First Lady Imelda MarcosPLH (born July 2, 1929) is the widow of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and forms half of their so-called conjugal dictatorship. She is remembered as a symbol of extravagance during her husband's twenty-year rule because of her collection of more than a thousand pairs of shoes.

Imelda began her career as a local singer and model in Manila before meeting her husband Ferdinand, who would later be elected as President. After the declaration of martial law in 1972, Imelda began holding positions in the national government that allowed her to travel the world and accumulate artwork and property. The couple consolidated their power allowing them to transport funds from the Philippine treasury into offshore accounts, such as those within banks in Switzerland. Accusations of corruption and human rights violations against them would culminate into the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr. that would lead into People Power Revolution which forced her family out of office and into exile in Hawaii. After her husband's death, she and her family were given amnesty by Corazon Aquino. Her return to the Philippines has since allowed her to restore her political dynasty and she was elected in the House of Representatives in 1995 for Leyte and again in 2010 for Ilocos Norte.

Despite facing numerous cases involving alleged corruption, she has yet to be imprisoned and she continues to wield power. She remains one of the most enigmatic figures of both the 20thand 21st centuries. Her qualities of grace and beauty along with her ability to survive upheavals has led her to be called the "Steel Butterfly".


 [hide*1 Early life

Early life[edit]Edit

Imelda Remedios Visitación Trinidad Romuáldez was born on July 2, 1929 in Manila to Remedios Trinidad and Vicente Romuáldez, brother of Philippine Supreme Court Associate JusticeNorberto Romuáldez. Her paternal ancestors were from a land-owning family in Tolosa, Leyte, descended from GranadaAndalusiaSpain.[1] She has five other siblings, Alfredo, Alita, Armando, Benjamin (1930-2012),[2] and Concepcion who spent their childhood in San Miguel. After their mother died in 1938, their family moved to Tacloban, where she was known as the "Rose of Tacloban",[3] and she was raised by her servant Estrella Cumpas.[4][5][6] In the film Imelda, she claimed to have met Douglas MacArthur when he landed in Tacloban at the end ofWorld War II.[7][7][8]

At the request of her uncle, Daniel Romualdez, Imelda returned in the year 1950 to Manila, where she worked in a music store by Escolta street as a singer to attract customers. She took voice lessons at the music conservatory of the University of Santo Tomas.[9] Imelda 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.[10] This lead to her to become a local supermodel with her pictures appearing in local magazines and newspapers.[11][12] Before meeting her husband, she briely dated Benigno Aquino, Jr., who would later become her political rival.[3][9] On May 1, 1954, Imelda married Ferdinand Marcos, a Nacionalista Party congressman fromIlocos Norte,[13] who was introduced to her by her uncle. Her marriage resulted in three children: ImeeFerdinand, Jr., and Irene. She also adopted a girl named Aimee.[9]

First Lady[edit]Edit

On December 1965, her husband, Ferdinand, was elected as the 10th President of the Philippines and she served as First Lady. Later in July 1966, Imelda became involved in an altercation with the Beatles when they toured the Philippines after they unintentionally snubbed her who had expected the group to attend a breakfast reception at Malacañang.[14] The snub was broadcast on Philippine television and radio.[15]

In an attempt to hold on to power, her husband declared martial law on September 23, 1972. On December 7 that same year, an assailant tried to stab her 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.[16] Once her husband had consolidated his power, Imelda orchestrated lavish public events using millions of dollars in public funds to extol her husband's regime and bolster her public image.[17][18][19] She secured theMiss Universe 1974 pageant for Manila, which necessitated the construction and completion of the 10,000-seat Folk Arts Theater in less than three months.[20] She also organized the Kasaysayan ng Lahi, an extravagant festival parade showcasing the history of the Philippines.[21][22] Imelda initiated social programs such as the Green Revolution that intended to address hunger and landless-ness through the encouragement of planting vegetables and fruits into people's gardens. Another program included a national family-planning program.[23] While a third is a African safari in Calauit Island.[24]

[1][2]Imelda with her husband and Lyndon B. Johnson in Manila, 1966

In 1978, Imelda was appointed as member of the Interim Batasang Pambansa representing Region IV-A. Afterwards, she continued her extravagant lifestyle US$5-million shopping tours in New YorkRome, and Copenhagen in 1983. She also sent a plane to pick up Australian white sand for a beach resort. Apart from these, Imelda purchased a number of properties inManhattan in the 1980s, including the US$51-million Crown Building, the Woolworth Building in 40 Wall Street. and the US$60-million Herald Centre. It was stated that he declined to purchase the Empire State Building for $750m as she considered it "too ostentatious."[25] Her property also included jewels and a 175-piece art collection, which included works by MichelangeloBotticelli, and Canaletto. On behalf of the Philippine government, Imelda purchased 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.”[26] She responded to criticisms of her extravagance by claiming that it was her "duty" to be "some kind of light, a star to give {the poor} guidelines."[25]

Imelda was also appointed as Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary and she toured numerous countries, most notably the United StatesChina, the Soviet UnionLibyaYugoslaviaIraq, and Cuba. Throughout her travels,[27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34] she became friends with a variety of political figures including Richard NixonMuammar GaddafiSaddam HusseinFidel Castro, and Joseph Tito.[35][36] To justify the multi-million dollar expenditure of traveling with a large diplomatic entourage using private jets, she would claim that included she was securing of a cheap supply of oil from ChinaIraq, and Libya, which she also said was instrumental in the signing of the Tripoli Agreement of the Moro National Liberation Front. Besides being an ambassador, Imelda also held the position of Minister of Human Settlements which allowed her to build, institutions such as Cultural Center of the PhilippinesPhilippine Heart CenterLung Center of the PhilippinesPhilippine International Convention CenterCoconut Palace, and theManila Film Center, most of which are still used up until the 21st century.[36][37]

People Power[edit]Edit

Imelda was instrumental in the 1980 exile in the United States of opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr., who had suffered a heart attack during his imprisonment. Martial Law was later lifted in 1981 and her husband, Ferdinand, was again elected president in what was believed to be sham elections.[38] Unfortunately, her husband began to suffer from lupus erythematosus so Imelda effectively ruled in his place. Aquino returned in 1983 and he was assassinated at the Manila International Airport. Accusation against her began to rise so her husband ordered the Agrava Commission, fact-finding committee, to investigate her but she was not found to be guilty.[39][40][41][42]

In the year 1986, snap elections were held between Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino, the widow of former Senator and opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr.[43] 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.[44] On February 25, Imelda and her family fled to Hawaii via Guam. After they left Malacañan Palace, Imelda was found to have left behind 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 1,000 handbags,[45] and 1,060 pairs of shoes. The exact number of shoes varies between accounts with estimates of up to 7500 pairs of shoes.[46] However, Time reported that the final tally was only 1,060.[47] 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.[25][48][49][50]

On 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 for a racketeering case. The charges included embezzlementof more than US$100 million from the Philippine 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.[51] The couple pleaded not guilty and were represented by trial lawyer Gerry Spence. Imelda's US$5-million-dollar bail was posted by tobacco heiress, Doris Duke, who befriended her while she lived in Hawaii. Actor George Hamilton was a witness in her defense. The case ended in acquittal in 1990.[52] Ferdinand died in exile in Hawaii on September 28, 1989. Aquino refused to permit the repatriation of his remains because of national security reasons.[53] The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the government in Marcos vs. Manglapus.[54] In 1991, Imelda was allowed to return home through an amnesty proclamation.[55][56]

Amnesty and return[edit]Edit

After her alliterative fall from grace, Imelda was allowed to return to the Philippines through a presidential pardon by Corazon Aquino on November 4, 1991.[57][58][59] The following year, she ran for president in the hotly-contested 1992 presidential elections, where she finished 5th out of 7 candidates with 2,338,294 votes.[60] In trials held during that year, Imelda claimed that her fortune came from Yamashita's Gold.[61] On September 1993, Imelda 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 she filed an appeal. This was just one of around 100 cases involving US$350-million allegedly held by the Marcos family in banks inSwitzerland. The Swiss federal tribunal had ruled in December 1990 that the money would only be returned to national government in Manila if a Philippine court convicted Imelda in a fair trial.[62]

[3][4]Imelda in Makati, 2008.

In 1995, she was elected Congresswoman of Leyte, representing the first district. Imelda defeated Cirilo Montejo by a landslide victory with 70,471 votes against Montejo's 36,833. Initially, a disqualification case was filed against her but the Supreme Court ruled in her favor.[63] The following year, British musician Mark Knopfler wrote the song "Imelda", which was featured in his albumGolden Heart, in her honor.[64][65][66] In 1998, Imelda would again seek the presidency. She ran presidential elections of that year but later withdrew to support the eventual winner Joseph Estrada.[67] She finished 9th among 11 candidates. 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.[68] On June 29, 1998, the Sandiganbayan convicted the her of a charge 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.[69][70] [71]

In contrast to Imelda'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 out of politics and focused mostly on her trials. 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.[72][73] In 2004, the Global Transparency Report published a study that showed she and her husband amassed between $5 billion to $10 billion[74] By September 21, 2007, Imelda still had 10 pending graft cases.[75] She was acquitted on March 10, 2008 by the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 26 of 32 counts of dollar salting involving Swiss bank accounts due to reasonable doubt. Imelda, 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."[76] Imelda still had 10 pending criminal cases remaining before the Sandiganbayan Courts.[77] Imelda returned to the fashion scene by making a public appearance on October 8, 2008 when she was featured in theProject Runway Philippines season 1 episode "Terno Chllenge". She previously tried a comeback in 2006 by designing jewelry dubbed as the Imelda Collection.[78] Imelda celebrated her 80th birthday in 2009 with a lavish party in the grand ballroom of Hotel Sofitel in Manila.[79] Her party was reminiscent of the extravagant gatherings she held as First Lady. Opera singers and a pianistperformed on a stage adorned with her portrait. Marcos-era friends showed up, including Japanese socialite Ratna Sari Dewi Sukarno, a widow of former President of Indonesia Sukarno, who flew in from Japan just to attend the party.[79][80]

Political comeback[edit]Edit

In 2010, Imelda ran for the second district of Ilocos Norte in the 2010 elections to replace her son, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., who was running for Senator under the Nacionalista Party.[81] She won over her nearest rival Mariano Nalupta, Jr. by 80% to 20%.[82] Later, she held the position of Millennium Development Goals chairperson in the Lower House.[83] In the same year, British producer Fatboy Slim and American musician David Byrne created a concept album calledHere Lies Love. It centered around the life of Imelda leading up to her family's exile in Hawai'i. The album featured many guest singers; such as Cyndi LauperFlorence WelchTori AmosSia, and Santigold; alternately playing the roles of Imelda and her servant, Estrella Cumpas, in each its tracks.[3] In the spring of 2013, The Public Theater in New York City presented a staged musical version of the album.[84][85][86]

[5][6]Marikina Shoe Museum, where her shoes rest.

In 2011, the Sandiganbayan's Fifth Division ordered Imelda to return PHP12-million (US$280,000) in government funds taken by her and her late husband from the National Food Authority.[87] In 2012, Imelda declared her net worth to be PHP932.8-million (US$22-million). She was listed as the second-richest Philippine politician behind boxer Manny Pacquiao.[88]On September 27, 2012, Imelda 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, Imelda met with Benigno S. Aquino III.[89][90] Imelda filed her certificate of candidacy on October 3, 2012, as she sought to renew her term as Ilocos Norte's second district representative.[91] She said she wants to continue serving the province despite her age. In 2013, she won the elections with a 94,484 votes against her opponents Ignacio with 11,221 and Madamba with 1,647.[92]

Early in 2013, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made an expose of Offshore leaks that includes the name of her eldest daughter, Imee Marcos, among the list of wealthy people involved in offshore financial secrecy. It was revealed that Imee had been helping her mother, Imelda, in hiding parts of President Ferdinand Marcos' wealth in tax havenssuch as those in the British Virgin Islands.[93][94] In October 17, 2013, Claude Monet's paintings, L'Eglise de Vetheuil and Le Bassin aux Nymphease, became subjects of a legal case in New York against NY-based Vilma Bautista, one-time aide to Imelda,[95] after she sold Le Bassin aux Nymphease for US$32 million to a Swiss buyer. The said Monet paintings, along with two others, were acquired by Imelda during her husband Ferdinand's presidency and allegedly bought using the nation's funds. Bautista's lawyer claim that the aide sold the painting for Imelda but did not have a chance to give her the money. The Philippine government seeks the return of the painting.[96] Le Bassin aux Nymphease, also known as Japanese Footbridge over the Water-Lily Pond at Giverny, is part of Monet's famed Water Lilies series.[26] Her secretary was sentenced in January 6, 2014.[97]

Imelda's lavish collection of 3,000 shoes including white Pierre Cardin heels now lie partly in the National Museum of the Philippines and partly in a shoe museum in Marikina.[98] Typhoon Haiyan damaged her ancestral home in Tacloban,[99] although she still retains homes in Ilocos Norte and Makati, where she resides.[100] Her net worth is assumed to be US$5 billion,[101][102][103] making her the second richest Filipino after Henry Sy and the richest woman in the country.[104] She is known by her nicknames "Iron Butterfly" or "Steel Butterfly".[42]


Family tree[edit]Edit

Mariano Marcos   Josefa Edralin                   Remedios Trinidad   Vicente Romuáldez  
    Ferdinand Marcos                   Imelda Marcos   Benjamin Romualdez   Alfredo Romuáldez   Alita Romuáldez   Armando Romuáldez  
        Imee Marcos   Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.   Irene Marcos-Araneta   Aimee Marcos  

Titles and styles[edit]Edit

Honorary titles
Preceded by

Evangelina Macapagal

First Lady of the Philippines



Title next held byAmelita 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



Electoral history[edit]Edit

1995 elections

Philippine House of Representatives election at Leyte's 1st district
Party Candidate Votes %
KBL Imelda Marcos 70,471 %
N/A Cirilo Montejo 36,833  %
Valid votes  %
Invalid or blank votes  %
Totals ' 100.00%

gain from N/A

2010 elections

Philippine House of Representatives election at Ilocos Norte's 2nd district
Party Candidate Votes %
KBL Imelda Marcos 109,571 80.02%
Lakas-Kampi Mariano Nalupta, Jr. 27,359 19.98%
Valid votes 136,930 94.56%
Invalid or blank votes 7,873 5.44%
Totals 144,803 100.00%

gain from Nacionalista

2013 elections

2013 Philippine House of Representatives election at Ilocos Norte's 2nd district
Party Candidate Votes %
KBL Imelda Marcos 94,484 76.13%
Independent Ferdinand Ignacio 11,221 9.04%
Independent Lorenzo Madamba 1,647 1.33%
Margin of victory 83,263 67.09%
Invalid or blank votes 16,755 13.50%
Totals 124,107 100.00%


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