IMELDA: Steel Butterfly of the Philippines by Katherine Ellison

IMELDA: Steel Butterfly of the Philippines

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Ellison, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on the tracing of the Marcos fortune around the world, now offers a detailed biography of the fallen first lady of the Philippines. Those who recall the denouement of the Marcos stow two years ago, with the ascent of Corazon Aquino and the hasty emigration of Ferdinand and Imelda, will have probably forgotten that Imelda was once beloved of her people. Ellison recounts how Ferdinand, having little time for the social chitchat and proprieties of his position, had coached Imelda in the realities of power so she could play an important role as a ""front man"" for his regime. She took her job seriously, becoming a sort of Eva Peron to Filipinos, while behind the scenes going wild with her new-found wealth. Modern readers have fixed on her thousand-plus pairs of shoes as symbolic of her decadence; but Ellison portrays a woman who used her intelligence and beauty to great advantage while putting up with Ferdinard's obsessive infidelities with Western blondes. In the later years, however, she was generally disliked by all but those in her home province of Leyte: ""The military didn't trust her, and the church barely tolerated her."" In the end, her most pernicious sins were of those of omission. ""She never once responded adequately to the most obvious needs of the poor. . .stubbornly refused to acknowledge malnutrition in the Philippines."" Imelda's tragedy was her self-imposed inability to recognize realities. In a telling moment, she pleads with her interviewer, ""You don't know what it's like. I'd rather be back in the Quonset hut. Do you realize, that in an earthquake, that chandelier could fall on my head?"" A solid new variation from Ellison, then, on the Emperoress' New Clothes.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1988
ISBN: 0595349226
Publisher: McGraw-Hill