"I'm like Robin Hood. I rob the rich to make these projects come alive... not really rob. It's done with a smile." (Imelda Marcos in an article in Fortune, 1979)

Imelda Romualdez Marcos was born in Manila on July 2, 1929. Little is known about Imelda's young years; indeed, publicity agents have hidden Imelda's history so that it appears she didn't grow up at all- that she only came to life when she married Ferdinand Marcos, then a member of the House of Representatives, in 1954. It is known, however, that Imelda was voted Miss Manila in the 50s.

Ferdinand became President Marcos in 1965, and it was then that Imelda really came into the public eye. Throughout her husband's 20 year dictatorship of the country Imelda enjoyed the wealth siphoned off foreign aid monies, loans and the profits of domestic companies (the Marcos's were later accused of embezzling over $5 billion from the government). Shoes became the most obvious and famous mark of their wealth as Imelda amassed a huge collection of size 8 1/2 high heels, boots, stilettos, sandals, pumps, sneakers and the like. She reportedly especially liked a pair of plastic disco sandals with three inch high flashing battery operated heels. A relatively unknown fact about Imelda is that she also owned a huge jewellery collection; in the late 70s she became the world's single biggest private buyer of jewellery. Stores opened at night for her alone, her bodyguards paying with paper bags full of thousand dollar bills. As it was known that Imelda always asked for a discount the jewellers would put the prices up 25% before her arrival; they would then give a 15% "discount" upon her request for a cheaper price.

"One day Imelda and her elite friends came to Bloomingdale's, New York, to do some shopping. They asked for the whole store to be shut down so they didn't have to worry about nosy media ... then they started shopping. It was easy, they just pointed at whatever they fancied and told the assigned sales assistants, "Mine. Mine. Mine." (From Political Divas site)

In the 1980s Imelda was determined to raise the reputation of the Philippines. She had a "mystical vision" which led to a $100 million campaign to create a Filipino version of the Cannes Film Festival. Most of the money was spent on the building of a fancy cinema, but the shoddy workmanship of the corrupt builders led to the collapse of the theatre two months before the planned opening in 1982. At least thirty men were killed in the collapse but Imelda had no time to spare; she ordered that the area be cemented over and had the cinema exorcised to rid it of bad spirits for immediate rebuilding. The eventual International Film Festival went ahead as planned- except for the fact that Imelda had invited the Pope and had to settle for Brooke Shields. The second International Film Festival in 1983 was pretty pathetic- to make up for the losses from the first festival Imelda showed porn movies in an effort to gain a larger audience.

"I promise if given the chance, I will do it again and again. Because even death will not diminish the energy of a mother's love." (on her regime's achievements, quoted in Special Edition)

In the 1986 elections Imelda's husband was voted out of the presidency when he was beaten by Corazon Aquino. The Marcos's fled to Hawaii where the ex-President died in 1989. Three years later Imelda returned to the Philippines where she ran for the presidency and was beaten by President Fidel Ramos in a seven-way race. In 1993 Imelda was convicted for corruption in the Philippines Supreme Court. She was given a 12 year prison sentence after being found guilty but was released on bond and was allowed to appeal. In that time Imelda became a member of the House of Representatives in her home district of Leyte. A 1998 candidacy for presidency under the ideology "to improve the nation's economy" was unsuccessful, in spite of Imelda's promise that she would "ensure that the Marcos wealth through the Marcos Foundation will go directly to the Filipino people".

"I am not afraid of prison, because I am at peace with my conscience. Even when I was in New York, when I was finally vindicated in all counts, I was never afraid of prison, because I'm at peace with my conscience and my creator. And maybe it would be a good place for a little space and time and to be alone." (on Public Eye April 1998)

Imelda trivia:
  • Imelda's nickname is the "Iron (or Steel) Butterfly".
  • Her favourite sayings are "Nuts!" and "Hubba hubba!"
  • Imelda owned a bullet-proof bra
  • More than 1000 people considered to be Manila's elite turned up for Imelda's 70th birthday party; not all were allowed in as there wasn't enough room. Imelda was escorted by her Hollywood friend George Hamilton.
  • Imelda and Ferdinand had three children: Imee Marcos-Manotoc, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos and Irene Marcos-Araneta. It is said that they have been seen wearing shirts which say "Don't blame my Dad. Blame my Mum!"

Sources: Divas- The Site (www.home2.planetinternet.be), Imelda- the wit and wisdom of Imelda Marcos (www.sirius.com/~sunny70/imelda.htm), The Mammoth Book of Oddballs and Eccentrics.