To anyone who has ever been the unhappy recipient of a red letter in a small brown envelope, the news that even the former First Lady of the Philippines is unable to settle her electricity bill may offer a crumb of comfort. But uniquely, it will not be merely the fish fingers that spoil when Imelda's deep freeze is disconnected; the late President himself will feel the heat under his starched collar.
Since the deposed dictator's death in 1989, he has enjoyed presidential repose in a glass coffin beneath the soft lights of a bespoke mausoleum, in which the cool temperature is carefully monitored, so as to maintain his Excellency's excellence for future generations of Filipinos to enjoy.
But life after death does not come cheap. In fact, the Ilocos Norte Electric Co-operative, which supplies power to the mausoleum, in the grounds of the family mansion at Batac - Marcos's birthplace - estimates that seven years' immortality comes to about $214,500 (including tax).
Trouble is, Imelda's a bit strapped just now. And with the billions her husband stole from the nation (and gave to his friends in Geneva for safe- keeping) tied up in an endless cycle of legal actions involving several jurisdictions, the lady's financial embarrassment is not likely to be swiftly resolved.
As the deadline for payment expired yesterday, Rommilas Pascual, president of the power co-operative, said: "We have given them [the Marcos family] enough time to pay their bills. We are trying our best to talk to Mrs Marcos but she does not seem interested to settle the problem.
"This is an ultimatum," he added firmly.
Meanwhile, Mrs Marcos, who returned to the Philippines after her husband's death and was later elected a congresswoman, was not available for comment. An aide simply said she was "out of town".
It is not the first time that Mrs Marcos has been left reaching for the candles. Electricity to her mansion was interrupted in April last year, when the family failed to pay arrears dating from before their sudden departure for exile in Hawaii in 1986. But it was restored after several days when a son-in-law made partial payment.
On that occasion, however, the power co-operative spared the mausoleum, in deference to the town's "favourite son" following the emotional pleas of local government officials, still loyal to the old regime.
Adam LeighReuse content