Perhaps the most telling moment in the musical “Here Lies Love,” which opened on Broadway in July, comes at the end. The audience has just seen the rise and fall of Imelda Marcos—her marriage to Ferdinand Marcos, her time as first lady of the Philippines and her flight to Hawaii amid the People Power Revolution that ousted her husband from power. The musical’s narrator character then stands before the audience and reminds them that democracy is fragile. To prove his point, he informs them of a simple fact: “Right now, Imelda’s son is president of the Philippines.”
No context for that fact is given. No mention of how Ferdinand Marcos Jr. came to power last year, nor his policies, nor his democratic record. The narrator simply pauses. At the performance of “Here Lies Love” that I attended two weeks ago, that pause was filled with booing from the audience.
It makes sense, of course, given the information provided in the musical about the Marcos family, that some of the audience would boo. So much of the show’s narrative and thematic arc centers around the democratic backsliding and human rights abuses that took place under Ferdinand Marcos Sr. while he was in power from 1965 to 1986, especially after he declared martial law in 1972.