Imelda Marcos

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Imelda Marcos
First Lady of the Philippines
Reign December 30, 1965 – February 25, 1986
Acclamation September 21, 1972
Predecessor Eva Macapagal
Successor Vacant (Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, de facto)
Prime Minister Ferdinand Marcos
Cesar Virata
Born (1929-07-02) July 2, 1929 (age 89)
Manila, Philippine Islands
Spouse Ferdinand Marcos (m. 1954; d. 1989)
Issue Imee
Religion Catholic

Imelda Marcos (born July 2, 1929 in Manila, Philippine Islands) is the widow of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos notable for her collection of shoes. She served as First Lady from 1965 to 1986 and is known as the "Steel Butterfly."

In 1954, Imelda married Ferdinand, who would later be elected president on Novermber 9, 1965 and declared Martial law on September 21, 1972. 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 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.

Early life

Imelda Remedios Visitación Romuáldez was born on July 2, 1929 in Manila, Philippines,[1] 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: Benjamin (1930–2012),[3] Alita, Alfredo, Armando, and Concepcion who spent their childhood in San Miguel. After their mother died in 1938, the family moved to Tacloban,[4] where they were raised by her servant Estrella Cumpas.[5][6][7] 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, Romuáldez returned in the 1950s to Manila, where she worked in a music store on Escolta street as a singer to attract customers.[10] She took voice lessons at the music conservatory of the University of Santo Tomas.[10] 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.[11][12] She briefly dated Benigno Aquino, Jr..[4][10] On May 1, 1954, Romuáldez married Ferdinand Marcos, a Nacionalista Party congressman from Ilocos Norte.[13] The marriage resulted in four children: Imee, Bongbong, and Irene, and an adopted girl named Aimee.[10]

First Lady

Ferdinand Marcos was elected in November 9, 1965 as the 10th President of the Philippines and Imelda served as First Lady.[14] In the early years of the Marcos presidency, Imelda had altercations with The Beatles[15] and with Dovie Beams.[16][17][18] On September 23, 1972, Ferdinand declared martial law.[19] As first lady, Imelda has been called "the other half of the conjugal dictatorship".[20][21] She was also a patroness of the arts and culture.[22] On December 7, 1972, an assailant tried to stab Imelda with a bolo knife but was shot by the police.[5]

Once Ferdinand had consolidated his power, Imelda orchestrated public events using national funds to bolster her and her husband's image.[5][23][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][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.[5] 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]

People Power

Imelda was instrumental in the 1980 exile of opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr., who had suffered a heart attack during his imprisonment.[46] Martial Law was later lifted in 1981 but Ferdinand continued to be president.[18] While her husband began to suffer from lupus erythematosus, Imelda effectively ruled in his place.[5] Aquino returned in 1983 but was assassinated at the Manila International Airport upon his arrival.[47] 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][48][48][49]

On February 7, 1986, snap elections were held between Ferdinand and Corazon Aquino, the widow of Benigno Aquino Jr..[5] Despite her husband claiming to have won the elections, allegations of vote rigging led to mass protests that would be later known as the People Power Revolution.[50] On February 25, Imelda and her family fled to Hawaii.[5] After they left Malacañang Palace, she was found to have left behind 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 1,000 handbags,[51] and pairs of shoes, the exact number of which varies with estimates of up to 7,500 pairs.[52] However, Time reported that the final tally was only 1,060.[51] 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.[21][53][54][55]

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.[56][57][58] Among the couple's defenders were Gerry Spence,[59] Doris Duke,[60] and George Hamilton.[61][62] Ferdinand died in exile in Hawaii on September 28, 1989.[23][63][64] 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."[65]


The Honorable
Imelda Marcos
Imelda Marcos.jpg
Imelda Marcos in 2006.
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
Nationality Filipino
Political party Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (1978–present)
Other political
Nacionalista (1965–1978; 2009–present)
Musical career
Genres Kundiman
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1950s–present

On November 4, 1991, Marcos was allowed to return to the Philippines by President Aquino.[66][67][68] The following year, she ran for president in the 1992 presidential elections on May 11, 1992, finishing 5th out of 7 candidates.[69] 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.[70] Marcos sought the presidency again on May 11, 1998 but later withdrew to support the eventual winner Joseph Estrada.[71] She finished 9th among 11 candidates.[72][73][74][75] She was acquitted in one of her graft charges on March 10, 2008 by the Manila Regional Trial Court due to reasonable doubt.[76][77]

Marcos ran for the second district of Ilocos Norte in the elections on May 10, 2010 to replace her son,[78] Bongbong, who was running for Senate under the Nacionalista Party.[79][80] During her term, she held the position of Millennium Development Goals chairwoman in the Lower House.[81] 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.[82][83] Marcos filed her certificate of candidacy on October 3, 2012 in a bid to renew her term as Ilocos Norte's second district representative.[84]

Early in 2013, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists exposed her daughter Imee among people involved in offshore banking.[85] Imee was helping Imelda hide their wealth in the British Virgin Islands.[86][87] 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.[88][89][90] Her secretary was sentenced in January 6, 2014.[91] On January 13, 2014, three collections of her jewelry:[92] the Malacanang collection, the Roumeliotes collection, and the Hawaii collection; along with paintings of Claude Monet were seized by the Philippine government.[93][94][95][96][97][98][99][100]


Marcos' collection of shoes,[101][102] including white Pierre Cardin heels, now lie partly in the National Museum of the Philippines and partly in a shoe museum in Marikina.[103][104] Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) damaged her ancestral home in Tacloban, which also serves as a museum,[105] although she still retains homes in Ilocos Norte and Makati, where she resides.[106] 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 politician Manny Pacquiao.[107] Marcos claimed her fortune came from Yamashita's Gold.[108] Her property used to include jewels and a 175-piece art collection,[109] which included works by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Canaletto, Raphael,[110] 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).[111][112][113][114][115][116] In 2015, a rare pink diamond worth $5 million was discovered in her jewelry collection.[117][118]


Marcos is a fashion and pop culture icon and is known by the nickname "Steel Butterfly."[23][119][120][121][122][123][124][125][126][127] Frank De Lima impersonated her on his 1988 album The Best of De Lima.[128] 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.[129][130][131][132][133] On March 23, 2012, Carlos Celdran performed his Living La Vida Imelda in Dubai.[134][134][135] British producer Fatboy Slim and musician David Byrne created a concept album called Here Lies Love.[4] In the spring of 2013, The Public Theater in New York presented a staged musical version of the album starring Ruthie Ann Miles.[136][137] An open-ended run returned to The Public Theater on March 24, 2014.[138] A London production opened on September 30, 2014 at the Royal National Theatre.[139][140]

National honors

Foreign honors


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  140. David Byrne tells Imelda Marcos story as disco musical. BBC News. October 1, 2014,.
  141. "President's Week in Review: March 1 – March 9, 1976". Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  142. "President's Week in Review: April 7 – April 13, 1975". Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  143. "The Order of pro Merito Melitensi". Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  144. Boletín Oficial del Estado. Government of Spain.
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