The Muse of Manila

Imelda Marcos
Best known as the woman with more than 3000 pairs of shoes, Imelda Marcos, who has had more political lives than any cat, is making another comeback.

In 1954, when she was 25 years old, Imelda married, then congressman, Ferdinand Marcos. Beautiful and outgoing, Imelda was the perfect partner to push her husbands career forward – with one goal, to become president of the Philippines. 12 years later, Imelda became first lady of the Philippines – a position that would last for 21 tumultuous years.

With help from the U.S.government , Ferdinand Marcos, was able to build the country’s infrastructure of roads, bridges, power and water to bring the Philippines into the 20th century. Because of these accomplishments, Marcos developed a personality cult – not unlike Juan PerĂ³n in Argentina.

After the Viet Nam war, the communists became very active in the Philippines using student protests, kidnappings and violence to promote their party. To quell the violence, Marcos declared Martial Law. Things settled down after that and the economy grew. The real problems started after Marcos declared himself president for life, and he and Imelda let the power go to their heads. Corruption became rampant. Businesses were confiscated and given to family members and friends and used for money laundering. In 1983 Marcos was implicated in the assassination of his primary political opponent, Benigno Aquino.

During the Marcos regime, billions of dollars were looted from the Filipino treasury and it was later alleged that Ferdinand and Imelda had moved billions of dollars of public funds to the United States and Switzerland and into fictitious corporations throughout their 20 years in power.

The Marcos family was finally kicked out of the Philippines in 1986. When the family fled to Hawaii, Imelda left behind 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 1000 handbags and 3000 pairs of shoes. In 2003 a large portion of her jewelry collection was put on the auction block – including gems the size of golf balls and suitcases full of pearls. One of the prized items was a Persian-style necklace with more than 100 carats of canary and pink diamonds.

In 1988, Ferdinand and Imelda along with their friend, Adnan Khashoggi – the Saudi Arabian arms dealer, were indicted on racketeering and fraud charges for embezzling funds from the Philippines government and attempting to hide that money by purchasing NYC real estate and hiding money in Swiss bank accounts.

In 1990, a year after Ferdinand died, Imelda was acquitted of all charges and allowed to return to the Philippines. She ran, unsuccessfully, for president twice but has returned to politics after winning a seat in the lower house of Congress this week.

Enjoy Human League performing – Don’t You Want Me in 2006: