The Rise and Fall of Imelda Marcos
by Carmen Navarro Pedrosa
She was, newspaper said, as beautiful as an actress and once held the title Miss Manila. Whom, by that day of December 30, 1965, people from all over the country, came in all manners of transport, just to see the beauty of the First Lady-to be, Imelda Romualdez Marcos. The beautiful Imelda, whom they traveled miles to see, would play a stellar role. They, unaware that the plot is about to begin....she would portray a rich, young and beautiful, an Asian Jacquelyn Kennedy. She would exude an image of confidence and and poise of a heiress. Imelda with her powerful asset – beauty, was featured in countless magazines and newspapers both in the Philippines and abroad – the flawless complexion, long jet-black hair and finely chiseled features that combined the best of her mixed ancestry and queenly bearing.
Despite a famous name, and a beauty title, Imelda was no aristocrat, even on her marriage to Marcos she was socially insignificant. For them, Imelda was a mystery. But her life was never remarkable, why she hide it was a puzzle.
But Imelda would do everything to get the attention of the world, with the fervor of the child long ago who had so craved the attention of her self-absorbed parents; exceeding the limits of extravagance, just to show the world what she became. Then came a “steel butterfly”. She was now on top of the world – rich, daring, imitable. She loved the company of the rich, the famous, and the powerful, spending millions of dollars, plunging the country's ailing economy into debts.... her travels and traveling binges, her gowns, her jewelry, her projects and her houses. In 1983, the Philippines ballooned to $13.6 billion dollars in the World Bank, ranking eight-highest borrower among 113 Third World Countries. Imelda lived a fabulous double life as First Lady and co-dictator of the Philippines after her husband's declaration of martial law in 1972.
Indeed, martial law provided Marcos and Imelda with almost magical powers and opened the way to the fortune that would soon make Imelda “the richest woman in the world”. In their reign, Marcos made the plans but it is Imelda who implemented them. It allows her to attempt once and for all to erase the true story of her past; pursuing the international jet set, surrounding herself with admiring men, and spending millions of dollars in a futile attempt to fill the emptiness inside her. Her identity depended on his success, and she would go to any lengths to maintain his power. It doesn't matter if people were starving, and living in slum areas. What matters most is her need to be a star, her need to be accepted by the worlds most sociable elite whom she called her “beautiful gang” and to be the richest woman in the world. Indeed, in December 1983, an article in Cosmopolitan named her “one of the riches woman in the world”, listed seventh, together with the company of Elizabeth II of England, Dina Merril, Christina Onaesis, Barbara Hutton, Juliana of the Netherlands, The Berum Aga Khan, Duris Duke, Madeleine Dassault, and the Duchess of Alba.
Since Imelda discovered the wonderful world of International Loan, the Marcoses diverted millions of dollars to their personal asset. They also diverted millions of dollars through the profits from overpriced goods and constructions; through unaudited government revenues; and through the expedient of taking over businesses by decree and controlled entities. Initial estimates hover between $5 billion to $10 billion but more Marcos accounts under false name have been found by Swiss authorities, figuring a staggering $15 billion, more than half of the entire national debt of the Philippines.
To most, in those last years of Marcos rule, she was president, but name. From their first electoral victory in 1965, she had been Marcos partner and bridge of his dynastic empire. But Filipinos are ol. Thanks to Ninoy Aquino. His bravery of fighting for democracy that results to an assassination done by the Marcoses, awakens every Filipino. When elections came, they were fully prepared to chain themselves to the ballot boxes so their true will could be heard. They were so desperate of ending the Marcos evil regime. But the Marcoses, with their evil tactics, won, that soon rise People Power. People from all walks of life gathered together at EDSA, armed with nothing but rosaries, flowers and chocolates.
The impact of a million of people dancing, singing, and praying for peace, disarmed the combative soldiers. It was a unique protest that ended to a peaceful revolution that had dazzled to world – the only revolution in the history of the world with no shades of blood ever.
People Power ended the Marcos rule, leading them to exile to Hawaii. But why are they reluctant to leave is that they enjoyed power like kings and queens. For twenty years Malacañang was their palace and for twenty years of extravagance, they would be laughing on their way to Hawaii, but one thing for sure, their exile is the end of the flight of the steel butterfly.