Should Ferdinand Marcos’ Home Be a Tourist Attraction? One Mayor Thinks So.

The move comes as the powerful and wealthy Marcos clan enjoys an image rehabilitation in the Philippines.
Marcos burial
Members of the family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos led by former first lady Imelda Marcos (in black) watch as military officers stand next to the coffin of the late president during the burial at the heroes' cemetery in Manila. PHOTO: Handout / AFP

A Philippine city’s plan to transform an ancestral house where former strongman Ferdinand Marcos once lived into a tourist destination was met with strong backlash on social media, as the country heads into a stormy election season.

Francis Zamora, the mayor of San Juan City in Metro Manila, announced the plan earlier this week on social media as part of a push to promote the city to visitors. 

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“This Marcos ancestral home where President Ferdinand Marcos lived will be part of our city's historical trail,” he said, adding that the opening will come this year.

The mayor posted photos of the house taken during the 92nd birthday celebration of former First Lady Imelda Marcos, who was sentenced to at least 42 years in jail in 2018 for corruption but remains free. The dictator, who died in 1989 in Hawaii, reportedly lived in the San Juan house when he was single.

Ruling the Philippines with an iron fist for two decades, Marcos amassed colossal wealth before being toppled as a result of mass protests in 1986. Critics say the Philippines has yet to properly reckon with the human rights abuses committed during his time in power.

But under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, the Marcos family has been enjoying a renaissance of sorts. In 2016, Duterte permitted and oversaw the controversial relocation of Marcos’ remains, preserved for years, to the Heroes’ Cemetery after decades of opposition from martial law victims and previous administrations. 

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Filipino activists raise clenched fists during a rally in Manila, Philippines on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, against the secrecy-shrouded burial of late Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos at the Heroes' Cemetery on November 18, 2016. Photo: Richard James Mendoza / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The eldest of the Marcos siblings, Imee Marcos, was elected to the Senate in 2019. Former Senator Bongbong Marcos, who ran but lost in the 2016 vice presidential race, is enjoying high ratings as a potential presidential bet next year, according to opinion polls.  

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The Marcos siblings and Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, have released photos of their meetings as the 2022 election season heats up. 

Properties associated with the Marcos clan are scattered across the Philippines. The most popular is a mansion called the Malacañang of the North, a tourist attraction in Ilocos Norte, the family’s bailiwick (the presidential palace in the capital Manila is named Malacañang.) 

Investigators estimate the Marcos fortune to be between $5 billion and $10 billion, some of which was allegedly stashed in secret bank accounts abroad. 

The Philippines, through the Presidential Commission on Good Governance, has been fighting to recover the loot for decades. In 2014, the commission reported that they successfully captured $4 billion in assets.

The commission also seized Marcos property in San Juan City following a court judgment in 2014, but it is not clear if the ancestral home set to welcome tourists is the same property. 

Zamora’s announcement was met with criticism on social media, though it appears that many of the replies were hidden on Twitter. Zamora did not immediately return VICE World News’ requests for comment. 

“Who wants to visit the house of one of histories (sic) greatest crooks? It would take 20 showers to get the taint off me,” one Facebook user wrote under a post announcing the plan for the house.

But some people praised the Marcos family and greeted the former first lady. 

“Thank you Mayor Francis for being on the issue. You know how to look at things properly,” said one Twitter user. 

Follow Anthony Esguerra on Twitter.