will again be left behind.

Two years later, in September 1972, because of escalating violent incidents perpetrated by various lawless elements, FM issued Proclamation No. 1081 imposing a nationwide state of martial law "as a final recourse to combat two principal sources of grave danger to society and the government--a rebellion mounted by a strange conspiracy of leftist and rightist radicals, and a secessionist movement supported by foreign parties."

As it is often said, the rest is history.


About the Columnist

Image of Severino C. Samonte

He began his journalistic career by contributing to the Liwayway and Bulaklak magazines in the 1960’s. He was the night editor of the Philippine News Service when Martial Law was declared in September 1972. When the Philippine News Agency was organized in March 1973, he was named national news editor because of his news wire service experience.

He retired as executive news editor in 2003. He also served as executive editor of the Malacanang-based Presidential News Desk from 1993 to 1996 and from 2005 to 2008.