Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Dreams Have Become Puny with the Reality My Life Has Become Part II

This is the Life!

Madame dreamed of a small house with a picket fence and voila...She got Malacanang! The extravagance that ensued throughout her reign as First Lady and thereafter are truly what puny dreams are made of.
 Classic View of Malacanan Palace from the Pasig River

 The entrance to the Palace

Imelda looking pensive on a balcony of Malacanan Palace, 25 February 1986, the day before she and the rest of the regime ignominiously left the Palace and the country into exile.

But Madame is by no means unique! Throughout history, we've seen and heard stories of First Ladies having the same dreams turn puny compared to reality. As one famous author succinctly described, "There's a goddess/monster thing going on with imperial women. The emperors were treated as semi-divine so their wives were treated with reflected divinity; or - if they were at all dodgy - became horrific monsters."

Tunisia's Leila Trabelsi raided the country's gold reserve by 35 million pounds. Zimbabwe's Grace Mugabe enjoyed a shopping spree in Hongkong worth 69,200 pounds. Haiti's Michelle Pasquet's marriage to Jean-Claude Duvalier commenced with a 3 million pounds nuptials.

"There are moments when it seems that the world's affairs are transacted by dreamers. There is a sadness here in the spectacle of nations, no less than individuals, helping each other along with their delusions. This way what is thought to be clear-sighted pragmatism may actually be shoring up a regime's ideology whose hidden purpose is itself nothing more than to assuage the pain of a single person's unhappy past." (James Hamilton-Paterson in his book America's Boy, as he described the Marcos era in his chapter on The Politics of Fantasy). Does this define all these women's actions too?

I daresay it does. So how can we fault Madame or any of these women who've successfully epitomized a coruscated depiction of grave corruption with beauty? But then again, Madame is a cut above all of them any day. She is the dictator's wife's dictator's wife.

"I was born ostentatious. They will list my name in the dictionary someday. They will use "Imeldific" to mean ostentatious extravagance." This did not mean that she didn't care for the less fortunate people though.
I was born ostentatious!
They will list my name in the dictionary someday.

"Where did the basic services come from - water, power, food, shelter? I conceptualized this as governor of Metro Manila for 11 years. And who reclaimed hundreds of hectares and built homes for the people of Tondo and gave them little pieces of land? Who built the housing projects, by the millions, for the poor? Who brought food to the Kadiwa Centers and rolling stores to bring cheap food to the poor? Mrs. Marcos - in every aspect, from womb to tomb."

In her mind, "I am my little people's star and slave. When I go out into the barrios, I get dressed because my little people want to see a star. Other president's wives have gone into the barrio wearing house dresses and slippers. That's not what people want to see. People want someone they can love, someone to set an example."
I am my people's little star and slave!

So she did what she did for her little people! I get it now. In so doing, her dreams became puny compared to reality.

They say the true mark of a First Lady whose dreams have become puny compared to reality - the apotheosis of wifely despotism, is no longer to be a goddess but to be heroine in a musical. Eva Peron was immortalized in Evita with the hit song "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" - an ironic attempt to assuage her pain perhaps?
Don't Cry for Me, Argentina!

Not to be left out, Madame's life inspired David Byrne and Fatboy Slim to write "Here Lies Love" - a 22-track song cycle about Madame and her love for disco. Byrne remarked, " I imagined that the ecstatic joy and loss of self inherent in a lot of dance music might mirror some of the headiness of a person in power, as well as their view of themselves as a living symbolic entity."

Truly, Madame has set such high standards for First Ladies. And she continues to do so. At 81, her ambition now is to save Mother Earth for humanity by fighting for truth and beauty. Truly indefatigable, right? With 3,000 pairs of shoes, she has left one heck of a carbon footprint in this world.

"The truth is that, life is so beautiful and life is so prosperous and life is so full of potential and life has so much good in it that really, one should not have to sleep.... As long as there's music, flowers, a nice person, a smile, a good deed...gosh!"

A good deed for her little people indeed.

"I will come up with a project that will wipe out poverty in the Philippines in two years. I want to remove the people from economic crisis by using the Marcos wealth. Long after I'm gone, people will remember me for building them homes and roads and hospitals and giving them food. The people should stop laughing at all this. They should stop thinking that I'm a bit touched in the head.

They should stop thinking that I am a bit touched in the head!

Touched in the head? Madame? Perish the thought!

"People say I'm extravagant because I want to be surrounded by beauty. But tell me, who wants to be surrounded by garbage? Beauty is God made real and the spirit of love is God. Only a crazy man wants to be surrounded by garbage, and I'm not crazy just yet."

"In the material world, where everything is valued, when you commit yourself to God, beauty and love, it can be mistaken for extravagance."

Beauty. Extravagance. Music. The right attitude. Most of all, no more sleeping. That way, dreams take backstage to reality.

"If you live the way I do, you think heaven and paradise is after death, after the sementeryo. No sir! It can be here. And so hell can be. So you've got to have the right attitude to be in paradise. And I want you all to be in heaven with me. Really, it's true. I can assure you really. I will find for you paradise and heaven even after I come down from Malacanang. And I will have happiness and paradise even after Malacanang."

Little people. 901 civil and criminal cases. Poverty. Forget all of these then. These are not what puny dreams are made of.

"The fight for survival justifies swindle and theft. In self defense, anything goes."

You're a real fighter, Madame!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I was no Marie Antoinette. I was not born to nobility, but I had a human right to nobility...

Modern history is marked by the struggle of societies to dismantle barriers of class. This struggle continues to this day with more and more nations and societies moving ever forward in achieving the ideals first expressed in the streets of Paris in 1789 - "Liberte! Egalite! Fraternite!" On the other side of the Atlantic, another struggle that started in 1776 saw its culmination in the same year 1789 with the inauguration of the United States of America's first president, George Washington.

This confluence of events in the signal year of the Enlightenment Period shook the very foundations of the Feudal world of Europe. Suddenly, the entire social structure rooted on a class system where a very small nobility is supported by a vast mass of people who constituted the peasantry was threatened with collapse.

The nobility faced the possibility of extermination by an enraged mass of the great unwashed. Indeed, in October 1793, four years after the events of Bastille Day (14 July), 1789, Marie Antoinette, hitherto Queen of France, scion of the House of Habsburg the oldest and longest-lived dynasty in Europe, daughter of the popular and well-loved Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and Hungary stepped up to the guillotine at Place de la Revolution and was beheaded.

Marie Antoinette, in all her finery

And thus, started the long struggle to eliminate class barriers within societies. Today, most of Europe is unhindered by class and where it still is observed as a quaint aspect of custom and tradition, commoners, as the peasants of yore are now called, can aspire to nobility and royalty. The most recent commoner to achieve this is the new Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Windsor nee Middleton, wife of William, third in line to the British Throne.

The newly-minted Duchess of Cambridge at the balcony of the Buckingham Palace being kissed by her groom, Prince William of Wales

However, most modern nations have seen the elimination of nobility and class. Do a double-take of that last sentence. Elimination of class! Madame Imelda was right when she said that "I was no Marie Antoinette. I was not born to nobility, but I had a human right to nobility." Why indeed eliminate class which, in practice, means the elimination of the nobility? What happens to class in a classless society? A society of the great unwashed? "Let them eat cake!" so said Marie Antoinette when told that the people were up in arms because they had no bread to eat.

Why aspire to a state of the great unwashed? In Madame's book, we are all better off aspiring to nobility. How wonderful it would be if we are all nobles and royals. Everyone has a title and has the right to wear a crown, coronet, tiara or what-have-you and don ermine. Everyone lives in a castle, a chateau, or a palace!

Imagine, your office cleaner could be the Count of Monte Cristo! While your neighborhood garbage collector could be the Prince of Wales! Or the barista at your favorite coffee shop could be the Archduchess of Austria-Hungary, while the fishmonger at the market could be the the Duchess of Cornwall and the butcher could be the Duke of Alba and the baker could be the Tsarevich of All the Russias. Think of the possibilities, on arriving in Paris, the person driving your cab could be the Sun King himself, and the person checking you in at the Ritz could be the Duke of Orleans. Gosh, how fantabulous. How else could you not be so thrilled when the sushi chef preparing your dinner at Tokyo's Ginza District is the Crown Prince Naruhito? And the list can go on and on....

And wouldn't normal conversation be so classy! With all the highnesses and majesties peppering everyday interactions, who wouldn't be breathless! "Welcome to (Name of coffee shop) I am William Albert Philip and so on and on, Duke of Cambridge, how may I help you?" and you reply "I'd like to have a Cafe Americano, Your Royal Highness." "Will that be for here or to go, Your Most Serene Highness?" and you retort, "for Vandolph, Your Royal Highness!" You wait awhile and you hear, "One Cafe Americano, for His Serene Highness (Your Name), Prince of Smokey Mountain, Protector of Balut, Elector of Isla Puting Bato, Sovereign of etc., etc., etc."

In an Imeldific world, everybody goes from point A to point B in a Rolls-Royce, or a carriage, or a vintage Aston-Martin. There is no place for buses and trains; neither would there be airlines. Everyone flies in his or her own Lear Jet or Airbus 380 or sails in their own custom-made Britannia. Wouldn't that be great!
The Royal Yacht Brittania

See, no traffic! Nobility has its perks!

And everyone's wedding becomes a spectacle watched by two-and-a-half billion other royals. Imagine the pomp and pageantry, everyone can stay glued to the television for days on end with the media matter-of-factly reporting the proceedings. We will be relieved of gushing news reporters and anchors who know not what it is to be part of nobility. "This is Jessica Soho, Queen of Timog Avenue, reporting," while regally balancing a crown on her head holding a microphone on her left hand and waving a scepter on her right, "back to Your Imperial Majesty, Arnold, Emperor of Dapitan, Marquis of Laong-Laan, Earl of P. Noval."

Madame has been the target of so much criticism, maligned and ridiculed, in the end, she made sense.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Beauty of Shopping

"Funny, I never shopped. Even my jewelry - not a piece of jewelry I bought for me." - explaining that her jewelry were gifts from her husband, children, and "even the dog."

Reports have it that during one trip to New York in May 1983, Imelda spent more than $2 million for jewelry, and another $1.3 million for purchases that included $23,000 for books, $43,370 for flatware, $10,000 for antique dessert service, $34,880 for limousines, and $10,340 for bed sheets.

A $5 million dollar collection of rare 17th and 18th century English paintings, furniture and pottery from the apartment of philantrophist Leslie R. Samuel was supposed to be auctioned off. The auction was cancelled because Imelda purchased the whole lot.

No price tag is just too high for Madame.

Another report recounted how Imelda closed Bloomingdale's in New York for a private shopping extravaganza, walking through the store, pointing at items and simply declaring "Mine. Mine. Mine."

How could Imelda splurge on these shopping sprees while eight out of ten Filipinos lived on less than $2 per day? The answer invariably goes back to Madame's philosophy of Beauty.

"Yes, I bought those things [referring to her 21-yr shopping spree] for my country, only the best," she says with a defiant air. "It is shallow people who think beauty is frivolous and excessive. If you are bringing beauty and God, you are enriching the country. Rice feeds the body, books feed the mind, beauty feeds the soul. It is one thing I can really be proud of and stand tall in the world."

How can one counter such consistency, such single-minded purpose to uphold beauty. Beauty is the key to everything. Beauty is God made real.

"Filipinos want beauty." "People say I'm extravagant because I want to be surrounded by beauty. But tell me, who wants to be surrounded by garbage?"

"Win or lose, we go shopping after the election."

So the next time you find yourself in a shopping mall, think of Madame and see the beauty in each and every merchandise. Then shop till you drop!

Shopping. Beauty. God. The Filipino People. It follows, doesn't it.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Shoes: The Apotheosis of Truth, Beauty and Freedom

Reclining Venus, Goddess of Beauty by Canova

Reclining Imelda, BBC News
A huge portrait of Imelda hangs like a mini shrine over her shoe collection at the Marikina City Footwear Museum. Madame donated 749 pairs of shoes to the Museum.

What do these Shoes actually symbolize? Avarice? Wretched excess? Transcendent vulgarity? Uh-uh! These shoes epitomize Truth, Beauty, and Freedom.

The Truth
"I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes, I had one thousand and sixty." There you go. It was not 3,000 or 2,700 as some reports have it but 1,060. So it would only take Madame less than a year to use all these shoes if she uses at least 3 pairs per day - not 2.5 years as some accounts related.

"One Thousand and Sixty only, to be exact."

President Marcos even defended the First Lady's collection by emphasizing that it took her 20 years! 20 years to amass these 3,000 pairs. Much ado about nothing.

The Beauty
"They went into my closets looking for skeletons, but thank God, all they found were shoes, beautiful shoes," Madame smilingly told reporters.

"This Museum is making a subject of notoriety into an object of beauty." Do I detect a Freudian slip in this comment...

"More than anything, the museum will symbolize the spirit and culture of the Filipino people." Did Madame mean our dystopian tendency? I cannot obliterate the image of 3,000 pairs of shoes trampling over the Filipino people.

The Freedom
Lance Morrow's essay on the topic elucidated that the purpose of having riches is "to buy freedom - to purchase choices, immunities from the will of others, or of fate." For Imelda, it was not a question of using these shoes per se. Rather, it was the knowledge that these shoes gave her options.

"What's wrong with shoes? I collected them because it was like a symbol of thanksgiving and love?"
At the end of the day, our preoccupation with Madame's shoes is but a smear campaign that tried but failed to undermine the good, the beautiful and the real that is Madame.

"Much ado about nothing, really."

"Bakit mayroong mga Pilipino na naninira kay Presidente at kay First Lady? Hindi ba nila alam na kami ang Tatay at Nanay ng Bayang Pilipino? Kung kamote ang Tatay at kung kamote ang Nanay, kamote ang Pilipino! Ang kamote ay hindi nag-aanak ng kamatis."

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Different Way of Thinking

"I have a different way of thinking. I think synergistically. I am not linear in thinking, I'm not very logical."
Madame definitely has a different way of thinking. Consider the following Imeldisms:

  1. "Continuous persecution of widows and orphans is a crime." Swindle and theft, on the other hand, may be justified in the fight for survival. In self defense, anything goes.
  2. "I have never been a material girl." But then again, "They [the poor] want their First Lady to look like a million dollars." And "I get so tired listening to one million dollars here, one million dollars there."
  3. "Tell me who wants to be surrounded by garbage?" But now she wears recycled garbage she makes into jewels. "It's beautiful!" "I am more bejeweled than before. Bejeweled by garbage."

Truly a paradox worthy of emulation. Reason defies logic anytime, right? And in the end, synergism is achieved. Happy, Sad, Pacman. It all makes sense!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Unelected

"I am First Lady by accident. I was not elected by the people but here I am."

with Lady Bird Johnson,  President Lyndon Baines Johnson's First Lady

with Sirikit of Thailand, Queen Consort of King Rama IX (Bhumibol Adulyadej)

with Empress Farah Diba, consort of Shah Muhamad Reza Pahlavi

with Madame Tien, First Lady of President Suharto

with Carmen Polo, First Lady of Francisco Franco

with Princess Margaret of the United Kingdom

witht the First Ladies of the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Vietnam, Thailand, and the United States
same group as above (except South Korea's First Lady) with the Taal Lake and Volcano as backdrop

Imelda Attends the Opening of the Sydney Opera House

Is that a sneer I see she's wearing on her face in this photo? She must be thinking, the Australians are nothing but copycats! She inaugurated the Cultural Center of the Philippines, an iconic architectural masterpiece beside the sea at Manila Bay on 08 September 1969 while the Sydney Opera House was inaugurated almost four years later on 28 June 1973. Both edifices are dedicated to the propagation of the arts; of the true, the good, and the beautiful. Both sit astride an abutment into the harbor. They are nothing, but third-rate trying-hard copy cats!