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Who is Imelda Marcos?

By Wanda Albano
Updated May 23, 2024
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Imelda Marcos, born 2 July 1929, is the famous and controversial wife of the late Philippine dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. A beauty queen with a degree in education, she parlayed her charms into a whirlwind courtship with the young Ferdinand, which resulted in marriage. The couple have four children: Maria Imelda (nicknamed Imee), Ferdinand Jr. (Bong-bong), Irene Marcos-Araneta and an adopted daughter, Aimee.

Marcos became first lady of the Philippines in 1965 when she was only 36. The following year, she was famously snubbed by the Beatles, who did not show up to a breakfast at the presidential palace. This snub was nationally televised, resulting in a media-manipulated, country-wide backlash against the musicians. Unsubstantiated rumors have it that the first lady tried, unsuccessfully, to have the Beatles assassinated. They immediately fled the country in fear for their lives.

In 1972, at the end of his second term as president, Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, effectively suspending many civil rights and ensuring his continued power. During the martial law period, Imelda Marcos became a public figure in government, taking on many official positions. She was appointed "Governor of Metro Manila," a post that did not originally exist and has since been discontinued, "Minister of Human Settlement," and the odd-sounding "Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary."

She is famous for relocating impoverished squatters to more discreet locations during visits from important foreign personnel, reasoning that they were "eyesores." She is also well-known for her extravagant collection of shoes, and at one time owned Manhattan's $51-million US Dollar (USD) Crown Building and $60-million USDHerald Centre. These properties were eventually seized from her, along with her art collection — which included works by Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Canaletto — her jewelry, and some other prized possessions. The Philippine government claims that the funds used to acquire these possessions were stolen from the national coffers.

The almost comically egotistical Marcos is often quoted as saying that the reason she was spending so much on luxuries was because the country's poor needed something to aspire to. They needed a beacon to guide them, she said, so that they could be inspired to better their own lives. She reiterates this concept, and many of her other bizarre philosophies, in a documentary about her life entitled Imelda which was released internationally in 2003.

After numerous human rights violations and the suspension of the Philippine constitution, the Marcos family was finally deposed through a bloodless revolution in 1986. The Marcoses found themselves forced to flee to Hawaii when their government crumbled and the presidential palace was invaded by an angry mob.

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Discussion Comments
By browncoat — On Aug 22, 2012

You have to wonder if these people are attracted to power or if the power corrupts them once they get it. It seems like there have been dozens of really bizarre rulers of different countries. I've heard these stories of Marcos in the Philippines, but there's also various rulers of North Korea, and Gaddafi of Libya. They all had what amounted to absolute power and wealth in their position and they all used it to be eccentric at the expense of others.

Honestly, if it wasn't for the existence of people like Nelson Mandela I would despair of the human race altogether, but he proves that there are people who can have decent values and stick to them even when they do get into power.

By Mor — On Aug 21, 2012
Being extravagant isn't necessarily a bad thing, although the human rights violations sound like a reason to not reelect her.

I guess I just wonder why someone like that would keep getting re-elected. Does anybody know if the Marcos did any positive things during their time in office?

By irontoenail — On Aug 20, 2012

I've read about Ms Marcos before and she really disgusts me. The idea of someone having thousands of pairs of shoes (at one point I think she held the world record for the biggest and most expensive shoe collection) when people in their country were starving is really awful.

It doesn't surprise me that the Beatles decided to snub her, although I am surprised that the media decided to latch onto that when they must have been scared to demonstrate against the people in power. But, perhaps the country hadn't yet suffered the human rights violations that they later did and there was still some freedom of the press.

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