As the beautiful half of the “Conjugal Dictatorship,” Imelda Marcos will forever be known in history as Ferdinand Marcos’ ostentatious spouse who owned 3,000 pairs of shoes.
As we will find out, however, the “Imeldific” legend goes beyond just owning a massive collection of footwear. Not only did Mrs. Marcos spend money like there was no tomorrow, but she also pulled off some of the most jaw-dropping moments in our history like only she knew how to do—with flair and style.
Related Article: 9 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Imelda Marcos
Love her or hate her, we will still remember her for being the one and only “Imeldific” First Lady of the Philippines.
Featured image courtesy of Bill Alldredge via Flickr.
10. She Once Lectured American Scientists About Cosmic Rays
Alongside her husband’s belief in numerology was Imelda’s own strange belief about a hole above the Philippines which allowed cosmic rays to reach the country. According to her, these rays made the Philippines exceptional and was a sign that God favored the Filipino people.
In fact, Imelda eagerly shared her belief with a group of American scientists in 1982, telling them the rays were so powerful they could actually deflect Soviet missiles from hitting the Philippines. She also bragged how the country could use and develop the rays to eventually protect the US mainland from a similar attack.
9. She Described Her Assassination Attempt As Ugly
Usually, fear would be the regular emotion for people who’ve had a near brush with death. For Mrs. Marcos, however, she revealed how the first thing that came to her mind during her assassination attempt in December 1972 was the ugliness of the bolo.
Read More: The (Failed) Assassination of Imelda Marcos
As her assailant Carlito Dimahilig rushed to attack her onstage, the first thing she thought of was why it had to be a bolo of all weapons that was going to kill her since she considered it an ugly weapon. “He should’ve tied a yellow ribbon on it,” she thought. If anything, it goes to show even she placed Imeldific standards on everything—including her assassinations.
8. She Allegedly Waited For A World Leader’s Death—So She Could Attend His Funeral
We already know how much Mrs. Marcos loved to gate-crash and be the center of attention at every international event—as evidenced by the State Department memo describing her as more of a pest than a guest.
In the same memo, the State Department noted how Imelda loitered around in New York for a few days without anything to do. It was later revealed she was waiting for Spanish dictator Francisco Franco to die so she could fly to Madrid and attend his funeral.
7. She Directed The Philippine Air Force To Save A Beauty Pageant
Never one to let a typhoon ruin a showcase of beauty, Mrs. Marcos had her husband deploy the Philippine Air Force to prevent an oncoming typhoon from ruining the 1974 Miss Universe pageant held in Manila.
To stop rain clouds from forming, the Air Force seeded the surrounding clouds round-the-clock. Eventually, the typhoon didn’t materialize. Incidentally, she also ordered the construction of the 10,000-seat Folk Arts Theater that would become the venue for the pageant and which was finished in less than three months.
Unfortunately, she also whitewashed and bulldozed the pageant’s parade routes to prevent the candidates from seeing the slums of Manila.
6. She Made Her Husbands’ Generals Cross-dress On His Birthday
In a two-day party extravaganza she threw for her husband for his 56th birthday at Malacañang Palace, Imelda made hundreds of soldiers and Marcos’ very own generals—including Fabian Ver and Fidel Ramos—wear makeup, hula skirts and bras as part of the festivities.
According to Juan Ponce Enrile who was at the event, he and the rest of the brass could only suffer in silence at the tasteless display. Enrile’s claim was also corroborated by former American ambassador William Sullivan who noted many of the officers were clearly angry but did not complain to their principal benefactor who enjoyed the event with his wife.
To the credit of the Marcos family, Sullivan said the Marcos children were embarrassed by the spectacle although Marcos Jr. later defended his mother, saying the men cross-dressed voluntarily in the spirit of fun and games.
5. She Promised To Give Away $800 Million To Filipinos
During the 1998 presidential elections, Mrs. Marcos—then one of the candidates—promised to give away for free the $800 million she had kept in her bank accounts to the public and to pay off the country’s debts. While it would be the first time she publicly admitted having a huge amount of money, the ever-glib Mrs. Marcos denied it was ill-gotten.
As in the past, she explained her husband obtained his wealth through treasure-hunting and sound financial management with the gold he acquired in the course of his work. In the end, the country never did get to see whether she would’ve fulfilled her promise as she dropped out of the presidential race to support fellow candidate Joseph Estrada.
4. She Renovated An Entire Town And Made People Wear Costumes For A Daughter’s Wedding
Never one to be outmatched by the extravagance of foreign royal weddings, Mrs. Marcos set out to top the fairytale wedding of Diana and Prince Charles in 1981 with the wedding of her youngest daughter Irene to the scion of the Araneta clan, Gregorio Benitez Araneta.
She transformed the town of Sarrat (the birthplace of her husband’s mother) into a replica of a Spanish-era town. No stone was left unturned as antiques were poured in from all over the country and people were fitted with all the colonial costumes of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) to give everything an authentic feel.
When all was said and done, she spent a cool $10.3 million for the Filipino version of a royal wedding which the government officially billed as a tourism project. In defense of Irene, she originally wanted a small, exclusive wedding among friends and family, but who could say no to the Steel Butterfly?
3. She Ordered A Plane To Go To Australia To Get White Sand
Whilst hosting a reception for the opening of a new beach resort in the country sometime in 1979, Mrs. Marcos noticed a lack of white sand—an embarrassment for her considering her guests also included European royalty.
To rectify the situation, she placed an order for white sand in Australia—and in true Imeldific fashion, she had a plane fly and get it. As to why she didn’t get it from a locality since the Philippines has plenty of white sand, we may never know.
2. Her Shopping Sprees Included Buying Buildings
As we’ve said before, it was not shoes, jewels, and other personal effects Mrs. Marcos bought like crazy. She also splurged on real property in the US worth tens of millions of dollars.
Among her purchases included Manhattan skyscrapers like the 66-story Woolworth Building in 40 Wall Street, the $51-million Crown Building, and the $60-million Herald Center. More incredibly, she even thought of buying the Empire State Building for $750 million but changed her mind because she thought the price was “too ostentatious.” Even Imelda had her limits.
1. She Ordered A Plane To Turn Back…Because She Forgot To Buy Cheese
In a move that could rival the in-flight antics of a South Korean airline heiress, Mrs. Marcos once ordered a pilot to return mid-flight back to Rome during one of her international shopping sprees in Europe. The reason? She discovered the plane didn’t have any cheese and she forgot to buy some in Rome.
Also Read: 6 Shocking Facts About Philippine Presidents
The incident earned so much notoriety globally it became known as the “Great Cheese Scandal” but was hushed in the Philippines due to the media censorship imposed by the government at the time.
Howe, M. (1986). Manila After Marcos: Managing Frail Economy; Marcos’ Mansion Suggests Luxury.The New York Times. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/lne4FE
Robles, R. (2013). Is this how Marcos’ top generals Ver and Ramos looked dancing the hula?.RaissaRobles.com. Retrieved 5 July 2015, from http://goo.gl/lY9Imh
StarBulletin.com,. (1998). Imelda promises to give away $800 million. Retrieved 5 July 2015, from http://goo.gl/NjOiaV
Tan, K. (2013). WikiLeaks: Imelda Marcos was a ‘pest more than a guest’ in US. GMA News Online. Retrieved 5 July 2015, from http://goo.gl/HV0U5m
The Independent,. (2006). The weird world of Imelda Marcos. Retrieved 5 July 2015, from http://goo.gl/cNq1YB
Wolmuth, R. (1986). The Imelda Marcos Shopping Guide: a Cache ‘n’ Carry Way to Spend the Fortunes of a Nation. People, (14). Retrieved from http://goo.gl/jSoQaX
Imelda Marcos: The Rise and Fall of One of the World’s Most Powerful Women by Carmen Navarro Pedrosa
Far Easter Economic View, 1987
Universal Beauty: The MISS UNIVERSE Guide to Beauty by Cara Birnbaum
The Making of the Philippines by Frank Senauth
Stories from Here & There by Robert Karman
World Poverty for Dummies by Lindsay Rae, Ashley Clements, Sarah Marland, Adam Valvasori
The Marcos File: Was He a Philippine hero or Corrupt Tyrant? by Charles C. McDougald