STA. CRUZ, Ilocos Sur -- The Marcos umbrella man still has The Umbrella in his house in San Juan. And it is the umbrella he just might bring to his grave.
"It was heavy, really heavy," Benjamin Sarmiento said of the umbrella.
Although he was seen shading either President Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos in a usual umbrella, on important moments Sarmiento was seen holding this huge umbrella.
"I had it made to order," he said.
"Even President Marcos didn't know it but that umbrella can kill an elephant," he said.
Not informing the President, Sarmiento had this umbrella fitted with a 30 mm gun.
"It is a powerful gun but it's more meant to startle the assailant so I can whisk the Marcoses away to safety," he said.
Extremely loyal to the Marcoses even now, Sarmiento was with them even before they rose to power.
Because of poverty, the young Sarmiento went to Manila and got a job as a plumber assistant with the National Water and Sewage Authority.
"A leak was found in the house of then Rep. Marcos's house in Ortigas. I talked to the people. A janitor there was making P8 while I was making only P6," he recalled.
"I applied as a help and was accepted immediately because maybe I am an Ilocano," he said.
He had been with them since rising to become a valet and finally the umbrella man.
He doesn't mind that the monicker stuck with him up to now, even if he reached the three allowed terms as mayor of San Juan here in Ilocos Sur.
He is tall and even at his old age, he is still upright and heavily-built.
He said that life of a Marcos bodyguard was dangerous then.
"There were seven attempts against President Marcos after he declared Martial Law," he said.
Sarmiento said that there were those who thought of themselves as heroes in becoming assassins. Then there are those who were paid to do it and those who were avenging for some past deeds, he said.
"But the hardest to secure are those who were really crazy," he said.
Sarmiento said that he wasn't the umbrella man of Imelda Marcos was nearly killed in an assassination attempt in December 1972.
"I wasn't on the assigned team then," he said of the event when Carlito Dimahilig tried to stab Imelda using a bolo on stage while television cameras were live.
Dimahilig was shot to death by bodyguards but Imelda's arms were severly injured.
Sarmiento only had fondness on the Marcoses whom he protected.
'They were kind and sincere. It was my best time serving them," he said.
Sarmiento is now back to tending his tobacco farm and is a president of a tobacco farmer's group.