Although proven not to be a project of Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr., Bangui’s windmills have been an integral part of his campaign, promising a return to building frenzy infrastructure of his father’s dictatorship.
MANILA, Philippines — The use of Bangui windmills in Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s presidential campaign has become symbolic of the idea that the Marcos dictatorship was the country’s “golden age,” according to a new study by University of the Philippines (UP) researchers.
During a #FactsFirstPH briefing on Friday, May 6, Professors Daphne-Tatiana T. Canlas and Ma. grandeur and windmills among Marcos Jr.’s social media followers.”
Researchers analyzed the use of wind turbines that featured in his very first advertising campaign in December 2021, with his campaign slogan: “Bangon Bayan Muli” (Rise up, my country). Since then, the imagery of windmills has become a fixture in Marcos’ campaign material.
Canlas and Claudio highlighted the following key points:
- As early as 2015, the Bangui Windmills project in Ilocos Norte was falsely attributed to Marcos and his tenure as governor of the province from 1998 to 2007. This has been repeatedly verified and found to be false, but his supporters continue to deploy this picture.
- Imagery of windmills featured repeatedly in his campaign ads, building on the idea that Marcos Jr. is offering the country a return to the so-called “golden age” of the country ruled by his parents, Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and Imelda Marcos, during their decades-long dictatorship.
- The insistence on a nostalgic past reinforces what scholars call ‘grand narratives’. Grand narratives are stories that are unchallenged to claim universal truth to maintain a unified status quo. The Marcos dictatorship remains a “grand narrative” and is supported by Marcos’ current run for the presidency.
- The windmill serves as a metaphor for the development that is possible under another Marcos presidency, calling for the Marcos’ use of government projects as political propaganda or more commonly referred to as the “edifice complex”.
“A Great Story”
The Bangui Bay Wind Farm was created by the NorthWind Power Development Corporation (NPDC), based on a study by the United States National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducted in 1996. Since 2015, the project has was falsely attributed to Marcos through his fan pages, and Marcos himself denied any involvement in the project.
Despite this, Bangui’s windmills were featured in both Marcos’ solo commercials and with his running mate Sara Duterte, eventually becoming synonymous with the “UniTeam” campaign.
Using textual analysis, the researchers found that despite the infrastructure being seemingly innocuous, it communicates meaning to the general public.
“Buildings are metaphors for achievement, presence and power [that] have been deployed throughout history. When one thinks of the Eiffel Tower in France or the Great Wall of China, the identities, stories and narratives of the nations and peoples who built them find a platform here,” the study states.
The study found that, just like during the Marcos dictatorship, the rapid construction of infrastructure projects was used to project a “grand narrative” that casts this period as the country’s “golden age”.
“The ‘Golden Age’ narrative is an example of how stories told without context and without skepticism can degenerate into propaganda. The buildings and the facades they present are taken at face value. It would be easy to believe the ‘grandeur’ projected by these buildings,” the study says.
The term “complex of buildings” was coined for the first time by Gérard Lico in his book “Complex of Buildings: Power, Myth and State Architecture of Marcos”, to describe Imelda Marcos’ infrastructure-building spree as First Lady of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. Her tenure produced buildings like the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) complex, the Manila Film Center, and the Coconut Palace.
However, researchers also found that the grand narrative of the Marcos family was supported by the selective promotion of these accomplishments without context, such as the human cost of such projects or high poverty rates at the time.
“In the Marcosian Grand Narrative, the country’s glory days are defined by their family’s alleged achievements and service, embodied in the edifices of dictatorship – a narrative that covers the controversies and the true cost of maintaining their image in as saviors of Filipino culture and great initiators of the Golden Age,” the study states.
Challenging a Grand Narrative
In the race for the presidency of Marcos in 2022, the symbolism of windmills relies on the efforts of the Marcos family to revive their image through historical revisionism and disinformation.
According to the research: “Marcos Jr.’s use of windmills as an icon is a metaphor for development. Synonymous with its presence, Marcos Jr. wishes to reproduce this idea of development in various sectors of society. Just as the sight of windmills is irrefutable proof of their existence, supporters of Marcos Jr. use the same image to denote his greatness.
Much of Marcos’ campaign narratives and symbolism promise a return to the supposed golden age of Marcos. Windmills to his “Babangon Muli” campaign slogan echoing his own father’s inaugural speech in December 1965, where senior Marcos proclaimed: “This nation can become great again”.
Coupled with this powerful metaphor, Marcos’ well-documented misinformation system has revived the family’s image on social media. (READ: Tracking Marcos’ disinformation and propaganda machinery)
“Why are stories of greatness and radical change easier to accept? It’s easier to stick to a single narrative and point of view, instead of several often conflicting points of view,” they said.
An example of these grand narratives that have been challenged is the idea of a monolithic Filipino identity. Looking at how, as a culture, there is no universal representation of Filipino identity, so we should be equally critical of any idea of indisputable truth or misinformation.
The researchers urged media consumers to be critical in working towards restoring a shared reality, adding, “Help people connect the dots and learn more about the context surrounding the issues. Tell the little stories. Just as disinformation has used stories with baseless claims, we should also use contextualized and localized stories based on facts.
The study is part of the work being done by #FactsFirstPH to better understand the flow of social media misinformation during the election period. #FactsFirstPH is a multi-sector coalition of more than 120 groups seeking to tackle misinformation ahead of the 2022 state and local elections. – Rappler.com