Where else in the whole Philippines can you find a red carpet running down to the driveway? Obviously, only in the House of Imelda Marcos. (As one goes up those steps, one feels like celebrity, thinking of a mini version of the Palais des Festivals at Cannes.)
This used to be a bungalow the young Ferdinand Marcos acquired for his parents in the late 1940s. After he married Imelda Romualdez in 1954, the couple made it their home, until they transferred to Malacañang when he became president in 1966.
The low structure on a sloping lot in the quieter section of San Juan has gone through renovations over the years, until it has been transformed into a sort of complex, with a ballroom (now a warehouse for legal documents); an outdoor area for social functions; a shooting gallery (now derelict with weeds and vines); numerous parlors; an inner courtyard.
One enters the place through a passageway installed on one wall with huge portraits of the Romualdez foreparents, and opposite the Romualdez family crest bestowed by King Juan Carlos of Spain in the 1980s.
The mistress of the house, who lives elsewhere, visits the place only for receiving visitors, and uses it as a showplace for cultural artifacts, antique books and legal documents, family memorabilia (framed clippings and covers of international magazines and newspapers featuring the First Couple; albums and framed photographs of the Marcoses hobnobbing with international celebrities and dignitaries).
Former First Lady and now Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Romualdez Marcos has awed, inspired, amused, annoyed or angered three generations of Filipinos. She has so intertwined with mass consciousness that people tend to call her either on a first-name basis (Imelda) or with due reverence (Ma’am). She has entered the lexicon (Imeldific), probably the most famous Filipino alive.
In an interview two years ago, she unburdened herself of her feelings toward her critics, in an odd mixture of bitterness and triumph: “Kung ano-ano pinagsasabi sa akin—Imeldific, Imeldious. Sa awa ng Diyos, nandito pa naman ako, mag-o-otsenta na, nagpapa-cute pa.”
The lady turned 82 on July 2. It seems no one can have had enough of her. Even in her advanced years, she is news.
One mid-morning last month, Playtime came to visit to see how she was, and if she had any more birthday wishes. Younger staffers, some not even born during her glory days, eagerly joined Playtime to see this living legend up close and personal. Everyone was agog while waiting for her—but how to conduct themselves? Should they shake hands?
At the appointed hour, on the dot, the lady of the house arrived with her retinue. Everyone hushed, as anyone would when face to face with a global icon or historical figure. As she breezed in, the visitors cautiously dispersed from the red carpet, as if her mere presence had the power to waft anyone away.
She was wearing an empire-cut dress over wide-legged pants, with modified butterfly sleeves evocative of the terno, in silken fabric of burgundy with touches of citrus and cream. She was carefully coiffured; feet shod in metallic blue; nails painted with blood-red half-moons; ears, neck, wrists and fingers dripping with turquoise cabochon and an especially large carbuncle.
After putting everyone at ease, she gently settled on a sunlit corner of the salon, by the piano, overlooking the garden. What followed was a no-holds-barred interview that stretched for nearly five hours, certainly the longest in Playtime history.
After explaining her ideal of the true, the good and the beautiful (which originated with Plato, by the way), she challenged the visitors to ask any question as she was not daunted by the truth. The interview threatened to turn into a series of nonstop monologues, as she sifted what she considered fact from what she considered fiction.
No, there were only 200 pairs of shoes found in the Palace when they left; in fact, she had more undies (black). No, son Bongbong was not killed by a classmate while schooling in London (as the rumor went); all they had to do was get the DNA.
No, there were only four construction workers killed when the Film Center collapsed, not 169 as reported. No, there was no Yamashita treasure, and the Golden Buddha was not gold.
Yes, she now had nothing to her name, she was poor as a church mouse, she shopped at 168 Mall in Divisoria, she designed her own dresses and employed a modista, and what she had for service vehicle was a Toyota.
Yes, her wrinkle-free skin was God-given and she did not need any cosmetic surgery. (And here she lifted her hemline to show her abs had no stretch marks—but the horrified visitors exclaimed, No! please, don’t show us, we believe you.)
Time and again her voice broke and she wept a little when she recalled her late husband or talked about the long-suffering Filipinos. The whole session had turned into Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know about Ma’am but Were Afraid to Ask.
By the time she invited the visitors to a Chinese luncheon, it was already past 2 p.m. After lunch, capped by an Italian red labeled Imelda Marcos Wine (a gift, she said, from an Italian friend), she toured the visitors around the place.
Plastered on walls from the atrium through the corridors to the parlors and sanctums were photocopies of Ferdinand’s vows of endless love he wrote Imelda on their wedding anniversaries.
In the courtyard, heroic stone figures of Christ the King and Our Lady of the Rosary stood alongside heroic wooden sculptures of a Cordilleran warrior and maiden. Scattered on every nook and cranny were glass and stone curios, masks, solid-jade buddha, floor-to-ceiling Japanese screen, oil portraits and murals, European-style period furniture.
The most awesome of the artworks were the murals of National Artists Carlos Francisco and Vicente Manansala installed in the ballroom. One thought, the legal documents can go in conflagration—but save these artworks.
The visitors felt limp from the long hours of interview, but obviously the lady had been energized by the wine. She still felt the need to explain things, so she asked someone for a pointing stick and an illustrated tarp and gave the visitors a brief lecture in the atrium, explicating her mystical solutions to the country’s political and economic problems.
It was already past 3 p.m. when a black Benz limousine came to the driveway, followed by a white Toyota van.
On leave-taking, down the red carpet, the visitors felt like a bunch of wilting asparagus.
Why is this house significant to you?
This house was bought by Marcos in 1946, three years before he entered politics, in ’49. When he and I got married, he brought me here. From here he would walk every morning to his office, because he was then working in a gold mining company.
Do you feel him when you come here? Do you still remember or see him?
Definitely. This is funny because I was married to Ferdinand for 35 years, but I stayed here only on the 11th year he was President. Twenty years in Malacañang Palace, and then five years when we were taken by the Americans to Hawaii.
You’ve just celebrated your birthday. What makes you still strong and beautiful in your 80s? What’s your secret?
Eighty-second birthday. First of all, I am very, very lucky because I’m so blessed. I had parents who taught me, gave me education and values and attitude, and to be a true believer. Sometimes they laugh at me, with the good, the true and the beautiful, which is God made real. Even Confucius said, “What is peace? Peace is the giving of love. Love is the giving of the good, true and beautiful.” The same thing with Plato, who said, “God is made real with the good, true and beautiful.”
Sometimes, when I get exasperated, [when others say] ’eto naman si Ma’am with the good, true and the beautiful, [I think it’s] just common sense. My mother died when I was eight, and I was nurtured in Leyte, which was practically a paradise. If you see Olot, it’s really paradise. Nature is resplendent and beautiful. So when I get this criticism of the good and beautiful, sinasabi ko sa kanila na hindi ako magiging bunga kung hindi ako magandang bulaklak muna.
Unlike other women your age, you never had plastic surgery or facelift.
No, because I had the best plastic surgery, which is my attitude. I’m very optimistic. I’m very positive; I see God everywhere. I see beauty everywhere, even in garbage.
I get a string of resin or 50-centavo beads and I put it together and I make do. At 168 Mall or Divisoria, you can get this so cheaply—50 centavos [per piece].
You never really believed in cosmetic surgery or lifts?
How can I improve on the work of God? No doctor, no matter how great he is and no matter how magaling, cannot do better than God. I’ve no wrinkles because I have no problems. They have problems with me because I’ve no problems.
Do you use a special moisturizer or oil?
No. Only a warm small towel to clean my face. I don’t even use soap.
More important than all this plastic surgery and all these medicines is really [what’s] coming from within, your attitude and values in life.
For instance, we wake up with 1,000 energy. Because my attitude is, I see beauty everywhere; I see a beautiful flower, and it enriches me. Beautiful conversations, beautiful people, beautiful house, beautiful garden—by nighttime, I don’t have 1,000 energy, I have 1 million energy. When I cannot sleep, it’s not because I have insomnia, it’s because I’m not tired. I’m over-energized. I have to unwind, and what is my sleeping pill? I turn on the TV and I watch Iraq, Iran and all these terrible goings-on [in the news]. In 10 minutes, I’m so tired and fall asleep. The problem is, to the despair of my staff, in two or three hours I’m awake again. That’s all I need.
Did you ever get interested in Botox?
I cannot do that, having God. God made me perfect because He made me into His likeness and we are all made perfect.
Do you still do your hair?
Yes, I still do my hair, but sometimes I have help. [My hair is] still long because my papa, I don’t why, wanted me to look like Dorothy Lamour or Lady Godiva. President Marcos also liked my hair long.
How long does it take you to fix it?
Now it takes faster, maybe 20 minutes. I need help now because it’s so difficult to look behind. After all, they take pictures of you from different sides, so I need a little help. But my help is there only for about an hour or two. When I was First Lady, I had a full-time girl with me. She still comes around, and is still with me after 45 years. She got so sick when we left that, suddenly, we saw her appear on our doorstep in Hawaii. She went to Hawaii! Her name is Fely. She’s a bit old and can hardly walk, so ang ginagawa ko na lang pinabibigyan ko siya ng trabaho ng magpe-paste ng mga pictures na luma.
Who did your nails? Is that your favorite nail-polish color?
More or less; it’s too natural. The reason I put in the half-moon is to show that I’m not going away from nature, the way nails really looked, but at the same time I’m accentuating the positive and eliminating the negatives. Sometimes, you know, you’re working so hard, just like when I was married to Ferdinand and we had to go to the barrios and sometimes you have to pick up things and minsan putik. Before you know it, ang dumi-dumi na ng fingers mo. For the time being, this kind of manicure is helpful, not going far away from nature because I am very close to nature. I make things natural talaga. In fact, I remember very well my greatest compliment came from Chairman Mao, whose wife Jiang Qing was a friend of mine. One day she said, “You know, I asked General Mao, ‘Why do you like Mrs. Marcos a lot? Every time we talk about Mrs. Marcos, you smile.’ And he said, ‘I like Mrs. Marcos a lot because she’s so natural, and that is perfection.’”
Can you imagine? On our first visit there, my companion was Bongbong, who was 16. Chairman Mao started to cough. Me, I remembered I had cough drops in my bag, so I took the cough drops to give to Chairman Mao. Bongbong was kicking and kicking me [saying], “Mommy, wag mo ibigay ’yan. Baka allergic ’yan (Chairman Mao) at mamatay ’yan, mommy.”
Me, natural lang, meron akong cough drops, binigay ko, pero si Bongbong nag-isip. The poor Bongbong. It was a 10-day visit to China. Everyday he was asking, “How is Chairman Mao?” Natatakot si Bongbong na baka anong mangyari kay Chairman Mao because of the cough drops.
But you lost contact with Jiang Qing because she was imprisoned.
Not only that, she was killed soon after. That’s the trouble. If you will see, in history, no matter how great you are, the wife is always the bad guy. I always say, “What did I do bad?” What did I do naman bad? To say the good, the true and the beautiful? When I make a housing project, that’s a good project. I don’t do only good projects, I also make sure they are done right, meaning affordable and strong for the poor, that they can afford them. And they have to be beautiful, to feed beauty to their soul.
What do you feel when some people say you should still be put behind bars?
I’m not afraid to go to prison because I’m at peace with the truth and God, so any place would do. When they had a case against me, Marcos was already dead for one year and so I was countryless. I was penniless. Any place on earth will do if you are at peace with the truth and God. Jail would have been free board and lodging.
Do you miss living in Malacañang?
I miss Malacañang only because with the clout of being First Lady, you hasten the implementation of your projects for the people. It’s faster. Now that I’m an ordinary citizen, it’s hard to do any project. It takes so long and so expensive sometimes—you know the bureaucracy.
It was terrible, the first time we came to the Palace. I actually began staying only months after President Marcos became President. I had to fix it up first. Ang baho baho because ang dumi-dumi ng Pasig river ’pag umuulan, kasi it was built one after the other. Ang dami naming palanggana, mga 50 or 100 to catch the tulo ng ulan. And so when it was too much already, it was very embarrassing. A few years after I was there, I fixed up Malacañang, had it air-conditioned kasi nakakahiya yung river. Napaayos ko na ang Pasig tapos napalinis ko yung kabila, ginawa kong golf course para malinis. Also, what I did in Malacañang, I fixed it up thoroughly, completely, and even bomb-proofed it. Thank God I did that, because in ’86 they were shooting down at us. Because of my foresight, we were saved, and also the building for the future leaders of the country.
Have you had the chance to talk to the new President?
I greeted him because I am respectful of his office, and of everybody, anyway. He even gave me a peck on the cheek. I saw him twice. Twice, he greeted me.
What would you say if he asked who had his dad killed?
Definitely it was not us, because it was stupid to kill. First of all, I like Ninoy. Ninoy was even a relative of ours by affiliation. Ninoy used to come to the house very often and I was staying with Speaker Romualdez, whose wife was Paz Aquino-Gueco. The mother of Ninoy even liked me. I always called her atcheng Aurora. “Atche, atche,” [which is] Kapampangan. When Ninoy needed help, I was the one who sent him abroad and in less than 24 hours, despite the fact he was sentenced to imprisonment. I even paid for the tickets, and every single time I was in New York, he would be there to see me. Every time he needed help, I was there. The Lord knows this. God is my witness.
Who do you think had him killed?
I don’t like to talk about things like that. There were so many who said this and that, but I don’t like to point at anybody. The first idea is, why would we do it? Why would Marcos kill him? He was no threat to us. He was attacking and attacking me for the Cultural Center, that I was building a Parthenon or a Pantheon. But I had to build the Cultural Center because there was a crisis of identity. Nung araw, when I became First Lady, pagka imported, “uy, imported yata yan,” pagkatapos “lokal lang ito.” Ikinahihiya natin yung ating sarili. Why the Cultural Center? Because I wanted to put a sanctuary for the Filipino soul and a monument to the Filipino spirit, of the good, the true and the beautiful. What is culture? It’s nurturing nature, the creation of God.
When Marcos became president, he said: “Imelda, I’ll build a strong house for the Filipino people. You make it a home.” So I reflected, what makes it a home? Love. What is love made real? The good, true and beautiful.
How do you feel now that you’re a congresswoman and no longer a First Lady?
I feel more fulfilled and I feel more at home, because when you’re up there you’re so lonely. But when you are with the people and you see what’s going on and you can interact [with them], I enjoy it more, really. When I celebrated my 82nd birthday a few days ago, I was praying and thanking the Lord, “Lord, why did you give me a longer life? Longer than my dad, who was 70. Longer than Ferdinand, who was 72?” As I was laying the cornerstones for the mothering centers, I said: “Now I know why.” I went to the rural areas. I went to the highways far away from the town. I went to barangays far away from the highway and said to myself, “What happens at night when government offices are closed?” There’s a heart attack. There’s a stroke. There is an emergency. There is somebody who needs help because of a natural disaster, flood. Who will take care of them? Bakit yung pera binabantayan, inaalagaan 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Bakit ang gobyerno bukas lamang to help people eight hours a day, five days a week. What happens on Saturdays and Sundays when offices are closed? Now, on my birthday, I placed the cornerstones for mothering centers. What is mothering? “Anima” means soul in Latin. Underneath those mothering centers is a soul. Everything is a priority now 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every minute of the day, because we care and love you all.
You see, I know what it is like not to have a mother. I lost my mother when I was eight. I was born in Manila, in Intramuros in San Juan de Dios. We were all living here, first in Mabini, then in front of Malacañang. When my mother died, we were brought to Leyte. The Romualdez family is one of the prominent families in Leyte and my cousin was Speaker of the House. Another one was a justice. My father was a dean of the college of law, a doctor of law. We were not short on money. We were not very rich, but we were financially okay. We had dozens of maids, but how many times did Imelda go to school without even having a piece of pan de sal because one of the maids forgot to buy pan de sal? It is only a mother who is selflessly, endlessly there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and she is there totally—body, mind and spirit.
Do you still get to spend time with your family, your kids and grandkids?
Especially now. We always see each other because we’re in the same boat, we’re all working for the people. Imee, she’s very busy; in the first six months, she doubled the size of the kapitolyo. Sundays often, we see each other especially in Ilocos, for town fiestas here, town fiestas there. We are more together now than ever before and I surely admire my children. I’m so happy and proud of my children. Imee, she was only 15 or 16 and she was already thinking of the future of the country. She organized the Kabataang Barangay when she was so young, and my husband was so impressed. Irene—she has there in her home orchestras. She has several orchestras of streetchildren conducting and then playing piano and all kinds of music.
How about Borgy, are you close to him?
Yes. He’s good-looking and popular but I’m afraid of that, because it is hard to be hated but harder to be envied. I’m so scared of that, takot na takot ako sa inggit.
What do you feel when you see his body on the billboard?
I am proud of it because it was created quite nicely but I’m scared of envy [for Borgy]. Even Ferdinand said, “Imelda kaya ko ang maraming problema, kaya kong i-solve ang mga problema, pero hindi ko kaya ang inggit. Mas takot ako sa inggit.”
Have you met Georgina Wilson, Borgy’s girlfriend?
Yes, she’s very pretty. I’ve met her. I’m impressed with my grandchildren because they seem to have good taste. They’re good-looking.
Do your children give you allowance or a budget?
Yes, they give me gold [credit] cards. I accept all of them, but I do not use them. Kawawa naman [ang mga anak ko pero] nakakatuwa. Pinagmamayabang ko sa lahat na mayroon ako sa aking wallet na [mula] sa lahat ng mga anak ko may golden card ako pero hindi ko ginagamit.
What do you think of Kris Aquino?
She is very articulate. She’s very active, in more ways than one. If I want to know more about the Aquino family, she is the one who can tell who they are. She’s pretty naman. Ang skin niya, ang ganda-ganda, and all of that. But they will say I am biased, because the Marcoses have been so deprived by this family.
They—mapapaiyak lang ako, nakakaiyak kasi—unang-una, of course they’re depriving Marcos of an honorable burial. He was the most-decorated soldier in World War II. Marcos was president four times. And it has been 22 years since he died. It’s not only his human right and honorable right, but it is also his sacred right to have an honorable burial.
They said those medals were fake.
Why, is it that no less than when MacArthur pinned his medals? Please, you are media people and you know the media is more important than the gun. The gun can kill you only up to the grave, but the media can kill you beyond the grave, until infinity.
But internationally, you are an icon already. Preston Bailey, that very famous stylist of Oprah Winfrey, was here and all he wanted was to meet you.
Look at that (points at page in book). This is the fact: Marcos in 20 years was P486 billion. Please naman, media, these are the truths. Cory, in six years, had double that of Marcos.
Because also of inflation…
But 20 years, inflation? What inflation? When Marcos was taken out of office, it was already 20-plus.
When Marcos was taken out of office, population was 60 million. Now we’re almost 100 million. Hindi man nag-doble, pero bakit ang one year budget of Noynoy is P1 trillion, four times Marcos’ in 20 years?
That’s the cost of money already.
No, no, no. The exchange during the Marcos time was already half of the exchange rate now. Before we were exporting rice, now we are importing. That is how we feed our people. No, no, no, please. And then they’re talking about the population, yung RH bill. I’m pro-health. I’m for cutting down the population. I had a population center. I was even awarded by the Rockefeller Foundation a million dollars. We will not use vasectomy. We will not use condom. We will not use any artificial means, and we had a priest there.
You say you’re not guilty of all the things people accuse you of. Do you think you have any fault at all?
You know what I discovered when I became First Lady? That everything is a priority and everybody is a priority, even those who are your enemies.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
Do you regret anything?
I have no regrets. I was blessed with parents who disciplined me. My father was so strict. In fact, one of my sisters is a nun and two of my elder sisters are spinsters.
For the record, how many pairs of shoes did they discover in Malacañang?
They were lying because when finally Marikina was asking for the shoes in Malacañang, it was less than 200. Sabi ko, “Somebody must have worn it. Somebody who stayed in Malacañang must have worn it.” Of course, Mrs. Aquino said, “I was not the one because my size is 6, not 8.”
So it was not 3,000 pairs.
Lie. Only 200 pairs. I had more panties than shoes. It’s true. I wore black panties. They displayed it and it was good all my panties were black. I had thousands of it.
You’re a global icon. Especially among gay people. How do you feel about that?
You must remember gays are nurtured with love because they were cared for by their mothers. If they feel in tune with Mrs. Marcos, that means they’re in tune with mothering, and mothering is selfless, endless love. Even death does not diminish a mother’s love. I am flattered. Especially the gays, because ang mga gay, ’yan ang mga minahal ng husto ng mga nanay.
Do you know that you’re even in the bestsellers, even in books like “Bringing Home the Birkin?” They mention your name.
So many plays have been made, like “Here Lies Love Imelda.” So many plays, operas and books have been written about me. Truth is like a diamond. The more you chop it, the more brilliant it will become.
If someone will do a movie of your life and you can choose the actress, who would you want to play you?
I [have been] asked already that, even the top directors of America. My life cannot be done by an impersonator or a character. My life, there’s enough footage anyway [for a] documentary. Only a documentary.
What was the last movie you watched?
I wouldn’t remember because I see so many movies on TV when I’m trying to sleep, or trying to get tired.
Have you kept up with technology? Do you text? Are you familiar with the Internet?
I’m very familiar with it, the Internet, Facebook, Twitter. Very familiar, and I’m very impressed and I’m very happy for this modern technology and the software that we can use now because it saves time. For me, the most precious thing in life is time. Everything comes back. Money, power come back. Even health comes back. But time never comes back—but time with love is forever.
Who makes your clothes now?
At home. I buy, for instance, a skirt in 168 and that is P300 lang, and this (what she was wearing) is P40. I love 168, because everybody who desires something can afford it, rich or poor. I am poor now, so I can’t afford what I like.
Stockholder ba kayo ng 168?
That is what everybody says. No. I am only happy. The nice part about 168 is that they’re helping the poor tinderas.
Do you haggle?
No. A little only. ’Yung mga wholesaler. Kung bibili ka ng 100 pieces [kunwari].
What do you buy at 168?
Most of the things that I buy, really, is to give. Kasi kamukha nung bibili ka ng payong nung birthday ko. Bumili ako ng payong na 6,000 pieces. Tapos bili ka ng bag, sa mga mayors at lahat, 500 or 600 pieces.
You don’t go to Rustan’s anymore?
I cannot afford it.
How many pairs of shoes do you have now?
I am not into many shoes anymore. Hanggang step-in na lang ako. Ang step-in sa 168, P150 lang. And I feel so good with much less. Ay naku, nung araw kailangan terno dito, and I am not naman too attached to name brands.
The way your marriage to the President lasted, what’s your advice to women, how can they keep their men?
We were newly married. Marcos then was a congressman. His salary was P600, P7,200 a year. So two to three years after our honeymoon around the world, for more than a year, when we came back, two years after, he went to look at how I was spending his salary of P600. The Ilokano that he was, the shock of his life was when he saw P200 or more was going to Encarnacion Bechavez for buying flowers.
Nataranta yung Ilokano. Sabi niya, very diplomatically, “Sweetheart, don’t you think you are spending too much on flowers?” Sabi ko naman, “Ferdinand, if I had P2, P1 will buy food to give nutrition to our body so that we will be healthy. The other peso I will buy flowers to give beauty to my soul, so I have plenty of love to give you.” Marcos said, “Spend everything on flowers.” I said, this guy is smart. Buy more so that I have more love to give you, so I have more of the true, the good and the beautiful to give.
Of course, you must have gotten jealous.
I am the most selosa girl. For example, nandiyan si Marcos sa tabi ko sa kotse tapos may dadaan na magandang babae tapos titingin si Marcos nang ganun. Pagkatingin ni Marcos ng sampung beses, titingnan ko ng isang daang beses, a hundred times. What has she got that I ain’t got at tinitingnan ni Marcos? Sabi ko, maganda ’yang babae na ’yan. Ang ganda ng color ng baro niya. Bantay ka bukas, nakasuot ang baro ko na ganyan at mas maganda ako doon. Pero kung sinabi ko, “Ano bang nakita mo diyan, duling ka ba?”—ako ang pangit at yun babae ang maganda. I am the most jealous, envious in the world, but the people I envy and I’m jealous of, I emulate and copy. I do not destroy.
Are you still in touch with George Hamilton or Van Cliburn?
Yes. In fact, it was the birthday of Van Cliburn today or yesterday. I called him. And George Hamilton was very decent and very nice. He was used by the US government as one of the 100 witnesses against me.
They asked him, “Do you know a certain Mrs. Marcos?” He says yes, in the court.
“If you see her here, would you know which one is she?”
“That lady in black.”
“Do you know her?”
“Oh, I love her!” Naku, nataranta na ako. “I love her because she took care of my mother, she saved my mother when she heard that my brother just passed away. She was our only parent. She brought my mother to the Philippines, took care of her and made her healthy again.”
Was remarrying ever an option?
Never. If you will see some of Marcos’ dedications in his letters: “Beyond eternity I love you.” I have not yet gone beyond eternity. I would like love to sustain me. The longer he’s gone, the more I am in love with him because I find him more perfect. I find him more admirable for what he did for his country.
Were you captivated by any other man?
I’m captivated not with the physical man but by artists and outstanding human beings. They have my admiration and loyalty. It’s not a physical thing, it’s spiritual.
Will you ever write and publish your memoirs?
There are so many books written. I have all the documentation of the truth. The Lord has blessed me with a big, big life. I had it all, the best, best, best and the worst, worst, worst.
Are you still perfectly healthy?
I don’t know if I’m perfectly healthy, but I feel great. Because there was a MOA as sister provinces between Cebu and Ilocos Norte on my birthday, there were delegations coming from different parts of the world, and I had to go to 12 towns in one day, and I made it all. Then the next morning I went to Pagudpud, brought them to the other side to see the windmills and all of that. They were all down and tired, but me, after three days nonstop, I took a bus after sending off my guests to the airport and came home. At three or four in the morning, I was up and about again because I had an interview at six or seven.
Are you scared to die?
Prepared, yes, but not yet. Because I still think I can do a lot. With the many friends we have and the potential of the Philippines and Filipino people and the experience that I have—and I know almost everybody in the world and they have become friends of the Filipino people—I want to first finish my dream for humanity. My dream is if we can recycle all the waste humanity has produced, we can make a beautiful world together to regain paradise up to infinity. My dream, as always, is bigger than life, and it is paradise regained until infinity. It is doable.
You mentioned tumataba. You’re not the type to be bothered by your figure or weight. The terno, they said, was built for you because you’re so sexy.
Ang katotohanan, I adjusted also my terno to my body. Nung araw ang terno hindi harmonious. ’Yung mga sleeves malalaki. Maski ka kasingtaas ng higante pero sobra kalaki ang sleeves mo, hindi proportionate. Kailangan proportionate. Kaya ’yung sleeve binabaan ko ng konti. Since I was a First Lady for so long, I had to dress up fast, seven times at least in a day.
Yung terno nung araw saya, pagkatapos parang blouse tapos aaspilehan, tapos may tapis. Paano yun kung nasa gitna ka ng affair, mag-disintegrate yan. Ang ginawa ko, pinag-isa ko na lang, so that I can sit myself in and out.
Isa pa, yung baro ko, ang skirt may pera, nilalagyan ko ng coins. Bakit? Pagbababa ko sa eroplano, siyempre para hindi lumipad. Pag bababa ka, itong mga photographer nandiyan sila sa baba kukunan ka. Paano pag nakuha ay kuwan mo?
I have to dress up several times. Sabihin nila, “Sobra naman si Imelda.” Bakit? Minsan bandana na lang ginagamit ko. In one morning sometimes you will have five to 10 VIPs coming from different parts of the world. Kung isa ang suot mong baro, sigurado ka yung 10 VIPs coming from China, Russia, next morning that’s all in the papers. Para kang nakauniporme. You are not special. Pareho lang kayo.
In making everybody special, I had to use different dresses, maski change lang ng bandana. Marami kang dapat isipin. You want your guest who came all the way from Kenya or Africa to come and visit you tapos parang pare-pareho lang kayo ng treatment.
Do you have a special diet?
Wala. I’m the worst. I don’t exercise. I eat the wrong things. I eat a lot. Everything that is masarap, whether it is fish, meat, vegetable. If it is nice, I will eat it.
Are you taking any maintenance medicine?
Now that I’m getting older, yes. Just a little more Vitamin C—doctor’s recommendation. They check my blood count, they do a blood test and then they will check like kung kulang ka sa calcium. Bina-balance.
You really have no wrinkles. Hardly.
Wala ako talaga. Kaya naaawa ako doon sa mga mas bata sa akin. Mga apo ko may wrinkles na. It’s because wala akong problema. Para sa akin, I have such a beautiful attitude. Ang problema para sa akin is a gateway to solutions, to my enlightenment, to my creativity, ingenuity, to do everything. I always say mas malawak ang langit kaysa sa lupa kaya mas maraming solusyon kaysa sa problema, ngunit kung titigan mo ang langit ng matagal, makikita mo ang Maykapal. Pagka makita mo ang Maykapal, ang solusyon sa problema mo walang hanggan. That is my life.
Original po ba ’yan, what you have just said?
It’s the story of my life because, my God, what did they do to me? Even the Bible says there’s a special place in hell for those who oppress widows and orphans. Me, they oppressed not only the widows and orphans, my grandchildren, too. Borgy was only two years old, the other one was two months old and they had a criminal case in America. The crime of the century in America.
Do you have stretch marks?
No, I have no stretch marks. Doctors do not believe I have children because I have no stretch marks.
They said you had stem cell injection before.
No, I have not yet tried stem cells but I was the one who, in my project in ’71, I had the so-called balik-scientist. Dr. Sam Bernal, a Filipino, who was very much into stem cells. I call him up often to cure somebody. Even my lawyer, who had cancer of the colon, he was cured.
You never had stem cell treatment from lamb embryo?
What special cream do you use?
You would be surprised. Ayaw ko nang sabihin sa inyo kasi ’yung aking mga best friends nagagalit sa akin. ‘Yung family ko, maski mga anak ko nagagalit kasi some of my makeup is coming from 168. Isang kahon na isang dosena na is only P80 or P100.
You have personalized perfumes?
No, I change perfumes because when I don’t smell me anymore, it’s not good anymore. When I get used to it, I change already kasi nasasanay ka na. It started when I was married. I don’t want to feel like nasawa ’yung asawa ko sa akin. All goats are alike in the dark night, so with the same smell and [considering] men are polygamous, they want to have a new woman all the time. Then the new smell. In the dark night, I’m the different woman. They want variety.
Who would you consider your true friends now, aside from God?
When I was in America and I needed $5 million every quarter for a lawyer, my poor sister and my poor brothers could not afford $5 million. Who could’ve helped me? Wala. Mabuti na lang si Doris Duke tumulong. Hindi ko naman kilala si Doris Duke nang husto. Sila Gaddafi said, “I’ll give the $5 million, even 10 times that, because Mrs. Marcos is a good woman.”
How did you feel when you were first fingerprinted?
It was very humiliating, especially since it was very abrupt. Actually, Marcos won the elections in ’81, after he lifted Martial Law. In ’86, when he was being challenged in the snap elections, he won in that snap election. The truth of the matter is Cory was never elected. She proclaimed a revolutionary government and booted out all elected officials and the Supreme Court and had a constitution of ’87 that was not mandated. That means she was not elected.
Why are you still saving the President’s body? Is it because you love him so much and you miss him, or is it because of genetics, that you plan to clone him someday?
He was everything. I was blessed. He was macho and I was on the other side, sexy, that’s great. There was already a connection physically. And then his mind was terrific, it was unbelievable. Also, his soul, he had selfless, endless love. And when he will write me “Beyond eternity, I love you,” mga ganyan. “Come back to bring me back my life.” You will see them, yung mga pictures niya. Pagka aalis ako, naku ang mga dedication niyan sa akin.
Do you think the body there is only a wax figure na lang?
It is wax in the cover but it’s still his body inside it.
Do you think the President was faithful to you?
Very. All of these lies they’re telling me, in fact, this Dovie Beams, kawawa naman.
Totoo ba yun?
Hindi totoo. Kawawa naman.
Patay na kaya siya?
Pinatay. I was the one who hired her. George Hamilton was a friend of MacArthur and I have a lot of stories about MacArthur because he was in Leyte and he was the one who discovered that I could sing. Not only that, MacArthur was making ligaw my lola. The first love letters I saw (were) MacArthur’s. One of the reasons I suspect MacArthur landed in Leyte was because my lola was in Leyte.
When I was a little girl, I used to read a lot of love letters to my lola and it was always signed “Doug.” Sabi ko, “Lola, how funny naman this guy. He does not even know how to spell “dog.”
My lola was partly Chinese, but she was living in Samar and there was no bridge yet. When MacArthur arrived early in the morning, by noontime my lola from Samar was already in our house in Tacloban, naka-helicopter. May love affair, maraming istorya.
It was really my great grandmother who did not want them to get married because he was a potential president and if he married a Filipina…
He was still single when he landed in Leyte?
Married na, but siyempre meron pang… helicopter lang naman.
Anyway, I knew the story of MacArthur so I had George Hamilton look for a girl in Hollywood. They got this woman, Dovie Beams. I gave her I don’t know how much money and setting up to make the film of MacArthur. In fact, George Hamilton would have been MacArthur and this woman. Later on, some of our political (foes) made use of the girl and made her kunwari making love with Marcos and Marcos was singing to her, which was stupid because even in the 35 years Marcos and I were married, he never sang to me in bed. He sang to me in public, but not in bed. He was more busy making love than singing. It’s ridiculous. The sad part about it is that the girl was paid initially to renege what she was served for. But when we were taken to Hawaii, si Dovie Beams nakonsiyensya kasi nahirapan na kami. I was so generous to her and then pinahirapan niya kami. Pagkatapos she made a document that it is not true there was an affair with Ferdinand. Tapos hinanapan siya ng drugs, they put her in jail. I have a letter of hers to me saying sorry na nagpagamit siya. Sumulat siya sa akin, pumunta siya sa akin iyak nang iyak. She was taking drugs. Napreso siya, pinapatay. She was so young.
How do you feel about it? (story of the Marcoses being among the greediest)
They asked me, “Mrs. Marcos, are you greedy?” I said, “For the good, true and beautiful, I plead guilty.”
“How do you think being compared with Genghis Khan?” I said, “Mixed feelings.” Sabi ko, I majored in History and he was one of the greatest conquerors of mankind. Mixed feelings ako because he conquered the world with a gun on the east and west, and ang kalaban niya mga tribo.
Why don’t you like to live here?
Too far from what I have to do. As I’ve told you, the most important thing for me is time, especially now that I’m 82. It’s the most precious thing and the worst you can do is waste time. Time never comes back.
But do you regret ’yung mga namatay sa Film Center?
Mayroong namatay, but what happened there… I always got the best contractor, for the Heart Center, the Lung Center. Pagkatapos sinabi nila when I was about to build the Film Center, sabi nung Prime Minister, “You cannot do that anymore just to have that contractor, we have to bid it.” The cheapest bidder was the Chinese. Pinakamura sa lahat, nanalo sila. I was in Rome for the Cardinal Vidal (consistory)… Umulan siyam-siyam, bumagsak ang roof. Pero ang namatay doon apat na tao at hindi iniwanan doon. That’s a big, big lie.
They were not buried?
No. I came home right away. They were buried when the ceiling collapsed. We dug them [out] and we gave them so much money.
What do you think of when you’re alone at night?
I’m very creative. I think of what I can do for my fellowmen. Now I’m going to make paradise and it is doable. In Ilocos, when Ferdinand and I were newly married, he brought me to Ilocos. When were going to Santa Maria, he said, “Imelda, look. As Ilocanos, you can touch with your right hand the mountains. You can touch the sea with your left hand. We have small land to survive and live on. So we Ilocanos have to work hard.”
Now that I am intimate with the problems of the Ilocanos, I remember I had a friend, the prime minister of Japan at the time. He was saying how rich the Philippines was. He said, “Now you are so rich, Mrs. Marcos, while we Japanese are so poor.” In fact the national anthem of Japan means, “We are just a rock, but on top of the rock is moss and moss is life.” But the most number of centenarians is in Japan because they’re eating raw, fresh food and Japan is one of the original G7 countries. Why do they live longer? Because they do not eat food from the cemetery. Tayo lahat galing sa sementeryo. Pinapatay natin ang gulay, karne, isda. Lahat ng kinakain natin galling sa sementeryo.
Do you still like to sing? Do you do videoke?
Not really. I’m always asked to sing not because I’ve a great voice. I have now conceded to that. The truth of the matter is, the one who discovered I could sing was MacArthur. We were living across the street [from each other] and he used to exercise in every morning and he would hear somebody sing.
Three days afterward, Irving Berlin, the great composer, came to town. He (MacArthur) called me and said sing for this guy. It so happened the song I sang… when I finished, Irving Berlin said, “That’s not ‘God bless the Philippines,’ that’s ‘God bless America.’”
I said, “No, my teachers taught me it was ‘God bless the Philippines.”
“That is ‘God bless America’ because I composed it,” he said.
Ako naman, pilosopo. I said Philippines and America are the same. Every morning we pledge allegiance to the American flag and the Philippine flag, because that was ’44 and it was not until ’46 that we had our independence.
Anyway, Irving Berlin went to a corner. After 10 minutes, he gave a paper. “Imelda, try to learn this and if you will, [sing] tomorrow in front of MacArthur and the 2,000 men. You will be backed up by 200 soldiers in a chorus. You will sing this in front of thousands of liberation soldiers.” True enough, our family was very musical, my father was a concert pianist, everybody played music, so the next day, I sang the song.
It’s funny, because when I won the case of the century in New York, I was invited by Yale to make a speech in the College of Law. My lawyers did not want me to make a speech but I insisted. I said this is a privilege [that comes] once in a lifetime. But I’ve not only made a speech but I also told the story of MacArthur and the song I sang in a cappella, “Heaven Watch the Philippines.” I got a standing ovation in Yale because of that song. It was just after my winning the case of the century.
What I wanted to say was what I’ve discovered through the years and I have sung in public more than many great singers in the world not because I’ve a good voice but because they just wanted to know my character, if I was a giver or not, kung pagbibigyan ba kami o hindi. I know this because my greatest applause was wala na akong boses nagkakampanya pa ako for the Presidency. Wala na talaga akong boses. Tumitilaok na ako. Wala na akong maibigay pero nagbibigay pa ako. It was a test of character [for me] more than to [have people] hear a beautiful voice.
Will Bongbong run for President next elections?
The Presidency is destiny. It’s a divine plan. But I am proud of Bongbong. He is not only well-educated, coming from Oxford, Wharton, having an MBA and doctorate. He did a very good job in Ilocos. He has multiplied (its) income three times, built 300 km of road and I could go on and on. As for the Presidency, that belongs to heaven.
Have you ever sat down with your grandchildren to explain your side of history?
They keep asking me. Look, when Marcos became President, we had our independence after 440-something years of colonization by different colonial masters. When Marcos became President, we were 18 years after World War II, Manila was leveled to the ground. We had no martial plan. We had no MacArthur plan, nothing. When Marcos became President, our sovereignty was in question. Why? Because [of] 99 years of bases agreement. If Marcos did not bring it [down] to 25 and then five years and [increased the] rental of 900 million, pag-abot ng 30 years, we would’ve lost all our bases because we did not claim it, just like what happened to Guantanamo. Cuba’s only one base, and here we had 23 bases. A good part of our country would have gone foreign.
I told them (grandkids), our sovereignty was in question. Then, we had no freedom. It was at the height of the Cold War when China, Russia, America were fighting in Vietnam. We were in the center and here in the Philippines, we were divided, the left and the right.
Third, we had no freedom. We could not go to China, to Russia. Marcos knocked down the Iron Curtain, bamboo curtain left long there. So he made friends with the whole world… If today you have millions of Filipinos working abroad, bringing the billions of dollars and pounds to help the Filipino survive economically, thanks to Marcos, because we had no freedom.
There was no justice. Manila was owned by 10 families and 65 percent of our 115,000 square miles belong to Manila’s 400. Here I was, the wife of the most powerful man in the country, and 35,000 Filipinos wanted a piece of land. Why? Manila was owned by 10 families and 65 percent of our 115,000 square miles belong to them. I had to reclaim land, the Tondo Dagat-Dagatan housing project.
So, there was no justice. No democracy, because Marcos did not believe in a democracy, a popularity contest. Not all that is good is popular, and not all that is popular is good.
This is the only country in the world anchored on natural law, the family. The smallest unit of society is the family and the enlarged family in our country is the extended family, the barangay. So he identified 42,000 barangays when we were only 51 million then elected leaders from the barangay and also from the regular officials, so much so that when we were only 51 million with three million elected officials.
We had no human rights. Ninety-three percent of our mines belong to foreigners. Ninety-three percent of corporations—San Miguel, PLDT, and all of that—belong to foreigners. Marcos terminated parity rights in ’74…
What do your grandchildren say when you explain all these?
Yes! They admire their lolo. They know the truth.
He bought all, Meralco, San Miguel, PLDT—all. All the corporations of the Philippines belonged to Americans. All our mines belonged to Americans. Kulang na lang sabihin pareho sa Chinese. Chinese and dogs keep out. Meralco, San Miguel, PLDT, lahat, Filipinos and dogs keep out. Marcos nationalized that in 1974, when our budget was only P1 billion and P75 million.
By destiny, [during] Marcos [time] gold was $850. When he was trading gold before the war even, it was $32-$35 per ounce. In ’74, in the world market it was $850. In one bank account alone, we had 18,000 worth hundreds of billions. So when we bought all the corporations… I have all the documents. There is no such thing as Yamashita. Gusto lang nilang sabihin magnanakaw si Marcos para manakaw lahat ulit ang mga mina para sa dayuhan at mga oligarchs.
Who manages your finances now?
I have no finances, because even my car, a third-class car, it’s not in my name, because I have “stolen” everything. This house is being auctioned because Marcos “stole” it. And Marcos bought this in 1946 before he entered politics. But when it was auctioned five years ago, nobody wanted to buy it because they knew whose it is.
[I use an] ordinary car, it’s a Toyota. Kaya ako gumaganda’t bumabata dahil diyan.
What do you think about the Blue Ladies who abandoned you?
I’m sorry for them because I loved them. I made them what they were. I’m sorry for them because when I see them, I feel like I’m seeing cadavers. Okay lang. Imagine, minahal mo, binuhay mo, pinayaman mo. I’m not angry. Naaawa ako sa kanila, para sa akin patay eh. I’m not bitter. I’m not angry. I have no place in my heart or in my head or in the time in my life for the negative. I have no more worldly possessions, nothing, and I have everything that you could think of. But they took it all, including my name.
Money and power, you take it only with you up to this life. But truth and honor you bring with you to infinity.
Parang you still live for the name of Marcos.
I thank the Lord that He has given me long life. I’m sure there is a reason, it’s for the truth to prevail. I don’t care about the money, but for the truth to prevail because truth is God.
Some of the jewels you were unable to save?
Nothing. There was only a little jewelry I was able to get two nights before Edsa I. There were some jewels in my dressing room. It so happened when we were about to leave for Paoay, there was a box of diapers, so I put some of the jewelry in the box of diapers. They saw these in the American customs in Hawaii. They said “diamonds and diapers of Imelda as usual.”
Totoo pala ’yung nasa diaper box.
It is true, but it was what saved us. [I used to have] 36 Louis Vuitton of diamonds and jewelry.
What do you mean 36 Louis Vuitton?
Thirty-six suitcases of Louis Vuitton. There was nothing that I did not get. The four billion we have in New York. There was nothing I could not buy because gold went to $850 per ounce.
Milagro ’yung buhay ni Marcos kaya naman hinubaran kami nang husto.
You’re really so used to politics.
No, the No. 1 responsibility people should know about politics is not corruption. It is justice. If you enter politics, you enter to help people to get justice. To help and care for people is love.
Will you bury Marcos in Batac?
Mayroon ’yang divine plan. It is the hero that makes the place, not the place that makes the hero. There is a divine plan. Maghintay na lang tayo. He was so blessed by God.
I will bury him if it is an honorable burial. When it’s time. Pero kung itatapon ko lang siya na parang basura, hindi.
Does he manifest himself to you?
No, but he’s always with me, with great love.
Do you dream of him?
He is with me all the time.
Do you talk to him?
No, I’m not crazy yet, but I will do my duty. The only thing in his last will and testament is [to have] an honorable burial. ’Yun lang hinihingi niya after he has given his all to his country.
How long were you married?
Only 35 years, but if he were alive to this day, it would be 57 years.
If he were alive today, how do you think would he be?
I think he would have been a big asset to [finding] solutions to the problems today. He has solved the country’s problems peacefully. He used power for peace.
I remember when he did not implement the death sentence, I said to him, “Marcos, Martial Law is already for three years. Why have you not implemented the death sentence?”
He said: “Imelda, the art in the use of power, it is never used, it’s only felt. It’s like a gun with 1,000 bullets. Once you use the gun once, you no longer have 1,000 bullets, you have 999.” He anchored it on Malakas.
What do you live on?
I do not know. Constantino C. Tejero