Imelda Marcos still flamboyant, sparking with gems, at age 73


Erik de Castro,MANILA, Reuters

The Philippines’ flamboyant Imelda Marcos danced the night away as she turned 73, still bristling with diamonds and confident that history would vindicate the Marcos name.

In a flowing black silk gown embroidered in gold and silver, the widow of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos spoke of her hopes for the future at a birthday party on Tuesday night attended by her most loyal millionaire friends, close relatives and a few diplomats.

She sparkled with jewelry which aides said used to belong to members of European royalty and was acquired from famous auction houses during the Marcoses’ days in power.

Five-carat, rough-cut diamonds glowed in her ears and a right finger glistened with a heart-shaped diamond her future husband gave her as an engagement ring.

As she cut a 20-foot-high cake, the top of which almost reached the ceiling of the five-star hotel ballroom, guests’ eyes fell on a bracelet gleaming on her right forearm.

“It used to belong to the Empress Josephine, a gift by Napoleon,” a long-time Marcos friend said. “It’s most sentimental for her (Imelda) because it was the gift given to her by the president on their 25th wedding anniversary.”

The splendor was still there but the cheers seemed just a little fainter, said some guests, who had attended previous birthday bashes for the most controversial first lady to stride the halls of the Philippine presidential palace.

When the band struck up a well-known Marcos martial hymn as the celebrant strode into the ballroom, guests stood quietly around watching her. Unlike in previous years, there were no cheers and no applause. Gaiety gone At the height of the party, many guests remained in their chairs as Imelda took to the floor with her grandson Borgy, a top model, and broke into a cha cha.

Then she followed with a boogie.

“It was not like the swinging parties of the past. The gaiety was gone,” said the long-time friend.

The friend said this was because many of the guests — from the same crowd of army generals and business cronies that used to hang around the Marcoses in their glory days — had themselves grown old.

Looking at guests who seemed able only to plod along the hall, one lawyer-friend of the Marcoses said: “It looks like I am the only young man here.”

The lawyer had tinted his hair black to hide the gray.

But Imelda was her usual, unsinkable self, snuffing out with one blow the lights from the 11 candles at the foot of the giant cake.

The candles stood for her eight grandchildren and three children.

“I think it’s a good omen,” she told Reuters, referring to recent legal victories in her uphill fight against government charges that the Marcoses had plundered hundreds of millions of dollars from the economy during their 20 years in office.

“Hopefully, by the end of the year all of this will be gone so that I can in turn … concentrate on positive things that would help our country and people,” she said.

Earlier this year, an antigraft court reversed its previous ruling and declared that the Philippine government had not fully established that the more than $600 million the Marcoses were alleged to have stashed away in Swiss banks belonged to the family.

Another court also recently lifted a state order sequestering a Marcos ancestral home on the beaches of Leyte province.

Ousted in a “people power” revolt in 1986, the Marcoses originally faced more than 100 criminal and civil cases over allegations that they stole from the public treasury. The family denies the allegations.

Most of them have since been dismissed, leaving only about 20 still pending in various courts.