Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Preserved leaders...

I may be among a small group of people who can claim they have seen 4 major Communist leaders embalmed in their home countries: Mao Tse-Tung in Beijing; Lenin in Moscow; Ho Chi Minh in Saigon; and Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang.

They've all been kept for posterity and lie in imposing, guarded mausoleums. The most spectacular in terms of setting and build-up is Kim Il Sung's in Pyongyang..there is a long process before you are allowed in; a bit of queuing (though as a foreign visitor who are swept ahead of the locals patiently standing in line..); then you have to go through a machine that blows off any speck of dust from your shoes, coat or other clothes; hand in any bags and then, finally, your are admitted into the vast and darkened room.

"I've seen them all", I thought. But when I was travelling in the Philippines I discovered that former President Marcos (not a Communist) had also been embalmed...

As I was visiting the Spanish colonial town, Vigan, which wasn't far away, I decided to go to the town of Batac.

Here he lies..behind these doors (sorry, no pictures allowed inside)

the caretaker outside the room where the ex-President is laid out
I have to say it is a weird experience seeing former world leaders laid out in front of your eyes. They look like waxworks...and the small stature of many of the men surprised me.

Ex President Marcos is laid out in a heavily air conditioned room in Batac - his boyhood home. There was some melancholy music playing out too.

I had to find someone with a key to open the door - which shows how few people actually visited. But adjacent museum did seem to draw large groups..especially of schoolchildren.

His legacy is still controversial. Regarded as a dictator by some, he's revered by others. My trike driver said he thought he was a good man, and recalls his school getting new uniforms and food when the President visited.

Talking of controversial leaders, here is a picture of Chiang Kai-Shek, shown visiting another former Philippines President Elpidio Quirino in Baguio city, in 1949 to discuss the formation of a Far - Eastern anti-communist alliance (he had fled China to Taiwan after losing the civil war to the Communists)


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