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Posts Tagged ‘Imelda Marcos’

Imelda Marcos (b. 1929), “one of the ten richest women in the world” (Cosmopolitan magazine, December, 1975)

In December, 1975, Cosmopolitan magazine named Imelda Marcos, the First Lady of the Phillippines, as one of the ten richest women in the world. It even went a step further and speculated that Imelda was perhaps the richest woman in the world, richer than Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.

Everyone knew Imelda was rich; she made sure of that. She had an insatiable desire for expensive things and flaunted them. No one at the time really knew where she got all the money that she spent so impulsively. She was, after all, unemployed and had no independent wealth. In addition, her husband, the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, had made less than $5,000 a year for the last ten years in office.

Nonetheless, there was Imelda, spending $40,000 on a Honolulu shopping spree in 1974, without trying anything on. Her excess knew no limits and she spared herself no luxury:

“Another report had Imelda and a gaggle of friends demanding Bloomingdale’s in New York be closed for a private shopping extravaganza, then marching through the store pointing to desired items and saying, ‘Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine.’”(1) She was referred to by one sales clerk as ‘the Mine Girl.’

Imelda Marcos from a Vanity Fair interview, 2007

Imelda Marcos from a Vanity Fair interview, 2007

Responding to criticism of her self-indulgence and the spending of public money for high-profile projects that did nothing to alleviate the poverty of the Filipinos, Imelda remarked that is was her “duty” to be “some kind of light, a star to give [the poor] guidelines.”

By 1981, Imelda’s personal popularity was at an all-time high. She jetsetted around the globe, shopping and hobnobbing with celebrities such as the perennially-tanned American actor George Hamilton.

After having secured the Miss Universe Pageant for the Philippines in 1974 – which necessitated the rapid construction of the 10,000-seat Folks Art Center – Imelda continued to indulge her “edifice complex,” building 14 luxury hotels, a multimillion-dollar Nutrition Center, Convention Center, Heart Center and, in 1981, the infamous Manila Film Center.

Imelda Marcos designed the Manila Film Center after the Greek Parthenon, shown here.

Imelda wanted Manila to rival Cannes as a world film capital. At the cost of $25 million, Imelda approved plans for the Manila Film Center to be built to host an international film festival. Opening night was set for January 18, 1982. The project was grandiose and expensive; the building on Manila Bay was designed to look like the Parthenon.

Delays hampered the progress. As the deadline drew nearer, it required 4,000 workers, working in 3 shifts, around the clock, if the building was going to be ready.

Then, at 3 a.m. on November 17, the upper scaffold collapsed and sent workers falling into wet cement. A witness said that some of the workers were impaled on upright steel bars.

Imelda was contacted about the accident. She was told that the recovery of the bodies would take alot of  time – time, evidently, that Imelda didn’t want to give up. She ordered the construction to continue as planned and that the bodies – maybe as many as 169 – be covered with cement. It is believed that many of those who fell into the cement may have been buried alive.

The full story has never been told, as news crews, rescuers, and ambulance teams were barred from the scene for nine full hours, while the government, under martial law, prepared its official version of events, censoring all news and silencing all witnesses.

Despite all, the festival opened on schedule on January18, 1981, and had among its guests Brooke Shields, Franco Nero, Ben Kingsley, and Robert Duvall. The first film shown in the theater was the tasteful bioepic, “Gandhi.”  Unknowingly, the stars partied atop a mausoleum of dead workers.

Brooke Shields (b. 1965) was only 16 years old when she traveled to Manila for the international film festival as the guest of First Lady Imelda Marcos.

“During opening night, Imelda ‘strode on stage in a Joe Salazar black and emerald green terno with a hemline thick with layer upon layer of peacock feathers.’ “Some said there were diamonds embedded in the skirt.

The next year, as a result of the accident scandal, the government withheld $5 million in festival funding. Imelda was in a fix. She had to pay for the festival somehow, so she ran pornography films in the festival’s second and, understandably, last year.

(1) Klaffke, Pamela. Spree: A Cultural History of Shopping.

Readers: For more on Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos on this blog, click here.   

A close-up of Imelda Marcos looking into a gold-plated compact mirror, her first name encrusted in diamonds. Called the ‘Steel Butterfly,’ Imelda Marcos was the beautiful wife and confidante of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The Marcos regime (1965-86) was marked by notorious corruption, political repression, and financial improprieties of the highest order.

For other resources, click here.

 

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This post is dedicated to my faithful and kind readers in the Philippines – such good people. May God bless Tita Cory.

This just in from the Associated Press:

Corazon Aquino, Philippines president, dead at 76

By HRVOJE HRANJSKI, Associated Press Writer Hrvoje Hranjski, Associated Press Writer –

Fri Jul 31, 7:08 pm ET

Former Philippine President Corazon Aquino, who is suffering from colon cancer, have her picture taken with students before a mass and tribute to herself and her late husband Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. in Quezon City, Metro Manila, August 17, 2008

Former Philippine President Corazon Aquino, who was undergoing treatment for colon cancer, had her picture taken with students before a mass and tribute to herself and her late husband Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. in Quezon City, Metro Manila, August 17, 2008. Corazon Aquino died on August 1, 2009.

MANILA, Philippines – Former President Corazon Aquino, who swept away a dictator with a “people power” revolt and then sustained democracy by fighting off seven coup attempts in six years, died on Saturday, her son said. She was 76.

The uprising she led in 1986 ended the repressive 20-year regime of Ferdinand Marcos and inspired nonviolent protests across the globe, including those that ended Communist rule in eastern Europe.

But she struggled in office to meet high public expectations. Her land redistribution program fell short of ending economic domination by the landed elite, including her own family. Her leadership, especially in social and economic reform, was often indecisive, leaving many of her closest allies disillusioned by the end of her term.

Still, the bespectacled, smiling woman in her trademark yellow dress remained beloved in the Philippines, where she was affectionately referred to as “Tita (Auntie) Cory.”

Former President Corazon Aquino's favorite color was all around Metro Manila on Saturday as the nation mourned the death of its beloved first female president and hero of the People Power revolt that restored democracy in the country.

Yellow - Former President Corazon Aquino's favorite color - was all around Metro Manila on Saturday as the nation mourned the death of its beloved first female president and hero of the People Power revolt that restored democracy in the country. Even streetsweepers went about their chores with yellow ribbons tied around their heads in respect to "Cory" Aquino.

 

“She was headstrong and single-minded in one goal, and that was to remove all vestiges of an entrenched dictatorship,” Raul C. Pangalangan, former dean of the Law School at the University of the Philippines, said earlier this month. “We all owe her in a big way.”

Her son, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” or Aquino III, said his mother died at 3:18 a.m. Saturday (1918 GMT Friday).

Aquino was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer last year and confined to a Manila hospital for more than a month. Her son said the cancer had spread to other organs and she was too weak to continue her chemotherapy.

Supporters have been holding daily prayers for Aquino in churches in Manila and throughout the country for a month. Masses were scheduled for later Saturday, and yellow ribbons were tied on trees around her neighborhood in Quezon city.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is on an official visit to the United States, said in a statement that “the entire nation is mourning” Aquino’s demise. Arroyo declared a period of national mourning and announced a state funeral would be held for the late president.

TV stations on Saturday were running footage of Aquino’s years together with prayers while her former aides and supporters offered condolences.

“Today our country has lost a mother,” said former President Joseph Estrada, calling Aquino “a woman of both strength and graciousness.”

Even the exiled Communist Party founder Jose Maria Sison, whom Aquino freed from jail in 1986, paid tribute from the Netherlands.

Aquino’s unlikely rise began in 1983 when her husband, opposition leader Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., was assassinated on the tarmac of Manila’s international airport as he returned from exile in the United States to challenge Marcos, his longtime adversary.

The killing enraged many Filipinos and unleashed a broad-based opposition movement that thrust Aquino into the role of national leader.

“I don’t know anything about the presidency,” she declared in 1985, a year before she agreed to run against Marcos, uniting the fractious opposition, the business community, and later the armed forces to drive the dictator out.

Maria Corazon Cojuangco was born on Jan. 25, 1933, into a wealthy, politically powerful family in Paniqui, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Manila.

She attended private school in Manila and earned a degree in French from the College of Mount St. Vincent in New York. In 1954 she married Ninoy Aquino, the fiercely ambitious scion of another political family. He rose from provincial governor to senator and finally opposition leader.

Marcos, elected president in 1965, declared martial law in 1972 to avoid term limits. He abolished the Congress and jailed Aquino’s husband and thousands of opponents, journalists and activists without charges. Aquino became her husband’s political stand-in, confidant, message carrier and spokeswoman.

A military tribunal sentenced her husband to death for alleged links to communist rebels but, under pressure from U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Marcos allowed him to leave in May 1980 for heart surgery in the U.S.

It was the start of a three-year exile. With her husband at Harvard University holding court with fellow exiles, academics, journalists and visitors from Manila, Aquino was the quiet homemaker, raising their five children and serving tea. Away from the hurly-burly of Philippine politics, she described the period as the best of their marriage.

Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino, Corazon Aquino's husband, was the leader of the Filipino opposition to Ferdinand Marcos. He was shot dead in 1983 as he returned to the Philippines.

Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino, Corazon Aquino's husband, was the leader of the Filipino opposition to Ferdinand Marcos. He was shot dead in 1983 as he returned to the Philippines.

The halcyon days ended when her husband decided to return to regroup the opposition. While she and the children remained in Boston, he flew to Manila, where he was shot as he descended the stairs from the plane.

The government blamed a suspected communist rebel, but subsequent investigations pointed to a soldier who was escorting him from the plane on Aug. 21, 1983.

Aquino heard of the assassination in a phone call from a Japanese journalist. She recalled gathering the children and, as a deeply religious woman, praying for strength.

“During Ninoy’s incarceration and before my presidency, I used to ask why it had always to be us to make the sacrifice,” she said in a 2007 interview with The Philippine Star newspaper. “And then, when Ninoy died, I would say, ‘Why does it have to be me now?’ It seemed like we were always the sacrificial lamb.”

She returned to the Philippines three days later. One week after that, she led the largest funeral procession Manila had seen. Crowd estimates ranged as high as 2 million.

With public opposition mounting against Marcos, he stunned the nation in November 1985 by calling a snap election in a bid to shore up his mandate. The opposition, including then Manila Archbishop Cardinal Jaime L. Sin, urged Aquino to run.

After a fierce campaign, the vote was held on Feb. 7, 1986. The National Assembly declared Marcos the winner, but journalists, foreign observers and church leaders alleged massive fraud.

Ferdinand Marcos was elected president of the Philippines in 1965. In 1972 he imposed martial law and seized dictatorial powers. A massive four-day protest known as the People Power Movement forced him from office in 1986 and restored democracy in the Philippines.

Ferdinand Marcos was elected president of the Philippines in 1965. In 1972 he imposed martial law and seized dictatorial powers. A massive four-day protest known as the People Power Movement forced him from office in 1986 and restored democracy in the Philippines.

With the result in dispute, a group of military officers mutinied against Marcos on Feb. 22 and holed up with a small force in a military camp in Manila.

Over the following three days, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos responded to a call by the Roman Catholic Church to jam the broad highway in front of the camp to prevent an attack by Marcos forces.

On the third day, against the advice of her security detail, Aquino appeared at the rally alongside the mutineers, led by Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos, the military vice chief of staff and Marcos’ cousin.

From a makeshift platform, she declared: “For the first time in the history of the world, a civilian population has been called to defend the military.”

The military chiefs pledged their loyalty to Aquino and charged that Marcos had won the election by fraud.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan, a longtime supporter of Marcos, called on him to resign. “Attempts to prolong the life of the present regime by violence are futile,” the White House said. American officials offered to fly Marcos out of the Philippines.

On Feb. 25, Marcos and his family went to the U.S.-run Clark Air Base outside Manila and flew to Hawaii, where he died three years later.

The same day, Aquino was sworn in as the Philippines’ first female leader.

President Ronald Reagan and Philippine President Corazon Aquino meet on September 17, 1986 in the Oval office of the White House in Washington.

President Ronald Reagan and Philippine President Corazon Aquino meet on September 17, 1986 in the Oval office of the White House in Washington.

Over time, the euphoria fizzled as the public became impatient and Aquino more defensive as she struggled to navigate treacherous political waters and build alliances to push her agenda.

“People used to compare me to the ideal president, but he doesn’t exist and never existed. He has never lived,” she said in the 2007 Philippine Star interview.

The right attacked her for making overtures to communist rebels and the left, for protecting the interests of wealthy landowners.

Aquino signed an agrarian reform bill that virtually exempted large plantations like her family’s sugar plantation from being distributed to landless farmers.

When farmers protested outside the Malacanang Presidential Palace on Jan. 22, 1987, troops opened fire, killing 13 and wounding 100.

The bloodshed scuttled talks with communist rebels, who had galvanized opposition to Marcos but weren’t satisfied with Aquino either.

As recently as 2004, at least seven workers were killed in clashes with police and soldiers at the family’s plantation, Hacienda Luisita, over its refusal to distribute its land.

Aquino also attempted to negotiate with Muslim separatists in the southern Philippines, but made little progress.

Behind the public image of the frail, vulnerable widow, Aquino was an iron-willed woman who dismissed criticism as the carping of jealous rivals. She knew she had to act tough to earn respect in the Philippines’ macho culture.

“When I am just with a few close friends, I tell them, ‘OK, you don’t like me? Look at the alternatives,’ and that shuts them up,” she told America’s NBC television in a 1987 interview.

Her term was punctuated by repeated coup attempts — most staged by the same clique of officers who had risen up against Marcos and felt they had been denied their fair share of power. The most serious attempt came in December 1989 when only a flyover by U.S. jets prevented mutinous troops from toppling her.

Leery of damaging relations with the United States, Aquino tried in vain to block a historic Senate vote to force the U.S. out of its two major bases in the Philippines.

In the end, the U.S. Air Force pulled out of Clark Air Base in 1991 after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo forced its evacuation and left it heavily damaged. The last American vessel left Subic Bay Naval Base in November 1992.

former First Lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos debuts her new line of accessories, 2006

former First Lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos debuts her new line of accessories, 2006

After stepping down in 1992, Aquino remained active in social and political causes.Until diagnosed with colon cancer in March 2008, she joined rallies calling for the resignation of President Arroyo  over allegations of vote-rigging and corruption.

She kept her distance from another famous widow, flamboyant former first lady Imelda Marcos, who was allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991.

Marcos has called Aquino a usurper and dictator, though she later led prayers for Aquino in July 2009 when the latter was hospitalized. The two never made peace.

 

For more on Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos on this blog:

Look under “Categories” in column at right.

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(Read “Imelda Marcos Almost Gets the Beatles Killed Part 1” first.)

Hear what the Fab Four had to say about their brush with death in Manila:

 

*For other related posts on this site, see:
“Imelda Marcos: 2000 Shoes”
“Ferdinand Marcos’ Restless Corpse”
“Imelda Being Imeldific*”

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Imelda Marcos being Imeldific, June 20, 2009, Manila.

Imelda Marcos being Imeldific, June 20, 2009, Manila.

“Filipinos are brainwashed to be beautiful. We’re allergic to ugliness,”

said Imelda Marcos as as she greeted reporters this weekend in her swank two-story Manila penthouse. Approaching her 80th birthday on July 2, she complained about her lot in life, saying she is penniless and struggling to still look presentable. Her claim is hardly believable, since she and her husband, the late President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos, stashed away billions during his dictatorship. Meanwhile, a 22-carat diamond engagement ring still adorns the former beauty queen’s finger.

“Despite some 900 civil and criminal cases she had faced in Philippine courts since 1991 _ cases ranging from embezzlement and corruption to tax evasion _ she has emerged relatively unscathed and never served prison time. All but a handful of the cases have been dismissed for lack of evidence and a few convictions were overturned on appeal….

Imelda Marcos penniless yet jeweled

Imelda Marcos penniless yet jeweled

Imelda, her hair coifed and cheeks rouged, teared up as she complained she had to withdraw money from her husband’s meager war pension to post bail so she could travel to Singapore earlier this month for an eye checkup paid for by her children.“I was first lady for only 20 years. All the beautiful things I gave to the Philippines, am I being persecuted for that? I didn’t know you can inherit a crime from your husband.”

Her husband and his cronies allegedly amassed ill-gotten wealth estimated at $5 billion to $10 billion during Marcos’ 20 years in power, but the Presidential Commission on Good Government, created to recover the Marcos billions, says the government has only found cash and assets totaling $1.63 billion.

The assets include three separate sets of diamond tiaras, ruby brooches, emerald necklaces and other jewels.

She remains unashamed of her past, when she shopped in the world’s richest boutiques and launched lavish beautification projects at home in the midst of the Philippines’ extreme poverty.”

*Imeldific is a word coined after former First Lady Imelda Marcos. It means “ostentatious extravagance” as in this example:

She had a shoe collection that met Imeldific standards.

I’ve written more posts on the Marcoses:

“Ferdinand Marcos’ Restless Corpse”

“Imelda Marcos Almost Gets the Beatles Killed”

“Imelda Marcos: 2000 Shoes”

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Imelda Marcos at 77

Imelda Marcos at 77

In 1986, the Marcos regime of the Philippines was overthrown in a people’s revolt and the dictator Ferdinand and wife Imelda Marcos were forced to flee the Malacañang Palace. (See last post.) Imelda fled wearing her espadrilles. Because she was flying to Hawaii in an American helicopter provided by U.S. President Reagan and paid with American tax dollars, she was unable to take her enormous wardrobe. In the palace closet, she left behind between 2 and 3 thousand shoes. Imelda Marcos was the First Lady of the Philippines, a country deep in poverty. The outrage was immediate and the news went international. President Marcos’ successor, Corazon Aquino, ordered many of Mrs Marcos’ shoes to be put on display as a demonstration of her extravagance.

In 1988, the band Big Audio Dynamite wrote this song about Imelda Marcos and her enormous collection of shoes. Click below to hear:

2000 ShoesArtist: Big Audio Dynamite

Phillipine star greedy girl
Took the money to buy the world
First a little then the lot
Others’ needs were soon forgot
Heard you like a love song
This here one is just for you
In keeping with your taste we hope
It’s called 2000 shoes

Never had a conscience
Or any moral views
Even any kind of taste
Just 2000 shoes
If I had the world to sell
Could strike a deal with you
I know you haven’t got the cash
Just 2000 shoes

Catwalk at the embassy
Supplied by human rights
Qadahafi and George Hamilton
Mao Tse Tung and disco lights

Never had a conscience
Or any moral views
Even any kind of taste
Just 2000 shoes
If I had the world to sell
Could strike a deal with you
I know you haven’t got the cash
Just 2000 shoes
2000 shoes

Phillipine star greedy girl
Took the money to buy the world
First a little then the lot
Others’ need were soon forgot
Heard you like a love song
This here one is just for you
In keeping with your taste we hope
It’s called 2000 shoes

So here it is Imelda
Sorry it’s the blues
Would have done it different
If I were in your shoes

Never had a consience
Or any moral views
Even any kind of taste
Just 2000 shoes
If I had the world to sell
Could strike a deal with you
I know you haven’t got the cash
Just 2000 shoes
2000 shoes

The world's bestknown shoe collector, former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos, has opened the Marikina City Footwear Museum in Manila in which most of the exhibits are her own footwear.

The world's best-known shoe collector, former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos, has opened a museum in which most of the exhibits are her own footwear.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. In 2001, Imelda returned to Manila in the Philippines, reentered politics (although still facing corruption charges for looting the national coffers for over 20 years), and opened a shoe museum to house some of her shoe collection. “They went into my closets looking for skeletons, but thank God, all they found were shoes, beautiful shoes,” a smiling Mrs. Marcos said that year, wearing a pair of locally made silver shoes for the day. The exhibits include shoes made by such world-famous names as Ferragamo, Givenchy, Chanel and Christian Dior, all size eight-and-a-half.

“More than anything, this museum will symbolise the spirit and culture of the Filipino people. Filipinos don’t wallow in what is miserable and ugly. They recycle the bad into things of beauty,” she said.

Imelda Marcos is a classic example of a person who, when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.

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Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos with U.S. President Ronald Reagan

Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos with U.S. President Ronald Reagan

For most of you, the names Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos won’t ring any bells. But from 1965 to 1986, Ferdinand was the President and Imelda the First Lady of the Philippines. In those 21 years, Ferdinand, with Imelda’s help, managed to rack up an astonishing record of abuses common to dictators – human rights violations, assassinations, corruption, embezzlement of public funds – and held onto power through the imposition of martial law, the abolition of the constitution, and the appointment of political cronies, including Imelda, a former beauty queen, to prominent posts.

Finally, in 1986, a people’s coup toppled the Marcos regime and the Marcoses were forced to flee their palace and the country. They were given safe passage by the Reagan Administration to Hawaii. In the palace, Imelda left behind 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 888 handbags and 1060 pairs of shoes, some say 2700 pairs. It was estimated that the Marcos family was worth $35 billion.

Three years later, still in exile in Hawaii, Ferdinand was dead at 72 of complications from lupus. Imelda wanted Ferdinand to be buried in the Philippines but his body was refused entry. So Imelda kept the body in a refrigerated mausoleum in Oahu, complete with soft music, wheeling him out over the years for a birthday party and an anniversary celebration. (1) The power company soon threatened to suspend power for the costly tomb when thousands of dollars in electric bills went unpaid but, at the last minute, a friend came forward and picked up the tab.

In 2001, twelve years after his death, the Philippine government allowed Ferdinand’s corpse to return to his homeland and Imelda with it. Imelda went to work building a tomb in the national cemetery where Filipino heroes are buried. But fierce opposition broke out and blocked the former president’s burial. Ferdinand’s remains were then temporarily housed at a mansion in Batac, Ilocos Norte Province, in an air conditioned room. Eventually the corpse was moved to their present location in the Marcos family mausoleum in the village cemetery in Batac.

Former First Lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos kisses the crystal coffin of her deceased husband, former President Ferdinand Marcos

Former First Lady of the Philippines kisses the crystal coffin of her deceased husband, former President Ferdinand Marcos

The once-ruthless dictator is now a shrunken fellow dressed in a barong tagalog and black slacks lying in a glass viewing case inside a refrigerated crypt in a stone room with soft lights and church music. He is on perpetual view. A steady flow of visitors file past him. There his restless corpse will remain, above ground, unless Imelda gets her way and the government relents, according him a government-sponsored burial with full military honors.

A visitor to the mausoleum says that the corpse of Ferdinand Marcos, according to Filipino burial tradition, lies shoeless in the coffin. He swears that Marcos’ face and hands, however, don’t look very natural, even for a corpse. Speculation is that the real corpse is under the glass coffin, and that the figure on display is a dummy. The family claims this is not so, that the corpse looks waxy because it has to be waxed periodically for preservation.

(1) Verdery, Katherine. The Political Lives of Dead Bodies. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000)

 

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