by Rose Churma
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines, Corky Trinidad’s selected cartoons from this publication was exhibited as part of a series of displays to highlight a landmark event in Philippine history.
In the introduction to this book, Trinidad notes that Marcos was an ideal subject for cartoonists because “he was always so blatant. So absolute. So bigger than life. Not an epic or heroic sense but in that everything about him bordered on the caricature. Every act was a hyperbole, every speech a swagger. So, he always embellished facts to excess until the redundance made everything suspect.”
In the early years of his dictatorship, Marcos had a whole mountain reshaped as a tribute to his face. This became the subject of another cartoon and became Trinidad’s choice for the cover of this book.
The location was a park that consisted of 300 hectares of land; tribes and locals of the region were displaced from their homes so that when completed, the Marcos bust would sit on an entire mountain and the surrounding land converted into a golf course and convention center.
With this design, the massive sculpture could be seen from all angles to a distance of 10 to 15 miles. This monstrous bust, located in Tuba, Benguet, about two hours from the City of Baguio, was 100 feet high and 70 feet wide. It was cemented and not sculpted, based on a scale model of an original statue in Manila.
The facial surfaces were formed by creating huge molds and the cement blocks were transported 270 miles away from Manila to the site and took one month to move the parts. These were then cemented on the mountain slowly, slab by slab, section by section. The whole structure was cast in concrete with steel reinforcements and took five years to complete.
It cost a staggering $8.5 million in 1980s costs and utilized hundreds of workers, military supplies and personnel and the resources of two government agencies.
The Ibaloi tribe that used to live in the affected area and were displaced due to the bust’s construction was forced to sell their lands for outrageously low prices. After the People Power Revolution of 1986, the Ibaloi peoples slaughtered a pig and carabao and poured the animals’ blood into the bust to “exorcise” it and later filed a case to reclaim their land.
The bust was bombed in 1989 by leftist rebels, who managed to blast a hole in the bust’s left ear. Eventually, the bust was destroyed using dynamite, before dawn on December 29, 2002, by suspected treasure hunters who thought that the bust contained parts of the rumored Yamashita treasure.
The book contains a brief history of the regime from the declaration of Martial Law in 1972 to the Marcos exile to Hawaii in 1986. The cartoons were arranged chronologically reflecting the history of the dictatorship—its start in the Philippines, and its end in Hawaii.
Trinidad was Honolulu Star-Bulletin’s editorial cartoonist from 1969 to 2009 when Honolulu had a morning paper (The Honolulu Advertiser) and an afternoon paper (Honolulu Star-Bulletin).
He was the first cartoonist of Asian ancestry to break into American journalism. He was born in Manila, Philippines and graduated from Ateneo de Manila University in 1960 with a B.A. degree in journalism, beginning a career that same year as political cartoonist for the Philippines Herald at the age of 20.
By 1965, he was one of the most widely read in Asia, his cartoons reprinted in publications in Europe and the U.S. His big break was a twice-a-week spot in Chicago Sun-Times which led to national syndication by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post Syndicate, the first ever for any Asian cartoonist.
Trinidad joined the Star-Bulletin in 1969 and since then had received numerous awards and authored four books. His cartoons have appeared in major newspapers nationally and in Canada including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Time; as well as abroad, like Punch of London, Politiken in Copenhagen, Paris Herald Tribune, Hongkong Standard and Buenas Aires Herald.
Trinidad created the syndicated comic strip “Zeus!” and the Pacific Stars and Stripes only Vietnam war daily cartoon, “Nguyen Charlie.” He died in Hawaii in 2009 at the age of 69. He is survived by his wife, Hana, and five children.
This book remains one of his more prized publications and has become a collectible—so if you own one, keep it. If you don’t have one, there are still copies available—inquire at email@example.com.
ROSE CHURMA established a career in architecture 40 years ago, specializing in judicial facilities planning. As a retired architect, she now has the time to do the things she always wanted to do: read books and write about them, as well as encourage others to write.
by Rose Churma