‘He’s our crook’: Filipinos in Hawaii split as another Marcos is poised to lead the Philippines

Walt Clemente is a proud Ilocano. His family migrated to Hawaii from the Philippines in the 1920s, and his grandparents worked at the Waialua Sugar Mill.
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 5:26 PM HST|Updated: May. 5, 2022 at 5:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Walt Clemente is a proud Ilocano. His family migrated to Hawaii from the Philippines in the 1920s, and his grandparents worked at the Waialua Sugar Mill.

Even though they’ve lived in Hawaii for the past century, the family still has a strong connection to their Ilocano roots. He said that’s why they support ousted Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos,

“He’s a crook, but he’s our crook,” said Clemente.

Hawaii News Now met Clemente after the newsroom’s staff members came across hours of old tapes in the archive vault. The label on it simply said “Marcos.”

The tapes were too old for any machines in the building to convert them to digital, so Clemente was hired to do it.

He owns 808 Burners in Aiea, specializing in converting old tapes to digital ― usually family videos and home movies.

But these tapes were different. They were a piece of history.

“I get to be the first to see it in a long time,” he said.

He said the tapes about Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos remind him of his own family’s connection to the treasure trove of video history that’s been hiding from them.

“He’s Ilocano,” he said. “And I guess he’s one of us.”

He said his family is also supportive of Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. ― known as Bongbong and the leading candidate to be the next president of the Philippines.

The historic election happens Monday.

More than 30 years ago, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos fled the Philippines and ended in Hawaii. Their exile in the islands became a years-long and global spectacle.

Now the Marcos family is back in the headlines, and it’s bringing back old memories for many.

Many pro-Marcos Filipinos in Hawaii are still loyal, but even Ilocanos who come from the same region as the Marcos family are hesitant to accept Bongbong as a leader.

Clemente thought his family may have always been a little too over the top with their support.

“Sometimes I’m almost cringing when they talked about Marcos,” he said.

“They really get into it. Their faces changed, and their demeanor. They’ll go defend him in the trenches. But I think there’s too much corruption, it wouldn’t be fair.”

Clemente and his family represent Filipinos in Hawaii that are split on this issue.

Two weeks ago, a group called Hawaii for Leni and Kiko met in Ala Moana Park dressed to fit the global movement of Kakampinks or “Pink Activists.”

They support Leni Robredo, the current vice president of the Philippines.

“We do like an honest government comeback, and Leni Robredo represents an honest government,” said Gloria Sumibcay, who held up signs during the demonstration.

The day before, supporters for Bongbong Marcos gathered at Neal Blaisdell Park in Waipahu.

“When Marcos was the president, he’d never sell the Philippines,” said Susan Bald, who was proud to show her support for Marcos Jr.

“He never goes to other countries to sell. We believe in that. We believe that.”


HNN is putting together a new digital documentary with the hours of recovered footage that Clemente digitized.

The special will explore how one of the largest political scandals in modern history landed in the Aloha State, and why decades later the controversy surrounding the Marcos family is far from resolved.

Catch “The Imelda Tapes” across HNN’s digital platforms on demand, starting at 7 p.m. Monday. You can also watch HNN’s previous documentary on the Marcos family, “Exile in Hawaii,” by clicking here.

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