FAST FACTS: Imelda Marcos, the ‘Iron Butterfly’
By Gari Acolola
The former First Lady is known for her lavish spending on shoes, jewelry and fine art during the rule of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos
MANILA, Philippines – Imelda Romualdez Marcos, the so-called Iron Butterfly, celebrates her 88th birthday on Sunday, July 2.
Known for her excessive style now dubbed as “Imeldific,” Imelda’s rags-to-riches story explains her love for orchestrating lavish events and owning an extravagant collection of shoes, clothes, and jewlery.
Her cousin Loreto Ramos revealed that when they were younger, Imelda belonged to the poor side of the family. According to a book on Imelda Marcos’ life, Siloy, a family helper, even bought Imelda new shoes, because she could not afford to replace her only worn out pair. This, the book said, eventually led to the obsession of creating a glamorous image for herself.
It was then-Congressman Ferdinand Marcos who gave Imelda the life she could only once dream of. After an 11-day courtship, Ferdinand Marcos married the former beauty queen Imelda in 1954. Eleven years later, Ferdinand was elected President in 1965, making Imelda the 10th First Lady of the Philippines.
During her time in Malacañang Palace, she was appointed governor of Metro Manila and Minister of Human Settlements. Following the downfall of her late husband’s dictatorial regime, Imelda resumed a career in politics, serving in the House of Representatives,from 1995-1998, and from 2010 until present.
Throughout the decades, Imelda Marcos has amassed more than 3,000 pairs of shoes, including heels, flats, sandals, boots, and slippers made by both local and international brands. Her locally-made shoes are said to cost up to $11, while imported shoes amount to around $100 each.
Imelda also owned an impressive jewelry collection valued at $8 million. This ranged from antique to modern pieces and included Old Indian diamonds, Burmese rubies, and Colombian emeralds. Three decades after it was confiscated, Imelda’s Hawaii jewelry collection was approved for auction in 2016.
When the Marcos family fled the country in 1986, 1,200 pairs of shoes, 800 purses, hundreds of gowns, luxurious jewelry collections, and several paintings of Monet and Picasso were confiscated as well. The Marikina Shoe Museum now displays 800 pairs of Imelda’s shoes. Some 150 boxes of her clothes, shoes, and jewelry were also moved to the National Museum in 2010 for protection, but were ironically destroyed due to termites, mould, and storms.
“The Iron Butterfly”
Born: 02 July 1929
Father: Vicente Orestes Romualdez
Mother: Remedios Trinidad
Spouse: Ferdinand Marcos
Children: Irene, Bongbong, Imee, Aimee
1965 First Lady
1975-1986 Appointed governor of Metropolitan Manila
1978-1986 Appointed Minister of Human Settlements
1992 Lost presidential elections
1995-1998 House of Representatives
1998 Withdraws from presidential race
2010-2016 House of Representatives (Ilocos Norte)