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Imelda Marcos = IM
AR: Hi. I am Anjali Rao in Manila. My guest today is the former first lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos. This is Talk Asia.
AR: As well known for her shoe collection and shopping sprees as anything else, Imelda Marcos and her late husband Ferdinand ruled the country for more than twenty years before being banished in disgrace. In that time they are believed to have amassed a multi-billion dollar fortune allegedly stolen from the pockets of the people.
IM: I was privileged to be married to him, by his side for 35 years. Very enlightened, very selfless and brilliant.
AR: Mrs. Marcos' detractors say she is shameless and a thief. She and her supporters say that's just not true.
IM: Beauty is not an extravagance, beauty is life! And beauty is the only thing that can feed the soul.
AR: We are about to find out as we spent the day at her home!
AR: Mrs. Marcos, welcome to TalkAsia. Now, it has been a while since the world heard from you in any grand sense. What have you been up to?
IM: Well, very serious, trying to survive and then trying to get out of this relentless persecution for over 20 years. But, I'm having a break with this funny project of my grandson, this Imelda collection, and I think it's a bit funny and the joke is on me, but what's new? And this has been part of my life, I suppose, even the serious becomes sometimes taken with a lot of humor.
AR: You are such a flamboyant character Mrs Marcos. Why is ostentation so important to you?
IM: It is not ostentation. Because, and flamboyant. And in fact they try to picture me as someone who's "Imeldific" meaning extravagant, excessive, frivolous.
AR: That right a dictionary put that word in, didn't it?
IM: Exactly. And when they asked me if I was and I said in a material world if you are committed to God, beauty and love, you may be perceived as such, but that is not....like for instance, if you are a believer you put flowers incense at the cult altar of your God. For the non believer that is a waste and a frivolity.
IM: You cannot quantify God, beauty and love. And I am committed to that. I am allergic to ugliness because I am a Filipino. You know, in the Philippines they don't stop at good projects just done right, it has to beautiful. In fact, when they greet everybody during the day, they don't just say "guten Morgen, guten Abend, buenos dias, buenas tardes, good morning, good afternoon" they say (talks in tagalo). Meaning beautiful, beautiful morning; beautiful day, beautiful afternoon. We are brainwashed to be beautiful!
AR: Looking at the Philippines though, as a nation in its entirety and how poor it is in many parts. Is it not ironic to you that you're putting on this extravagant show of wealth while all these people are starving and living in desperate conditions?
IM: Well, in the first place, this country is not poor. This country, we were using gold before we were using iron. And we have 92 industrial minerals for industrialization. .We have the five strategic minerals for outer space technology. We have all the minerals!
AR: But the statistic is something like eight out of every ten Filipinos earns less than US$2 a day. Do you think it is right to be putting on a show of extravagant jewelry at a time like that?
IM: Yes. if you compare. But this extravagant jewelry is not for the sake of extravagance or money. This is extravagance of garbage thrown to me by governments around the world. And all the lies and all the vilification and shame that they try to put me on. But all of this I am trying to recycle. I think I have a great attitude! With what they have done to me I should have been 10 feet under the ground already, or in an insane asylum.
IM: Beauty is not an extravagance, beauty is life! And beauty is the only thing that can feed the soul. And so, you can feed the mind with all the knowledge you can get from the internet. You can get all the food you can get and have good nutrition for your body, but it's only beauty that can feed the soul because beauty is life and God. I take beauty very seriously.
AR: I can tell.
IM: Very seriously.
AR: Jewelry of course is very important to you, but you are most famous for your shoes. What do you think about that reputation? Does it bother you that you are painted in this sort of frivolous light?
IM: Even Confucious said the difference between the peasant and nobility was shoes. And thanks God when the world went to my closet they found shoes not skeletons! Then I would have been not only frivolous but evil if they had found skeletons. And the deeper they went to my closet, the more beauty they found.
AR: This was of course when you were in exile and the authorities came and raided your closets... and that's when they found shoes that the world saw.
IM: Yes, without reason, without legal reason. Marcos was the newly elected president then and Marcos was elected four times. And they called him dictator. Fifteen elections, plebiscites and referendum in twenty years, almost every year. That's a dictator? A dictator does not consult the people.
AR: He was also accused of plenty of other things a dictator would do, such as plundering the country of billions of dollars and murdering his political opponents.
IM: Yes, but have they justified it? Is it the truth? Even New York, after spending so many millions and after spending so much time, with 350 thousand documents I was there penniless, widowed, orphaned from my country! I was all by myself and here I was found not guilty on all counts -- racketeering, mail fraud, obstruction of justice and conspiracy in the Rico case. And then when I came here again, 901 cases.
Even the courts here did not want me to come back and ruled a very illegal ruling. For a Filipino not to come back to his home land? I forced my way in and thanks God, lots of people wanted to make me come home, and true enough, millions met me when I came home. And twenty years! Justice delayed is justice denied.
AR: There's more Talk Asia coming up but first we would like to hear from you. Has Imelda Marcos been good or bad for the image of the Philippines? Text talkasia space 1 for good or 2 for bad. If you are in the Philippines text MSG space talkasia space 1 for good 2 for bad. Here are the numbers to send your answers to. And you can track the results at our website
AR: Welcome back to this edition of Talk Asia, we are with the former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos.
AR: You met Ferdinand Marcos in 1954 and you had this amazing 11-day romance after which you married. Tell us about the man you fell in love with.
IM: Well, I must say that he was a very outstanding man. I was privileged to be married to him, by his side for 35 years. Very enlightened, very selfless and brilliant. And he anchored the foundation of this nation not just on like democracy popularity contest because he said not all that is good is popular, but not all is popular is good.
IM: And also at the height of the Cold War Marcos made sure that the Filipino citizens really had true freedom. Our ideology was 'A Filipino citizen was born to the world." So at the height of the Cold War, when China, Russia and America were fighting in Vietnam I was already in Russia, I was already in China and knocked down the iron curtain and the bamboo curtain and before the termination of the Cold War we also finished the Muslim problem. I guess, we had the Tripoli agreement before the fall of Vietnam, with 29 Muslim countries then headed by Gaddafi and that was finished.
IM: If today we have millions of Filipinos going abroad, welcomed by all nations and all governments and sending billions of dollars and euros and pounds to save our economy, thanks to that foresight, that enlightened ideology of Marcos "a Filipino citizen is born to the world" at the height of the Cold War.
AR: You were very good friends with the Reagans, Ronald and Nancy. How important was that particular relationship to you at a time when the Philippines was trying to carve out a presence for itself on the world stage?
IM: It was very important because at that time we were in the midst of a cold war, we were right in the centre. Our ideology was with the right, with America and the like, at the same time, right next door to us was China. I was mothering the world for our people. We could not afford...we are a little country, we could not afford to go to war with anyone. And it is not the right thing. And I can see it now -- you cannot win a war with another war.
Look at this Axis of Evil, they are practically land-locked between Afghanistan, North Korea and Iraq...they are land-locked! If you classified countries first world --developed countries, third world--developing countries, fourth-world--land-locked and these are imprisoned countries. Not only one person, two person, the whole nation is imprisoned.
AR: I mean, you did had a very good relationship, I think it's fair to say, with Saddam Hussein...
IM: Well we had a good relationship, but not this very good insinuation that there was something more to it. I had always been very proper, very correct, very respectful. Even with Chairman Mao, with Gaddafi, with Fidel Castro. I treated them all with respect and I had respect in return. I would not have succeeded if they did not respect me.
AR: You were in exile for thee years before your husband passed away. What was going through his mind in the days leading up to his death?
IM: I actually said to him: "you are a very brilliant man. Ferdinand what happened to us? He said we are facing now the mighty sword of justice of the most powerful country in the world". He said "Imelda", he said, "all our lives we committed on the side of the right and if you are on this side, God is on your side, who can be against you?" Then I said: "but there are so many cases against us". "Fear not Imelda, exaggeration is another form of falsification." "But one case alone we had 350 thousand documents and 100 witnesses, what chance do we have?" He said: "truth is like a diamond, the more you chop, the more brilliant it will become".
Marcos was not a thief just by sheer common sense and arithmetic. Marcos did not even implement a death sentence during martial law to a Filipino. In fact I confronted him three years after he proclaimed martial law. "Why are you not implementing the death sentence, which is legal?". He said: "The art in the use of power is that power is never used, it is only felt. It is like a gun with one thousand bullets. Once you use it once, you no longer have one thousand, you have 999."
AR: But then back in 1983 his main political opponent Benigno Aquino was assassinated at the airport, as he tried to return to this country from exile himself. You and your husband were accused of masterminding that assassination. What do you say when people accuse you of this heinous crimes?
IM: First of all, why would I kill him?
AR: Because he spoke out against your husband.
IM: Well I (stammers) not even my husband...(stammers) him. You know that Aquino persecuted and tried to vilify me from day one. But when he was sick and dying I was the one who cleared him because he had a case wherein they found truck loads of dead people in "Hacienda Lucita". So, we cleared him and I even paid for his air trip and then I also got a doctor for him and every time he needed something in America I would be there. In fact, I have a beautiful letter written by him thanking me for my generosity in spite of the fact that he was critical of Mrs. Marcos. And I can show you the letters and I hope the world will see this. And then he took off his necklace and crucifix and gave it to me in grateful appreciation. No, two months in fact before we know he was coming home and I said we will see you and will be here in Manila in a few months. No, no, he was a friend.
AR: There is more Talk Asia coming up here is the poll question again. Has Imelda Marcos been good or bad for the image of the Philippines? Text talkasia space 1 for good or 2 for bad. If you are in the Philippines text MSG space talkasia space 1 for good 2 for bad. Here are the numbers to send your answers to. And you can track the results at our website.
AR: We are back on Talk Asia with the former first lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos. Mrs. Marcos, you have said you want to come up with a plan to eradicate poverty in the Philippines by 2008. How are you going to do that?
IM: I did not give a time table to do that, but surely this country has no reason to be poor. We've got it all. We have a human resource that almost all are literate, the third largest foreign speaking English for a good long time and the people are very creative, very sensitive. In fact they can work in any part of the world today and even helping our country. So, it is a matter of making a plan where in everything is a priority, including garbage, and everybody is a priority including your enemies.
AR: It has though, been said Mrs. Marcos that you yourself have enough in your own bank account to wipe out the foreign debt of the entire country. At the risk of sounding frightfully vulgar, how much do you have?
IM: Well, I really don't know! Because long before Marcos entered in politics, and even before the war, he was the lawyer for the major mining corporation in the country. And, as I said earlier, we were one of the biggest gold producers of the world if not the biggest at one point, before South Africa and Russia and he was with gold trading before he entered politics. And before he entered the politics the price was only about 32, 33 but in the mid 70s it went to 850!
AR: So, you are saying that you don't know how much you have in the bank?
IM: I really wouldn't know.
AR: You have run for presidency of this country twice and failed. What makes you so determinate to keep coming back?
IM: No. I only ran because it was the best way I could be able to come home. They did not want me. Corry did not want me to come home, in spite of the fact I won the case abroad. So, the leaders here: "now we want her to run", so the United States government could not disallow me to go home.
AR: But don't you think that it looks suspicious that you had amassed this huge multi-billion dollar fortune in a country like the Philippines?
IM: How can you say...Like the Philippines what? The Philippines is a very rich country! Why do you think so?
AR: You say it is, but we always see pictures of, you know, people living in dreadful conditions.
IM: That is in the media, that is in the media! But this country, really there is no real poor here. Because I remember during the war, when people were deprived of everything including freedom and mobility, we could go to the sea! And we have the biggest sea here, the Pacific Ocean that covers 32% of the world surface. Then we have the inter-island sea and we have the China sea, if we cannot eat from land we can eat from sea. No, no, no. That is all in the media. Unfortunately the media is more powerful than the gun. The gun can kill only up to your grave, but the media can kill you beyond your grave and to infinity.
AR: Is it there anything in your life that you have done that you now look back on and you wish that you hadn't?
IM: Well I have been privileged to have the best, best, best and the worst, worst, worst! But thanks God, when I had the best, best, best I maximized it to the fullest and also my potential. When I had the worst, worst, worst, I recycled it. So when people say: "What is your secret Mrs. Marcos that you can still walk around at 77?" I said: "because I have no problems. My potential I maximize, my problems I recycle. They have problems with me, but I have no problems. I am at peace with the truth.
AR: How do you want people to remember you?
IM: I wouldn't know. I have no control over people's minds and feelings because after all, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I am so sad sometimes, when people don't see beauty and see the truth, and beauty is God made real. Here I am, I see beauty in everything including garbage that I can now create all the garbage thrown to me into jewelry. For me beauty is God made real, for me beauty is spiritual, beauty is life, without beauty there is no life.
IM: You know I have been blessed. My dreams were puny, but in the reality my dreams have become....all I dreamt was a little house, with a little picket fence by the sea. Little did I know I would live in Malacanan Palace for 20 years and visit major palaces of mankind. These last 20 years I have been beleaguered and persecuted and deprived. Name it and I had it. I had been attempted assassination, I had been tried, the trial of the century in America, the 901 cases here and I am prevailing. And I can really say I had no mission that failed.
AR: Mrs Marcos it's been great to meet you today, we very much appreciate your time. And that's it for this edition of Talk Asia. My guest today has been the former First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos. I'm Anjali Rao, see you soon.
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