MANILA, Philippines—Would the notorious history attached to Imelda Marcos’ jewelry be enough for tourists to travel all the way to Manila to view them?
Newly confirmed Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez raised this question on Wednesday following reports that the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) would like the Department of Tourism to exhibit the former first lady’s jewelry before a planned auction.
More specifically, the PCGG wants the Department of Tourism (DoT) to showcase the Iron Butterfly’s gems at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, a stone’s throw from the vault of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas where the famed jewelry have been kept all these years.
Jimenez remains cool to the idea, though. Especially the part where PCGG Chairman Andres Bautista thinks the “notoriety” identified with the jewels’ owner would put a premium that would attract curiosity seekers.
The secretary said the PCGG’s proposal would be “something that has to be evaluated. Any exhibit is possible but I have to see it first.”
The PCGG said the recommendation to display the jewelry was given to Jimenez in March. The secretary, though, told reporters that the commission made the proposal “before my time.”
Jimenez has headed the DoT for almost a year now.
“Just because it’s jewelry doesn’t mean it’s touristic so I will (have to) see…Notoriety is not exactly the best way to attract tourists,” the secretary stressed.
“I do not look at implications other than the fact that it’s possibly an opportunity for our people to draw in more tourists. If that is what (PCGG officials) think it is,” he added.
Bautista said the PCGG already got a call from the international auction house Sotheby’s, which expressed interest in disposing of Marcos’ jewelry.
While conservative estimates put her assets’ value between $10 million and $20 million, Bautista believes Marcos’ “notoriety” could push her seized jewelry’s value up the stratosphere.
Bautista apparently based this on the precedent set by the sale of jewelry owned by other famous women including Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis and the Duchess of Windsor that fetched figures way beyond the expectations of auctioneers.
Marcos lived the life of a bon vivant with an unlimited shopping allowance during her late husband’s presidency.
When Ferdinand Marcos escaped to Honolulu at the height of the Edsa uprising in 1986, his wife brought along with her a cache of 400 pieces of jewelry later seized by the US Bureau of Customs.
This was apart from the roughly 300 pieces left behind in Malacañang when the Marcos family fled in haste to Clark Airbase before flying to the US.
The Philippine government also keeps the so-called “Roumeliotes” collection of 60 pieces, named after the ex-first lady’s alleged Greek accomplice Demetriou Roumeliotes, who was caught trying to smuggle the items out of the country a few weeks after the Marcoses left.
The Roumeliotes collection is believed to be the most expensive as it includes a 37-carat diamond.