We have been reaching out to various designers to provide new and interesting content to share in addition to our “bread and butter” designer interviews. One of these new features is associated with Event Card spoilers from various games that rely on cards, such as Card Driven Games. We have asked the designer for People Power: Insurgency in the Philippines, 1983-1986 from GMT Games Kenneth Tee, to provide us with text of some of the proposed Event Cards and also to give a short summary of the historical background as well as their use in the game. We will plan to post these Spoilers every 7-10 days over the next few months, or even longer if Kenneth is up for it. We are very grateful for Kenneth and his willingness to do this for us and for our readers. He has been very gracious and shared lots of interesting elements in his design. Thank you for your hard work Kenneth!
In our 2nd Event Card Spoiler post regarding People Power, we take a look at #31 The First Lady. Please keep in mind that the artwork and layout of these cards is not yet finalized and is only for playtest purposes at this point. Also, as the game is still in development, card details may still change prior to publication.
31. The First Lady
Imelda Romualdez Marcos was considered by many in the Philippines and abroad as an outstanding beauty. Her charm and good looks became a very powerful weapon wielded by the administration to succor support overseas as well as to quell possible dissatisfaction among the populace back home especially with the poverty stricken.
She was born in Manila into a prominent aristocratic family clan, the Romualdez’s and spent her youth in the island province of Leyte. Her family suffered some hardships such as the death of her mother and later the decline in their family’s fortunes. Returning to Manila for her higher education, she graduated and then took low income jobs with the help of relatives and was still having difficulty making ends meet. It was at this time that she took voice lessons and became interested in beauty pageants. In 1959, she was involved in a pageant scandal when another contestant was crowned as the winner, but the mayor of Manila interceded and declared her the winner instead as there was proven irregularity in the number of votes which actually did favor her.
Never dress down for the poor. They won’t respect you for it. They want their First Lady to look like a million dollars.
Years later, she caught the eye of an upcoming and skilled congressman from Northern Luzon, Ferdinand Marcos. After being introduced by a reporter, a courtship began between the congressman and the beauty queen in which the latter found difficult at first due to their income differential. It was during this time that he had convinced her not to live by her means, but to live by how she wanted to present herself. So, after being exposed to his lifestyle, and with advice from her soon to be husband, she changed her heart and started living a life of excess.
Their marriage became her education in politics and her husband utilized her in every way possible for a political edge. Yet, she grew in ability as well, and though she started as his trophy, over time she became his talented political partner. When he decided to run for the highest political office in the land in 1965, she used her vocal talent in speeches and even singing folksongs in political rallies that drew big crowds just so that they could see and hear her. Even their opponents knew that they had an uphill climb in the race. Ferdinand Marcos won the Presidential election and then later became the only President of the Philippines who won re-election at the time. Their partnership payed dividends and they shared a vision to put the Philippines as a showcase to the world in terms of splendor and prominence.
That vision, however ,was only possible as long as they held onto power. In 1972, right before the next Presidential election, Martial Law was declared with the President citing lawlessness and occasions of armed rebellion as the cause for the declaration. Mass arrests were ordered as well as censorship of the media. This meant that all the criticism was silenced along with political opposition and the “New Society” was heralded in. This was the Marcos method of soft oppression with a veneer of cultural showmanship and populist programs with Manila being the heart of it all, mostly due to The First Lady’s influence. The Miss Universe Pageant was held in the city for the first time followed by several international film festivals, the “Thrilla in Manila” – a heavyweight boxing championship fight was convened there, not to mention numerous building projects such as the Philippine Heart Center, and there were social welfare programs, orphanages, cultural structures, and beautification projects, all with her name and hand in it.
This drive for Philippine prolificacy was only equaled by her own determination to make herself prominent as well. The First Lady became the official ambassador to other countries on state visits, as well as the hostess to dignitaries, which ranged from Popes to Presidents, Prime Ministers and Kings. Such a role increased her need to appear as an equal to her peers in the international scene and her desire for exquisiteness and luxury resulted in numerous shopping sprees as well as lavish galas including the weddings of her two daughters which she wanted to have the same distinction as Great Britain’s Royals.
Though she would not know it at the time, the vision and style she had crafted for the Philippines and herself would have a denouement with the return of Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. from his exile and his subsequent assassination. She was the last highest ranking official of the Marcos government to see him even though she saw him as her nemesis as he had denounced her and her work publicly before, during and after Martial Law – which was formally ended in 1981 at the height of her influence at home and abroad. This was before he left for life saving surgery in the United States due to his heart problems. The conversation between her and Senator Aquino has been transcribed by him that he was “allowed” to leave the Philippines for the procedure as long as he did not criticize the Philippine government but during his recovery, reneged on that arrangement, claiming that he was not duly bound to honor a deal that had been manufactured by someone he did not deem honorable. Rumors abounded as to who was responsible for his death and ultimately, the court of public opinion pointed its accusatory fingers to the government (and eventually to her). Government investigative commissions were set up and she wound up taking the stand and was subjected to a cross-examination. In the conclusion of the proceedings, though perpetrators to the horrific deed were named, hers was not one of those mentioned and she was cleared of any wrongdoing involved in the conspiracy.
Life is not a matter of place, things or comfort; rather, it concerns the basic human rights of family, country, justice and human dignity.
The announcement of the snap elections for the Presidency had thrust her into the spotlight once more in the role which she had been renowned for more than anything; that of an active, charming and persuasive campaigner. She did not miss a beat and the Imelda or “Meldy” of old surfaced in abundance in regard to her public performances. Whether it was giving patriotic speeches on behalf of her husband or wowing audiences with her singing, she galvanized her base and it was, of course, her swan song in that role of First Lady. Though her husband the President was declared the winner against Aquino’s widow Corazon under dubious circumstances, the People Power Revolution overturned that result and the Marcos government left power unlike the commencement of their personal rule, without fanfare or flair but under the cover of darkness and into a foreign land which had given him and her support through the decades and had finally convinced them to leave. Her story could have ended there but akin to the general that she had claimed to sing for through the campaign to liberate the Philippines during World War II, she too would return, but not in the same capacity and influence she once wielded.
In the game People Power, she is represented by her own Personality Card or “Newsmaker”. Her normal game play (or during the game) is subtitled, “The Steel Butterfly”. This allows the Government faction to use her card’s benefit to Exchange 3 Resources for 2 Patronage in lieu of a Government Pass. Her AoD specialty is subtitled, “Legacy of Extravagance”, this can be only played at the Game End of the Election Round, hence the end of the game only. Here, a die is rolled then added to Government Patronage. As Patronage serves as one of the Government’s dual victory conditions, her influence in the game was meant to reflect her role in both helping the Government extend its “favors” to certain people who assisted them accumulate their personal wealth as well as extend their influence on loyal power-players in the interim at the expense of the country’s capital. At the final endgame, it represents a chance to amass even more personal wealth which could tip the scales of victory with the roll of the proverbial die though it could also be measured in her own fame and even notoriety when compared to her lasting vestiges in making for herself and for the Philippines an enduring place in history and the public consciousness.
Epilogue: Imelda post-First Lady
I can admit with some candor that her years after their fall from power were bittersweet. Bitter because she eventually lost her husband, President Marcos who succumbed to disease and illness. At which time, she and her husband became the target of a federal grand jury trial which claimed her wealth as ill-begotten as well as robbing the country of its natural resources to give herself carte blanche when it came to her elaborate lifestyle and possessions, and not to mention charges of racketeering, fraud and other illegal activities. That time was also sweet though as she was acquitted of all charges and was later invited back to the Philippines in a gesture of reconciliation by then-President Corazon Aquino. A bid for President later failed unceremoniously but she had become involved in politics once more. Later on, she did so by first serving as governor in the province where Ferdinand Marcos first showed his savvy political skills and is now serving her third and final term as Congresswoman from that same province. If that is indeed, the end to her long and fascinating career in politics, that remains to be seen. I’m certain it’s obvious why the working title of the game design which was the precursor to People Power, “Iron Butterfly” was inspired by her moniker because I believe she outshone him in their public life together and is still alive to perpetuate her own image and fame. Comparisons have been made between her and Argentine First Lady Eva Peron and an even closer contemporary, Elena Ceausescu. Ultimately, it is history that decides which side of fame or notoriety where Imelda Marcos resides, but I don’t hesitate to imagine that it will cry for her.
Side note: Ken’s personal recollections and impressions
Unlike Benigno Aquino, Jr. or “Ninoy” as I would remember him briefly, Imelda Marcos was very much embedded in those years I lived there from childhood to my last year as a teenager. Though I never saw her personally, she was constantly in the media, most particularly, on television. Her desire to put forth an air of pride as well as style and glamour really made an impression on me and though my family identified mostly with the overseas Chinese community rather than Filipino acculturation, Imelda Marcos always made it into dinner party conversations and would always be centered around her style and charisma.
People say I’m extravagant because I want to be surrounded by beauty. But tell me, who wants to be surrounded by garbage?
Speaking of conversations, another aspect of her would also rise which was the ugly subject of rumors or gossip. A lot that wasn’t in print or televised also made it into the ears and lips of most families and friends. The ones I recall the most (besides the obvious Aquino assassination conspiracies and way before that, the expulsion of the Beatles from the Manila Airport) were the ones that dealt with her supposed callousness. The first one was the rumor that involved the construction of the Folk Arts Theater, an adjunct to the Cultural Center which would be the venue for the 1974 Miss Universe Pageant. Due to the strain and rush to get the project done in time, accidents occurred with the grim narrative of having cement poured over the injured and/or dead construction workers to help speed up the process. Another one occurred years later, with perhaps not as grim but still fantastic, in its shock value. Her eldest daughter, Imee was engaged to be married to a man who was still legally (no divorce laws in the Philippines) married to his first wife, a former beauty queen. As chance or luck would have it, the fiancé was kidnapped but was later rescued by the Philippine police forces. On the surface, it seemed a close and shut case but again, those rumor mills started churning and the rumor started floating around that Imelda Marcos was behind the kidnapping.
There were other rumors too, such as the one in which their eldest son, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. or “Bong-Bong” had been killed and that a look-alike had been installed in his place. Ironic I guess that this rumor started after the premiere of the movie, Kagemusha by famed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. Can anyone guess the plot of that movie? Speaking of movies, there was also the rumor of an affair with a famous Hollywood celebrity, but like most affairs, were segregated as gossip, not news and it was business as usual afterwards except for the delight of people who live for that kind of thing.
They went into my closets looking for skeletons, but thank God, all they found were shoes, beautiful shoes.
Anyway, my personal admiration of the woman came to an abrupt halt with the aforementioned Aquino assassination, the exile to Hawaii and as now the world knows: the famous (or infamous) shoe collection. Of course, there were other factors too. Gone was the innocence of a child that liked the pretty lady with the pretty voice who was almost stabbed to death by an ugly man (there was an assassination attempt on her life and now has also been refuted as being staged for political gain, I believe). It was replaced by doubts rooted in the emerging culture of unsilenced voices of freedom now longing to be heard. Those voices showed up in television and that bastion of angst, self-reflection and discovery: high school. It was an interesting time to have friends and colleagues from both sides of the political aisle, who expressed their opinions of the changing political landscape but the growing dissatisfaction with the aftermath of the assassination (for no one was held accountable yet) as well as the economic downturn had the cascading effect of my ideas and loyalty(?) tilting away from the Marcos facade of magnificence, cultural significance and panache. But where was I to land? I can’t say for sure because during the first election I ever voted in for parliamentary seats in 1984 had shown me that I couldn’t totally split myself from the people that I literally, grew up with (I voted half and half). So, I did land, but it was not in any particular Filipino political ground but a physical one as the year following those elections was also the year my family emigrated to the United States and other more pressing preoccupations had obviously surfaced by then.
I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes, I had one thousand and sixty.
Yet, my family did cling to events surrounding our former home with great interest and when news of the events that resulted in Marcos’s departure which did not result in any great violent upheaval, my family was relieved, and life there slowly became just a memory. Looking back, I can see where the flirtation with Filipino nationalism affected me in giving me a sense of fortitude and a healthy skepticism though time has given me a perspective of seeing it all from the perspective of somebody who has become more of an observer than an outright participant. In a way, this game design brings some sense of closure to a life I had once and also an opportunity to tell this story from a wider lens. And that it’s more than a shoe collection.
There are many more of these posts to come as Kenneth has laid out a plan to share lots more information about this game with us. The next card he will take a look at is Another Beirut – An Insurgent (first faction order) Event Card.
In case you missed the first spoiler in this series, you can catch up by reading from here:
If you are interested in People Power: Insurgency in the Philippines, 1983-1986, you can pre-order a copy at the following link: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-689-people-power-insurgency-in-the-philippines-1983-1986.aspx
Also, check out our interview with the designer Kenneth Tee to get better insight into the game and its design.
She also had a famous run-in with the Beatles in 1966 when they allegedly snubbed a dinner with her.
What a character!!! There’s a great musical about her (of her?), titled:
HERE LIES LOVE
‘Here Lies Love’ is a biographical “poperreta” musical, based on the concept music album by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim. The concept album is based on David Byrne’s research on the life of former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos.