SARRAT, Ilocos Norte – A mixed feeling of sadness and excitement are drawn in the faces of some Ilocanos here as preparations are underway for the Sept. 18 burial of the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Kept for the past 23 years in a glass coffin at a dim lit room of the Marcos mausoleum, his body will be transferred to a personalized casket the Marcos family prepared for him in anticipation for his burial complete with military honors at the Libingan.
Like the customary Ilocano burial rites, his body will be brought to his birthplace in Sarrat, particularly at the Sta. Monica Church, the largest church in Ilocos Norte which then former first lady and now Representative Imelda Marcos helped restore after it was destroyed by a strong earthquake.
Later on, it became the setting of the grand wedding of Marcos daughter Irene and Gregorio Araneta.
Father Carlito “Joey” Ranjo Jr., parish priest of the Sta. Monica Church, said they expect the body to arrive at 7:30 a.m. on Sept. 15. Then he will officiate a mass at 9:00 a.m. on the same day.
According to Ranjo, an overnight prayer vigil will be conducted every hour to be participated by the different assigned local government units in the first district of Ilocos Norte including various interest public and private sectors who may wish to pay their last respect to the beloved son of Ilocos Norte.
During the wake, thousands of guests and visitors all over the country are expected to join the vigil.
“We are expecting a huge number of visitors so as early as now, we are quite worried how to handle all preparations,” said Ranjo, citing he has to receive the official schedule yet from the Diocese of Laoag.
After an overnight vigil in Sarrat, his remains will be brought to the UNESCO-world heritage site of St. Augustine Church for another mass and prayer vigil on Sept. 16. A mass will be officiated by Father Manuel Lamprea, resident priest of Paoay Church.
Earlier, it was learned that Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos met with Bishop Renato Mayugba to discuss church preparations and burial ceremony in Ilocos Norte before the body of Marcos will be brought to the Libingan ng mga Bayani via the Laoag International Airport.
But some residents here are not happy of the latest development.
For the longest time since Marcos was kept lying at the Batac mausoleum, friends and loyalists from the different parts of the country occupy the busy streets of Batac, Laoag and Sarrat to celebrate with Ilocanos the Sept. 11 birthday anniversary of Marcos (this year is the 99th).
This year, Ianree Raquel, head of the Ilocos Norte Tourism Office said they have already coordinated with the different sectors the traditional Marcos fiesta, which comes with a series of activities such as the “sing and look-a-like contest” featuring the favorite love songs of Makoy and Imelda, essay writing and debate cup inspired by the life and works of the late president.
Earlier this month, members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has unanimously approved on Aug. 1 a resolution requesting President Rodrigo Duterte to declare Sept. 11, 2016 as a special non-working holiday in the entire province of Ilocos Norte.
On the same day, Raquel said a grand showdown featuring Marcos will be reenacted in Batac City but the specific theme is still being finalized.
“We don’t have yet the finality of the details but everybody is getting ready. A great deal of it is really coming into terms with the idea that he will be brought to the Libingan which is a very well appreciated gesture, a privilege and some would call, a right, which will finally be given to him and we are happy about it,” he said.
According to Raquel, some older Ilocanos and the tourism sector of Ilocos Norte however are saddened of this latest development.
“It’s a big deal that we have an increase foot traffic because of him. We cannot deny that he is helping in the livelihood of our tour guides, craftsmen and all other tourism stakeholders,” he added.
“We can feel the sadness and hesitation from our elders but at the same time, they are happy that the present administration is kin towards giving him the burial honors that the family has longed for,” Raquel said.