Imelda Romualdez Marcos

Imelda Romualdez Marcos (born 1930) was one of the most influential leaders of the Philippines in the 1970s and early 1980s. She was the wife of President Ferdinand Marcos and a political power in her own right. She served as governor of Metro Manila and controlled considerable government spending. She fled with her husband to Hawaii early in 1986 and after his death, ran into legal problems concerning money she and her husband had allegedly stolen from their country

Imelda Romualdez Marcos was born in 1930 to a prominent family in the Central Visayas in Leyte Province in the Philippine Islands. After winning a nation-wide beauty contest she married Ferdinand Marcos, a rising political leader who later became president of the Philippines.

Imelda Romualdez Marcos became one of the most influential leaders of the Philippines. Much of her power came from her position as First Lady. On her own, however, she cultivated an influential entourage who were loyal to her personally. This entourage included important economic, military, and political leaders of the country.


Years as First Lady

After becoming First Lady, Marcos was appointed to a number of significant positions. In 1975 she became the governor of Metro Manila, giving her far-reaching power to determine the policies affecting ten percent of the Filipinos. As governor, Marcos became famous for spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build luxury hotels and a cultural center. These buildings were erected for tourists and the upper classes of the capital city and later lost a great deal of money.

The president used his wife as a traveling diplomat to nations throughout the world. She was named roving ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China, and she took part in negotiations in Libya over proposed self-government for Mindanao, a southern island in the Philippines where a civil war existed between Muslim and Christian inhabitants.

In 1978 she was elected to the Interim National Assembly of the Philippines, although her election (from Manila) was tainted by accusations of massive voting fraud. In the same year she was named to the cabinet as minister of human settlements, a post which gave her access to virtually unlimited resources. In that position she was able to allocate funds for countless projects, all of which gave her increased political clout throughout the country.


Marcos Leaves Power

Following the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino in August 1983 and the deterioration of the president's health during the same period, Imelda Marcos emerged as a major spokeswoman for the government. Her prominence led many analysts to assume t hat she was preparing to succeed her husband in the event of his death or resignation. Early in 1986, however, a "snap" election called by President Marcos backfired. Vote fraud and pro-Marcos violence on election day inflamed the general public, which refused to believe the Marcos' claim of victory. When the people rallied behind the "defeated" candidate Corazon Aquino, Imelda Marcos fled with her husband and about a hundred family and friends, settling in Hawaii. She left behind evidence of being a compulsive shopper for several items of apparel including a thousand pairs of shoes. Thus in the matter of a few weeks the image of Imelda Marcos changed from a haughty, imperial first lady of the Philippines to that of an almost ludicrous figure obsessed with material possessions


Life for Imelda After the Fall

Imelda Marcos lived in exile with her husband in Hawaii until his death in 1989, with the Philippine government demanding compensation for money the Marcos' allegedly stole from the country. In 1990 she went to trial on racketeering charges in New York City, with the government alleging she and her husband had stolen some $200 million from the Philippines National Bank and invested it in America; she was eventually acquitted. Marcos returned to the Philippines in 1991 and the next year ran for president on the New Society Movement. She ultimately came in fifth in a field of seven, receiving only eight percent of the vote. In 1993 Marcos went on trial in that country for graft and was found guilty in September as reported in the New York Times. She was sentenced to 18 to 24 years in jail, but was released pending appeal. A comeback of sorts was in store for Marcos when she was elected to the country's house of representative by a large majority in November of 1995. According to Emily Mitchell and Andrea Pawlyna in People, Imelda Marcos was still battling the government over the Marcos fortune, estimated to be as much as ten billion dollars, and could not sell her family's real estate holdings or get the estimated $500 million she and her husband had placed in Swiss Banks. According to Marcus Broucher of the Wall Street Journal, Marcos was planning to establish a page on the World Wide Web ( to tell her and her husband's side to interested parties.


Further Reading on Imelda Romualdez Marcos

Imelda Marcos's speeches have been published in Identity and Consciousness: The Philippine Experience (1974); Primitivo Mijores has written a critical book on Marcos and her husband entitled The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos (1976). Another interesting view of Imelda Marcos is Two Terrorists Meet (1981) by Stephen Psinakis, an anti-Marcos dissident. See also The Steel Butterfly of the Phillipines by Katherine Ellison (New York, McGraw Hill, 1988); and Imelda Marcosby Carmen Pedroso (New York, St. Martin's Press, 1987). "Judge Wapner, Where Are You?" by B. Angelo in Time, reports on her acquittal on the American changes of racketeering; Marcos's graft conviction in the Philippines was mentioned in the New York Times, September 24th, 1993; Marcos' life after her trial and her election to congress were detailed in "Forever Imelda," by Emily Mitchell and Andrea Pawlyn, in the July 29th, 1996 edition of People; and by Seth Mydoz, "Quirky Imelda Marcos Holds Court," in the March 4th, 1996 edition of the New York Times. The plan for a Web page ( was mentioned in " Anyone," by Marcus Broucher, in the February 13th, 1997 edition of the Wall Street Journal.