IMELDA’S TRUTH: Martial Law returned human rights; My Ferdie, a true democrat. UPDATE LINKS TO COMPLETE SERIES


(scaRRedcat’s latest via @ABS-CBNNews)

NOT my photo. imeldamarcosfromflickerpostedatthebignm

“But there is no extravagance of beauty and love.” – Imelda Marcos at 80, quoted in the Associated Press (AP) coverage of her bash.

I wasn’t invited to that party. But in early March, 2008 I got a one-on-one with Mrs. Marcos in a condominium unit crammed with photos, clippings and paintings of a past she believes was the Philippines’ golden age. It was a sudden summons after weeks of chasing her for an interview. The result was a two-part series on “Imelda’s Truth” — photos by one very harried writer-editor.

There is no denying the Imeldific charm. It reels one in, however fierce the psyche’s resistance. So maybe I didn’t push her enough. I don’t know… but here’s the original two part series — divided into three now — where we wisely (I still think) let her ramble on rather than filter her thoughts.


“Even Mao said, ‘I love Imelda because she is so natural. And natural is perfection.’

Only Imelda Marcos of the fabled gems and gowns and shoes can don huge garish costume jewelry and have thousands of women stampeding to buy these.

Forget irony. That is lost on the former First Lady. This is the woman, after all, who’s upended every theory there is on crime and punishment.

At one point facing some 900 cases for graft — for money salting and everything and anything connected with the financial rewards of two decades of strongman rule — Mrs. Marcos has won acquittal after acquittal and, in several instances, forced the Philippine state into accepting compromise deals worth a fraction of what was being sought.

And don’t even dream of waking one day and seeing a repentant Imelda on television. She doesn’t believe there is anything to apologize for.

She and her beloved Ferdinand are the victims. EDSA I marked the death of Philippine democracy. Martial law brought back human rights. The late President Marcos not only was a true democrat; in dispatching his wife to charm Mao Tse Tung, he also single-handedly ended the Cold War.

For the latter, she says, the Marcos clan paid a high price. A jealous superpower kidnapped them at the height of the 1986 EDSA People Power revolt and dumped them in Hawaii, leaving them high and dry and, yes, penniless.

But natural law — a favorite mantra of Mr. Marcos — says life is a circle. With cosmic rays blessing the mythic couple, enemies were bound to get their comeuppance, says the Gospel of Imelda.

Mrs. Marcos won a big case on her birthday. And over lunch, she points out that the World Trade Center twin towers were bombed on Mr. Marcos’ birthday. There is no coincidence in life, says his widow.

Fiesta forever

There is plenty of the surreal in Philippines where, Imelda says, openings in the sky drizzle down rays that make for great rock and roll.

All the country’s a stage. Imelda’s advice for people waging revolutions, peaceful or otherwise: Forget it, folks. Do not even try to jolt Filipinos out of their perpetual fiesta mode. The only thing that will get them going is a love-fest. Though when they do get going, like during EDSA I, it’s because they don’t understand.

So, Joseph Estrada croons and unleashes one-liners as he walks away from conviction for plunder. And Imelda; well, Imelda was, is, and forever will be Imeldific.

Why fight it? she says with a sniff,. After all, ordinary folk from Tondo to Ilocos grow faint with ecstasy whenever she opens her arms and tells them to come home to mama.

Mama promises to share the joy represented by rooms full of gold and stock certificates, if and when those evil people tire of chasing after her beloved Ferdinand’s hard-earned wealth.

One of those ill-gotten wealth hunters had sent an emissary to Imelda, asking for P10 million to give up the chase, so he could spend the rest of life doing bad imitations of Elvis Presley.

Imelda’s reply: “Maybe my stature can coax people into coughing out P10 million but since I don’t know if I could pay back this loan, I’d be lying, a virtual thief. And Imelda doesn’t lie — or steal.”

Iron butterfly

Imelda’s flat is a kleptomaniac’s paradise. Every inch of wall and mantel space are crowded with sentimental objects d’art — the kitsch and the classic in a madcap tumble. There is so much for the eyes to follow that they fail to register that the cream walls and ceilings are beginning to turn gray.

Everywhere there is gilt. It’s apt for the widow of a man who ostensibly made his fortune in gold trading, to paint even lahar-made picture frames with gold leaf.

The public image of Mrs. Marcos is that of an imperious dowager; studied in her manners though capable of breaking out now and then into vastly entertaining theatrics.

Up close and personal and in the comfort of her sprawling Makati flat — Mrs. Marcos shows more of the abondanza that her public forays hint at.

Who cares about brawn and intellect? The war, according to the gospel of Imelda, is won by willpower.

And chutzpah, we might add. There is nothing more surreal than seeing Imelda walk into the lobby of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and have scores of other bejeweled woman — including some who screamed and cried on EDSA — fawning over her.


Photo from
Photo from

At home, there is little of the young, insecure beauty queen and much of the woman who learned early on to make capital of her beautiful bones, doe eyes and creamy skin.

Mrs. Marcos says she is both yin and yang. There is plenty of masculinity here.

She is in a navy blue pants suit with turquoise and aqua sleeves. Huge turquoise earrings are clipped on the ears. Hands now running to pudgy sport a matching ring. On her chest is a mammoth brooch with twin figures holding up spheres; very Malakas and Maganda.

Imelda sits legs akimbo, sometimes drumming both feet and even crossing limbs in the masculine de quatro.

Her talk is earthy; her lectures and analogies full of phallic symbols.

She is at turns arch and indignant — all wounded pride and smug confidence. At times, she is much like one of the boys.

And when she turns on that charm, oh boy.

With the assurance of great beauty, this 79-year-old survivor relishes re-enacting the coy approaches, the damsel-in-distress poses that disarmed strongmen from Asia to the Middle East.

She stands and leans over; a hand reaches out to caress as she recalls her blithe handling of a love-sick, macho spouse who ruefully warned of emasculation as he begged her to lose some of their arguments.

You may have fought against the Marcos dictatorship, maybe sacrificed loved ones in that fight; there is simply no escaping the Imeldific charm.

She confesses to being greedy, and needy and extravagant. Hell, you can call her vulgar and she’ll just give that sideways smile — vulgaris, she reminds you, means one’s cup overfloweth with beauty.

READ THE FIRST PART OF THE Q&A HERE — Imelda’s Truth in Her Own Words



Bongbong and a meditation on context

I don’t make a habit of following the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. His dimples are cute and he looks a decade younger than his age (54, we share a birthday). But Imelda, with her black holes and cosmic rays, remains more interesting than the self-proclaimed “new leader for a new decade”.
So it was with curiosity that I clicked on a Facebook link sent by Katrina Stuart Santiago. It was a screen capture of Bongbong Marcos’ November 7 tweet. And it was met with plenty of grouching and griping. Most the comments focused on the senator’s alleged sexism, with a number of FB folk asking why people should even expect otherwise.
My first response: Is this genuine?
I searched Twitter.
There, indeed, is a Bongbong Marcos (@bongbongmarcos).
The offending tweet does appear on that account profile.
But there are all kinds of poseurs on Twitter (and Facebook).  There was a time people were getting heartburn from the posts of someone masquerading as the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Armando Doronilla.
Still wary, I asked if the Twitter account was genuine. A chorus of yesses.
A check with the senator’s staff brought me to his website, which also features his tweets.  There it was, the “makeup” post.
I then asked if the senator was serious or joking. Also, whether he’d forgotten having a mother and sister in politics.
As a discussion ensued on Twitter, RockEd’s Gang Badoy piped up: “I thought the diss was on politicians in general being 2-faced the makeup part was a mere demo of the point?”
Former ABS-CBN anchor Gel Santos Relos, respondent of Gang’s tweet, replied:
“Maybe @bongbongmarcos should clarify such tweet, reads woman-specific to me, Mr. Senator.”
It sure did. But because Gang had brought it up and because a quote doesn’t float in a vacuum, I tried Google. The problem with many quotation sites is, precisely the lack of  context.
The quote is attributed to Maureen Murphy. Together with a half dozen other quotes, the body of quips seemed to indicate Gang was right.
But there’s also precious little on Google about Murphy who, I deduced, had to be the Australian comic who’d appeared on late night shows. The other possibles were an Irish academic (I didn’t think so) or an American Republican politician (even more unlikely).
It drove me batty not to have more of a handle on Murphy and her quotes. Another google search finally brought up this gem of a feature from the LA Times’ Steve Lopez, a favorite of mine for his series (that eventually became a book) on  Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a homeless musician with schizophrenia who sleeps each night on the city’s Skid Row.
Lopez’s “Life as performance art for a family not bound by typical assumptions” almost made me forget about Bongbong Marcos and deciphering his tweet. It’s  a classic Lopez feature, simultaneously chatty and lyrical, a story of two seeming ordinary women who turn out to be pretty special. It also explains why Murphy became, as she puts it, a specialist in “male put-downs”.
So, yes, sisters, maybe the senator wasn’t heaping scorn on women politicians . Maybe he wasn’t being sexist. Maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite like certain men who think they can squirt their sperm into every nook and cranny but expect their daughters to behave like nuns, or men who think the absence of an offspring doesn’t quite make a woman HIS, or men who think it’s a sin to use contraceptives but OK to philander to their hearts’ content. Maybe he was being self-deprecating. Maybe.

But there’s little to tie the senator and Murphy together. Certainly, their life experiences are just so disparate it’s hard to visualize they’re coming from one place. That’s what makes his tweet pretty much a classic case of (maybe, unintended) irony.

From the tumblr blog of "Mr Madlangbayan"
Photo from the blog of “Mr Madlangbayan”

Murphy’s comedy stemmed from “the battle of the sexes”, a time when women were desperately struggling to narrow the economic-political and cultural gaps between the genders.

Murphy’s mom had to flee from cops when she took her children away from an abusive spouse.

Mr. Marcos grew up in Malacanang Palace, with a mother who was one half of what critics called a conjugal dictatorship.

Mr. Marcos has a mother who loves regaling the world about how she single-handedly ended the World Cold War and how her Ferdinand admired her ability to fathom the true, the good and the beautiful.  (Here are my FB notes on the Philippines Graphic 2009 interview series — Imelda’s Truth 1 and Imelda’s Truth 2.)

We have since had two women Presidents. The country is ranked 8th in the 2011 Global Gender Index — the top-ranked in Asia, with “perfect” scores in terms of closing the gender gaps in health and education.

Table from the Philippines country profile, Global Gender Index

Women in this country outlive men. Whether that translates to better quality of life isn’t quite clear; the Philippines still has to meet its Millenium Development Goals in women’s and children’s health.

More young women are graduating from high school and college than males. The gender gap in unemployment has also narrowed, though critics say that has more to do with so many women leaving hearth, village and country for hard, dangerous labor abroad.

There, too, seems to be a disconnect between that top rank in education and being 15th placer in overall economic participation. But an Inquirer editorial notes, this is changing for the better:

“In a research done by Grant Thornton International earlier this year, it was shown that Filipino women held 47 percent of senior management positions in the country, easily the best in the world and higher than the average by as much as 23 percentage points. The Department of Labor and Employment’s statistics show that women in executive positions outnumber their male counterparts. What this shows is that women have succeeded in boardrooms but not as much in workrooms.”
More women have also succeeded in politics, though many who do owe much to the power of political dynasties. Still, the numbers have changed enough to make Murphy’s fighting words now sound like something a hectoring, combative male might say. Which really is more of Raul Gonzales’ style rather than Mr. Marcos.
Even giving Mr. Marcos the benefit of the doubt, one feels a bit sad. Because if he, indeed, used the quote in the context Murphy first raised it, it does bring up some hard questions: Have women politicians changed our lives for the better? Have they reformed the political system? Or have they proven so good at multi-tasking that they are now beyond doble cara?
And really, we’d like to hear more about Imelda and political ideals from her beloved son.
(Thanks Anjo Bagaoisan for the sharp eye LOL)