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Imelda’s Shoes

The shoes collection of former Philippines First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos has become known simply as Imelda’s shoes over the years. These, plus her other collections – jewelries, clothes, art objects, humungous edifices – led to the coining of the word Imeldific. This word has been included in present-day dictionaries.

The shoe collection created a stir the first time it was presented by the Aquino government (under the late President Corazon C. Aquino) to the public after the EDSA Revolution sometime in 1986. The EDSA Revolution led to the ouster of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Many of their personal things were left behind when they hastily left Malacañan Palace, the official residence of the President of the Philippines.

There were about more than a thousand pairs neatly arranged in one of the rooms in Malacañan Palace. People were appalled at the number and the grandiosity of the collection that included famous US and European brands.

The owner, Madame Imelda (who got elected Representative of the Philippine Congress in 2010) contends up to now that most of the pairs of shoes were gifts, accumulated over a number of years. Many were Philippine-made. She was then the patroness of the local shoe industry; and promoted the products in her travels, she claimed. For many nevertheless, it was a showcase of ostentatious living amidst the prevalent poverty of majority of her countrymen. Eventually, the shoe collection has become a symbol of plunder against the Philippines and its people.

Acting on the request of the city officials of Marikina, about 800 pairs from the shoe collection were released under their care. These were displayed on its shoe museum. Visits from local and foreign tourists curious to see the shoes helped boost tourism in Marikina, the seat of the Philippines’ shoe industry. The rest were packed in cartons, sealed and turned over to the National Museum in Manila for safekeeping.

After more than two decades, interest and curiosity to the shoe collection seemed to have faded. Until news broke that these were obviously neglected, improperly stored and severely damaged from rainwater, mildew and termites. Incessant rains for the past two years leaked through the roof of that part of the building which houses the National Museum. This area was unoccupied and the storage room was locked so the heavy leak was detected only when rainwater flowed through the room’s door. Heat, humidity, dampness, water – all contributed to the fast deterioration of the items.

Also damaged were other personal effects of the Marcos couple, mostly clothes for formal wear. The clothes were made of the finest materials indigenous to the Philippines, like jusi. Many were embellished with intricate embroidery that cannot be duplicated as these were handmade. The formal gowns were creations of leading Filipino haute couture designers. Each gown was a work of art; each, representing a facet of Filipino culture.

The condition of the shoes and clothes generated great interest from the public, both in the Philippines and abroad. Varied reactions and comments from the public were received by the National Museum. The top officials of the National Museum assured the public that everything shall be done for the restoration of the items. Management also promised that these shall be properly stored. Shoemakers from Marikina City volunteered to help in the restoration of the shoes.

These personal items had become synonymous with the Marcos dictatorship. It could not be denied that these are part of the history of the Philippines in modern times. Painful period as it was, the Marcos era cannot and will not be obliterated from the Philippine nation’s history. The collection of shoes is a shameful reminder of that period.

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