Monday, November 4, 2013

Beatles and Imelda

Exactly 50 years ago today when the Beatles performed at the Prince of Wales Theatre attended by Queen Elizabeth of England and Princess Margaret including Lord Snowdon and they gazed fondly among the crowd. According to some accounts, the arrival of the four charming guys from Liverpool drew more attention than the arrival of the Royal Family that evening.

On that same year, the Beatles released their debut album called “Please, Please Me” and it became an instant hit around the globe. The Fabulous 4 instantly became a phenomenon. Teenage girls screamed like crazy and the aired was filled with their music like “She Loves You,” “Till There Was You,” “From Me to You” and other hits. Songs that are also played by The Harmonizers in San Jose’s music lounges in the 70s like Balalaika and You & I.

It was November 4, 1963 when John Lennon, the chief Beatle, delivered the most intriguing and mischievous rant in pop-culture history: “For our last number, I’d like to ask your help. Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And for the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewelry…” John made this comment before playing “Twist and Shout”, as I have said, with the Queen and the Princess among the audience.

Three years later, John, Paul, George and Ringo visited the Philippines and performed at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila together with Pilita Corrales and Reycard Duet as front act performers, among others. The legendary quartet stayed in the country from July 3-5, 1966 for a two-day concert proper.

When the Beatles visited the Philippines, their first and only visit in the country, they unintentionally turned down a breakfast reception offered by Imelda Marcos at Malacanan Palace. Brian Epstein, the manager, politely declined on behalf of the Beatles as it had never been the group's policy to accept such invitations from government officials and first families, but the group soon found that the Marcos regime was unaccustomed to accepting "no" for an answer.

After the snub was broadcast on Philippine television and radio and everywhere, all of the security measures disappeared. The police and security officers were gone and their entourage had to make their way to Manila airport on their own. At the airport, road manager Mal Evans was beaten and kicked, and the band members were pushed and jostled about by a hostile crowd. Once the group boarded the plane, Epstein and Evans were ordered off and the former was forced to give the tax authorities £6,800 worth of Philippine peso notes from the shows, and had to sign the tax bond verifying the exchange before being allowed back on the plane, according to some Beatles’ historian.

In a nutshell, George Harrison described what happened in an interview after the tour, “They took us away and drove us down to Manila harbor, put us on a boat, took us out to a motor yacht and put us in this room. It was really humid, Mosquito City, and we were all sweating and frightened. For the first time ever in our Beatle existence, we were cut off from Neil, Mal and Brian Epstein. There was not one of them around and, not only that, but we had a whole row of cops with guns lining the deck around this cabin that we were in. We were really gloomy, very brought down by the whole thing. We wished we hadn't come. We should have missed it out. As soon as we got there, it was bad news.” They were not provided with hotel accommodations either.

Entertainment authorities believe that the Beatles were invited to Manila not to just play music to its fans. The whole thing was a savvy political setup for the Beatles to implicitly endorse the Marcos government. The party hosted by Mrs. Marcos was a cleaver photo-op where the Beatles will be seen having lively chat with Madam Marcos, ambassadors, senators and other Marcos-elected cronies. The 300 specially invited children being entertained by the Beatles would be the heart-softening section of the whole event. Local and international press would surely cover the event. Images showing the Beatles sharing a tea with Mrs. Marcos and shaking hands with government officials would project an image to the world that the Beatles endorses the dictatorship of Marcos. According to a blog posted last January 23, 2012 that can be accessed HERE.

Earlier this week, Mrs. Marcos, 84 and now a congresswoman, was again in the news. She was admitted to the hospital after she returned to Manila from Ilocos Norte, reportedly due to fatigue and her unstable blood sugar level. No matter what, Imelda, like that shameful and horrible Beatles’ stay in Manila, is part of our dark days in history. Both have taught us a lesson or two, undeniably.

The former first lady is widely criticized for her extravagant lifestyle, amassing a massive collection of shoes and spending heavily on jewelry, even as most Filipinos remained trapped in poverty. Not unlike Janet Napoles of today and her cahoots in the Senate.

But when the Marcos government was toppled in 1986, analogical to that famous remark of John Lennon exactly half a decade ago today in England, the impoverished Filipino clapped their hands while the elite just rattled their jewelry.

Or they rattled us, the poor, with their expensive jewelry and them, those who just rattled their jewelries after EDSA, are our new and apparently beat-less tyrants….

(Photo: FlickRiver)


  1. I like the closing remarks of this article :)