Imelda Marcos kept in dark over damage to her museum from typhoon

By Andrew Buncombe

A typhoon survivor walks past the debris-littered Santo Nino Shrine and Heritage Museum which used to house former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos' collection of art pieces. Photo / AP
A typhoon survivor walks past the debris-littered Santo Nino Shrine and Heritage Museum which used to house former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos' collection of art pieces. Photo / AP

In front of the mansion that Imelda Marcos built to store the glittering keepsakes of her life, workmen were slowly clearing the debris and sweeping away mounds of mud.

The flamboyant former first lady built the salmon-coloured Santo Nino shrine and museum in the town in which she grew up to house the gifts and souvenirs accumulated during the two-decade rule of her late husband, Ferdinand Marcos.

Now, it stands locked and forlorn, badly damaged when Typhoon Haiyan tore through the eastern Philippines.

Reports suggest the 84-year-old - who was put in hospital this month for exhaustion and diabetes - has not been told about the damage out of concern it would further upset her.

The legacy of Marcos and her husband remains deeply controversial in the Philippines. After a two-decade dictatorial rule marked by human rights abuses and corruption, a popular uprising forced the couple into exile in Hawaii in 1986, where the former President died three years later.

It was after they were forced out that Imelda Marcos' infamous addictions to the excesses of high fashion, and in particular to footwear, became clear - with almost 3000 pairs of shoes. In 1990, she was cleared by a New York court, along with Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, of racketeering.

Remarkably, the following year she returned with her children to the Philippines, determined to re-enter public life. In 1995 she was elected to the country's Parliament for the constituency of Leyte, of which Tacloban is the capital. She is currently a second-term parliamentarian from the area where her husband was born.

Despite her reputation, Marcos - who won a beauty contest at 18 and was crowned Rose of Tacloban - and her family remain a local power force. Her nephew, Alfred Romualdez, is the Mayor of Tacloban.

Annabelle Arpon, who works as a tour guide at the Marcos museum, estimated there were usually between 50 and 400 visitors a day. "Maybe 80 per cent of the visitors love the Marcoses. Twenty per cent say they don't like the building. Twenty per cent say it makes them feel like vomiting."

Next to the museum was a public library. It is now occupied by 84 families whose homes have been destroyed. The storm survivors had little to say about staying in a building set up by the Marcoses; they were more concerned with getting food and water.

- Independent

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