Just a Little Touch of the Imeldific

Marikina City, the Philippines

November 7, 2011

Her name had given language a new superlative for decadent opulence: imeldific. Former First Lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos had gone down in history for owning a legendary 3,000-strong collection of shoes, discovered in the basement of Malacañang Palace after the Marcoses fled during the 1986 revolution. Now, more than 700 of these shoes were showcased in the modest-sized Marikina Shoe Museum.

A Girl Can Dream, Can’t She? Mom and Imelda Marcos’ Shoes @ Marikina Shoe Museum

Mom @ Marikina Shoe Museum
Shoe-Bee-Doo: Marikina Shoe Museum

A joyride took Mom, Ki, and me to the city next door, known for its footwear industry. Imelda’s shoes immediately came to mind, but we had forgotten it was a Monday, a day off for museums. The female guard understandably denied us entry. As we turned to walk away, she decided to make this one exception. She collected the P50 entrance fee and let us in. I belatedly realized she had not issued any tickets. The guard earned extra income that day.

Mom n’ Boot @ Marikina Shoe Museum
Shoe Phone @ Marikina Shoe Museum
Foreign Footwear @ Marikina Shoe Museum

The museum was not Imelda’s virtual walk-in closet. It also featured foreign footwear, shoes worn by former presidents and renowned personalities, and some curios like a giant boot and a shoe-shaped telephone. Lifelike dioramas depicting the tradition of shoe-making in the city filled the mezzanine.

But who were we kidding? We were there to ogle the imeldific collection. The place was seemingly haunted by the specter of Imelda Marcos, although she was still alive and free and had, in fact, made a political comeback from exile decades ago. Huge portraits of the beguilingly beautiful Iron Butterfly, as she was called then, wearing her signature traditional gown with butterfly sleeves presided over racks of shoes. Official black-and-white photos of the former First Lady with heads of state and foreign dignitaries as she was dispensing her unofficial duties to soften the image of her dictator-husband put the ostentatious display into this political context.

Shoe Making Diorama @ Marikina Shoe Museum
The Iron Butterfly: Imelda Marcos with her Signature Butterfly Sleeves @ Marikina Shoe Museum

Her shoes had become unlikely museum pieces, preserved and encased in glass (as opposed to the pairs that went to another museum where they were left to rot in rain-soaked boxes). Imported names, such as Chanel and Charles Jourdan, and a local brand, Lady Rustans, were well-represented. They came in different designs – classic and flashy, bare and studded, but mostly in gold or red. By the looks of it, Imelda must have partied like a rock chick back in the day.

Although the shoes had become symbolic of unmitigated corruption that was the undoing of the 20-year Marcos dictatorship, Imelda unabashedly embraced them. She even graced the museum inauguration and dropped this famous sound bite: “They went into my closets looking for skeletons, but thank God, all they found were beautiful shoes.” Interestingly, the skeletons of many human rights victims during the Marcos years had not been found to this day.

Imeldific Shoes by Charles Jourdan, Beltrami, Chanel, Lady Rustans, and many others
Studded Shoes by Beltrami @ Marikina Shoe Museum
Vintage Photo of Gemma Cruz-Araneta @ Marikina Shoe Museum

Social context – that was what this imeldific shrine lacked. The fact that generations of Filipino schoolchildren had walked for miles barefoot was swept under the glittering shoes. Imelda never minced words in expressing her Evita complex: “Never dress down for the poor. They want their First Lady to look like a million dollars.”

Presidential Shoes @ Marikina Shoe Museum
Ferdinand Marcos’ Shoes @ Marikina Shoe Museum
Marcosian Mural: Imelda as Inang Bayan (Motherland) @ Marikina Shoe Museum

With the influx of imported footwear, Ki thought that local shoe-making was a dying tradition. But there were prominent people, Imelda included, who had lent their support to the shoe industry, their names honored by the city on walk-of-fame tiles outside the museum. If Marikina were keen on maintaining its renown as the shoe capital of the Philippines, the spotlight should have been trailed on this city’s traditions, not only as a memory in a museum and a footnote in Imelda’s footwear.

Admittedly, the biggest draw of the museum was Imelda herself. In her heart, she must have felt deserving of such luxury for serving the masses. This reciprocity between public service and self-entitlement had been perpetuated by succeeding regimes. It trickled down from the powers that be to the little people, such as the security guard who let us in on an off day for a fee. Like First Lady, like lady guard.

Don’t cry for Imelda. The truth is she never left us.

The Star of “Shoe-perstar Alley” of the Marikina Shoe Museum

18 thoughts on “Just a Little Touch of the Imeldific

    1. Anything imeldific demands amazement. 🙂 More amazing than the shoes are the photos of Imelda with world leaders. Quite telling of that phase in our country’s history. Just a day in the life of the Iron Butterfly.

    2. That’s refreshing to know. Marcos almost always get beaten up and is made into a convenient scapegoat, blamed for every ill in this country.

      1. how unfortunate it was and is however, it was only during his heyday that the Philippines is respected by the world. No president who came after him who praised the country the same way they did for Marcos.

    3. True. It really has been downhill from the Marcos years. But I think Marcos himself had lost his grip on power in the final years of his presidency, and things went out of control until that fateful snap elections.

  1. I was always intrigued by Imelda’s shoes. How can one person have so many pairs? Not fair, at all. And how will she remember each one to match her outfit? Perhaps she accumulated them blindly and forgot about them. And as always, your sweet mom is a pet. She is gazing at every piece so very attentively. Maybe she was also thinking about the sheer numbers of the shoes.

    Joy always,

    1. Well, Imelda claimed that most of the shoes were given to her as gifts, perhaps some from shoe designers themselves. Not entirely farfetched. I know celebs mostly get clothes and what-not for free. And the shoes were neatly arranged when they were discovered in the Palace. Maybe she had a system of storing them, like books in a library. 😀

  2. ayos ang extra income ng lady guard. haha. still, at least you didn’t waste gas going there during another day. hehehe.

  3. This post makes me realize that forgiveness in innate in mankind. The collection used to be a symbol of corruption pero ngayon, naging part na siya of a museum.

    And hey, the lady guard might be fired because of this post. Lovely photos! Lol 😀

    1. Well, museums shouldn’t only contain relics and artworks that are honorable, symbols of courage and nationalism. History is not always nice and pretty. In fact, it is mostly dark, a timeline of the inhumanity of man.

      Haha, don’t worry about the lady guard. This is actually a backlog post from last year. I assume that by now she has already been transferred to another assignment by her agency. 🙂 Anyway, she really couldn’t issue tickets on a museum holiday. I conveniently forgot about that too! 😀

  4. I use to be in Marikina every weekend for years to visit my “ex-in-laws” but I have never thought of visiting the museum… siguro becuse I was thinking na I could go there any time….anyways… it looked like mom did enjoy the museum and I love her photo sitting on the bench (second one)

    1. Ex-in-laws. Hmmmm now there’s a story. I wanna read THAT post! 😉 Idol, perhaps you can go visit now that you’re not in Marikina every weekend. May novelty factor na.

  5. Hi! I’m back after a 9-month travel blogging break. Really missed reading your great posts. Yes, Imelda will forever hound us courtesy of her ostentatious display of wealth like her shoes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s