Imelda Marcos

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This article is about the former First Lady of the Philippines. For other uses, see Imelda.
The Honorable
Imelda Marcos
First Lady of the Philippines
In office
December 30, 1965 – February 25, 1986
President Ferdinand Marcos
Preceded by Eva Macapagal
Succeeded by Amelita Ramos
Governor of Metro Manila
In office
February 27, 1975 – February 25, 1986
President Ferdinand Marcos
Preceded by office created
Succeeded by Jejomar Binay
Member of the Philippine House of Representatives from Leyte's First District
In office
June 30, 1995 – June 30, 1998
President Fidel V. Ramos
Preceded by Cirilo Roy Montejo
Succeeded by Alfred Romuáldez
Member of the Philippine House of Representatives from Ilocos Norte's Second District
Assumed office
June 30, 2010
President Benigno Aquino III
Preceded by Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
Personal details
Born Imelda Remedios Visitación Romuáldez
(1929-07-02) July 2, 1929 (age 86)
Manila, Philippines
Nationality Filipino
Political party Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (1978–present)
Other political
Nacionalista (1965–1978; 2009–present)
Spouse(s) Ferdinand Marcos (1954–1989; his death)
Children Imee
Ferdinand, Jr.
Religion Catholic
Musical career
Genres Kundiman
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1950s–present

Imelda Marcos (born July 2, 1929 in Manila, Philippines) is the widow of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos widely known for her collection of some three thousand pairs of shoes.[1] She served as First Lady from 1965 to 1986.

In 1954, Imelda married Ferdinand Marcos who was elected President in 1965 and declared Martial law in 1972. In 1983, the assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. caused mass protests that led to the People Power Revolution. The Marcos couple were forced into exile and Aquino's widow, Corazon, was installed into the presidency. After the death of her husband, her family returned to the Philippines and she was later elected to the House of Representatives as a congresswoman for Leyte in 1995 and for Ilocos Norte in 2010 and 2013.

Hundreds of criminal cases were filed against Marcos but she has yet to serve a day in prison. Her family continues to be influential in Philippine politics with her daughter Imee and son Ferdinand, Jr. being able to hold positions in the national government.

Early life[edit]

Imelda Remedios Visitación Romuáldez was born on July 2, 1929 in Manila to Remedios Trinidad and Vicente Romuáldez, brother of Philippine Supreme Court Associate Justice Norberto Romuáldez. Her paternal ancestors were from a land-owning family in Tolosa, Leyte, descended from Granada, Andalusia, Spain.[2] She has five other siblings: Alfredo, Alita, Armando, Benjamin (1930–2012),[3] and Concepcion who spent their childhood in San Miguel. After their mother died in 1938, the family moved to Tacloban, where she was known as the "Rose of Tacloban",[4] and was raised by her servant Estrella Cumpas.[5][6][7] In the film Imelda, she claimed to have met Douglas MacArthur when he landed in Tacloban at the end of World War II.[8][8][9]

At the request of her cousin, Daniel Z. Romualdez, Marcos returned in the 1950s to Manila, where she worked in a music store on Escolta street as a singer to attract customers. She took voice lessons at the music conservatory of the University of Santo Tomas.[10] Marcos would later join a beauty pageant known as "Miss Manila" where she placed second but was named the "Muse of Manila" after contesting the results.[11] This led her to become a local model with her pictures appearing in local magazines and newspapers.[12][13] Before meeting her husband, she briefly dated Benigno Aquino, Jr., who would later become a political rival.[4][10] On May 1, 1954, Imelda Romuáldez married Ferdinand Marcos, a Nacionalista Party congressman from Ilocos Norte,[14] to whom she was introduced by her cousin. The marriage resulted in three children: Imee, Ferdinand, Jr., and Irene. She also adopted a girl named Aimee.[10]

First Lady[edit]

Imeldas' husband, Ferdinand, was elected in December 1965,[15] as the 10th President of the Philippines and she served as First Lady. Later in July 1966, She became involved in an altercation with The Beatles when they toured the Philippines after they unintentionally snubbed her, failing to attend a breakfast reception at Malacañang.[16] The snub was broadcast on Philippine television and radio.[17]

In 1970, a huge scandal hit the Philippines over the stormy break-up between President Ferdinand Marcos and his mistress of two years, Hollywood starlet Dovie Beams.[18] Beams had arrived in the Philippines in 1968 to shoot the film Maharlika, a movie partially funded by Marcos and meant to glorify his alleged war exploits, in which she played opposite Paul Burke as the movie's Marcos lover.[19][20] Marcos became more aggressive and uncontrollable in the government following the scandal.[21]

In an attempt to hold on to power, her husband declared martial law on September 23, 1972.[22] On December 7 that same year, an assailant tried to stab Marcos to death with a bolo knife during an award ceremony broadcast live on television. The assailant was shot to death by police while she suffered wounds on her hands and arms that required 75 stitches.[23] Once her husband had consolidated his power, Marcos orchestrated lavish public events using millions of U.S. dollars in public funds to extol her husband's regime and bolster her public image.[24][25][26]William H. Sullivan wrote that she had acquired enough power to be able to browbeat Philippine generals into wearing drag at her birthday parties.[27]

Marcos secured the Miss Universe 1974 pageant for Manila, which necessitated the construction and completion of the 10,000-seat Folk Arts Theater in less than three months. Amparo Muñoz of Spain won the title.[28] She also organized the Kasaysayan ng Lahi, an extravagant festival parade showcasing the history of the Philippines.[29][30] Marcos initiated social programs such as the Green Revolution that intended to address hunger and a lack of farming by encouraging the planting of vegetables and fruits in people's gardens. Other programs included a national family-planning program,[31] and an African safari on Calauit Island.[32] During the early 1970s, she took control of the distribution of the bread called the "nutribun", which came from the USAID.[33][34] Imelda Marcos was appointed in 1978 as a member of the Interim Batasang Pambansa representing Region IV-A. Marcos was later appointed Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary and toured numerous countries, most notably the United States, China,[35] the Soviet Union, Libya, Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Cuba.[36] Throughout her travels,[37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44] she became friends with a variety of political figures including Richard Nixon, Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein,[45] Fidel Castro, and Joseph Tito.[46][47] A Wikileaks diplomatic note "claims she was waiting for Spain's dictator Franco to die so she could fly to Madrid for the funeral."[48]

To justify the multi-million U.S. dollar expenditure of traveling with a large diplomatic entourage using private jets, Marcos would claim that her tours included securing a cheap supply of oil from China, Iraq, and Libya, which she also said was instrumental in the signing of the Tripoli Agreement of the Moro National Liberation Front. She continued her extravagant lifestyle with US$5-million shopping tours in New York,[49][50] Rome, and Copenhagen in 1983. One of her excesses included sending a plane to pick up Australian white sand for a beach resort.[51] During her trip to the dedication of the Sydney Opera House, she tried to upstage Queen Elizabeth.[52] Besides being an ambassador, Marcos also held the position of Minister of Human Settlements, allowing her to build institutions including Cultural Center of the Philippines, Philippine Heart Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, Philippine International Convention Center, Coconut Palace, and the Manila Film Center, most of which are still used in the 21st century.[47][53]

Marcos purchased a number of properties in Manhattan in the 1980s, including the US$51-million Crown Building, the Woolworth Building in 40 Wall Street, and the US$60-million Herald Centre.[54] It was stated that she declined to purchase the Empire State Building for $750m as she considered it "too ostentatious."[55] Her property also included jewels and a 175-piece art collection,[56] which included works by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Canaletto, Raphael,[57] 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), also known as “Algerian View.”[58] When criticized, Marcos responded that it was her "duty" to be "some kind of light, a star to give the poor guidelines."[55][59]

People Power[edit]

Marcos was instrumental in the 1980 exile of opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr., who had suffered a heart attack during his imprisonment.[60] Martial Law was later lifted in 1981 and her husband, Ferdinand, was again elected president in what was considered a sham election.[61] As her husband, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, began to suffer from lupus erythematosus, Imelda effectively started to rule in his place. Aquino returned in 1983 but was assassinated at the Manila International Airport.[62] With accusations against Imelda beginning to rise, her husband ordered the Agrava Commission, a fact-finding committee, to investigate her, ultimately finding her not guilty.[63][63][64][65]

In 1986, snap elections were held between Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino, the widow of former Senator and opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr.[66] In spite of Ferdinand winning the elections, allegations of vote rigging led to mass protests that would be later known as the People Power Revolution.[67] On February 25, Imelda and her family fled to Hawaii via Guam. After they left Malacañang Palace, she was found to have left behind 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 1,000 handbags,[68] and many pairs of shoes. The exact number varies with estimates of up to 7,500 pairs.[69] However, Time reported that the final tally was only 1,060.[70] The location where her shoes and jewelry were being kept was later destroyed and the contents stolen. Even a painting of Imelda was destroyed outside the Palace.[55][71][72][73][74]

In October 1988, Imelda, her husband Ferdinand, and Adnan Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian former billionaire and arms dealer, were tried by a Federal grand jury in Manhattan in a racketeering case.[75] Charges included embezzlement of more than US$100 million from the Philippines used to buy three buildings in New York City and fraudulently borrowing US$165 million from American banks to refinance the buildings and buy additional property.[76] The couple pleaded not guilty and were represented by trial lawyer Gerry Spence.[77] Imelda's US$5-million-dollar bail was posted by tobacco heiress, Doris Duke, who befriended her while she lived in Hawaii.[78] Actor George Hamilton was a witness for her defense. The case ended in acquittal in 1990.[79][80] Ferdinand died in exile in Hawaii on September 28, 1989. Aquino refused to permit the repatriation of his remains because of national security reasons.[81] The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the government in Marcos vs. Manglapus.[82][83][84][85]

Legal battles[edit]

Imelda Marcos, 2006

After her fall from grace, Marcos was allowed to return to the Philippines by Corazon Aquino on November 4, 1991 and was arrested the next day for tax fraud and corruption. She was then released on $6,400 bail.[86][87][88] The following year, she ran for president in the hotly-contested 1992 presidential elections, finishing 5th out of 7 candidates with 2,338,294 votes.[89] In trials held that year, Marcos claimed that her fortune came from Yamashita's Gold.[90] In September 1993, Marcos was found guilty of corruption by a Manila court and sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison. She was set free on bail and filed an appeal. This was just one of approximately 100 cases involving US$350-million allegedly held by the Marcos family in Swiss banks. The Swiss federal tribunal ruled in December 1990 that the money would only be returned to the national government in Manila if a Philippine court convicted Marcos in a fair trial.[91]

In 1995, she was elected as a congresswoman of Leyte, representing the first district. Marcos defeated Cirilo Montejo with a victory of 70,471 votes to Montejo's 36,833. Initially, a disqualification case was filed against her, but the Supreme Court ruled in her favor.[92] Marcos would again seek the presidency. She ran in 1998, but later withdrew to support the eventual winner Joseph Estrada.[93] She finished 9th among 11 candidates.[94] Estrada's administration would be instrumental in the dismissal of the cases filed by the Aquino government through Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, who said that technicalities and a lapse of the prescriptive period for filing cases were an obstacle.[95] On June 29, 1998, the Sandiganbayan convicted her on charges that she had entered into an agreement disadvantageous to the government. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the decision and cited Sandiganbayan Justice Francis Gatchitorena for his alleged bias against Imelda.[96][97]

In contrast to Marcos's very public life in the 1990s, her life in the first decade of the 21st century was a bit more private as she had retreated from politics and focused on her trials. In December 2000, she suffered a blood clot in her brain but recovered.[98] In 2004, the Global Transparency Report published a study that showed she and her husband amassed $5–10 billion.[99] By September 21, 2007, Marcos still had 10 pending graft cases.[100] She was acquitted on March 10, 2008 by the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch of 26 of 32 counts of dollar salting involving Swiss bank accounts due to reasonable doubt. Marcos , in reaction to her acquittal, said: "First of all, I am so happy and I thank the Lord that the 32 cases have been dismissed by the regional court here in Manila. This will subtract from the 901 cases that were filed against the Marcoses."[101] Marcos still had 10 pending criminal cases remaining before the Sandiganbayan Courts.[102]

Later career[edit]

In 2010, Marcos ran for the second district of Ilocos Norte in the 2010 elections to replace her son,[103] Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., who was running for Senate under the Nacionalista Party.[104][105] She defeated her nearest rival Mariano Nalupta, Jr. with 80% of the vote.[106] She held the position of Millennium Development Goals chairperson in the Lower House.[107]

In 2011, the Sandiganbayan's Fifth Division ordered Marcos to return US$280,000 in government funds taken by her and her husband from the National Food Authority.[108] In 2012, Marcos declared her net worth to be US$22-million. She was listed as the second-richest Filipino politician behind boxer Manny Pacquiao.[109] On September 27, 2012, Marcos attended the book launch of Juan Ponce Enrile's autobiography, Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir, in the Rigodon Ballroom of The Peninsula Manila near her home in Makati. There, Marcos met with Benigno S. Aquino III.[110][111] Marcos filed her certificate of candidacy on October 3, 2012 in a bid to renew her term as Ilocos Norte's second district representative,[112] saying she wants to continue serving the province despite her age. In 2013, she won the election with 94,484 votes against her opponent Ignacio with 11,221 and Madamba with 1,647.[113]

Early in 2013, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released an expose on offshore leaks that included the name of her eldest daughter, Imee, among the list of wealthy people involved in offshore financial secrecy.[114][115] It was revealed that Imee had been helping her mother, Imelda, to hide portions of President Ferdinand Marcos' wealth in tax havens including the British Virgin Islands.[116][117] In October 17, 2013, the sale of two Claude Monet paintings, L'Eglise de Vetheuil and Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas, became the subject of a legal case in New York against Vilma Bautista, one-time aide to Imelda,[118][119] after she sold Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas for US$32 million to a Swiss buyer. The Monet paintings, along with two others, were allegedly acquired by Marcos during her husband's presidency using the nation's funds. Bautista's lawyer claim that the aide sold the painting for Marcos but did not have a chance to give her the money. The Philippine government currently seeks the return of the painting.[120] Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas, also known as Japanese Footbridge over the Water-Lily Pond at Giverny, is part of Monet's famed Water Lilies series.[58] Her secretary was sentenced in January 6, 2014.[121] On January 13, 2014, three collections of her jewelry:[122] the Malacanang collection, the Roumeliotes collection, and the Hawaii collection; along with paintings of Claude Monet were seized by the Philippine government.[123][124][125][126][127] Marcos caused a stir in January 2014 when she called the hospital arrest of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo by Benigno Aquino III as "cruel, unjust."[128][129][130]


Marcos 's lavish collection of shoes, including white Pierre Cardin heels, now lie partly in the National Museum of the Philippines and partly in a shoe museum in Marikina.[131][132][133] Marcos is the present owner of the famed Marian image, Our Lady of Soterraña de Nieva crafted in solid ivory and 18 karat gold.[134] Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) damaged her ancestral home in Tacloban, which also serves as a museum,[135] although she still retains homes in Ilocos Norte and Makati, where she resides.[136] Her net worth is assumed to be US$5 billion,[137][138][139] making her the third richest Filipino after Henry Sy and Lucio Tan and the richest woman in the country.[140][141][142] Towns in Biliran, Bohol, and Zamboanga Sibugay are named after her.[143] She is known by her nicknames "Iron Butterfly" or "Steel Butterfly",[65][144][145][146][147] which she has earned through surviving challenges in her life such as the deaths of her parents and her husband.[148][149] Her beauty has led her to be known in the Philippines as a fashion icon.[150]

Hawaiian comedian Frank De Lima can be heard impersonating Marcos on his 1988 album The Best of De Lima.[151] In 1996, British musician Mark Knopfler wrote the song "Imelda", which was featured on his album Golden Heart.[152][153][154] She was the subject of the 2003 documentary film Imelda by Ramona S. Diaz in which she was interviewed about her life as a First Lady.[155][156][157][158][159] Marcos returned to the fashion scene by making a public appearance on October 8, 2008 when she was featured in the Project Runway Philippines (season 1) episode "Terno Challenge". She previously tried a comeback in 2006 by designing jewelry dubbed the Imelda Collection.[160] Marcos celebrated her 80th birthday in 2009 with a lavish party in the grand ballroom of Hotel Sofitel in Manila.[161] Her party was reminiscent of the extravagant gatherings she held as First Lady. Opera singers and a pianist performed on a stage adorned with her portrait. Marcos-era friends showed up, including Japanese socialite Ratna Sari Dewi Sukarno, a widow of the former President of Indonesia, Sukarno, who flew in from Japan just to attend the party.[161][162]

Artist Carlos Celdran tour offerings have included the Living la Vida Imelda! tour, where he dons bell bottoms for a tour of the 1970s-built Cultural Center of the Philippines[163] and relates both facts and myths about Lady Imelda.[164] According to Time magazine, "Celdran offers up rich narratives that are by turns gossipy (his account of Imelda's rise and fall is hilarious) and compelling (the description of a bombed-out Manila, at the end of World War II, is unforgettable)."[163] On March 23, 2012, Celdran was commissioned by Art Dubai Projects to perform his Living La Vida Imelda tour as a one-man act in Dubai, for Art Dubai 2012, an annual art fair organized to support artists and the growth of the arts community in the United Arab Emirates.[165] On his third day of performances, Celdran was interrupted by robed authorities in the middle of his performance, after Celdran performed an imagined conversation between Marcos and late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi,[165] where she tells him “Islam is all about peace, and if you are funding a war in my country that is pitting Filipino against Filipino, you are also pitting Muslim against Muslim. How are you following Mohammed?”[165][166] In October 2012, his Living la Vida Imelda tour was featured in a special report by the New York Times.[164]

In 2010, British producer Fatboy Slim and musician David Byrne created a concept album called Here Lies Love. It centers around the life of Marcos leading up to her family's exile in Hawai'i. The album features many guest singers including Cyndi Lauper, Florence Welch, Tori Amos, Sia, and Santigold, alternately playing the roles of Marcos and her servant, Estrella Cumpas, on each its tracks.[4] In the spring of 2013, The Public Theater in New York presented a staged musical version of the album.[167][168] An open-ended run returned to the Public Theater on March 24, 2014.[169] A London production of the musical by the New York Creative team opened on September 30, 2014 at the National Theatre.[170]



Mariano Marcos
Josefa Edralin
Vicente Romuáldez
Remedios Trinidad
Ferdinand Marcos
Imelda Romuáldez
Benjamin Romuáldez
Alita Romuáldez
Alfredo Romuáldez
Armando Romuáldez
Concepcion Romuáldez
Tommy Manotoc
Imee Marcos
Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
Louise Araneta
Gregorio Araneta III
Irene Marcos
Aimee Marcos


National Honours

Foreign Honours


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Honorary titles
Preceded by
Evangelina Macapagal
First Lady of the Philippines
Title next held by
Amelita Ramos
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