Introduction by Interviewers Ken Kelley and Phil Bronstein:
Copyright (c) 1987, PLAYBOY
On a good day, Ferdinand Marcos rises with the sun, does a few stretching exercises and gazes out at his domain: a couple of acres of grass and flowers in the hills of Honolulu, with a decent view of Diamond Head. His wife, Imelda, wakes up a few hours later and prepares for her day: tending the rows of dark-red bougainvillaea she’s planted, pottering about in her garden–an assemblage of clay pots with plants from the homeland enclosed by a mesh of chicken wire. She then plans the day’s main events–lunch and dinner. The
rosary beads she fingers keep her constant company. Theirs is a classic study in bathos — how the mighty have fallen.
For 20 years, they ruled supreme as the president and first lady of the Philippines. Elected president in 1965, Marcos declared martial law in 1972 in the face of what he called “lawless elements” and the Communist-led insurgency and effectively turned his country into his own personal fiefdom. For 14 years, he consolidated his rule, resisting calls for fair elections, confident in his support by successive U.S. Governments, which were always eager to have a firm ally securing the two giant U.S. military bases in the Philippines.
As martial law stretched into the eighties, there were increased reports of systematic looting of the public purse and more and more disregard for human rights. Meanwhile, Marcos had named Imelda first governor of Metro Manila; she assumed vast control over the city’s life. Always obsessed by “beauty,” she determined to leave her mark by gutting slums and erecting a huge cultural center in Manila, where she could entertain such famous friends as George Hamilton, Cristina Ford and Ronald Reagan.
She also made the most of her position by jet-setting around the globe and meeting world leaders (Qaddafi, Castro, Mao, Kosygin, the shah, the Pope, to name a few), sometimes negotiating in her husband’s stead. Her lavish taste for the finer things in life, the huge–some said obscene–amounts of money she spent on furs, jewelry and shoes, and her reputation for dealing harshly with perceived enemies earned her the title in the world press of Steel Butterfly.
“An enchanted fairy tale” is the way Imelda Marcos likes to describe her political and marital union with her husband. The fairy tale began to sour quickly in 1983, when the Marcoses’ major opposition leader, Benigno Aquino, returned from exile in the United States and was assassinated moments after his commercial flight landed in Manila. Although Philippine army troops had been on hand to meet him, under the command of Ferdinand Marcos’ military chief of staff, General Fabian Ver, Marcos maintained that a Communist gunman had somehow made his way through the ranks and shot Aquino.
International opinion said otherwise; Marcos was pressured into ordering a special court to investigate the matter. The middle class of
the country took to the streets in an unprecedented display of opposition, which was covered by international television. When Ver was officially acquitted and reinstated to his army post, the political pressure from the United States–the Reagan Administration having been a particularly staunch supporter of the Marcos regime–and the daily demonstrations in Manila led Marcos to call for a quick election.
His opponent was Aquino’s widow, Corazon, and her campaign pledge to rid the country of corruption led to a mass movement. An international team of observers, including a delegation from the United States Congress, was dispatched to watch the polling places in the February 1986 election.
The reports of vote fraud were unambiguous: Marcos was the reported winner, but the election was rigged. The pressure at home and from the U.S. continued unabated. Demonstrations increased. President Reagan dispatched his friend and advisor Senator Paul Laxalt to tell Marcos of U.S. concerns.
Still, Marcos resisted. But within two weeks of the election, a key player, defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile, switched sides. He joined with Corazon Aquino to engineer a bloodless revolution.
Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, along with an assortment of family members and staff, were forced to flee the Malacañang Palace in the middle of the night, leaving half-eaten dinners on the table.
After a stopover in Guam, they ended up in Honolulu. There they have been “marooned”–Imelda Marcos’ word–ever since. Aside from gardening and stargazing, the Marcoses spend a lot of time trying to avoid appearances before two American grand juries convened to investigate their finances–and those of the Philippines, since they were intertwined for more than 20 years.
The Marcoses’ reported wealth–his salary as president was less than $6000 a year–is in the billions and is supposed to include real estate in Manhattan, entire corporations, countless foreign bank accounts.
Although they insist, as did General MacArthur, that they will return to the Philippines, many observers feel that their “retirement” in Hawaii is appropriate. Both Marcoses grew up while the Philippines was an American protectorate; and when they reminisce about the past and talk about the present, the tone of the conversation is almost that the Philippines, after all, is the 51st state–more American than America.
Both have the ultimate colonial mentality. Still, their desire to return, however far-fetched, seems sincere. Their eyes fill up when they talk of it, in impassioned speeches, in poetry, in bursts of song.
Reclaiming their power in the Philippines is something they consider their divine destiny. PLAYBOY sent West Coast-based free-lance writer Ken Kelley and San Francisco Examiner reporter Phil Bronstein to Honolulu for a week to conduct the “Playboy Interview” with the deposed couple.
Here is Kelley’s account:
“I asked Bronstein to be my co-interviewer because he’s been covering the chaotic Philippine scene for the past five years and knows Filipino politics on both sides of the Marcos fence. Most important, I knew that Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos trusted him to give a fair depiction of their predicament, even though some of his reports about them in the Examiner were quite scathing. He was the first reporter in the palace the night the Marcoses fled.
“I also knew that PLAYBOY had tried to interview Marcos while they were still in power, only to have the deal fall through at the last minute. And, indeed, this one almost did, too: After the session had begun, Ferdinand began waffling about whether or not he wanted to go through with it. He was persuaded by Bronstein to carry on, perhaps aided by the reporter’s spirited piano playing to accompany Imelda’s versions of ‘Sentimental Journey’ and ‘Don’t Fence Me In.’
“Some of the old forms were followed. We drove up to chez Marcos and waited a good half hour before being admitted–beefy security guards shuffled about, but here the hired help were watching ‘Wheel of Fortune’ on a TV set in the vacant garage.
“Duly admitted, we waited an hour or so before Ferdinand Marcos emerged, impeccably attired in his pinstripe-wool suit. The temperature was around 90 degrees, and he didn’t even sweat a drop. He did appear to have a lot of trouble walking. He teetered and tottered about, one step at a time.
“I figured we would be lucky to get an hour out of him. Wrong. We interviewed him for several hours in his living room; and as we talked, he became rejuvenated and would vigorously gesticulate when trying to emphasize a point–it was a remarkable
transformation. So much so, in fact, that Imelda Marcos, who had arranged the daily lunch spread, one o’clock on the dot, was waving her
hands in obvious displeasure–‘Get in here now’ motions.
“We ended up spending seven hours around that immense table, a piece of wood that seemed ten yards long. Ferdinand–‘Mr. President,’ as he refers to be called–sat at the south end of the table with Bronstein and his mike, while I sat at the other end zone with ‘Ma’am,’ Imelda’s official appellation, my tape recorder running.
“It was a fascinating interplay. Bronstein was at one end, I was at the other; and although we’d have a lot of uninterrupted one-on-one discussion, Imelda has afinely tuned ear. And a strong voice. Occasionally, while talking with me, she’d interrupt the Bronstein-Ferdinand conversation to interject her own opinions, to which her husband would sometimes reply with exasperation.
“Talking with Imelda Marcos is like talking with the Filipina version of Maria von Trapp–she sings her point of view so often, songs from Broadway classics to nursery rhymes she’d learned as a child. She does it to make her point in a light way. Her husband, on the
other hand, likes to lighten things up by telling lawyer jokes; having been one for so long, he knows them all, and so does everybody he’s telling them to, and the staff cracks up because he’s telling a joke–he’s Marcos after all. But when you boil it down to sheer
entertainment value, Imelda wins hands down. She plays her living room with gusto.
“During our luncheon session, the conversations were repeatedly interrupted by calls from the Philippines. Some were taken in the dining room, some just outside; but Ferdinand’s and Imelda’s responses could be still heard. His voice was much more low-key; hers, much more animated. ‘Now you make sure that you get your act together, combine all the liberation forces, make sure that the Moslems and the
Christians get together and we’ll free the country and become one nation again,’ she shouted at one point. It was not just for the benefit of the reporters’ ears. Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos desperately want to return. And that was the topic with which we began our conversations.
PLAYBOY: Mr. President, if you were somehow to return to power in the Philippines, what would be the first thing you would do?
FERDINAND: Immediately stop the corruption taking place under Madame Aquino.
PLAYBOY: The same corruption that many feel drove you from office in the first place?
FERDINAND: That is the popular perception, encouraged by the media. What is never mentioned is that Madame Aquino’s family has been one of the largest landholders in the Philippines for centuries.
PLAYBOY: How would you stop this alleged corruption?
FERDINAND: Arrest everybody engaged in it. Madame Aquino doesn’t have the nerve to do that.
PLAYBOY: So if you went back into power, you would arrest Mrs. Aquino on corruption charges?
FERDINAND: No, I would just prevent her people from participating in all the enterprises they are engaged in. Like Peping Cojuangco [Aquino’s brother]. He should just be anesthetized. [Laughs]
PLAYBOY: Speaking of corruption, your old friend former defense minister Johnny Ponce Enrile, who helped stage the revolt against you, said he committed fraud for you during the last presidential election, the one you claim you rightfully won.
FERDINAND: Come on! Come on! He doesn’t have the guts to commit fraud. He is a guy who always orders somebody else to do the dirty work.
PLAYBOY: Don’t you concede it was possible that there was fraud during the elections?
FERDINAND: Yes. There was fraud on both sides. But mine was not massive. In the last weeks, my opposition was using greenbacks to buy votes. We have the sworn statements of some of these people.
PLAYBOY: Did you give these statements to the team of U.S. observers that charged your side with voter fraud?
FERDINAND: The team didn’t really bother. One gentleman–I won’t name him–visited one election precinct, then went to the bar and made up stories about us.
PLAYBOY: Thinking back about your downfall, do you now think you relied on people who betrayed you? How did you know whom to trust?
FERDINAND: It came down to a choice between bad and worse.
FERDINAND: Meaning General [Fidel] Ramos or General Ver. How can you choose? One guy, Ramos, is a weakling, and his people are traitors. The other, Ver, would give his life for you–but he’s too rough. He kicks people–things like that. Like Patton.
IMELDA: [Speaking at the other end of the table] I used to tell him, “The palace is a snake farm.”
FERDINAND: Still, I think the first lady and I acquired an instinct in determining who can be trusted. We flatter ourselves in believing we have been largely right.
IMELDA: Our instincts? Well, remember, he’s a very linear thinker–very precise, logical, one, two, three. But I think very…woman, very holistic. So sometimes he thinks I’m dumb and spaced out.
PLAYBOY: What’s an example?
IMELDA: I’ll tell him this or that guy is no good. He’ll say, “Wanna bet? His credentials are this, that, fantastic; he comes from Harvard or wherever.”I’ll say, “Funny, but he just doesn’t look right.”
PLAYBOY: And you always mistrusted Enrile?
IMELDA: Yes, and I’m sorry I was proved right.
PLAYBOY: Mr. President, Mrs. Marcos says you are rational and logical, yet others say you are superstitious. Don’t you believe in special numbers and carry a talisman?
FERDINAND: I am not superstitious. But I do believe in clairvoyance. I believe in extrasensory perception. I believe in telepathic messages. I get the idea to watch out for a particular fellow–he may have a pistol in his pocket, ready to shoot me.
PLAYBOY: Does your clairvoyance tell you anything about a possible return?
FERDINAND: Yes. I have that feeling. God, or the Big Guy up there, my guardian angel, tells me. I keep asking, “Give me a sign if I can
PLAYBOY: Any signs so far?
FERDINAND: So far, the sign has been “Don’t move yet.”
PLAYBOY: What about the move you made in January, when there was a private jet waiting for you at Honolulu Airport to fly you back to rally your supporters just after an attempted coup?
FERDINAND: No, no, wait a minute. Let’s clarify this. There was someone representing this fellow who made inquiries to us here, but we never got in touch with anybody–except when they were already here and sent word they were available [laughs] if we wanted to use them. I said, “After all this hullabaloo, how can I accept your offer? I’m not going to be shot down in the middle of the Pacific. That’s not the graveyard I choose!”
PLAYBOY: You mean because the matter had become so public?
FERDINAND: Yes, all the hubbub that was created. But back to your question: Do I believe in the spiritual, in the effectiveness of, well, communicating with your God? Yes. And I believe you will have to make an accounting to Him after death. Say you’d killed so-and-so. I would have to say, “Yes, Lord, forgive me.” If I did. Like, for instance, He would probably ask me, “Weren’t you a participant in the conspiracy to kill Benigno Aquino?” And, of course, I’d tell Him, “You know better than that, Lord, because I was sick; I wasn’t even working at the time it happened. I really ripped into the office of security.”
PLAYBOY: Does that mean you still believe in the lone-assassin theory–that the gunman, Rolando Galman, managed to penetrate all the airport security that your friend and military chief of staff General Fabian Ver had set up?
FERDINAND: I don’t “believe.” I know.
PLAYBOY: Yet you announced that theory even before your own investigators had concluded their study.
FERDINAND: That was because the American Ambassador and the State Department people were pestering me, along with my other critics.
PLAYBOY: What would you have done with Aquino if he had not been murdered?
FERDINAND: Bring him back to prison! Because he already had a death sentence over him, there was no need to assassinate him. All you had to do is bring him back to prison and let the execution take place.
PLAYBOY: You mean you would have killed him anyway?
FERDINAND: Throughout my 20 years in office, I executed only one prisoner–a heroin dealer who took pride in having destroyed the lives
of so many Filipinos. Aquino, though, he was a sly one. He kept calling me to see if he could negotiate his way into the government. He even tried to do that a couple of months before he came back.
IMELDA: I ran against Aquino [in congressional elections]. He was no threat to the president and me. I beat Aquino by more than 1,000,000 votes.
PLAYBOY: But, Mrs. Marcos, he was in jail at the time.
IMELDA: Well, my God! That was the most romantic place to be in! I would like to be in jail when I’m running for office. No, my conscience is clear on Aquino. After [the assassination], people suspected me of conspiring with General Ver, but I’d be surprised if I’ve spoken ten sentences to the general in the past 20 years. In fact, when I called
him, he would be terrorized.
PLAYBOY: Mr. President, wasn’t Aquino’s assassination the turning point for you? If he hadn’t been killed, wouldn’t you still be in Malacañang Palace?
FERDINAND: His assassination just added to the resolve of the U.S. embassy to try to knock me out. It was [former U.S. Ambassador to the
Philippines Michael] Armacost, I think, who masterminded the whole thing. But, look, he’s now number three in the State Department. Let’s not pick a quarrel with him. We have enough enemies.
PLAYBOY: The first lady is signaling us that it’s time to eat.
FERDINAND: Well, she’s the mistress of the house. In the Philippines, we say that once the lady of the house has spoken, you say, “Amen.”
[There is a break for lunch, during which Mr. and Mrs. Marcos agree to keep taping the interview. Mrs. Marcos has laid out a buffet lunch.]
IMELDA: You know, these are all my recipes. I don’t make the food myself, but they’re all from my family tradition. Let’s see–why don’t
you sit down next to me. [Mrs. Marcos is at one end of the table, the president at the other.]
PLAYBOY: Mrs. Marcos, do you feel a bit of cabin fever, overseeing the running of a small compound here in Hawaii, instead of the glory you once commanded?
IMELDA: No, because I feel that this is just an intermission in my life. I don’t have as much to do as I did when I was in my country, but I feel very happy. I have my garden to tend to. My bougainvillaeas are blooming, and I feel hopeful.
One of the things for which I pat myself on the back is that I have not missed my possessions. It would be wonderful if I could see them once in a while, but I have a good memory. Malacañang Palace will always stay with me.
PLAYBOY: Still, to go from dining with heads of state to gardening–it must bother you.
IMELDA: What bothers me more is that the press has got it all wrong. My husband, a great humanist, is called a tyrant! A great dict—-uh, I mean a great democrat is called a dictator! That bothers me. Fighting for the Philippines is like fighting for America, because we are one in spirit. And yet you leave the Philippines, this jewel of a country, in the hands of a coconut!
What bothers me even more is that being here in America, the most beautiful country in the world–oh, why do you let Japan outsmart you,
beat you? Let me show you something. [Gets up, goes out of the dining room and returns] Look at this–what’s this?
PLAYBOY: It looks to us like Uncle Sam in a clown outfit—-
IMELDA: It is! Uncle Sam as a clown, and when you wind it up, it has a music box underneath that plays God Bless America. This is what American kids buy now. What a disgrace to us Americans—-
PLAYBOY: Us Americans?
IMELDA: [Laughs] I can’t believe I said that , us. [Knocks on her temples] Can you imagine, me being an American? But you see what I am
saying–in America, this is what is being offered to American kids for playthings. Look at this one, too.
PLAYBOY: It’s a sort of G.I. Joe with a walrus head and long tusks holding a bazooka.
IMELDA: That’s what it is. [Detaches bazooka and fingers it] These walrus fangs–that’s what they painted on our pictures in the Philippines after Cory Aquino took over, all over the place, fangs everywhere on the posters of me and the president. [Turns over toys]
Let’s see where these things were made–I knew it! Japan. The country saved by America after it tried to destroy America–they turn around and do this thing to America, and America just gobbles it all up. It’s so terrible. Children, American children, are buying Japanese toys that ridicule America.
PLAYBOY: Why do you have these items, then, if you’re so disgusted by them?
IMELDA: My grandchildren wanted some toys, and someone bought them. If I were a policeman, I’d shoot them down, these symbols of America. My friends in the Philippines tell me that they’re now making Cory Aquino dolls that look like those horrible rag dolls–what do you call them?
PLAYBOY: Cabbage Patch Kids?
IMELDA: Yes, those. And they’re ugly. All the time I was in the Philippines, they never made a doll of me. I guess it’s not my fault,
because I’m not ugly.
PLAYBOY: Whereas Mrs. Aquino is?
IMELDA: No comment. [Laughs] I just believe in beauty. Take PLAYBOY, for instance. PLAYBOY really shows beautiful women in a way they can be admired. Some people call it pornographic, but I don’t think so. I think PLAYBOY shows the beauty of the female body. Goya did the same thing a century ago. Americans have always admired beauty, and I admire Americans because of that. But–look at these toys! This is not beauty!
PLAYBOY: We recall that you had something of a problem with naked pictures of yourself way back when–
IMELDA: Yes, I got into trouble during the 1965 election. Somebody mounted my face on naked pictures. I was so furious–they were very
naked, very ugly bodies. If they had used Marilyn Monroe’s body, then I would have had no problem. I might even have ordered some. [Laughs]
But, again, I just don’t understand why, when you have the most beautiful country in the world, you let other countries outsmart you.
[captions for pictures no doubt in this section. ]
BEFORE THE FALL. The Marcoses presided over Malacañang Palace in 1982.
Four years later, they took more modest quarters in Hawaii.
WORKING OUT. Marcos showed his fitness to rule in an exercise video tape
shot in Hawaii and then released in the Philippines.
HIGH NOTE. Imelda Marcos, pianist in exile, claims that in 1944, she
sang before General MacArthur and the entire U.S. Eighth Army.
PLAYBOY: What would be a better system?
IMELDA: There should be only one leader. Too many cooks spoil the broth! You have the Congress, a very strong Congress; you have the Justice Department–
PLAYBOY: You mean the Judiciary–
IMELDA: Yes, that. And then you have the President, and then you have a fourth–the media! Who think of nothing but perceptions.
PLAYBOY: Mr. Marcos began with a system like ours. You had in the Philippines the Batasang Pambansa, your own congress–
IMELDA: Yes, and that is why Marcos changed it. Originally, it was like yours, but it did not work, because we were all spread out–7150
islands. So Marcos changed it to a parliamentary system.
FERDINAND: Excuse me, you’re wrong. The reason was that in the old days, the congress system ended up with some congressmen blackmailing the president when the president tried to–well, systematize the expenditure of public funds. Why? Because a lot of the congressmen were collecting bribes.
IMELDA: I didn’t know this.
FERDINAND: If we hadn’t stepped in, the entire system would have collapsed.
IMELDA: And as the days went by, it would have–
FERDINAND: Please hold on! Instead of the simple martial law we declared, the alternative would have been the commander in chief’s
taking over the entire government.
PLAYBOY: Of course, your critics charge that that’s exactly what you did.
FERDINAND: You must understand that I was also protecting my life and the life of my family. After the 1969 election, two American gunmen were caught in an attempt to assassinate me.
IMELDA: And they were hired by–
FERDINAND: Hold it! They were hired by Eugenio Lopez, Sr., and many other of my enemies. Many of them confessed. Even when Eugenio came to the Malacañang Palace to confess and apologize–he was coughing all over the place–I just said, “You didn’t need to come here. I know what’s going on. Furthermore, the lies you have spread about me and my wife–”
IMELDA: The president and myself–
FERDINAND: Hold it, hold it! Lopez apologized to me. He said, “I had nothing to do with the assassination plot, but I admit that the
information I published about your wife was fabricated.”
[U.S. press reports tell a different story: A member of a prominent family, Eugenio Lopez, Jr., was imprisoned without formal charges for two years, while his family refrained from public criticism of the Marcos regime and turned over more than $400,000,000 worth of holdings–including a newspaper and a broadcasting network–to Marcos’ relatives and supporters. In 1974, Lopez Sr., then dying of cancer, visited the Marcoses at the palace, but his son was not released. Lopez Jr. then went on a hunger strike, and his family spoke out against Marcos. It was not until 1976 that Marcos first charged Lopez Jr. with attempted assassination.]
IMELDA: The worst things he’d published were stories that I was stupid! And that I hadn’t grown up across the street from where General
MacArthur had his headquarters–that I grew up in a little shop. Can you imagine that?
PLAYBOY: Why were you called stupid?
IMELDA: I went to a Benedictine convent for my entire education. And in this yearbook that you’d autograph for your classmates, I would miss an E or an I or whatever. At least I wrote some words.
FERDINAND: She was also the student-council president.
IMELDA: That’s not the point–a psychiatrist came to look at how I wrote, and he said, “She thinks faster than she can write.” I always
mistake words when I write, even today. [Marcos leaves to take a phone call.]
PLAYBOY: Earlier, we were talking about the betrayal by Enrile–
IMELDA: On the day we arrived here, knowing exactly that the main culprit of the coup was Johnny Ponce Enrile–J.P.E., Marcos called him. Can you imagine that–calling your enemy–
PLAYBOY: Who had been your friend for 20 years?
IMELDA: Exactly. But Marcos said, “You take over the prime ministership of the parliament and I will support you.” Imagine! Mrs. Aquino did not offer the prime ministership to J.P.E.!
PLAYBOY: Did that make you angry? That your husband had–
IMELDA: I was very angry. All of us were in a state of shock. This man Enrile, the one who caused all of these problems–it was so terrible. We suffered all these indignities when we left. We were dumped into a C-141, were all on top of each other; there was no opening in the airplane, and we could barely breathe, and it went from so cold to so hot–it was a plane meant only for cattle! So on the day, the very moment, we arrived in Hawaii, he put in a call to J.P.E., saying he’d support him.
PLAYBOY: And how did you react?
IMELDA: I said, “You are insane!” [Marcos returns to the room in time for that remark.]
PLAYBOY: Mr. president, what do you think?
FERDINAND: Take her, take her, please. [Laughs]
IMELDA: I’m serious. Mrs. Aquino abolished the constitution, abolished the parliament–and they talk about Marcos as a dictator? Marcos as oppressive? Marcos, a tyrant? Mrs. Aquino, do you think that if you destroy Marcos, the Philippines will flourish? If Marcos was the
problem, OK; he’s out. Why do you have to spit at him, curse him, kick him?
This woman, Aquino, she is satanic. In the name of God, she used God to package communism, these crazy things.
PLAYBOY: Mr. President, if you do not succeed in going back, how do you think history will remember you?
FERDINAND: I cannot answer that yet. There are several scenarios.
PLAYBOY: Meaning you still hope to return?
FERDINAND: Let’s put it this way: History is not through with me yet. I still believe that justice, no matter how slowly, it grinds. But it grinds exceedingly well.
PLAYBOY: Well, let us put it this way: When you hear your wife refer to you as honest, generous, loving and the most wonderful man on earth, do you believe her?
FERDINAND: [Pauses] I am a full man.
IMELDA: No, you’re a whole man.
FERDINAND: Right, I’m a whole man.
PLAYBOY: Which means?
FERDINAND: Most of the Third World people have lost the values that made them a whole man–the perception of dignity, the true meaning of freedom and the willingness to fight for that freedom.
IMELDA: Can I grab your pen for a minute? I can draw it for you, to show what I mean. [Takes pen and draws circles, squares and other shapes]. We’re talking about the whole man–body, mind and spirit. You give the body what is good and makes him healthy [draws circle]. Give the mind the truth to make him educated [draws stars over the circle]. And then, everything is in harmony, he is whole and starts to smile [draws a smiling face over the other drawings]. And if you take off one part of that, the picture will look like a crocodile, and we are not content with that. We want fulfillment and happiness to make a truly happy face. If he has an unhappy face, it’s this [draws an upside-down heart]. Mind, body and spirit–and we all have a happy face!
PLAYBOY: Is this semeiology a way of expressing a, what shall we say–
IMELDA: I call it a theology. It’s a little presumptuous, but it is correct. I made a theology toward a new human order, using symbols. And I call it Seven Portals to Peace. [Takes pen in hand again] Here I’m going to use only the numerical symbols of one and zero. Number one, how does the children [sic] draw a tree? Zero and one. See? As long as there is one tree on the planet, there will be infinity to bring about ecological order. [Keeps drawing]
Number two, as long as there is one woman–this is the sex symbol of the woman–and one man, the phallic symbol, there you have it: woman and man. So there will be infinity and there will be a human order. Are you following me?
PLAYBOY: We’re trying. Please go on.
IMELDA: Number three, as long as you’re not thinking of the dollar and going in circles for the dollar like a porcupine, man will be the
center, and man will flourish, the dollar will go around and there will be an economic order. Using only zero and one! Zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. And man is the center. And here’s number four–I always say the problem is also an opportunity. I don’t solve problems. I recycle problems into assets.
PLAYBOY: Of course, your financial assets, many of which are being held, have been of great interest to the U.S. media.
IMELDA: That’s my problem. I have an American mind; I’m honest and open. That’s what my problem is and the problem of America is–we tell everything.
PLAYBOY: You haven’t told everything to the courts about your assets.
IMELDA: My dear, I will survive. Assets–
PLAYBOY: Such as, of course, the shoes in your palace closet–
IMELDA: At least there were no skeletons in my closet, no? [Laughs] People forget. In the Philippines, shoes are now 60 pesos a pair–that’s three dollars. And this business of my having 3000 pairs of shoes–even if I’d had 10,000 pairs of shoes for 20 years, that’s only $30,000. Many people spend a lot more than that in ten years.
The thing is, I was promoting anything that was Filipino–I was the first lady; remember that.
PLAYBOY: Did you wear only Filipino shoes?
IMELDA: Well–I was not always parochial, let’s say. [Laughs] But I did wear a lot of Filipino-made shoes. Look at these, for instance. [Takes shoe off right foot] This is Oleg Cassini, franchised in the Philippines, and it was made in two hours. [Holds up shoe for inspection] In Italy, the shoes would have taken two days to make. Two days!
PLAYBOY: Yes, but if they’d been made in Italy, they wouldn’t have rubber soles, as yours do, would they?
IMELDA: They still stand up for wear. The point is, by making these shoes, we were able to give jobs to our people. Shoes were not even my weakness.
PLAYBOY: What was?
IMELDA: [Laughs] I’m certainly not going to say it out loud for PLAYBOY; are you kidding? Seriously, my weakness was trusting people I shouldn’t have trusted.
FERDINAND: One thing about her shoes–she lost a shoe on a state visit to China, because so many people were bugging her. Later, when the media publicized the 3000, we joked that we should have taken them all along on that trip.
IMELDA: I got along the rest of the day in China with one shoe by wearing a long gown. But when I got back to the hotel, I threw that shoe away. Then, a few days after we got back to Manila, the Chinese ambassador came to call. He had with him the shoe I had thrown away!
The moral is, never throw shoes away, because they will catch up with you. [Laughs]
PLAYBOY: President and Mrs. Reagan made their own state visit to Bali last year. Were you disappointed that you didn’t get to speak with them in person?
IMELDA: [Pauses] No, I was happy that we got to speak with them on the phone. We were grateful that they remembered to call, that they took time to speak with us. I had spoken with Mrs. Reagan during the final days in Manila.
PLAYBOY: Really? You spoke with Mrs. Reagan on the phone during that period?
IMELDA: Yes. On the day the palace was under attack by rockets, she said to me, “Come, Mrs. Marcos, I invite you to the United States.” The Reagans were very sweet and wanted us to be their guests. I had to say that I would be the last to leave my country. Unfortunately, the Reagans were then fed lies by bureaucrats. But I surely appreciated their humane concern.
PLAYBOY: Has it ever occurred to you, now that the Reagans have their own troubles with the Iran/contra crisis, to call up Nancy Reagan and return the favor–tell her to just hang in there, that sort of thing?
IMELDA: Yes, I feel there will be a time for all of that, but I don’t want to be presumptuous. They’re smart enough to do this thing right, and what President Reagan did has a moral foundation to it.
PLAYBOY: Selling arms to Iran has a moral foundation?
IMELDA: You just cannot argue with me about it–President Reagan did what he did because he wanted to protect America. Reagan’s number-one oath is to protect America. And the system would not help, so he had to go an illegal way. But it was morally right!
And, of course, I understand what it is like to be in distress. Last year, just before Thanksgiving, we were getting so congested in our home here–people were getting hotheaded with each other, wounding each other, hurting each other; it was like everybody had his own foxhole. So then some of our people came and said, “Mr. President, we are leaving; we can’t stand this anymore; we’re up to here.” [Points to neck]
PLAYBOY: A mutiny?
IMELDA: A mutiny. So the president said, “Gentlemen, this situation reminds me of my namesake, Ferdinand Magellan.” He said, “When Magellan and his crew had not seen land for many months as they were circumnavigating the globe, Magellan went before all of his men and
said, ‘Gentlemen, today we are no longer ordinary mortals. We have just turned into gods. And let us thank the Lord for this great privilege of having been so deprived, so humiliated, and given all these indignities, because these are all instruments for heroism and greatness.’
“And I promise you,” said Marcos, “that this is one fight no one will lose–even if we fail, we fail as martyrs for freedom.” There were
three or four minutes of silence; then everybody stood up and saluted Marcos and said, “We’re sorry, sir.” I have never seen the president in a more glorious and shining moment than then. When I saw this, I had to go and embrace the president. I said, “Hallelujah, this is something!” And ever since then, things have been fine with our staff.
PLAYBOY: You think of yourselves as gods, then?
IMELDA: Yes, because we are on a divine mission.
PLAYBOY: Which is?
IMELDA: To return to the Philippines to reclaim our destiny.
FERDINAND: We are part of the achievement of being a god. That is what we are about now. An ordinary mortal would not be able to stand it. All of our statements now have to prove that we have not gone back to being ordinary mortals.
IMELDA: And even if we fall–
FERDINAND: We’ll fall as martyrs for the cause; we’ll fall with honor.
PLAYBOY: You’ve said you would do anything to keep the “flame” alive–
IMELDA: The flame of freedom!
PLAYBOY: What, exactly, does that mean?
FERDINAND: I’m willing to die! If necessary. But I don’t think that may be necessary… I will not be surprised if by the time this appears in print, we are enjoying the Manila sunsets. [Marcos leaves to take a phone call.]
IMELDA: After you’ve been deposed, after a leader has fallen, he’s suddenly ugly, a crook. Somoza! The shah! Everybody! You know who was
the first to call us when we got here? The shah’s widow.
But, again, why did Marcos proclaim martial law? Because the Communists were already pounding on the gates of Malacañang Palace and in congress. Did Americans realize why we did it? No!
PLAYBOY: What Americans did hear were the many allegations by human-rights groups, such as Amnesty International, of the terrible
things the Marcoses had ordered done to people–
IMELDA: Human rights! Human rights! How about human right? We chose to be with America, not the Communists, and that’s why we’re now being crucified!
PLAYBOY: You keep invoking the Deity. Do you think God has something special in mind for you?
IMELDA: Yes. I think He has something special in mind for me. This has been too much of a preparation. And I don’t just believe in God–I make God real. I want to be surrounded by what is beautiful. I want to do beautiful things.
FERDINAND: [Returning to the table] My doctors have been telling me to take my nap. I said I had an interesting interview with PLAYBOY. They asked, “Are they making you the centerfold?” [Laughs] Maybe we should send them the immigration commissioner’s picture.
IMELDA: They can’t use your picture; I don’t want you to look too healthy now. You’ll be forced to sit down before the grand jury in
Virginia [about alleged misuse of U.S. Government funds]. [Laughs] Me, I recycle everything–even being in jail would be very positive for me if they called me to a grand jury.
FERDINAND: I do not want to go home that way. [Laughs]
IMELDA: Andy, tell them about your bitterest enemy.
FERDINAND: You’re talking about the guy who tried to turn me into a queer, which I’m not and don’t intend to be!
PLAYBOY: A homosexual political enemy?
FERDINAND: We won’t mention his name.
PLAYBOY: Yet enemies of Marcos had real reasons to fear you; didn’t they?
IMELDA: OK. What so terrorizes a lot of people in the Philippines who would fight against Marcos is that, always, all of Marcos’ enemies
somehow go and get sick, or something terrible happens. [Laughs] From time immemoriable [sic].
FERDINAND: Unfortunately, my enemies are slowly dying away. And so the game is not as exciting as it used to be. I am surprised at the way they are disappearing from the scene.
PLAYBOY: Some people charge that, over the years, you have been responsible for some of their disappearances.
FERDINAND: Let them say what they want. It’s not true.
PLAYBOY: What if something terrible were to befall Cory Aquino?
FERDINAND: The Communists will probably try to kill Madame Aquino and blame it on me. It’s in their blood.
PLAYBOY: It’s in their blood to kill Cory?
FERDINAND: What do you mean, Cory? Everybody! All the leaders of every party, including ours. All she did was release from jail the 441 most prominent Communist leaders our government had spent years trying to track down! The way the Communists are conducting themselves, even if Madame Aquino survives the elections, she will not last the year.
[The interview resumes in the living room.]
PLAYBOY: Let’s talk about the hours before your downfall. Why didn’t you try to mount a counterattack with troops loyal to you?
FERDINAND: I could have had the Malacañang Palace bombed. I could have done a number of things to ward off the attackers. But I had another plan. I was going to cut off all the palace’s utilities and then infiltrate the defense building–friends of Enrile’s are also friends of mine. So I called him and said, “Let’s stop this foolishness.” Enrile promised me he would try to work it out; but by that time, I suspect, Cory was already in touch with him–through the Americans.
PLAYBOY: Why do you suspect that?
FERDINAND: Because I received a threat that the Marines would be used against me. The U.S. Marines! I got a formal note–unsigned–from I won’t say whom, but it was a high-ranking U.S. official. [Marcos has elsewhere named former Ambassador Stephen Bosworth as the official who threatened him. Bosworth denies this.]
PLAYBOY: How did you respond?
FERDINAND: I said, “You show me this note, but signed by President Reagan, and I’ll surrender to you.” I mean, if President Reagan was
declaring war on me–what the heck! I surrender! I face reality! I’ll go to the President and say, “I’m your prisoner; what’s happening?” [Laughs]
PLAYBOY: Yet it seems clear that the order for you to step down came from the President.
FERDINAND: I seriously doubt it. It was the diplomatic-level people at the U.S. embassy. The policy there was to get Marcos out. There was a U.S. Senator there whose 24-year-old daughter felt insulted because there was a party she wasn’t invited to attend. [State Department sources say that no one of that description was in the U.S. embassy at that time.] I talked with President Reagan later and I think he was unaware; he was misled.
PLAYBOY: And the assassination of Aquino, as we have discussed, was crucial.
FERDINAND: The Aquino assassination added to the resolve of the U.S. embassy to try to knock me off. But I’m not going to fault anyone. All I know is that somebody from a Senator’s office [presumably that of then-Senator Paul Laxalt, who served as go-between during that period] called and said, “You’d better get out of there. Even gunboats will be used against you.” So I immediately issued an order that if any American gunboat came into Manila Bay, or if the Marines landed, no firing.
[Laxalt denies this and says that Marcos was “terrified” by reports of gunboats, which Laxalt checked out. Laxalt then called Marcos
to assure him that there was no such threat.]
PLAYBOY: So, in effect, Senator Laxalt told you that you had to cut and run.
FERDINAND: No, he never said those words to me. In fact, I do not know what Laxalt’s memory is, but the truth is that I did not talk with him before the events that ended in my departure from the Philippines. I talked with him afterward. [Laxalt says this is not true and that he and Marcos spoke several times before his departure.] If he had ever said those words to me, I would have said, “May I talk to President Reagan?”
PLAYBOY: And what would you have said to your old friend President Reagan?
FERDINAND: I would have said, “You know you’re ordering the use of American troops and violating the law. You are supposed to submit this to the Congress within 90 days.”
But the President did not know what was happening to us. I know this because he stopped off in Honolulu last year, on his way to Bali, and he gave me the impression that he did not know. It was all underlings. The same type of underlings that, in my case, I say stole so much money from the Philippines.
PLAYBOY: Since you bring it up, do you know what your net worth is?
FERDINAND: Yes. But I’m not about to tell you. [Laughs] The true answer is yes and no. My net worth is covered by the documents I have, and I am ready to show them at the proper time. My enemies say I have deposits in the Bahamas, in Panama. Now, I’d like to see those, because I don’t have any paper on those.
They claim I’m worth–how much? Thirty billion? I say, “Show me the paper, and we can split it. You take 29 billion, give me one billion and let’s say goodbye like friends.” But they have to find it first! And not in pesos–in American dollars! [Laughs]
IMELDA: You remember The Wall Street Journal had stories that either the money didn’t exist or Marcos was smart to have hidden it so well. Which was it, Andy?
IMELDA: You were smart! [Laughs] [Mrs. Marcos leaves for a while.]
PLAYBOY: Earlier, when you talked about America, and when Mrs. Marcos referred to “us Americans,” it seemed as if your history is so tightly intertwined with U.S. history–
FERDINAND: Look, I learned the Gettysburg Address before I could read. We were under the U.S. educational system. But my grandfather headed the revolutionary forces and fought to the death!
PLAYBOY: Against the Americans?
FERDINAND: First against the Spanish, then against the Americans. So I knew about American history through his stories, and I was fascinated by American heroes–Teddy Roosevelt, all the guys my grandfather fought. I guess I was always fascinated by America.
PLAYBOY: So you grew up in an essentially American way.
FERDINAND: Yeah, with hopes of going to Harvard, only I was ordered into the military. But I had, I remember, a yellow convertible, a Chrysler fireball, all kinds of other cars. I lived the bachelor existence.
PLAYBOY: A pretty lavish one, too. You had some early success as a lawyer, didn’t you?
FERDINAND: Yes, I was earning a good living, because I had a reputation for having represented myself successfully before I got my law degree.
PLAYBOY: What case was that?
FERDINAND: I was accused of murder. In ’39. The guy testifying against me as an eyewitness was someone I’d never seen before. I jumped on him right in court and started to choke him. I was strong and forgot myself. I was actually in jail when I took my bar exam and, of course, everyone said, “He’ll never be able to concentrate and take the exam.” But I am the type who can put aside tensions and worries, and I took the exam, passed it and began handling big cases right away. Although I specialized in corporate law, I decided to practice some criminal law, for the sake of the criminals who had been in the penitentiary with me.
Anyway, when you’re a lawyer in the Philippines, you’re automatically considered presidential material. One of my first cases was that of a bon vivant charged in a gold-mining scam. He was living quite the bachelor life.
PLAYBOY: Unlike yourself? Didn’t you say you led a fast life–cars, ladies?
FERDINAND: God, we’re returning to sex! I try to avoid it. The answer is yes and no. There’s a saying in the Philippines, “You can be hungry in the eyes but no further than that.” My greatest fear was that someday I might wake up and discover somebody I was not in love with beside me in bed. I was afraid I would go crazy and shoot myself. So I promised myself I would never have an affair to the extent that a woman could, well, corner me into a shotgun wedding. So I kept window shopping. But when I met Imelda, I was swept off my feet. I proposed to her in the first 30 minutes.
PLAYBOY: What persuaded you?
FERDINAND: First, I made her stand up to find out how tall she was. She was about my height, and I said, “I guess you’ll do.” I told her I felt bells, I smelled roses, I could quote poetry the whole night through–I had never felt like that about any other woman.
PLAYBOY: And you did not even kiss her until–
FERDINAND: The altar. She was very circumspect and had a chaperon before we were married. Our wedding was in ’55, and I was running for congress, and she started having these migraine headaches. [Both were involved with others at the time of their wedding, which was in 1954, and Marcos was already a congressman.]
We went to the doctors and they told me the headaches were caused by my desire to become involved in politics. They said, “Either you give up politics or she will not be able to perform normally as a wife.” So I said to Imelda, “I’ll give up politics. I’ll practice law, write books and amass a fortune–part of which I could put into a foundation for the poor.” But she cried, “I cannot make you give up your life’s ambition! Everyone says you will run for president in 20 years!” I beat them by nine years, by the way–I ran for president 11 years later. But basically, she said, “I’m going to be a politician’s wife.”
PLAYBOY: Then it must have hurt when, over the years, she was portrayed as the ultimate dragon lady.
FERDINAND: Of course. She was not anything like that. She was not ambitious. She was not grasping.
PLAYBOY: Then why is the world’s perception of her the opposite?
FERDINAND: Because she did not bother to explain herself–I had to do it. In the early days, she was always afraid of appearing before a
crowd–until I got her to sing. She’d always been a good singer. When she was a kid in the Benedictine convent, she lived right across the street from General MacArthur’s headquarters, and he used to have her come over and sing for his staff.
PLAYBOY: And you then began to sing together as a campaign trademark, right?
FERDINAND: Yes. Before I knew it, she was also delivering speeches.
FERDINAND: And she stopped having migraine headaches. [Laughs] [Mrs. Marcos rejoins the interview.]
PLAYBOY: We’ve heard that there is an interesting story about your first public appearance as a singer. What year are we talking about?
IMELDA: Oh, don’t ask me this! It was 1944, and I was singing at a garden party in the MacArthur compound. I sang a song–God Bless the
Philippines–and Irving Berlin, who was there, heard me. He came up to me and embraced me and said, “Dear girl, this song is God Bless
America!” I said, “No, this is God Bless the Philippines.” He said, “I composed this song, and it’s God Bless America.” I said, “There’s no difference, because America and the Philippines are the same.” He said, “No, no, no. Almost the same but not really the same; this song is really meant for America.” So Irving Berlin went off into a little corner and stayed for a while. He came over to me and said, “I must have a piano.” So he went to our house right across the street and played a new song. “I have this new song for you,” he said–Heaven Watch the Philippines. “You’ll learn this,” he said, “and tomorrow there’s going to be a big show I’m going to present. You’ll premiere this in front of 40,000 men.” So the next day, I sang it in front of the entire Eighth Army, with General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz and Admiral Halsey, and I had a backup chorus of 200 soldiers! You should have seen me!
[Irving Berlin, 99, says he composed the song in 1945, not 1944, and “definitely not” for Mrs. Marcos. Pentagon sources say that it is highly unlikely that such an event took place during that period.]
This is how I first became public–I was ten or 12 years old. [Laughs] I still do love to sing, but I don’t get much of a chance anymore.
PLAYBOY: Perhaps you could sing a song or two for us. We’ll play the piano. [Phil Bronstein, one of the two interviewers, sits down at the piano.]
IMELDA: Well… all right. Let’s start with Sentimental Journey–do you know it?
PLAYBOY: We’ll try.
IMELDA: [Gives a rousing rendition] “I’ll be counting every mile of railroad track that takes me back./Never thought my heart could be so yearny,/[Slowly, then more upbeat] Like a child in wild anticipation./..[Breathy voice] Never thought my heart could be so yearny./Why did I decide to roam?/Got to take the sentimental journey, sentimental journey hommmmmmmmme.”
IMELDA: Now let’s try Don’t Fence Me In. [Sings with great gusto] “I want to ride to the ridge where the West commences,/Gaze at the moon till I lose my senses. . . ./Don’t fence me in. [Winds up] Oh, baby, now, don’t fence me in. Don’t you fence me in!” [Applause]
PLAYBOY: Do you have a secret desire to be on Broadway?
IMELDA: I do have an offer to do a show. It’s called Aloha. It has seven beautiful songs, and it’s the story of Hawaii. In it, the queen, Alika, comes out beautifully dressed in her lei and grass skirt and long hair–my hair is long, anyway. But the nice part is, my first public appearance will be with beautiful things in my hair, wearing a grass skirt–and without shoes! [Laughs] I’m going to make money on those shoes, you know. How is that for recycling a problem into an asset?
PLAYBOY: Is there a singer whom you particularly admire?
IMELDA: Elvis Presley. He was ahead of his time, because he had deep feelings. He had the privilege of deep feelings because he was deeply loved by his mother, Gladys. He was able to appreciate deep, profound beauty in sounds. And he started a musical revolution. They say all revolutions start from love.
PLAYBOY: Including the Aquino revolution?
IMELDA: No! That was started in vengeance!
PLAYBOY: Your own love story was pretty special, according to President Marcos–
IMELDA: Yes, it was made in heaven. I’ve been so blessed. Our life is a fairy tale.
PLAYBOY: Yet the rumors persist about extramarital affairs. Yours, for instance, with George Hamilton.
IMELDA: Well [pauses], at least he’s goodlooking, isn’t he? I’m in good company, because he’s got one of the most beautiful women in the world as his girlfriend, Elizabeth Taylor. We are beautiful women, beautiful people. Why does the press lap up all this stuff? Because we are all beautiful people. But George Hamilton and I were never more than good friends.
PLAYBOY: Then, too, there has been much publicity of late about your husband’s alleged affair with a starlet, Dovie Beams de Villagran, a former B-movie actress who claims she was once his mistress.
IMELDA: [Laughs] Wait a minute! I know better. I have a special sensitivity about these things. You can tell when they’re playing hooky.
We’re too close. I would be able to tell if he was with someone else. [Mrs. Marcos leaves for a while.]
PLAYBOY: Mr. President, your own health became the topic of speculation through the last years of your presidency. There were reports that you were a candidate for a kidney transplant. Is that true?
FERDINAND: I was ready for a transplant, yes. But when I came to the U.S. in 1982 and the doctors saw the results of my kidneys’ performing, they laughed me off the operating table. I said, “Be frank with me; do I need one?” Because I might have had to give up my duties as president, and I said I would have to settle my affairs and would like to die in the Philippines–or, better yet, live in the Philippines. They said, “Don’t worry.”
PLAYBOY: Kidney dialysis is a procedure that many people cannot afford. Yet when the Aquino forces took over the palace, they found seven dialysis machines.
FERDINAND: That’s right, seven. When a doctor friend of mine was asked why I would need seven dialysis machines, he said I probably had seven kidneys. [Laughs] The truth of the matter is, we were preparing for a battle, so we were setting up an emergency hospital. The first wounds in battle are usually those that affect your kidneys. That’s why they were there.
PLAYBOY: There was also a stir raised on American TV when a video of your own version of a Jane Fonda workout was broadcast. Was it to show people in the Philippines that you were healthy, despite the rumors?
FERDINAND: To be frank, I did not intend for it to be shown in the Philippines, though it was. I wanted it as a record of how I was
feeling. Somebody apparently got hold of it and sold it.
PLAYBOY: How could that happen?
FERDINAND: That’s like asking how someone can tap my phone–but they do. The telephone company even told me so. I wrote a letter to the State Department complaining, but to no avail.
PLAYBOY: Let’s talk briefly about some of the world leaders you’ve met. Can you give us some thumbnail sketches of the greatest–Mao Tse-tung, to start?
FERDINAND: I admire all leaders who attain their objective, no matter what their politics. I appreciated Mao because it was always said that no one would ever be able to unite China. He did. He probably killed more people than were lost in World War Two, but at least he kept to his objective–until the last few years. He wiped out Chiang Kai-shek.
PLAYBOY: Did Fidel Castro impress you?
FERDINAND: Yes, very much. A flamboyant person. He impressed me in this sense: He’s one of the leaders who believe that in war, as in love, deceit is acceptable. [Laughs]
PLAYBOY: And Margaret Thatcher?
FERDINAND: Her? The Iron Lady? Don’t they say she’s the best man in England? [Laughs]
PLAYBOY: Didn’t you say, when Mrs. Aquino ran against you, that it was beneath your dignity to run against a woman?
FERDINAND: Oh, no! Not all women are that incompetent!
PLAYBOY: Yet didn’t you have Mrs. Marcos negotiate the Tripoli Agreement with Muammar el-Qaddafi in 1977, when you were seeking to have him cease funding the Moslem rebels on the Philippine island of Mindanao?
FERDINAND: Yes, Mrs. Marcos had been over in Libya for a few days, and I talked with Qaddafi through her efforts. In 15 minutes, we had reached an agreement through the persistence of Mrs. Marcos.
PLAYBOY: Wasn’t she threatened by the P.L.O. during the trip?
FERDINAND: Yes, they were going to bomb the plane she was on. And so all the macho soldiers, including Ramos and Enrile, abandoned her and took another plane back to Rome. She stayed on the plane, on the theory that the P.L.O. didn’t kill women. I said, “Knock on wood,” because they had killed women. [Mrs. Marcos rejoins the interview.]
IMELDA: So, what are we talking about here?
PLAYBOY: World leaders and your role in dealing with some of them.
IMELDA: Oh, him. You know, I really went out of my way to be friends with Qaddafi. The stories I could tell! But I will tell you this: I
think he has a real problem because he was spoiled by his mother–whom I met and who is a wonderful lady–but it’s this whole Arab macho thing.
PLAYBOY: Mr. President, is there one achievement you’re proudest of during your 20 years in office?
FERDINAND: Yes. Getting rid of this slavish colonial mentality in the Philippines. Converting a people to learn their own past, to stand up for themselves. None of that whining, beggary, mendicant posture.
PLAYBOY: Do you think the people appreciate that?
FERDINAND: Why do you think they cling to these ideas even after I’m gone? It’s only because of me. Those young kids–they’re not just
fighting for Marcos but for what he may have taught them. I was a symbol. Those in their 20s knew no other president except me. They knew Marcos as a guy who could crack jokes, who could demystify the complicated philosophy of life. He could quote Rousseau and explain
it–which no one had ever done.
IMELDA: That was one reason the U.S. was so fascinated by us, as well. When we were elected, we were called the Kennedys of the Far East. I remember that The New York Times, Life, Time, Newsweek covered us. I even had my own articles in Reader’s Digest. Because we were fighting for the same thing America stands for. This estrangement now is just an interlude, an intermission. Wait till the second time around. It’s going to be a big, big love affair. [Sings] “Love is lovelier the second time around…”
PLAYBOY: Yet your reputation now, both in the U.S. and in the Philippines, is of your wealth and extravagance in a poor country–
IMELDA: What the president and I see in the Philippines is not what you see. When you go to the Philippines, you see poor people. You must remember how poor they were yesterday.
PLAYBOY: Still, your own extravagance–
IMELDA: I always believed there was no extravagance in good taste. There was no extravagance in what I did and bought for my country. I lost my mother, the prime giver of love, when I was nine. We were poor. Then, years later, when I was able to give, I was crucified for it. If you want to be intimate with poverty, be a poor relation. And I was. I came from a third-class province of a Third World country to become leader of the country for more than 20 years, to travel in all the major corridors of power in my time. Isn’t that something?
PLAYBOY: When you sang Don’t Fence Me In, we couldn’t help feeling that you were singing that your soul does feel fenced in, living in exile.
IMELDA: It’s a divine birthright to live and die in one’s country. I never willed and desired to be born in the Philippines–it was just
PLAYBOY: If you got the opportunity, would you go back to the Philippines without President Marcos?
IMELDA: The president is no longer here in mind and spirit–this is only the shell of a man. He’s physically in Hawaii, but his mind and heart are in the Philippines.
PLAYBOY: Yes, but if he had to stay here–let’s say for health reasons–and you had the chance to go back by yourself, would you go?
IMELDA: Yes, oh, yes, I would. Right at this moment, I’d go home. It’s the only place I’m obsessed with. Thirty-five years ago, I went to Manila with a youthful face, a dream and five pesos in my pocket. This time, I will not go home even with a face, because I’ve been deprived of my honor and my dignity. I’ll go back with five pesos and make billions and billions of dollars, because what I do comes from the heart and the brain–I’ve got both.
PLAYBOY: Mr. President, we’ll be winding up now–
FERDINAND: Did I tire you? Did I bore you? As long as I did not bore you.
PLAYBOY: Not at all. But one more question: something we alluded to before. You said you’re not yet ready to say what your place in history will be. But how would you want your epitaph to read?
FERDINAND: I don’t …what’s the lawyer’s epitaph? Here Lies A Lawyer–
IMELDA: Who Lies No More.
FERDINAND: Who Lies Still.
PLAYBOY: Your epitaph, Mrs. Marcos?
IMELDA: One word: Love.
PLAYBOY: And your place in history?
IMELDA: I just want to be in heaven.