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What is Imeldific? Imelda Marcos in Her Own Words, How the World Sees Her

It's back in the local and global conversation.
by The reportr team
Nov 9, 2021
Photo/s: From "The Kingmaker"

Former First Lady Imelda Marcos recalled asking her husband why, as a "man of foresight", they were forced into exile in Hawaii. The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, she said, told her to "never argue with destiny" and "just be on top of it".

Fourteen years after that huddle with reporters in Manila and 35 years since the People Power uprising toppled the Marcos regime, Mrs. Marcos and her children are on the cusp of reclaiming Malacanang, and with the resurgence comes renewed interest here and abroad on all things "Imeldific", the extravagance that the former first lady had been known for.

In early November, presidential aspirant Manny Pacquiao rejected comparisons between Mrs Marcos and his wife Jinkee, who is known for flaunting designer labels and the most expensive houseplants on her Instagram feed. 

On Netflix's reimagination of the 80's soap "Dynasty", one character's indecision with her OOTD despite having a full wardrobe was compared to Mrs. Marcos' penchant for shoes. On the documentary "The Kingmaker", she said her footwear fetish had become a joke because so many people gift her with shoes.

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Mrs Marcos said being first lady is a difficult job, and on "The Kingmaker", she said she had to seek professional help during the early years of her husband's rule to appreciate how "lucky" she was to be cutting ribbons and attending official functions with him or on his behalf.

"I have to dress up and make myself more beautiful because the poor always look for a star in the dark of the night," she said.

"I was always criticized for being excessive. But that is mothering. That is the spirit of mothering. You cannot quantify love," she said.


What Happened to Marcos Family's $10 Billion Fortune?

Dear Toni, We Didn't Live Through Marcos Years and Our Anger is Valid

What/Who is Imeldific?

Filipino pop culture has stereotyped Imeldific with big hair, butterfly sleeves, diamonds fit for European royalty and a penchant for grand buildings. Mrs Marcos had all that in her heyday.

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While she was legendary for her shoes, which she claims were gifts, their removal from office revealed a penchant for tiaras, bracelets and bling that was fit for a Christie's auction. She also had a collection of rare Picasso, Rembrandt and Monet paintings.

She also shipped African wildlife to Calauit Island in Palawan to "complete paradise for the Philippines".

In a late 2020 episode of Netflix's "The Crown", Princess Anne's character was shown making fun of Mrs. Marcos' accent, referring to a "shell" collection when she could have meant shoes.

In 1988, Saturday Night Live parodied Mrs. Marcos on its long-running "Weekend Update" where the former first lady's character rued the loss of her high-partying lifestyle with Hollywood star George Hamilton and being a "broken woman". She also warned that she would make a comeback.

In the 1990s, TV host and comedienne Tessie Tomas made her "Imeldific" impersonation one of her signatures. She also played a non-satire Imelda in the film "A Dangerous Life".

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Then David Byrne and Fatboy Slim in the 2000s wrote an album, "Here Lies Love", inspired by Mrs. Marcos' rise from poor girl in Leyte to the most powerful woman in the Philippines. It was later adapted to theater.

What's next for 'Imeldific'?

Mrs Marcos only son, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is among the early frontrunners in the 2022 elections, after losing the vice presidency in 2016 to incumbent Leni Robredo, who is his chief rival next year.

Robredo, who commuted between Bicol and Manila during her congresswoman days, is touted by supporters as the antithesis to "Imeldific". Sen. Imee Marcos, Imelda's eldest daughter, described Robredo as an "extraordinary housewife".

Marcos Jr. has built his campaign around what he says is the legacy of his father -- infrastructure and a disciplined nation. His opponents raise corruption running to $10 billion and a raft of human rights violations for which he must apologize. He has denied wrongdoing.

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The $10 billion loot is based on findings of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, established solely to track down the Marcos fortune. How big is it?

If it $10 billion were to be declared as the net worth of the Marcos family, they would  be second to the Philippines' richest, next to the heirs of the late shopping mall tycoon Henry Sy. Of course, that doesn't take into account the appreciation of their assets over 30 years.

On his only appearance in "The Kingmaker", former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III said of the Marcos resurgence: "People who forget the mistakes of the past are condemened to repeat them."

In a scene from the documentary where she saw the Philippine Children's Hospital in decay, Mrs Marcos said, in apparent reference to Noynoy Aquino, "This government has no soul, has no heart."

In archive footage from the Associated Press, Mrs. Marcos was a guest in a Manila forum where she reflected on nearing her 80s. 

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"The reason i have survived these 21 years of relentless persecution not by individuals but governments and even super powers when I was alone, widowed and orphaned from my country. The only reason was because I was at peace with the truth and if you are on the side of truth you are on the side of god. Who can be against you?"

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