Susan and I often didn’t agree. She often took positions opposite of mine, but I had to agree with her when she said the First Lady wasn’t a bimbo. I was sticking to my opinions about Imelda, though I didn’t think she was a bimbo. After my article I wanted to find the good Imelda, the nice Imelda, and the smiling Imelda and took a look at the projects she launched. And I was determined to get back into print.
“I have a million energy, no longer 1,000.” I wondered, looking for a clue. First, what was wrong with what she said about God? Second, should what she said be held against her; nah, why should it be? I’m talking about her saying, “God is love.” How could I criticize her for it? Hadn’t I heard my mother say the same thing? And Imelda also said that she believed in heaven; so there you have it. She believed in heaven.
And the Pope’s response: “how childlike.” Wonderful. But this was as far as I would go. As far as I would go and I hadn’t come close to depicting the Imelda everyone loved. Yes, she was idolized. Yet I didn’t give her any slack and presented an opposing view. So I pulled out my Nietzsche and used his declaration “God is dead.” Oh, my! And the “feminine” virtues of Christianity; and at the same time we have Imelda saying, “God is love.” God is love while God is dead. And to have Marcos claim he saved the Pope’s life. Will the Pope then make him a saint? And to have Imelda say “God is love” while sharing the same stage with the Pope and then have her husband save his life. This was no coincidence. I wonder. Then I had to wonder if there was a story there. Was it worth reporting? Who gave a rat’s ass, really? As a journalist, I believed in giving the public what it wanted. And any editor who believed that they would get balanced reporting and fairness from me was an idiot. To be honest I knew there weren’t many people who read and understood Nietzsche, or gave a rat’s ass. We have to be honest: not very many people read Nietzsche or understand him. And his saying “God is dead” hasn’t helped his reputation either. What about my reputation?
Getting into print gave me confidence enough to go back to the Times and talk to the Drew Pearson of the Philippines. Roberto Concepcion wrote a daily column and I read as many of them about the First Lady as I could, but it didn’t mean that he’d be helpful. Often Roberto Concepcion acted as her mouthpiece, when I thought he should’ve been more critical. But who was I to question him? Wasn’t he one of the most powerful men in the Philippines? Didn’t he push through many of her pet projects (literally with a walkie-talkie in hand)? He could get things done when other people couldn’t. With a phone call, over his walkie-talkie, in person or from afar, he was a force to be reckoned with, and I intended to take him on.
I didn’t trust the man. He used his position and the First Lady’s name everyday to push through his agenda and then wrote columns about her: now wasn’t that a conflict of interest? For that reason I didn’t trust him. Then why would I go to him, if I didn’t?
I gave it a lot of thought. What could I get from him? More to the point … what could he get from me? What could I give him? Who could scoop whom? He had access, and I didn’t. He worked for The Times, and I didn’t. He paid his dues … paid his dues, and I hadn’t. Then what would impress him? By my not being intimidated. He was used to intimidating people, so the last thing I wanted was to appear intimidated. When other people bowed down to him, I was determined to get in the door, hold my ground, and stay on my feet. But if he couldn’t help me, he couldn’t help me, while the tone of our conversation was friendly enough.
He was less than helpful. He was polite, soft-spoken, and non-committal, and very much on the side of the First Lady. What did I expect? I was an American. He didn’t know me. I was new in the country … had no credentials. Yet he was polite. Here sat the Drew Pearson of the Philippines, and my portfolio consisted of one short article … and a less than favorable one … about the First Lady, and yet he was polite to me. He gave me thirty minutes, and was polite. He could’ve been rude … or cold. We didn’t talk about his columns, or Emelda. We didn’t get that far in the thirty minutes he allotted me. Of course, I didn’t tell him what I thought about his columns … about how they left me cold because I thought they were full of fluff, especially when it came to Emelda. Now I wasn’t Emelda’s harshest critic by any means, but I wasn’t compromised like I thought Mr. Concepcion was. Here I was an American with balls enough to be sitting in the office of the Drew Pearson of the Philippines and dumb enough to tell him about the article I had just written about his First Lady. I’m not sure where the thirty minutes he allotted me went.