Olivia Garcia wept as she talked of Ferdinand Marcos. "The people need him," said the 33-year-old housewife, who once shook hands with the now deposed president when he dedicated a section of street in her neighborhood in Manila.
"We want president Marcos to come back to the Philippines to straighten out so many things," she said, wiping her eyes. "So many robberies, criminals, insurgency."
On an avenue in central Manila, a young man wearing a Marcos button and bandana mask stood holding a wooden club. He shouted to be heard as fellow demonstrators demanding Marcos' return heckled and threatened passing motorists.
"We are here by our own will," he declared. "We want to recover the fallen democracy of this country, which Cory Aquino took away from us."
He refused to give his name but mentioned that he formerly worked in Marcos' palace guard.
The "people's power" revolution that made Corazon Aquino president of the Philippines seven weeks ago has been depicted as the Filipino people rising as one against a venal tyrant. But often overlooked is that Marcos maintained, by means both fair and foul, a sizable following among his country's citizens straight to the end of his 20-year rule.
Only 90 of them left on the plane with him. The rest remain, and today a few are proudly and publicly proclaiming themselves "loyalists." Some, like Garcia, harbor genuine, almost mystical love for Marcos. Others are thugs masquerading as dissenters, perhaps due to fear of retribution for misdeeds committed under the old regime.
This afternoon, about 30,000 loyalists waved Marcos banners in a Manila park and chanted Marcos' name against a din of drums and firecrackers. Much of the crowd later moved to the nearby U.S. Embassy to protest Washington's aid to Aquino during the revolt.
The demonstration followed a week of much smaller, often violent street actions by loyalists, who many here believe are financially supported by pro-Marcos politicians -- and perhaps by Marcos himself.
The crowds are tiny in comparison to those that Aquino turned out during her battle with Marcos. Aquino enjoys overwhelming popularity, and most people think that any attempt by Marcos to return would be disastrous for him. Still, the loyalists appear to have the potential to pose a significant challenge to her efforts to establish political stability.
Marcos remained in power so long partly by making millions of people think they were on the inside with him.
Members of his dialect group, the Ilocanos, like other groups in this still largely agrarian society, tend to consider themselves one giant family. For them, Marcos delivered. The roads and public services of their provinces in northern Luzon island are among the best in the country.
Elsewhere in the country, if Marcos arranged for the repair of a village's bridge (appealing straight to the president was often the only way to get the job done) or awarded a license to a logging company, local people tended to remember and feel that they had acquired a special connection with the Malacanang presidential palace and an interest in Marcos' reelection.
Jobs in local government often were viewed as gifts from the palace. Lest anyone be uncertain, at Christmas time Marcos and his wife, Imelda, often had bags of rice distributed to office workers. Through these and other gifts, Marcos appears to have passed down a good portion of what was acquired through allegedly corrupt practices.
Garcia recalled the road near her home and a cosmetology course she took in 1984. She said that she believes the government-funded study program was due to Imelda Marcos' love of the people. "All free, sir," she said. "All free."
"Everything we needed as Filipinos, Marcos provided us," said P. Ellar, a Manila construction equipment operator.
Loyalists nurse intense faith that Marcos was not corrupt. Revelations of his hundreds of millions of dollars in Manhattan real estate are dismissed as "propaganda." Garcia said that to be sure, she went through Malacanang, now open to the public as a museum, twice. She looked at Imelda Marcos' 3,000 pairs of shoes and rack upon rack of evening gowns and concluded that they were not particularly extravagant, given the Marcos' 20-year stay there.
"If they acquired anything, they never threw it away," she said.
People like her see Marcos as a pious man who was double-crossed by a Roman Catholic Church infiltrated by Communists and anxious to protect its property from Marcos' land reforms. He is called a tragic statesman who worked hand-in-hand with the United States only to be betrayed by it.
Despite overwhelming evidence that he tried to order attacks on the military rebels who rose on Feb. 22 but was met by mutiny each time, he is praised for refusing to allow bloodshed. "He took God's will in his heart," said Johnito Doruelo. "He protected the people."
Marcos is viewed by the loyalists as a forceful leader. They say he is the only man capable of meeting the challenge of the country's Communist insurgents and its economic crisis -- which his critics contend he largely created through long years of misgovernment.
Since last week, several thousand loyalists, many of them wearing the red, white and blue colors of the Marcos campaign and displaying portraits of the fallen leader, have been encamped outside the U.S. Embassy here. The United States has acknowledged taking an active role in helping Aquino in the ouster, but the protesters go a step further, alleging that Marcos was "kidnaped" and taken into exile in Honolulu.
The crowd's mood is ugly in a way not seen in a Manila demonstration in years. Passing motorists are jeered, and their cars often scratched or pounded if they fail to give the Marcos V-for-victory sign. A dozen or more journalists, blamed for printing lies about Marcos, have been roughed up by loyalists, many of whom carry sticks and clubs.
"Hey, white monkey -- give us back our president," a demonstrator yelled at a passing reporter one recent evening.
The crowd is peppered with members of a Marcos youth organization, government workers put out of jobs by the change of government and members of a religious cult whose leader says he received instructions from heaven to support Marcos.
The role of Marcos himself in all of this remains unclear. From Hawaii, he has declared, "I shall return." He has sent speeches recorded on cassette tapes, telephoned supporters and critics alike in Manila and at least twice has spoken on Manila radio.
Last month, Aquino dissolved the Marcos-dominated National Assembly, calling it a "cancer," suspended the 1973 constitution and put in its place what her government calls a "freedom constitution." It guarantees individual rights but gives her broad powers rivaling, her critics say, those of Marcos.
Members of Marcos' old party say they only want a voice, the chance to play the role of a legitimate opposition. Instead, says Blas Ople, Marcos' old labor minister, Aquino is practicing "government by vendetta." Her policy is to pursue "vengeance and hate against those who supported Marcos," he says.
Last week they convened a rebel session of the assembly. There, Marcos' running mate in the February election, Arturo Tolentino, called for a campaign of civil disobedience against Aquino.
In a speech today, Aquino compared the victory against Marcos to Moses' leading the Jews to freedom. But, she said, "There are among us those who regret leaving Egypt. They are few but vocal and violent."
She said their right to dissent was protected under the "freedom constitution."
To date, police have stood aside. The major exception occurred last week, when police used gunfire to disperse loyalists who had barricaded a town hall in a Manila suburb to protest the dismissal of a pro-Marcos mayor. At least one person was killed and scores injured. But the local police chief was later put on leave and five of his men confined to barracks.
Many Aquino partisans see the loyalists as a bad joke or a "growing pain" of democracy. If the loyalists are so concerned for democracy, it is asked, where were they during the Marcos years? The crowds' size is small, it is noted.
"They can't even match the number of shoes that Mrs. Marcos has in Malacanang," said Sonny Alvarez, an anti-Marcos activist who recently returned to the Philippines.