Imelda Marcos

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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 Bongbong Marcos
Personal details
Born Imelda Remedios Visitación Romuáldez
(1929-07-02) July 2, 1929 (age 86)
Manila, Philippine Islands
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
Religion Catholic
Musical career
Genres Kundiman
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1950s–present

Imelda Romuáldez Marcos (born July 2, 1929) is a Filipino politician, the widow of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. She served as First Lady from 1965 to 1986.

In 1954, Imelda married Ferdinand Marcos, who would later be elected president in 1965 and declare Martial law in 1972. As first lady, Imelda Marcos held considerable influence during her husband's authoritarian rule and has been called "the other half of the conjugal dictatorship".[1][2] She is also an extravagant patroness of the arts and culture.[3]

The assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. in 1983 caused mass protests that eventually led to the People Power Revolution. The Marcos family were forced into exile and Aquino's widow, Corazon, was installed into the presidency. After her husband's death, Imelda Marcos returned to the Philippines and 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 Imelda but she has not served any time in prison. Her family continues to be influential in Philippine politics with her daughter Imee and son Bongbong being able to hold positions in the government.

Imelda is also known as a for her collection of over a thousand pairs of shoes.[4]

Early Life[edit]

Imelda Remedios Visitación Romuáldez was born on July 2, 1929 in Manila, Philippines, 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.[5] She has five other siblings: Benjamin (1930–2012),[6] Alita, Alfredo, Armando, and Concepcion who spent their childhood in San Miguel. After their mother died in 1938, the family moved to Tacloban,[7] where they were raised by her servant Estrella Cumpas.[8][9][10] She claimed to have met Douglas MacArthur when he landed in Tacloban at the end of World War II.[11][11][12]

At the request of her cousin, Daniel, Romuáldez returned in the 1950s to Manila, where she worked in a music store on Escolta street as a singer to attract customers.[13] She took voice lessons at the music conservatory of the University of Santo Tomas.[13] Romuáldez 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.[14][15] She briefly dated Benigno Aquino, Jr..[7][13] On May 1, 1954, Romuáldez married Ferdinand Marcos, a Nacionalista Party congressman from Ilocos Norte.[16] The marriage resulted in four children: Imee, Bongbong, and Irene, and an adopted girl named Aimee.[13]

First Lady[edit]

Ferdinand Marcos was elected in November 9, 1965 as the 10th President of the Philippines and Imelda served as First Lady.[17] In the early years of the Marcos presidency, Imelda had altercations with The Beatles[18] and with Dovie Beams.[19][20][21] On September 23, 1972, Ferdinand declared martial law.[22] On December 7, 1972, an assailant tried to stab Imelda with a bolo knife but was shot by the police.[8]

Once Ferdinand had consolidated his power, Imelda orchestrated public events using national funds to bolster her and her husband's image.[8][23] William H. Sullivan wrote that she had acquired enough power to be able to browbeat Philippine military generals into wearing drag at her birthday parties.[24] Imelda secured the Miss Universe 1974 pageant for Manila, which required the construction of the Folk Arts Theater in less than three months.[25] She also organized the Kasaysayan ng Lahi, a festival showcasing Philippine history.[26][27] Imelda also initiated social programs, such as the Green Revolution, which was intended to address hunger by encouraging the people to plant produce in household gardens, and created a national family-planning program.[28] During the early 1970s, she took control of the distribution of bread called nutribun, which actually came from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).[29][30]

Imelda was appointed in 1978 as a member of the Interim Batasang Pambansa representing Region IV-A and was also appointed as Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary, allowing her to tour the United States, the Soviet Union, Libya, Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Cuba.[31] Throughout her travels,[32][33][34][35][36][37][38] Imelda became friends with Richard Nixon, Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, and Joseph Tito.[39][40] A Wikileaks diplomatic note "claims she was waiting for Spain's dictator Franco to die so she could fly to Madrid for the funeral."[41] Imelda would claim her travels was needed to secure oil from Iraq and Libya, which she also said was instrumental in the signing of a peace treaty with the Moro National Liberation Front.[42][43] Sullivan wrote that during her trip to the dedication of the Sydney Opera House, she tried to upstage Queen Elizabeth II.[44]

Besides being an ambassador, Imelda also held the position of Minister of Human Settlements, allowing her to construct the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Philippine Heart Center, the Lung Center of the Philippines, the Philippine International Convention Center, the Coconut Palace, and the Manila Film Center.[8] Imelda 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.[45] She declined to purchase the Empire State Building for $750 million because she considered it "too ostentatious."[46]

People Power[edit]

Imelda was instrumental in the 1980 exile of opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr., who had suffered a heart attack during his imprisonment.[47] Martial Law was later lifted in 1981 but Ferdinand continued to be president.[21] While her husband began to suffer from lupus erythematosus, Imelda effectively ruled in his place.[8] Aquino returned in 1983 but was assassinated at the Manila International Airport upon his arrival.[48] With accusations against Imelda beginning to rise, Ferdinand created the Agrava Commission, a fact-finding committee, to investigate her, ultimately finding her not guilty.[23][49][49][50]

On February 7, 1986, snap elections were held between Ferdinand and Corazon Aquino, the widow of Benigno Aquino Jr..[8] Despite her husband seemingly winning the elections, allegations of vote rigging led to mass protests that would be later known as the People Power Revolution.[51] On February 25, Imelda and her family fled to Hawaii.[8] After they left Malacañang Palace, she was found to have left behind 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 1,000 handbags,[52] and pairs of shoes, the exact number of which varies with estimates of up to 7,500 pairs.[53] However, Time reported that the final tally was only 1,060.[54] The location where her shoes and jewelry were kept was later destroyed and the contents stolen and a painting of her was destroyed outside the Palace.[2][46][55][56][57]

In 1988, Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos, together with Adnan Khashoggi, were tried and acquitted by a Federal grand jury in Manhattan through an embezzlement charge.[58][59][60] Among the couple's defenders were Gerry Spence,[61] Doris Duke,[62] and George Hamilton.[63][64] Ferdinand died in exile in Hawaii on September 28, 1989.[23][65][66][67] 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 Imelda in a "fair trial."[68]

Later career[edit]

Imelda Marcos, 2006.

On November 4, 1991, Imelda was allowed to return to the Philippines by President Aquino.[69][70][71] The following year, she ran for president in the 1992 presidential elections on May 11, 1992, finishing 5th out of 7 candidates.[72] On May 8, 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.[73] Marcos sought the presidency again on May 11, 1998 but later withdrew to support the eventual winner Joseph Estrada.[74] She finished 9th among 11 candidates.[75][76][77][78] She was acquitted in one of her graft charges on March 10, 2008 by the Manila Regional Trial Court due to reasonable doubt.[79][80] Imelda still had 10 pending criminal cases remaining before the Sandiganbayan.[81]

Marcos ran for the second district of Ilocos Norte in the elections on May 10, 2010 to replace her son,[82] Bongbong, who was running for Senate under the Nacionalista Party.[83][84] She defeated her nearest rival with 80% of the vote.[85] During her term, she held the position of Millennium Development Goals chairwoman in the Lower House.[86] 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.[87] On September 27, 2012, Marcos attended the book launch of Juan Ponce Enrile's autobiography, Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir.[88][89] Marcos filed her certificate of candidacy on October 3, 2012 in a bid to renew her term as Ilocos Norte's second district representative.[90] She won the election on May 13, 2013.[91]

Early in 2013, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists exposed her daughter Imee among people involved in offshore banking.[92] Imee was helping Imelda hide their wealth in the British Virgin Islands.[93][94] 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, a one-time aide to Marcos.[95][96][97] Her secretary was sentenced in January 6, 2014.[98] On January 13, 2014, three collections of her jewelry:[99] the Malacanang collection, the Roumeliotes collection, and the Hawaii collection; along with paintings of Claude Monet were seized by the Philippine government.[100][101][102][103][104] Marcos caused a stir in January 2014 when she called the hospital arrest of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo by Benigno Aquino III as "cruel, unjust."[105][106][107]


Marcos's collection of shoes,[108][109] including white Pierre Cardin heels, now lie partly in the National Museum of the Philippines and partly in a shoe museum in Marikina.[110][111][112] Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) damaged her ancestral home in Tacloban, which also serves as a museum,[113] although she still retains homes in Ilocos Norte and Makati, where she resides.[114] In 2012, Marcos declared her net worth to be US$22-million and she was listed as the second-richest Filipino politician behind boxer and representative Manny Pacquiao.[115] Marcos claimed her fortune came from Yamashita's Gold.[116] Her property used to include jewels and a 175-piece art collection,[117] which included works by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Canaletto, Raphael,[118] 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).[46][119][120][121][122][123][124][125]


Imelda Marcos is frequently portrayed in popular culture, both flatteringly and unflatteringly, especially in political satire. Marcos is a fashion and pop culture icon.[126] Frank De Lima impersonated her on his 1988 album The Best of De Lima.[127] In 1996, Mark Knopfler wrote the song "Imelda", from his album Golden Heart.[128][129][130] 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.[131][132][133][134][135] In 2006, she designed jewelry dubbed the Imelda Collection.[136] On March 23, 2012, Carlos Celdran performed his Living La Vida Imelda in Dubai.[137][137][138][139] British producer Fatboy Slim and musician David Byrne created a concept album called Here Lies Love.[7] In the spring of 2013, The Public Theater in New York presented a staged musical version of the album starring Ruthie Ann Miles.[140][141] An open-ended run returned to The Public Theater on March 24, 2014.[142] A London production opened on September 30, 2014 at the Royal National Theatre.[143][144]

Imelda is known by her nickname "Steel Butterfly".[23][145][146][147][148][149][150][151]


Imelda Marcos, 2008.

National Honors

Foreign Honors


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  4. ^ "Former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos Attends Pope Francis' Mass". NBC News. January 17, 2015. Retrieved March 23, 2015. 
  5. ^ Kerima Polotan, "Imelda Romualdez Marcos, A Biography of the First Lady of the Philippines", The World Publishing Company, Ohio, 1970.
  6. ^ "Kokoy Romualdez, powerful younger brother of Imelda Marcos, dies at 81". GMA. February 2012.
  7. ^ a b c The Imelda Marcos Story — As Told by David Byrne TIME. April 10, 2010.
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  9. ^ Francia, Beatriz. Imelda: a Story of the Philippines, Solar Publishing Corporation, Manila, 1992
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  11. ^ a b FILM CLIPS / Also opening today. San Francisco Gate. June 11, 2004.
  12. ^ 'Imelda': Don't Cry for Her. The Washington Post. July 16, 2004.
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  16. ^ Staycation guide: Overnight stay in Quiapo. ABS-CBN News. January 6, 2014.
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  38. ^ A walk in the shoes of Imelda Marcos. The Boston Globe. August 6, 2004.
  39. ^ Waltzing with a Dictator: the Marcoses and the Making of American Policy, Raymond Bonner, author, Times Books, New York, 1987, ISBN 0-8129-1326-4
  40. ^ Get to know former First Lady Imelda Marcos on Powerhouse. Power House. GMA Network. July 8, 2013.
  41. ^ The Following comments about Mrs. Marcos were made by Jack Anderson on the dates indicated on the Good Morning America broadcast on the ABC Television Network. Wikileaks. January 26, 1976.
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  55. ^ "The Yamashita Treasure was found by Roxas and stolen from Roxas by Marcos' men."
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  57. ^ No Apology, It Was a Godly Act – Imelda. October 14, 1998.
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  64. ^ "Imelda Marcos Found Not Guilty : Philippines: The former first lady's late husband was the culpable party, some jurors feel. Khashoggi is also cleared.." Los Angeles Times. July 3, 1990.
  65. ^ Manila Journal;Queen of the Quirky, Imelda Marcos Holds Court. The New York Times. March 4, 1996.
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  70. ^ Imelda Marcos Has an $829 Billion Idea. Bloomberg Businessweek. October 24, 2013.
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  73. ^ Imelda Romualdez Marcos v. Crilo Roy Montejo. Republic of the Philippines: Supreme Court. September 18, 1995.
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  75. ^ "Faces of the week." BBC News. November 10, 2006.
  76. ^ Presidential Plunder: the Quest for Marcos Ill-Gotten Wealth, Jovito Salonga, author, Regina Publishing Company, Manila, 2001.
  77. ^ Imelda Marcos vs. Sandiganbayan, GR. No. 126995 [Supreme Court Resolution], dated October 6, 1998
  78. ^ Imelda's crown jewels to go under the hammer BBC News, May 13, 2003
  79. ^ Sandigan OKs Imelda bid for daily hearings on graft cases. GMA News. September 21, 2007.
  80. ^ Imelda Marcos innocent of dollar salting. United Press International. May 10, 2008.
  81. ^ "Editorial Ninoy, home at last." Philippine Daily Inquirer. August 21, 2008.
  82. ^ "Imelda Marcos bids for seat as Philippine race begins." BBC News. March 26, 2010.
  83. ^ An audience with the one and only Imelda Marcos. BBC. May 27, 2010.
  84. ^ INTREVIEW – Philippines' Marcos fights to get wealth back. Reuters. May 13, 2010.
  85. ^ Bongbong ousted from KBL after joining Nacionalista Party. Philippine Star.
  86. ^ Imelda Marcos stays as MDG committee chair. ABS-CBN News. September 15, 2010.
  87. ^ "Philippine court orders Imelda to repay funds", The Philippine News, Monday, April 11, 2011 (AFP story)
  88. ^ Unthinkable: Guess who came to Enrile book launch. Philippine Daily Inquirer. September 29, 2012.
  89. ^ JPE writes his memoir, 'corrects' history. Rappler. September 28, 2012.
  90. ^ Imelda seeks second term, files COC. ABS-CBN News. October 3, 2012.
  91. ^ Ilocos Norte. GMA News. May 24, 2013.
  92. ^ Ferdinand Marcos’ Daughter Tied to Offshore Trust in Caribbean. International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. April 3, 2013.
  93. ^ "Secret Files Expose Offshore’s Global Impact". ICIJ. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 
  94. ^ "BIR chief ready to investigate Pinoys with offshore accounts".  June 15, 2013.
  95. ^ Ex-Imelda Marcos aide on trial in NYC for selling Monet work. Philippine Daily Inquirer. October 17, 2013. Retrieved on October 17, 2013.
  96. ^ "Imelda Marcos’s Ex-Aide Charged in ’80s Art Theft." The New York Times. November 20, 2012.
  97. ^ PCGG: Gov’t, not Marcos victims, owns Monet painting Philippine Daily Inquirer. July 21, 2013. Retrieved on October 17, 2013.
  98. ^ Ex-Imelda Marcos secretary to be sentenced by NY court. GMA News. January 6, 2014.
  99. ^ Imelda loses jewels in the Marcos crown. The Age. September 17, 2005.
  100. ^ Onetime aide to Imelda Marcos sentenced to up to six year in prison after plotting to sell $32 million Claude Monet painting. The Daily Mail. January 14, 2014
  101. ^ Show me the Monet: Philippines seeks return of Marcos paintings. Reuters. January 14, 2014
  102. ^ Aide to former Philippine First Lady sentenced to prison for trying to sell country's art. New York Daily News. January 14, 2014.
  103. ^ Marcos jewels could be sold after court rules they were ‘ill-gotten’. The Japan Times. January 14, 2014.
  104. ^ Philippines Seeks Return of Marcos Paintings. Voice of America. January 14, 2014.
  105. ^ Arroyo detention ‘cruel, unjust,’ says Imelda Marcos. Philippine Daily Inquirer. January 23, 2014.
  106. ^ Imelda Romualdez Marcos visits Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at hospital detention. GMA News. January 23, 2014
  107. ^ Imelda describes Arroyo's situation 'inhumane'. ABS-CBN News. January 23, 2014
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  113. ^ Yolanda destroys Imelda’s ancestral house in Leyte. GMA News. November 19, 2013.
  114. ^ My afternoon with Imelda Marcos. Fortune. January 9, 2014.
  115. ^ Imelda Marcos claims net worth of US$22 million. Taipei Times. May 6, 2012.
  116. ^ Marcos widow claims wealth due to 'Yamashita treasure'. The Bulletin. February 3, 1993.
  117. ^ Marcoses' Silver Sets Record At Auction. The New York Times. January 11, 1991.
  118. ^ Marcoses' Raphael Sold To Italy for $1.65 Million. The New York Times. January 12, 1991.
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  122. ^ Philippines May Curb the Pursuit of Marcos’s Wealth. The New York Times. January 2, 2013.
  123. ^ Philippines mall mogul rakes it in as crisis hits rich: Forbes. Agence France Press. October 15, 2008
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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
Bongbong Marcos
Member of the House of Representatives from Ilocos Norte's 2nd district