Imelda Marcos

Imelda Romualdez Marcos[2] (born Imelda Trinidad Romualdez; July 2, 1929) is a Filipino politician who was First Lady of the Philippines for 21 years,[3] during which she and her husband are widely believed to have illegally amassed a multi-billion US dollar personal fortune,[4][5][6][7] the bulk of which still remains unrecovered.[8] Her fortune was estimated to be at $24bn in 1979, and today is estimated to be at least $30bn.

Imelda Marcos
Member of the Philippine House of Representatives from Ilocos Norte's 2nd District
In office
30 June 2010  30 June 2019
Preceded byBongbong Marcos
Succeeded byAngelo M. Barba
Member of the Philippine House of Representatives from Leyte's 1st District
In office
30 June 1995  30 June 1998
Preceded byCirilo Roy Montejo
Succeeded byAlfred Romuáldez
Member of Parliament
for Region IV (Metro Manila)
In office
12 June 1978  5 June 1984
PresidentFerdinand 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
PresidentFerdinand Marcos
Preceded byOffice created
Succeeded byJoey Lina (acting)
10th First Lady of the Philippines
In role
30 December 1965  25 February 1986
PresidentFerdinand Marcos
Preceded byEva Macapagal
Succeeded byVacant (Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, de facto)
Personal details
Imelda Remedios Romuáldez-López y Trinidad

(1929-07-02) July 2, 1929
Manila, Philippine Islands
Political partyNacionalista (1965–1978; 2009–present)
Other political
Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (1978–2013)
Ferdinand Marcos
(m. 1954; died 1989)
ChildrenImee Marcos
Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
Irene Marcos
Aimee Marcos (adopted)
Net worth 923.8 million (Dec 2018)[1]

She married Ferdinand Marcos in 1954 and became First Lady in 1965 when he became President of the Philippines.[9] Her behaviour of initiating numerous grand architectural projects using public funds,[10][11] came to be described in common parlance as Imeldific.[12][13]

She and her family gained notoriety for living a lavish lifestyle during a period of economic crisis and civil unrest in the country.[14] She spent much of her time abroad on state visits, extravagant parties, and shopping sprees, and spent much of the State's money on her personal jewelry and shoe collections.[15] Her collection of over 3,000 pairs of luxury shoes[16] earned her the sobriquet "Marie Antoinette, with shoes."

The People Power Revolution in February 1986 unseated the Marcoses and forced the family into exile.[17] In 1991, President Corazon Aquino allowed the Marcos family to return to the Philippines after the 1989 death of Ferdinand Marcos.[18][19][20] Imelda Marcos was elected four times to the House of Representatives.[21]

She, along with her husband Ferdinand, are famous for holding the Guinness World Record for the Greatest Robbery of a Government.[22][23] In November 2018, she was convicted of corruption charges for her activities some forty years earlier, during her term as governor of Manila.[24][25]

Early life

Birth and family background

Imelda Remedios Visitacion Romuáldez[26] was born at dawn in the San Miguel district of Manila on 2 July 1929.[26] Her parents were Vicente Orestes Romuáldez, a lawyer, and his second wife, Remedios Trinidad. Imelda is the sixth of Vicente's eleven children, and Remedios's firstborn.[27]

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.[28] 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."[26] 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.

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,[28] 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, the financial conditions of Imelda's family began to decline.[29][9]

Imelda's parents were separated for a time, during which Remedios worked for the nuns at the Asilo de San Vicente de Paul.[29] 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.[29] In her ten years of marriage, Imelda had five siblings – Benjamin, Alita, Alfredo, Armando and Conchita.[30]

On the same year, 1938,[29] 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. 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.

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.[31]

High school

In 1942, the Romualdezes returned to Tacloban, and around that time, Imelda's father refused to let her go back to school.[32] 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.[33]

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.[29]


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.[28] 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.[29]

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.[34] 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.[28]i

Early career

Life in Manila with Daniel Romualdez

Imelda came back to Manila in 1952 during the regime of President Quirino and stayed in the house of her relative, House of Representatives Speaker Pro tempore Daniel Romualdez, who had three adopted children. Imelda's status in the house of Romualdez during this time has been described as "higher than servants and lower than family members as a poor relative". Imelda found work as a salesgirl in a store called P. E. Domingo, which infuriated her father when he learned during one of his visits, perceiving it as ill treatment of Imelda.[35]

Work at the Central Bank Intelligence Division and lessons at the Philippine Women's University

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 under Braulio Hipuna, the Chief Clerk of the Intelligence Division.[36](p143–144)

During this time her cousin Loreto Ramos introduced her to Adoracion Reyes, a teacher from the College of Music and Fine Arts of Philippine Women's University (PWU), who gave her vocal lessons and a chance to get a PWU scholarship. She later sang three songs at a performance with her cousin Loreto at Holy Ghost College.[37]

Imelda also joined the 1953 Miss Manila beauty pageant. The results became controversial, resulting in both Imelda and Ms. Norma Jimenez being declared Manila's candidate to the larger Miss Philippines pageant.[38] Both of them eventually lost to Cristina Galang.[39]

Courtship and marriage to Ferdinand Marcos

Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos officially met on 6 April 1954[40] 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,[41] while Imelda was there accompanied by her cousin, Paz Romualdez[29] 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.[41] 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.[29] After comparing heights and confirming that he was at least an inch taller than her,[41] Ferdinand immediately decided to pursue her in marriage. This began what was later known as the "Eleven-Day Whirlwind",[41] 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.[29] 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",[41] 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.[42][43] On 17 April 1954, Ferdinand and Imelda were secretly married by a reluctant[29] 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.[41]

The path to Malacañang

The 1965 presidential campaign

Ferdinand Marcos was aided by his wife in his political campaigns. Imelda used her charismatic appeal to get votes for her husband.[44](p125)

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.[29] 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.[29] 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.[28] On 21 November 1964, Ferdinand Marcos won the presidential nomination for the Nacionalista Party.[30]

Imelda also managed to convince Fernando Lopez to accept the vice-presidential nomination along with presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos.[45](p507) 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.[45](p507)

During the presidential election itself, she delivered votes from the southern province of Leyte, and Manila. She was especially popular with the poor.[29] Imelda also used her voice to appeal to voters, singing during campaigns. Her songs are usually varieties of local folk songs.[29]

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.[46]

Ferdinand acknowledged that she delivered the one million vote margin he needed to be elected.[47]

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.[29]

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.[48] 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."[48] 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.[46]

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.[49]

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.[50]

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.[51]

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.[52]

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.[53]

The 1965 Inauguration

Ferdinand Marcos was elected as the 10th President of the Philippines on 9 November 1965.[54] 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.[30]

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.[30] 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."[28]

At night, a state dinner hosted 60 guests in the reception hall of the Malacañang Palace.[30]

The first Marcos term (1965–1969)

Imelda began Ferdinand Marcos's first term doing the duties traditionally expected of a First Lady, mostly social events and public appearances.[55] Imelda became a power broker. Receptions at her offices in the Malacañang "Music Room" were sought after by cabinet members, heads of financing institutions, and business leaders who felt that she had Ferdinand's ear.[56]

A year later in March 1966, Marcos established the Cultural Center of the Philippines through Executive Order No. 60, and arranged for Imelda to be elected chairman of the board[57][58] in a bid to change the perception that she was just another "politician's wife."[55]

The Blue Ladies

The "Blue Ladies", a group initially composed of wives of political men in the Nacionalista Party, had played a critical role during Marcos's 1965 campaign.[46] They contributed funds and provided publicity, giving the campaign a personal touch by visiting 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.[46]

Upon becoming First Lady, Imelda often asked 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.[29] One of her most famous socialite friends was Cristina Ford.[29]

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.[59]

Social events and beautification projects

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 enacted as a result of the rejection. This resulted in mobs trying to storm the band's hotel rooms and prevent them from leaving the country. There were also reports that their manager was issued a PHP 100,000 tax assessment.[60][61](p200)

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.[30]

Edifice Complex

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.[58][57]

The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex (CCP) is considered the premier symbol of Imelda's "edifice complex."[29] 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[30] and was aided with funds from the Cultural Development Fund and the Special Fund for Education.[62] Upon completion, however, it amounted to Php 50 million—a 50 000% increase from the original budget.[29] 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.[62]

San Juanico Bridge

Another construction project closely linked with Imelda Marcos during Ferdinand Marcos's first term is the San Juanico Bridge, which links Samar to Imelda's home province of Leyte.[63] Although it wasn't initiated by Imelda herself, it was promoted by the administration as Ferdinand Marcos's gift to his wife.[64][65]

It was funded with foreign loans of US$22 million (about ₱140 million),[66] from Japan's Overseas Technical Cooperation Agency (OTCA), the predecessor of today's Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).[63][67]

Upon its completion on 2 July 1973, Imelda's birthday, economists and public works engineers quickly tagged it as a white elephant which was "constructed several decades too soon",[63] because its average daily traffic (ADT) was too low to justify the cost of its construction.[63]

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.[68]

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.[30]

Mid-year of 1967, Imelda started the Seed Dispersal Program or Share for Progress[69] 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.[30]

Increased Independence

The Dovie Beams scandal, which began as rumors in the late 60s,[70] eventually led to a significant change in Imelda's public role.[71][61](p"225")[72] The President had met the American Actress when she came to Manila in 1968 to star as the female lead in a propaganda film portraying Ferdinand's supposed exploits during World War II. According to Beams, the two had an affair and she was moved into one of Ferdinand's safe houses,[70] where she recorded their lovemaking with Ferdinand's full consent.[61](p"225") These tapes were later played in a press conference, causing great humiliation for Imelda.[61](p"225")[72]

Members of the Marcos Cabinet such as Cesar Virata and Gerardo Sicat recount that Imelda used the humiliation of the Dovie Beams affair[61](p"225") as leverage to begin developing an independent political agenda which gave her more and more political power.}[72] Initially, this meant that Imelda had free rein on her projects while Ferdinand prepared for the 1969 campaign,}[72] but as Marcos's health declined, it involved her being put in increasingly powerful positions, including those of Minister of Human Settlements and of Governor of Metro Manila.[61][72]

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 roles

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.[29]

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.[59]

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.[29]

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.[29]

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."[41]

Imelda's actions preceding martial law

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."[41]

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.[41] 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."[41] 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.[41]

Martial law (1972–1981)

As First Lady during martial law, she became influential.[73][74] 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.[75]The motive appeared to have been her role in her husband's presidency but human rights dissidents believed it was staged by the government.[76][77]

Marcos orchestrated public events using national funds to bolster her and her husband's image.[78][79] She secured the Miss Universe 1974 pageant in Manila,[80] which required the construction of the Folk Arts Theater in less than three months.[81][82] She organized the Kasaysayan ng Lahi,[83] a festival showcasing Philippine history.[83] She also initiated social programs, such as the Green Revolution,[84] which was intended to address hunger by encouraging the people to plant produce in household gardens,[84] and created a national family-planning program.[85] 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).[86][87]

Governor of Metro Manila

In 1975, Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree 824, establishing the Metro Manila Commission (MMC) which would serve as the central government of Metro Manila, and named Imelda to head it, making her Governor of Metro Manila from that point until the Marcoses were deposed in 1986.[88]

Minister of Human Settlements

Ferdinand Marcos appointed Imelda to the position of Minister of Human Settlements in 1976[89]—a post which she held until the EDSA Revolution of February 1986,[89] and which allowed 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,[90] and the Calauit Safari Park.[91] She purchased property in Manhattan in the 1980s, including the US$51 million Crown Building,[92][93] the Woolworth Building in 40 Wall Street, and the US$60 million Herald Centre.[94] She declined to buy the Empire State Building because she felt it was "too ostentatious."[95][96]

Batasan Pambansa Assemblyman

In 1978, the administration Kilusang Bagong Lipunan party fielded Imelda as a candidate in the Philippine parliamentary elections of 1978.[97] Because most of the opposition candidates were either in jail or had limited mobility as a result of Martial Law,[98] Imelda Marcos easily won a seat as a member of the Interim Batasang Pambansa (National Congress) representing Region IV-A.[97]

Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary

In the same year, she was also appointed as Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary,[99] allowing her to tour the United States, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Cuba.[100][99][101] Throughout her travels, she became friends with Richard Nixon,[102] Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, and Joseph Tito.[99][101] She traveled to Iraq to secure oil and to Libya for a peace treaty with the Moro National Liberation Front.[99][103]

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.[104] Aquino wanted to go to the United States for medical treatment. This was arranged after a secret hospital visit by Imelda. 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, Aquino decided to remain in the US, saying, "a pact with the devil is no pact at all".[105]

Six months after martial law was lifted on 17 January 1981, Ferdinand Marcos was re-elected as president. While her husband began to suffer from lupus, Imelda effectively ruled in his place.[106] Aquino returned to the Philippines on 21 August 1983, but was assassinated at the Manila International Airport upon his arrival.[107] With accusations against her beginning to rise, Ferdinand created the Agrava Commission, a fact-finding committee, to investigate her, ultimately finding her not guilty.[108][109][110]

Downfall of Marcos

On 7 February 1986, snap elections were held between Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino, the widow of Benigno Aquino Jr. 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.[43]

On 25 February, Ferdinand Marcos with his wife Imelda by his side still held the inauguration at Malacañang Palace. The couple later emerged on the Palace balcony in front of a loyalist crowd and Imelda sang a song for the crowd.

Later that day, Ferdinand Marcos finally agreed to step down, and was given safe passage for him and his entire family to flee to Hawaii.[111]

Exile in Hawaii (1986-1991)

At midnight, 26 February 1986, the Marcos family fled the country to Hawaii[17] with a party of about 80 individuals.[112] – the extended Marcos family and a number of close associates.[113][112]

After Imelda left Malacañang Palace, she was found to have left behind 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 888 handbags, and 3000 pairs of shoes.[16][15][114] Some news reports estimated that there were up to 7,500 pairs,[115] but Time magazine reported that the final tally was only 1,060.[114] The US government documented that Marcos family entered the United States with millions of dollars in cash, stocks, jewelries, and gold bricks inscribed "To my husband on our 24th anniversary".[116]

The US Government initially hosted the exiles at Hickam Air Force Base.[112] Ferdinand and Imelda moved into a pair of residences in Makiki Heights, Honolulu a month later.[112]

Ferdinand Marcos eventually died in exile in September 1989.[117] His son Bongbong Marcos was the only family member present at his deathbed.[118]

Return from exile (1991-Present)

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 five years.[119][120] After her return from exile, the former First Lady Imelda quickly established herself in the political scene of Philippines. And in later years, she also attempted to establish business in the world of fashion.

Political comeback

In 1992, Imelda ran for president in the presidential elections on 11 May 1992, finishing 5th out of 7 candidates.[121]

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.[122]

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.[123][124]

Imelda ran for the second district of Ilocos Norte in the elections on 10 May 2010 to replace her son,[125] Ferdinand Jr., who ran for Senate under the Nacionalista Party.[126][127] During her term, she held the position of Millennium Development Goals chairwoman in the Lower House.[128][129]

She won re-election on 14 May 2013 in a bid to renew her term.[130][131] On 9 May 2016, she was re-elected again for her third and final term.[132][133]

On 9 November 2018 the Sandiganbayan convicted Marcos on seven counts of graft and corruption, which disqualified Marcos from holding any public office.[134]

As businesswoman

In November 2006, Imelda started her own business, a fashion label "Imelda Collection" including jewelry, clothing and shoes with the help from her daughter Imee Marcos.[135][136]

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,[137] 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,[138] conspiracy, fraud and obstruction of justice.[139][140] Tobacco heiress Doris Duke posted $5 million bail for the former First Lady.[141][142] The Marcos couple's defense team was led by criminal defense attorney Gerry Spence.[143][144] 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.[145] In July 1990, following a three-month trial, she was acquitted of all charges.[144] By that time, Ferdinand had died in exile in Hawaii on 28 September 1989.[108][146][147]

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.[18]

In 1993, Marcos was convicted on a graft case. However, this was overturned by the Appelate Court in 2008,[148][149] and the reversal was upheld by the Philippine Supreme Court in 2018[134] because of technical issues with the evidence.[150]

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.[151]

2018 Swiss foundation cases convictions

In 1991, Marcos was indicted on ten corruption charges in the Philippines' anti-graft court, the Sandiganbayan.[152]

Twenty-seven years later, on 9 November 2018, she was convicted on seven counts of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for funneling roughly US$200 million to various Swiss foundations while she was still serving as governor of Metro Manila in the 1970s.[134][153] That same day, the court announced her acquittal on the three remaining counts,[134] but since she failed to appear, the court also ordered the forfeiture of the earlier bond that she had posted in 1991.[154]

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.[155] 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.[134] The sanction will not go into immediate effect, pending appeal by her,[134] but she nonetheless withdrew her candidacy for the governorship.[156]

On 12 November 2018, Marcos's attorney filed a "Motion for Leave of Court to Avail of Post-Conviction Remedies", which included a provision for bail.[157] The court granted bail due to her "ill health",[158] but reserved ruling on the balance of the requests until 28 November.[157][159] Marcos posted bail on 16 November 2018, a week after her conviction.[160] She intends to appeal her conviction.[161][162][134] The normal form of appeal is a "motion for reconsideration" to the Sandiganbayan;[161] however, she also requested a direct appeal to the Philippine Supreme Court, which while originally denied as premature,[154][163] was granted on 28 November.[159]

Ill-gotten wealth

The Marcoses were estimated to have amassed assets worth US$5-10 billion during their 21-year regime in the Philippines.[5][6][7](p5) 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.[96] Her collection of shoes[164][165][166] now lies partly in the National Museum of the Philippines and partly in a shoe museum in Marikina.[167][168][169] Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) damaged her ancestral home in Tacloban, which also serves as a museum,[170] although she still retains homes in Ilocos Norte and Makati, where she resides.[171]

She owned Swiss bank accounts under the pseudonym "Jane Ryan".[172][173] She claimed her 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.[174][175] Her property used to include jewels and a 175-piece art collection,[176] which included works by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Canaletto, Raphael,[177] 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).[178][179]

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.[180][181][182] 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.[183] 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.[184][185][186]

On 17 October 2013, the attempted sale of two Claude Monet paintings,[187] 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.[188][189] Bautista was sentenced in 2014 to 2–6 years in prison for attempting to sell "valuable masterpieces that belonged to her country".[190][191][192] On 13 January 2014, three collections of Imelda Marcos's jewelry:[193] the Malacanang collection, the Roumeliotes collection, and the Hawaii collection; along with paintings by Claude Monet were seized by the Philippine government.[194][195] In 2015, a rare pink diamond worth $5 million was discovered in her jewelry collection.[196][197][198][199] 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.[200][201] In October 2015, Imelda Marcos still faced 10 criminal charges of graft and 25 civil cases in the Philippines.[202]

Cultural influence and portrayals in media

The word "Imeldific"

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",[203] had turned her into a household name, frequently compared to Marie Antoinette of France,[204][205] except "with shoes."[14]

This led to the coining of the Philippine English adjective "Imeldific",[206] to describe

"anything exaggeratedly ostentatious or in bad taste", referring to clothing, architecture, décor, etc.[207]

It also refers to people who have "the Imelda Marcos syndrome" – tending to be extravagant and not being afraid to flaunt it,[208] or to describe a lifestyle of "ostentatious extravagance".[209]

It has also come to be used in International English, with dictionary writer and Atlantic columnist Anne Soukhanov expounding on the "ostentatious extravagance" etymology.[210] 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."[19]

The coining of term is often attributed to Imelda Marcos describing,[209][211] although it was used by People Magazine's Carlos Lopez as early as April 1986,[212] 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.[212]

Imelda famously referenced the coining of the term in a 1988 with the U.S. News & World Report,[213] saying

They'll list my name in the dictionary someday. They'll use Imeldific to mean ostentatious extravagance.[213]

She once again acknowledged the term in a 1995 interview with United Press International[211] 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.[211]

World records for theft

  • Imelda Marcos, together with her husband Ferdinand (who is considered by many to have been one of the greatest plunderers in history according to the Washington Post),[214] were jointly credited in 1989 by Guinness World Records with the largest-ever theft from a government: an estimated 5 to 10 billion dollars salted away.[215][216][217][218][219][22] She is quoted as having stated: "We practically own everything in the Philippines, from electricity, telecommunications, airlines, banking, beer and tobacco, newspaper publishing, television stations, shipping, oil and mining, hotels and beach resorts, down to coconut milling, small farms, real estate and insurance."[220]
  • In 2009, Imelda Marcos was listed by Newsweek as being one of the "greediest people of all time".[221][222] To this, Marcos replied "I plead guilty. For me, greedy is giving. I was first lady for 20 years, you have to be greedy first to give to all. It is natural. The only things we keep in life are those we give away."[223]

Influence on Philippine fashion

Marcos influenced fashion in the Philippines,[108][224][225] although her role as a patroness of the arts and fashion is still controversial.[226][227][228] For instance, she actively promoted the terno, which also became her sartorial symbol,[229] through projects such as "Bagong Anyo" and exhibitions abroad such as the Philippine contribution to the Expo '75 in Okinawa Japan.[230] She also supported designers, particularly those who specialize in Filipino haute couture such as Pitoy Moreno and Inno Sotto.[231]

In a section of the 2003 Ramona Diaz film named after her, Imelda says that she took 3,000 pairs of shoes with her when she went into exile, and justifies her extravagant clothing by saying that it "inspired the poor to dress better".[232]

Promotion of Brutalist architecture

As chairman of the committee that created the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex, and later as Minister of Human settlements in her husband's cabinet, Imelda's building projects were often of the Brutalist architecture style[233] characterized by fortress-like, massive shapes intended to effect a sense of grandiosity.[234]

In Cinema

Imelda (2003 film)

In 2003, Imelda Marcos agreed to be the subject of a 2003 documentary film, simply titled Imelda, by Ramona S. Diaz. Beginning with her childhood, the film documents her marriage to future President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos, her rule under the dictatorship, her exile in Hawaii and her eventual return to the Philippines.[235][236][237]

Imelda had its world premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and its North American premiere in the documentary competition of the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Excellence in Cinematography Award Documentary.[238] The film was also screened at the Maryland Film Festival in Baltimore. Critical reviews for the film were mostly favorable;[239][240][241][242] it has a 94% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes and a 69/100 from Metacritic.[243][244]

In the Philippines, Imelda obtained a temporary injunction that prevented it from being shown for a brief time. When the injunction was canceled and the film was released, it earned more than Spider-Man 2 and was considered a smash hit.[245]

The Kingmaker (2019)

In August 2019, Writer-Director Lauren Greenfield debuted her documentary film "The Kingmaker," at the 76th Venice Film Festival.[246][247] The documentary features the political career of Imelda Marcos with a focus on the Marcos family's efforts to rehabilitate the family's image and to return to political power[248][249] - including her plans to see her son Bongbong become President of the Philippines.[250]

The film was nominated as best documentary at the London Film Festival and the Stockholm Film Festival, and for the Checkpoints Award at the Bergen International Film Festival. It was nominated for four categories in the 2019 Critic’s Choice Documentary Awards, eventually winning the award for Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary.[251]

In music and performance arts

The second track of Mark Knopfler's 1996 album Golden Heart is a sardonic song about her.[252] In 2010, British producer Fatboy Slim and musician David Byrne released a concept album about her life called Here Lies Love,[253] which later became a rock musical.[254] In Manila, local performance artist Carlos Celdran performs his Living La Vida Imelda walking tour,[224][255] which was also performed in Dubai during 2012.[256][257] Filipino-American drag artist Manila Luzon impersonated Mrs. Marcos in the "Snatch Game" challenge in the third season of RuPaul's Drag Race.[258]

Honors and awards

Foreign honors


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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
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