Imelda Marcos is back on the campaign trail at 80 – in a brand-new pair of shoes

Widow of the disgraced Philippines dictator wants to be nation's 'grandmother'

To most people, the reign of Ferdinand Marcos, the former Philippines dictator, is synonymous with rampant corruption and the brutal suppression of dissent. But not to his widow, Imelda, who kissed Marcos's glass casket yesterday as she launched an unexpected bid for a congressional seat in national elections to be held on 10 May.

"He was our best ever president," declared the flamboyant 80-year-old, resplendent in tangerine blouse and matching trousers, set off by jade and diamond jewellery. "During his time, we had territorial integrity, freedom, justice and human rights. Whatever else people may say, those were the best times ever for the Philippines."

Some of her compatriots may have wondered if the impeccably coiffed Mrs Marcos was talking about the same country, but there was no doubting her determination to hit the campaign trail and, she hopes, salvage her husband's reputation for posterity. "I cannot rest [until I do]," she said, explaining her decision to run for his old seat in the lower house.

Mrs Marcos – famous for the 1,220 pairs of shoes discovered in the presidential palace in Manila after the family fled the country following a popular uprising in 1986 – was allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991 with her three children. Marcos had died in exile in Hawaii two years earlier.

Given her past, the former first lady might have been expected to live a relatively quiet life on her return. But Mrs Marcos has rarely been out of the public eye. She ran for the presidency in 1992 and again in 1998. In 1995 she won a congressional seat, having retained the affection of many Filipinos despite her outrageously extravagant ways – which in the past included shopping trips to the world's glitziest boutiques – and her flaunting of wealth in a nation where most live in grinding poverty.

The relaunch of her political career was a good excuse to buy several new pairs of shoes, according to aides of Mrs Marcos, who donned elegant leather sandals for yesterday's trip to the family home and mausoleum in the northern town of Batac.

She is not the only member of her family seeking to perpetuate the Marcos dynasty. Her son, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jnr, is seeking a senate seat, while her daughter, Imee, is running for governor of Ilocos Norte province, long a family stronghold. The Marcos name appears to be no impediment, despite evidence that Ferdinand Snr looted billions of dollars from state coffers during his 20-year reign.

Mrs Marcos, too, has faced charges of embezzlement, corruption and tax evasion. Indeed, about 900 civil and criminal cases have been filed against her since she returned. However, most were dismissed for lack of evidence, and convictions were overturned. She has never served prison time.

A housing minister in her husband's government and a former governor of the Manila region, Mrs Marcos still has grand ambitions. "What I really want is to be a mother to each and every village," she said. "I will not stop until each and every village becomes a human settlement and also a paradise ... because it is possible to make human settlements a paradise."

Her advancing years were no obstacle, she insisted, nor was her ill-health – she has diabetes and glaucoma. "It is true that I'm 80 years old, but I can also be a grandmother for our country."

While Mrs Marcos is guaranteed plenty of attention over the coming weeks, the real focus of the elections will be on the presidential candidates.

Gloria Arroyo, who has been in power since 2001, is barred from standing again, although she is running for a congressional seat.

The contenders to replace her include Benigno Aquino, son of Corazon Aquino, who mobilised the "people power" revolution that toppled Marcos and then took over as president.

If elected, Mrs Marcos hopes her long-standing campaign to have her husband buried in the national heroes' cemetery in Manila will bear fruit. At the mausoleum yesterday, she said of his current resting-place: "This is one of our major injustices."

Imelda Marcos: The shopping years

*A former beauty queen and singer, Imelda Remedios Visitacion Trinidad Romualdez met Ferdinand Marcos, then a congressman, in 1953. She was 24, he was 35. They married in a Catholic cathedral in Manila after an 11-day courtship. Marcos was determined to become president; Imelda was equally determined. She charmed, cajoled and fought on his behalf. In 1966 the couple moved into the Malacanang Palace, the presidential residence. Imelda played an active role in her husband's government, and toured the world as his special envoy. She splurged public funds on ostentatious building projects in the Philippines, aimed at enhancing her husband's standing. In 1986 the family fled to Hawaii after Marcos was ousted in a popular uprising. A shopping addict, she was later found to have left behind 1,000 handbags, more than 500 gowns, 15 mink coats – and, of course, those shoes.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower