Imelda Marcos Article

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Imelda Marcos
2008 photograph of Imelda Marcos
Imelda Marcos in 2008
10th First Lady of the Philippines
In role
30 December 1965 – 25 February 1986
President Ferdinand Marcos
Preceded by Eva Macapagal
Succeeded byVacant ( Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, de facto)
Member of Parliament
for Region IV (Metro Manila)
In office
12 June 1978 – 5 June 1984
President Ferdinand Marcos
Preceded byOffice created
as members of the National Assembly: Leon G. Guinto, Alfonso E. Mendoza
Succeeded byas Mambabatas Pambansa for Manila: Eva Estrada-Kalaw, Carlos Fernando, Mel Lopez, Gonzalo Puyat II, and Arturo Tolentino
1st Governor of Metro Manila
In office
27 February 1975 – 25 February 1986
President Ferdinand Marcos
Preceded byOffice created
Succeeded by Joey Lina (acting)
Member of the Philippine House of Representatives from Leyte's 1st District
In office
30 June 1995 – 30 June 1998
President Fidel Ramos
Preceded byCirilo Roy Montejo
Succeeded byAlfred Romuáldez
Member of the Philippine House of Representatives from Ilocos Norte's 2nd District
Assumed office
30 June 2010
Preceded by Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Personal details
BornImelda Remedios Romuáldez y Trinidad
(1929-07-02) 2 July 1929 (age 89)
Manila, Philippine Islands
Nationality Filipino
Political party Nacionalista (1965–1978; 2009–present)
Other political
Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (1978–2013)
Spouse(s) Ferdinand Marcos ( m. 1954; d. 1989)
Children Imee Marcos
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Aimee Marcos (adopted)
Irene Marcos
Residence Makati
Musical career
Genres Kundiman
Instruments Vocals
Years active1950–present

Imelda Marcos ( née Romuáldez, born 2 July 1929) is a Filipino socialite, politician, and congresswoman who was First Lady of the Philippines for 21 years, [1] during which she and her husband are estimated to have plundered about US$5-10 billion from the Philippine economy. [2] [3]

She married Ferdinand Marcos in 1954 and became First Lady in 1965 when he became the tenth President of the Philippines. She and her family gained infamy for living a lavish lifestyle during a period of economic crisis and civil unrest in the country. [4] She is particularly known for spending much of her time abroad on state visits, extravagant parties and shopping sprees—so much so that she amassed three thousand pairs of shoes, some of which are now housed in a museum in Marikina, [5] [6] and millions of dollars in jewelry. [7] [8] She is also known for initiating multiple grand architectural projects using public funds. [9] [10]

Increasing unrest springing from the economic collapse of the Philippines in the years after came to a head in February 1986, when the the People Power Revolution unseated the Marcoses and forced the family into exile. [11] In 1991, President Corazon Aquino allowed the Marcos family to return to the Philippines after the 1989 death of Ferdinand Marcos, so that they could face various corruption charges [12] - at least 28 of which were filed against Imelda Marcos from 1991 to 1993. [13] [14] Imelda Marcos was elected four times to the House of Representatives - as a congresswoman for Leyte in 1995 and for Ilocos Norte in 2010, 2013, and 2016.

Amidst the controversies surrounding Imelda Marcos and her family, she remains one of the richest politicians in the Philippines. [15] [16] [17]

In November 2018, she was convicted of corruption involving US$200 million during her term as governor of Metro Manila between 1978 and 1984. [18] [19]

Early life

Birth and family background

Imelda Remedios Visitacion Romuáldez [20] was born at dawn in the San Miguel district of Manila on 2 July 1929. [20] [21][ page needed] Her parents were Vicente Orestes Romuáldez, a lawyer, and his second wife, Remedios Romuáldez. Vicente's first wife, Juanita, had allegedly died of leukaemia on 3 August 1926. Imelda is the sixth of Vicente's eleven children, and Remedios' firstborn. [22][ page needed]

Born into the Romuáldez political dynasty from the province of Leyte, Imelda grew up in a wealthy clan of católicos cerrados (literally, “Closed Catholics”), a local term for strict and devout Latin-Rite Catholics. [21][ page needed] For Imelda's birth, her father hired two physicians and reserved a suite at an extravagant rate of 25 pesos per day. Vicente justified the high cost to relatives by saying, "This child will be important." [20] She was immediately baptized the day after her birth by Monsignor Juan Somera in the nearby San Miguel Church. Her grandmother, Doña Trinidad López de Romuáldez, was the clan matriarch. She and her husband, Daniel Romuáldez Arcilla, were considered the first of the clan to have lived in Tolosa, Leyte, originally for the purpose of Daniel's health, [21][ page needed] but soon became the mark for the flourish of the Romuáldez clan in said municipality.

Some other notable members of Imelda's family are her uncle Norberto Romualdez, who was Philippine Supreme Court Associate Justice and the first of the Romualdezes to achieve national prominence, [21][ page needed] and her younger brother Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez, who served as the Governor of Leyte and also as an ambassador under the Marcos regime.

Early childhood

At the time of her birth, the Romualdezes had the comforts of material prosperity and had the reputation of wealthy Manilans. However, around 1931–1932, [22][ page needed] the financial conditions of Imelda's family began to decline.

Imelda's parents were separated for a time, during which Remedios worked for the nuns at the Asilo de San Vicente de Paul. [22][ page needed] Vicente and Remedios eventually reconciled but to avoid further conflict, she and her children, including Imelda moved to their house's garage. In 1937 after Conchita's birth, Remedios's health began to fail and she died on 7 April 1938 due to double pneumonia. [22][ page needed] In her ten years of marriage, Imelda had five siblings – Benjamin, Alita, Alfredo, Armando and Conchita. [23][ page needed]

On the same year, 1938, [22][ page needed] Imelda's father gave up Manila due to his declining fortunes in his law practice and returned to Tacloban where he could support his family with a simpler lifestyle. Imelda has been claimed to have met General Douglas MacArthur when he landed in Palo, Leyte during the Philippines Campaign in 1944. [23][ page needed] She speaks Tagalog and English, the two official languages of The Philippines, as well as Waray, the regional language of Leyte.



Imelda finished Grade One in the nearby Holy Ghost College, where her older half-sisters also studied. Registration records of the College from school year 1936–1937 showed that Imelda did not enrol again. This disappearance was accounted for by two sets of pictures of Imelda, which were taken at her First Communion at the Holy Infant Academy in Tacloban, Leyte. [22][ page needed]

She continued her early studies at Holy Infant Academy, a convent school run by Benedictine Sisters. The old wooden structure of the school still stands today four blocks away from the Romualdez house. At school, Imelda had to face the fact of her family's humiliating poverty. She was frequently among the students who had to apologize for late payments. [24]

High school

In 1942, the Romualdezes returned to Tacloban, and around that time, Imelda's father refused to let her go back to school. [25] When the Americans came, she lined up with a hundred other young girls in wooden clogs at the Leyte High School, eager to resume her studies. The year was 1944. She finished first year at the provincial high school where she was also chosen Miss I-A; then in her second year. she moved to Holy Infant and stayed there until she graduated. [26]

Imelda continued her higher studies at Holy Infant Academy from 1938 to 1948, the year she graduated from high school. As a student, her scholastic record shows that she had a general average of 80 per cent throughout her primary and high school. [22][ page needed]


Imelda ran for President of the student council at St. Paul's College (now Divine Word University) in 1951, three years before her marriage to Marcos. [21][ page needed] At that time, she was about to graduate with a degree in Education. She was put up as candidate for the Department of Education, which had an enrollment of 800 students. Even during the nomination, her victory was already a foregone conclusion, but the school authorities insisted that another candidate be put up to make the elections a democratic procedure. That was how the College of Law, with 200 students, put up Francisco Pedrosa. [22][ page needed]

While an undergraduate student, taught at a local Chinese high school before graduating in 1952. She had won a scholarship to study music at the Philippine Women's University under Adoracion Reyes, a close friend of the family. She had a job at a music store but left this for a better one at the Central Bank. [27] After a few lessons, Adoracion was convinced Imelda had talent and persuaded her to enroll at the College of Music and Fine Arts at PWU, under a special arrangement that would put her on register while Adoracion would continue to give her free lessons. [21][ page needed]

Early career

Life in Manila with Danieling Romualdez

Imelda Marcos in 1953

She came back to Manila in 1952 during the regime of President Quirino and stayed in the house of her relative, Danieling Romualdez, then Speaker Protempore of the Lower House of Congress, who already had three adopted children. According to the book The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos by Carmen Navarro-Pedrosa, her status in the house of Romualdez was "higher than servants and lower than family members as a poor relative". During one of her father's visits, she was working as a salesgirl in a store called P. E. Domingo. It allegedly infuriated Imelda's father thinking that his two nephews were "selling his daughter". [28]

A college student, a banker

To calm the indignation of Vicente Romualdez, Eduardo and Danieling exercised their political and economic influence to find work for Imelda in the Central Bank where she worked in the Intelligence Division under Braulio Hipuna, the Chief Clerk of the Intelligence Division. She later had vocal lessons in Philippine Women's University and met Adoracion Reyes, a teacher in the College of Music and Fine Arts of Philippine Women's University, who was introduced to her by her cousin, Loreto, and played an important role in getting Imelda to take vocal sessions in the university by providing a chance to get a scholarship. According to Susie Abadilla, who took the same vocal sessions together with Imelda, she was not so friendly, and the reason presumably stemmed from the strict and busy routines back then, and her reluctance to talk about her family and her past. Due to the suggestion of having a performance, which became the first and last performance in a music hall from her cousin, Loreto, in Holy Ghost College, she performed three songs, "Calm is the Night", "Sin Tu Amor", and "False Prophet". [29]

Courtship and marriage to Ferdinand Marcos

Imelda Romualdez-Marcos in 1966.

Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos officially met on 6 April 1954 [30] at the Philippine Congress, during a budget hearing of then President Ramon Magsaysay. Ferdinand was part of the opposition team who led the argument against the budget, [31] while Imelda was there accompanied by her cousin, Paz Romualdez [22][ page needed] to visit her cousin Danieling, who was the Speaker of the House. During a recess, Imelda caught Ferdinand's eye, and he asked his journalist friend José Guevarra of The Manila Times, to introduce him to Imelda. [31][ page needed] At that time, Ferdinand already knew of Imelda and her reputation not only as a member of the prominent Romualdez clan, but also as a party in the Miss Manila Controversy of 1953. Imelda, on the other hand, knew very little of the 36-year-old Congressman, despite his prestige. [22][ page needed] After comparing heights and confirming that he was at least an inch taller than her, [31][ page needed] Ferdinand immediately decided to pursue her in marriage. This began what was later known as the "Eleven-Day Whirlwind", [31][ page needed] where Ferdinand, with the help of Guevarra, courted Imelda for 11 days.

Throughout Holy Week of that year, Ferdinand visited Imelda's house once, and when Imelda claimed that she plans to spend the holidays in Baguio, Ferdinand and Guevarra did not hesitate and offered her a ride up to Danieling's family mansion where she planned to stay, while the two booked a room in nearby Pines. For the remainder of that Holy Week, Ferdinand showered Imelda with flowers and gifts and would visit her daily, prodding her to sign the marriage license that would seal the agreement. [22][ page needed] And on 16 April 1954, Good Friday, after having been asked by Guevarra, allegedly jokingly, if she wanted to be "the First Lady of the Land someday", [31][ page needed] Imelda finally agreed to sign it. Carmen Ortega, the daughter of the powerful Ortega Dynasty of La Union who was Ferdinand's common-law wife before meeting Imelda, was quietly taken out of the public eye. [32] [33][ page needed] On 17 April 1954, Ferdinand and Imelda were secretly married by a reluctant [22][ page needed] Francisco Chanco, a judge befriended by Ferdinand, who lived in the area. Only after receiving the blessing of Vicente Orestes, Imelda's father, which Ferdinand asked via telegram on Easter Sunday, did the two wed in church. Their wedding, held on 1 May 1954, was at the San Miguel Pro-Cathedral in Manila where Imelda was christened. [31][ page needed]

Role in Ferdinand Marcos's 1965 presidential campaign

Imelda Romualdez-Marcos with former President Ferdinand Marcos and family during the 1965 inauguration

Ferdinand Marcos was aided by his wife in his political campaigns. Imelda used her charismatic appeal to get votes for her husband. [22][ page needed]

Marcos initially needed to win votes of the delegates of the Nacionalista Party for the presidential candidacy. Imelda assumed the managerial position in her husband's campaign. [22][ page needed] The other candidates of the party noted her enthusiasm during the campaign; she met with and befriended every single delegate of the 1,347 who would have a say in the Nacionalista Party Convention. [22][ page needed] She would talk with each of them, visit them in their own homes, and attend gatherings such as birthday parties, anniversaries, and weddings. Of all the presidential candidates' wives, Imelda was the only one who went through a detailed and personal campaign for her husband. [21][ page needed] On 21 November 1964, Ferdinand Marcos won the presidential nomination for the Nacionalista Party. [23][ page needed]

Imelda also managed to convince Fernando Lopez to accept the vice-presidential nomination along with presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos. [22][ page needed] She first invited Lopez to personally meet with her in his suite. Lopez accepted the invite but preferred to talk with her in her suite instead. To persuade Lopez, her methods include appealing to Lopez's sympathy by telling him the struggles that she and Ferdinand faced during the campaign for Ferdinand's nomination and how she feels being abandoned by Lopez. Lopez refused multiple times until Imelda cried in front of him. Imelda then proceeded to hand him and make him sign a document stating that he accepts the nomination as the Nacionalista vice-presidential candidate. [21][ page needed]

During the presidential election itself, she delivered votes from the southern province of Leyte, and Manila. She was especially popular with the poor. [22][ page needed] Imelda also used her voice to appeal to voters, singing during campaigns. Her songs are usually varieties of local folk songs. [22][ page needed]

Imelda also led the "Blue Ladies", a group initially composed of wives of political men in the Nacionalista Party. The "Blue Ladies" initially numbered about two dozen. When Ferdinand won the nomination, they swelled into a hundred. The unofficial chairman was Pacita Gonzalez. [23][ page needed] Formed during Christmas season of 1965, the members helped Imelda during campaigns by contributing funds and providing publicity. [21][ page needed] The campaigns led by Imelda Marcos's "Blue Ladies" highlighted personal touch by organizing teas and receptions. They visited factories and farms to shake hands and have small conversations with the voters, making door-to-door appeals in the slum areas. They also utilized the new innovation brought into politics that year by buying radio and television time in order to campaign for Marcos through the use of little speeches for the voters. The cost was not a problem for Marcos seeing as how most of its members were composed of prominent matrons and/or beautiful youthful girls married to men of means. [34]

Marcos strategists took advantage of Imelda's exceptional charm and youth by incorporating these and her other striking qualities into the presidential candidate's overall tone for the Marcos-led Nacionalista campaign. They were able to use her by attracting normal folk from their daily activities to attend a Marcos rally to see the "beautiful wife of Marcos" themselves. The mere mention of Imelda attending a rally would make people attend the rally and scamper for a place near the stage, not to listen to the speeches, but rather just to see the lovely wife of Ferdinand Marcos. She was asked by the Marcos aides to always appear in public at all times at her best regardless of the type of audience. An integral part of their strategy was for Imelda to wear her standard ternos as part of the campaign design. [34]

Ferdinand acknowledged that she delivered the one million vote margin he needed to be elected. [35][ page needed]

The presidential campaign, as described by publicists, was the point at which Imelda became influential as a political figure. She would later be dubbed by a foreign journalist as "the iron butterfly," after Imelda's description of herself as "a butterfly breaking out of its cocoon" — from a political neophyte to her husband Ferdinand's political partner. [22][ page needed]

As First Lady, Imelda Marcos was summoned more than once from the Palace in order to campaign for her husband and Nacionalista candidates 1985 presidential elections and during the 1967 senatorial and local elections as its results were of importance for the results of the succeeding 1969 presidential election. [36] This was based on what had happened to former President Diosdado Macapagal wherein the defeat of his Senate candidates had presaged his own fall on the following election. Marcos concentrated his efforts in Cebu which indicated that he felt that his most serious rival would be Senator Sergio Osmeña, Jr. Marcos used the First Lady as his special ace and made her campaign in Cebu using her glamor and charm among the Cebuanos. In the 1985 & 1969 presidential elections, Ferdinand even called Imelda Marcos as his "secret weapon." [36] Through the combined efforts of the President and First Lady, they were able to repudiate the leadership of Osmena in his own province. All eight Senatorial candidates of the Nacionalista party in Cebu won and 47 out of 49 Cebu towns were captured by the Marcos-led Nacionalistas. [34]

Imelda knew that her husband Ferdinand Marcos had dreamed of becoming the president of the Philippines ever since he was a congressman. One reason Marcos married Imelda, aside from her physical charms, was because she was a Romualdez—an aristocrat. Imelda's beauty, as well as her background, was appreciated to a great extent by Marcos and Marcos believed she would not only add light to his daily life but also to his political career.

Imelda, coming from a family who practiced a simple lifestyle, had initial difficulties adjusting to her husband's extravagant lifestyle. She once complained that she was only earning a hundred and twenty pesos a month despite her hard labor. To this, Marcos laughed and said that it was her fault that she was working hard only for such an amount. This was a turning point for Imelda to no longer feel guilty about spending money. From then on, she pushed herself to extreme luxury. [37]

Imelda was expected to be sophisticated, elegant, and well versed by her husband. Marcos knew that having a supportive wife, a trophy that he could be proud of, would gain him more supporters as well as votes. Imelda began dressing herself with expensive clothes and made every effort to become the person whom her husband wanted her to be. [38]

In her efforts to be the perfect wife, she was often criticised for trying too hard, but at the same time, she became a subject of envy for fellow politicians' wives. Imelda learned how to get people's attention and to focus it on both her and her husband. She reached out to every single person who was seen as essential in Marcos's campaign. Her efforts were not original, but extraordinary. No other politicians' wives shook hands with all the delegates, visited their homes, genuinely understood their concerns, aside from Imelda. She bombarded them with gifts when necessary. [39]

Not only was Imelda good with people, she was also a skilled mediator who mended broken relationships that occurred with Marcos. During Marcos's presidency in the Nacionalista Party, Fernando Lopez, back then Marcos's vice presidential running mate, was unwilling to continue his political career. Marcos asked Imelda to help him mend ties with Lopez, and Imelda burst into tears in order to convince Lopez that he should run as the Nacionalista vice presidential candidate. [40]

By the time Marcos was campaigning to become President, Imelda's influence in Marcos's political career was crucial. Her husband may have been a good tactician, but it was Imelda's determination and popularity that ensured votes for him. Marcos heavily relied on Imelda, and as time passed, Imelda was no longer a clone of Marcos. Instead, she had become his political partner. [41]

Roles during the Marcos presidency

Imelda Marcos at the Bataan Death March Memorial

The 1965 Inauguration

Ferdinand Marcos was elected as the 10th President of the Philippines on 9 November 1965. [42] When he was inaugurated on 30 December 1965, Imelda officially became the First Lady.

The Romualdez clan had been torn apart by the presidential campaign. To fix this, Imelda allegedly sent out invitations to family members, some of whom supported the opposing party, and told them they were all welcome at their house in Ortega. [23][ page needed]

Before the Marcoses' departure for the inauguration ceremonies, they held mass in the courtyard of their house in Ortega Street, San Juan. Imelda invited an old German priest, Father Albert Ganzewinkel, who had been her favorite teacher at St. Paul in Tacloban, to hold the mass. [23][ page needed] Ferdinand and Imelda then went to the Luneta Park for the inauguration ceremonies and were seated at the very center of the Luneta grandstand. They were surrounded by foreign dignitaries and government officials. Allegedly, a mass of anonymous men and women attended the ceremony to glimpse the beauty of the new First Lady. After the ceremony, she was described as someone with "such dignity, such regality." [21][ page needed]

At night, a state dinner hosted 60 guests in the reception hall of the Malacañang Palace. [23][ page needed]

Public roles during the first Marcos term (1965–1969)

Imelda had her own office in Malacañang, known as the "Music Room", where she received her callers. Here she met various cabinet members, heads of financing institutions, leaders of business communities, etc. She also had established her own foundation which contributed to her numerous projects which were further explained in a pamphlet called "The Compassionate Society." At first, Imelda did the duties expected of a First Lady, the examples set aside by her predecessors. She graced a fashion show, inaugurated a bank, attended the army ladies' tea.

Edifice Complex

Cultural Center of the Philippines
Cultural Center of the Philippines

In 1966, Ferdinand Marcos issued Executive Order No. 60, establishing the Cultural Center of the Philippines and appointing its board of directors. The board would elect Imelda as chairperson, giving her the legal mandate to negotiate and manage funds for the center. [43] [44]

The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex (CCP) is considered the premier symbol of Imelda's unrelenting efforts. [22][ page needed] It was designed by Architect Leandro Locsin, and was built on a reclaimed land along Roxas Boulevard, Manila and covered an area of about 21 hectares. Ninety thousand pesos was granted by the Philippine-American Culture Foundation for its construction [23][ page needed] and was aided with funds from the Cultural Development Fund and the Special Fund for Education. [45] Upon completion, however, it amounted to Php 50 million — a 50 000% increase from the original budget. [22][ page needed] Although it is notable that prices of the construction materials such as cement, steel, and tiles increased by 30–40 per cent within this time frame, the escalation in the increase of the expenditures are highly questionable. She called the CCP Complex the "sanctuary of the Filipino soul", as it became the locus of all state-initiated cultural productions. [45]

Social welfare projects

In May 1966, Imelda pushed through with campaigning for social welfare. Her plan was to pool together all the social welfare efforts of several dozen social welfare groups. Imelda wanted to build welfare villages to meet the needs of children with problems, and reorient a personnel to staff the villages. The scheme called for 12 million pesos. In November 1966, the cornerstone for the Reception and Study Center in Quezon City was laid. Until 1968, other villages were built: Marilla Hills in Alabang, the Children's Orphanage in Pasay City, the Molave Village in Tanay, a Home for the Aged in Quezon City, and the Philippine Village at the Manila International Airport. [46]

Imelda launched the Maligayang Pasko Drive, a children's festival on Christmas of 1966. The helpers were college students and members of the "Blue Ladies." She spent PHP 50,000 in 1966, PHP 75,000 in 1967, and PHP 150,000 in 1968. [23][ page needed]

Mid-year of 1967, Imelda started the Seed Dispersal Program or Share for Progress [47] a project that suggested making vegetable gardens out of idle lots all over the country. by 1968, 309,392 kits containing seeds were distributed in over 1500 towns. [23][ page needed]

Beautification projects

In the first three years of being First Lady, she spent PHP 1 million for the beautification of the Paco Cemetery and 24 million for the beautification of Fort Santiago. She gives 140,000 pesos yearly in prizes for nationwide beautification contests. She set aside 150,000 pesos for an open-air museum in St. Ana Church diggings. For the restoration of the Intramuros gates, Imelda was given PHP 150,000 by the government. [23][ page needed]

Public roles during the second Marcos term (1969–1972)

In July 1974, the annual Ms. Universe pageant was held in Manila, to which then First Lady Imelda Marcos allegedly spent PHP 40 million (USD 5.5 million) for the renovation of all public and private infrastructures throughout Manila, and the other cities in which the Ms. Universe pageant participants were subsequently toured.

Imelda also established a network of Philippine Centers in major cities abroad such as New York City, Canberra, Hong Kong, and San Francisco.

Foreign relations

Lyndon B. Johnson and Imelda Marcos dancing
Marcos visit to Thailand
First Lady Imelda Marcos with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

Since the President hardly left the Malacañang Palace, Ferdinand increasingly sent his wife on official visits to other countries as a de facto vice president. [22][ page needed]

When the Marcoses went to the United States in September 1966, President Johnson offered Imelda the Philippine war damage claims totaling USD 28 million. President Johnson agreed to have USD 3.5 million be used as funds for the Cultural Center, one of Imelda's projects.

For the inauguration of the CCP, a gala opening of the Golden Salakot, a pageant-drama of a story about the prehistory of the Philippines, occurred on 8 September 1969. America's President Nixon was invited but instead Ronald Reagan, California's Governor, along with his wife, flew to the country using the Air Force One for the event. There were accounts that the First Lady attempted to bring other celebrities through getting them tickets to ride the Air Force One but she was denied this luxury by President Nixon. Accounts have also mentioned that this trip of the then California's Governor and wife led to the closeness of the Reagans and Marcoses. [48]

In 1971, Imelda attended Iran's celebration of the founding of the Persian Empire. This trip, according to palace insiders, provided her with a social introduction to some of the world's wealthiest people. In the same year, she initiated the first of many trips to Russia; it was dubbed as "cultural missions" but eventually led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and the Philippines. [22][ page needed]

In 1975, after the assassination of King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, Imelda wanted to extend the official condolences. Women were not welcome in the Saudi court, but Imelda, through her connection to the surgeon who previously performed a heart surgery on the new king, managed to be the first woman guest to be honored. [22][ page needed]

Private life during the first two Marcos terms


Ferdinand had been involved in affairs after marrying Imelda Marcos. Ferdinand's most public affair was with American actress Dovie Beams in 1966. While staying in one of the President's safe houses, she recorded her affair with the President. These tapes were later played in a press conference, causing great humiliation for Imelda. They stayed married through a deal; Imelda had free rein on her projects in exchange for delivering votes for Ferdinand in the second election. [22][ page needed]

Social life

Blue Ladies

Imelda would often ask members of the Blue Ladies to accompany her on her trips out of the country. Imelda would also help some of the members in their investments and own businesses. [22][ page needed] One of her most famous socialite friends was Cristina Ford. [22][ page needed]

Imelda's Blue Ladies—specifically Maria Luisa, a daughter of the rich Madrigal family and the wife of Dr. Vasquez—contributed to the fashion spending of Imelda. In 1968, Maria Luisa accompanied Imelda on an overseas trip, during which Imelda and daughter Imee spent $3.3 million. It was also at this time that Dr. Daniel Vasquez and Maria Luisa opened a Citibank account. In November 1968, the couple added Fernanda Vazquez as a joint holder of the bank account. An allegation that Imelda and Fernanda Vasquez are one and the same is validated by the fact that the notations for the bank account had Imelda Marcos's handwriting. [48]

Beatles incident

On 4 July 1966, The First Lady also invited The Beatles to perform for a private affair in the Palace but the invitation was rejected. An order to lock down the Manila International Airport was executed as a result of the rejection. This resulted in mobs surging to the personal space of The Beatles. There were also reports that their manager was issued a PHP 100,000 tax assessment. [48] [49] [50](p200)

Accusation of bribery in Constitutional Convention

Early September 1972, former ambassador to Japan Eduardo Quintero accused Imelda of bribing the convention members. In the stress following the accusations and media circus, Imelda suffered a miscarriage. Later, this was revealed to be a hoax to avoid Quintero's charges. According to Ellison, this was "an eloquent example of the lengths to which Imelda would go to support [Ferdinand] and her ambition." [31]

Imelda's actions preceding martial law

Meeting of the Marcoses and the Nixons in 1969 at the Malacañang Palace

In Ferdinand's diary preceding May, he revealed that he and Imelda were planning to wager all their power and wealth "on a single throw of the dice of fate for the sake of the people and the Republic." [31]

On the eve of 5 September 1972, tourism minister Manuel Elizalde called each member of Manila's foreign press corps to a party. Imelda arrived at the party, allegedly rambling about democracy and how only the Americans could afford it. [31] On that same day, Martial Law was announced. Ferdinand stated the purpose of the Martial Law was to create a "New Society" with reformed institutions, no inequalities, corruption, or crime. Imelda called it "martial law with a smile." [31] Days after the announcement, a warrant of arrest was issued for Amelita Cruz, author of the "you-know-who" columns on Imelda. Cruz was told that the orders "came directly from the music room," Imelda's palace study. [31]

Public roles during martial law (1972–1981)

As First Lady during martial law, she became influential. [51] [52] She stirred controversy after an assassination attempt against her occurred on 7 December 1972, when an assailant tried to stab her with a bolo knife but was shot by the police. [53]The motive appeared to have been her role in her husband's presidency but human rights dissidents believed it was staged by the government. [54] [55]

Marcos orchestrated public events using national funds to bolster her and her husband's image. [56] [57] She secured the Miss Universe 1974 pageant in Manila, [58] which required the construction of the Folk Arts Theater in less than three months. [59] [60] She organized the Kasaysayan ng Lahi, [61] a festival showcasing Philippine history. [61] She also initiated social programs, such as the Green Revolution, [62] which was intended to address hunger by encouraging the people to plant produce in household gardens, [62] and created a national family-planning program. [63] In 1972 she took control of the distribution of a bread ration called Nutribun, which actually came from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). [64] [65]

In 1978, she was appointed a member of the Interim Batasang Pambansa (National Congress) representing Region IV-A. [66] She was also appointed as Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary, [67] allowing her to tour the United States, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Cuba. [68] [67] [69] Throughout her travels, she became friends with Richard Nixon, [70] Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, and Joseph Tito. [67] [69] She traveled to Iraq to secure oil and to Libya for a peace treaty with the Moro National Liberation Front. [67] [71]

Imelda Marcos held the position of Minister of Human Settlements, allowing her to construct the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Philippine Heart Center, the Lung Center of the Philippines, the Philippine International Convention Center, the Coconut Palace, the Manila Film Center, [72] and the Calauit Safari Park. [73] She purchased property in Manhattan in the 1980s, including the US$51 million Crown Building, [74] [75] the Woolworth Building in 40 Wall Street, and the US$60 million Herald Centre. [76] She declined to buy the Empire State Building because she felt it was "too ostentatious." [77] [78]

Dealing with Benigno Aquino

In 1980, Imelda Marcos was instrumental in the exile of opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr., who had suffered a heart attack during his imprisonment. [79] Aquino wanted to go to the United States for medical treatment. This was arranged after a secret hospital visit by Imelda Marcos. Aquino supposedly agreed to her conditions that he would return to the Philippines, and he would not speak out against the Marcos regime in the US. Having made a quick recovery in the US, Aquino decided to renounce the agreement with Imelda Marcos saying, "a pact with the devil is no pact at all". [80]

Martial law in the Philippines was later lifted in 1981 but Ferdinand Marcos continued to be president. [81][ page needed][ incomplete short citation] While her husband began to suffer from lupus, Imelda effectively ruled in his place. [82][ page needed][ incomplete short citation] Aquino returned in 1983 but was assassinated at the Manila International Airport upon his arrival. [83] With accusations against her beginning to rise, Ferdinand created the Agrava Commission, a fact-finding committee, to investigate her, ultimately finding her not guilty. [84] [85] [86]

Downfall of Marcos

On 7 February 1986, snap elections were held between Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino, the widow of Benigno Aquino Jr. [81][ page needed][ incomplete short citation] Despite Ferdinand Marcos claiming to have won the elections, allegations of vote rigging led to mass protests that would be later known as the People Power Revolution. [81]

On 25 February, Ferdinand Marcos with his wife Imedlda by his side still held the inauguration at Malacañang Palace. The couple later emerged on the Palace balcony in front of a loyalist crowd. The First Lady Imelda Marcos tearfully gave a farewell rendition of the couple's theme song in Tagalog, "Dahil Sa Iyo" (Because of You):

Because of you, I became happy
Loving I shall offer you
If it is true, I shall be enslaved by you
All of this because of you. [87]

Later that day, the Marcos family was eventually forced to flee the country to Hawaii. After Imedlda left Malacañang Palace, she was found to have left behind 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 888 handbags, and many pairs of shoes. [88] Some news reports estimated that there were up to 7,500 pairs, [89] but Time magazine reported that the final tally was only 1,060. [88] The US government documented that Marcos family entered the USA with millions of dollars in cash, stocks, jewelries, and gold bricks inscribed "To my husband on our 24th anniversary". [90]

Post-exile careers

Imelda's husband Ferdinand died in Honolulu in 1989. On 4 November 1991, Imelda and her children were allowed to return to the Philippines by President Corazon Aquino after living in exile in Hawaii for more than 5 years. [91] [92]

As politician

In 1992, Imelda ran for president in the presidential elections on 11 May 1992, finishing 5th out of 7 candidates. [93]

On 8 May 1995, she was elected as a congresswoman of Leyte, representing the first district, despite facing a disqualification lawsuit in which the Supreme Court ruled in her favor. [94]

She sought the presidency again on 11 May 1998, but later withdrew to support the eventual winner Joseph Estrada and she finished 9th among 11 candidates. [95] [96]

Imelda ran for the second district of Ilocos Norte in the elections on 10 May 2010 to replace her son, [97] Ferdinand Jr., who ran for Senate under the Nacionalista Party. [98] [99] During her term, she held the position of Millennium Development Goals chairwoman in the Lower House. [100] [101]

She won re-election on 14 May 2013 in a bid to renew her term. [102] [103] On 9 May 2016, she was re-elected again for her third and final term. [104] [105]

As businesswoman

In November 2006, Imelda started her own business, a fashion label "Imelda Collection" including jewelry, clothing and shoes. [106] [107]

Major court cases

As the First Lady and a politician, Mrs. Marcos has been involved in many court cases against her in the Philippines and abroad.

1988 racketeering case (Manhattan)

In October 1988, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, [108] together with eight associates (including Adnan Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian businessman and weapons smuggler believed to have been involved with her husband's regime), were indicted by a federal grand jury in Manhattan on charges of racketeering, [109] conspiracy, fraud and obstruction of justice. [110] [111] Tobacco heiress Doris Duke posted $5 million bail for the former First Lady. [112] [113] The Marcos couple's defense team was led by criminal defense attorney Gerry Spence. [114] [115] Actor George Hamilton, an unindicted co-conspirator, testified at trial under a grant of immunity, acknowledging that he had received a $5.5-million loan from an associate of hers. [116] In July 1990, following a three-month trial, she was acquitted of all charges. [115] By that time, Ferdinand had died in exile in Hawaii on 28 September 1989. [84] [117] [118]

Corruption cases in the Philippines

Upon the Marcos family's return to the Philippines in the early 1990s, 28 criminal cases were filed against Mrs. Marcos by the Philippines' Office of the Ombudsman from 1991 to 1995. These included cases of graft and malversation of public funds. [13]

In 1993, Marcos was convicted on a graft case. However, this was overturned by the Appelate Court in 2008, [119] [120] and the reversal was upheld by the Philippine Supreme Court in 2018 [121] because of technical issues with the evidence. [122]

In 2011, the Sandiganbayan's Fifth Division ordered her to return US$280,000 in government funds taken by her and her husband from the National Food Authority. [123]

2018 Swiss foundation cases convictions

In 1991, Marcos was indicted on ten corruption charges in the Philippines' anti-graft court, the Sandiganbayan. [124]

Twenty-seven years later, on 9 November 2018, she was acquitted on three counts and convicted on seven counts of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for funneling roughly USD 200 million to various Swiss foundations while she was still serving as governor of Metro Manila in the 1970s. [121] She was sentenced to prison terms ranging from six to eleven years for each count - totalling a minimum of 42 years and 7 months, and a maximum of 77 years. [125]

The Sandiganbayan also disqualified Marcos, a representative for the first district of Ilocos Norte and a candidate for governor of the same province, from holding any public office. [121] However if she appeals, the sanction will no go into immediate effect. [121]

Marcos intends to appeal her conviction [126] and to request bail during the appellate process. [127] [121] The form of appeal is a "motion for reconsideration" to the Sandiganbayan, and she has fifteen days from the date of conviction to file it. [126]

Unexplained wealth

photograph of Imelda Marcos
Marcos viewing the aftermath of the 2006 Southern Leyte mudslide

Marcos allegedly owned assets worth US$10 billion. [2] On one occasion, she spent $2,000 on chewing gum at the San Francisco International Airport and, on another, she forced a plane to do a U-turn mid-air just because she forgot to buy cheese in Rome. [78] Her collection of shoes [128] [129] [130] now lies partly in the National Museum of the Philippines and partly in a shoe museum in Marikina. [131] [132] [133] Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) damaged her ancestral home in Tacloban, which also serves as a museum, [134] although she still retains homes in Ilocos Norte and Makati, where she resides. [16]

She allegedly owns Swiss bank accounts under the pseudonym " Jane Ryan". [135] [136] Her claimed fortune came from Yamashita's gold, a semi-mythical treasure trove that is widely believed in the Philippines to be part of the Japanese loot in World War II. [137] [138] Her property used to include jewels and a 175-piece art collection, [139] which included works by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Canaletto, Raphael, [140] as well as Monet's L'Église et La Seine à Vétheuil (1881), Alfred Sisley's Langland Bay (1887), and Albert Marquet's Le Cyprès de Djenan Sidi Said (1946). [141] [142]

Switzerland's federal tribunal ruled in December 1990 that cash in Swiss banks would only be returned to the Philippine government if a Philippine court convicted her. [143] [144] [145] In March 2008, a judge in Manila in the Philippines acquitted her of 32 counts of illegal transfers of funds to Swiss bank accounts between 1968 and 1976, determining that the government had failed to prove its case. [146] In 2012, she declared her net worth to be US$22 million and she was listed as the second-richest Filipino politician behind boxer and politician Manny Pacquiao. [147] [148] [149]

On 17 October 2013, the attempted sale of two Claude Monet paintings, [150] L'Eglise de Vetheuil and Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas, became the subject of a legal case in New York against Vilma Bautista, a one-time aide to Imelda Marcos. [151] [152] Bautista was sentenced in 2014 to 2–6 years in prison for attempting to sell "valuable masterpieces that belonged to her country". [153] [154] [155] On 13 January 2014, three collections of Imelda Marcos's jewelry: [156] the Malacanang collection, the Roumeliotes collection, and the Hawaii collection; along with paintings by Claude Monet were seized by the Philippine government. [157] [158] In 2015, a rare pink diamond worth $5 million was discovered in her jewelry collection. [159] [160] On 16 February 2016, the government of the Philippines announced that the three collections, valued at about $21 million, were to be auctioned off before the end of Benigno Aquino III's term on 30 June 2016. [161] [162] In October 2015, Imelda Marcos still faced 10 criminal charges of graft and 25 civil cases in the Philippines. [163]

Cultural influence and portrayals in media


The late 1980s, the revelation that Imelda Marcos had "amassed a huge collection of art, jewellery, property and - most famously - at least 1,000 pairs of shoes," [164] had turned her into a household name, frequently compared to Marie Antoinette of France, [165] [166] except "with shoes." [167]

This led to the coining of the Philippine English adjective "Imeldific," [168] to describe

‘anything exaggeratedly ostentatious or in bad taste’, referring to clothing, architecture, décor, etc." [169]

It also refers to people who have "the Imelda Marcos syndrome" - tending to be extravagant and not being afraid to flaunt it, [170] or to describe a lifestyle of "ostentatious extravagance". [171]

It has also come to be used in International English, with dictionary writer and Atlantic columnist Anne Soukhanov expounding on the "ostentatious extravagance" etymology. [172] In popular international media, the Sydney Morning Herald's Jackie Dent sums up the meaning of the word simply by saying it "means to be ... well, like Imelda." [14]

The coining of term is often attributed to Imelda Marcos describing, [171] [173] although it was used by People Magazine's Carlos Lopez as early as April 1986, [174] when he said:

Well, at least Mrs. Marcos has made a significant contribution to our lexicon. To call something "imeldific" would describe it as a shameless and vulgar extravagance. [174]

Imelda famously referenced the coining of the term in a 1988 with the U.S. News & World Report, [175] saying

They’ll list my name in the dictionary someday. They’ll use Imeldific to mean ostentatious extravagance.” [175]

She once again acknowledged the term in a 1995 inteview with United Press International [173] in which she is quoted saying

"I try to beautify the country—they call it extravagance, frivolity. They laugh at me and call me 'Imeldific,' meaning extravagant, frivolous and excessive." [173]

Influence on Philippine fashion

Marcos influenced fashion in the Philippines, [84] [176] [177] although her role as a patroness of the arts and fashion is still controversial. [178] [179] [180]

In Music, Film, and other performance arts

The second track of Mark Knopfler's 1996 album Golden Heart is a sardonic song about her. [181] She was the subject of the 2003 documentary film, Imelda. [182] [183] [184] In 2010, British producer Fatboy Slim and musician David Byrne released a concept album about her life called Here Lies Love, [185] which later became a rock musical. [186] In Manila, local performance artist Carlos Celdran performs his Living La Vida Imelda walking tour, [176] [187] which was also performed in Dubai during 2012. [188] [189] Filipino-American drag artist Manila Luzon impersonated Mrs. Marcos in the "Snatch Game" challenge in the third season of RuPaul's Drag Race. [190]

Foreign recognition


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External links

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Evangelina Macapagal
First Lady of the Philippines
Title next held by
Amelita Ramos
Preceded by
as office created
Governor of Manila
Succeeded by
Jejomar Binay
as Chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA)
House of Representatives of the Philippines
Preceded by
Cirilo Roy C. Montejo
Member of the House of Representatives from Leyte's 1st district
Succeeded by
Alfred S. Romualdez
Preceded by
Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
Member of the House of Representatives from Ilocos Norte's 2nd district