FAST FACTS: Imelda Marcos, the ‘Iron Butterfly’

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FAST FACTS: Imelda Marcos, the ‘Iron Butterfly’

Rob Reyes

The former First Lady is known for her lavish spending on shoes, jewelry and fine art during the rule of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos

MANILA, Philippines – Imelda Romualdez Marcos, the so-called Iron Butterfly, celebrates her 88th birthday on Sunday, July 2.

Known for her excessive style now dubbed as “Imeldific,” Imelda’s rags-to-riches story explains her love for orchestrating lavish events and owning an extravagant collection of shoes, clothes, and jewlery.  

Her cousin Loreto Ramos revealed that when they were younger, Imelda belonged to the poor side of the family. According to a book on Imelda Marcos’ life, Siloy, a family helper, even bought Imelda new shoes, because she could not afford to replace her only worn out pair. This, the book said, eventually led to the obsession of creating a glamorous image for herself.  

It was then-Congressman Ferdinand Marcos who gave Imelda the life she could only once dream of. After an 11-day courtship, Ferdinand Marcos married the former beauty queen Imelda in 1954. Eleven years later, Ferdinand was elected President in 1965, making Imelda the 10th First Lady of the Philippines.  

During her time in Malacañang Palace, she was appointed governor of Metro Manila and Minister of Human Settlements. Following the downfall of her late husband’s dictatorial regime, Imelda resumed a career in politics, serving in the House of Representatives,from 1995-1998, and from 2010 until present. 

Throughout the decades, Imelda Marcos has amassed more than 3,000 pairs of shoes, including heels, flats, sandals, boots, and slippers made by both local and international brands. Her locally-made shoes are said to cost up to $11, while imported shoes amount to around $100 each.  

Imelda also owned an impressive jewelry collection valued at $8 million. This ranged from antique to modern pieces and included Old Indian diamonds, Burmese rubies, and Colombian emeralds. Three decades after it was confiscated, Imelda’s Hawaii jewelry collection was approved for auction in 2016. 

When the Marcos family fled the country in 1986, 1,200 pairs of shoes, 800 purses, hundreds of gowns, luxurious jewelry collections, and several paintings of Monet and Picasso were confiscated as well. The Marikina Shoe Museum now displays 800 pairs of Imelda’s shoes. Some 150 boxes of her clothes, shoes, and jewelry were also moved to the National Museum in 2010 for protection, but were ironically destroyed due to termites, mould, and storms.

IRON BUTTERFLY. Imelda Marcos was the Philippines' First Lady during the term of her late husband, Ferdinand Marcos. Photo from the Presidential Museum and Library, courtesy of The National Library of the Philippines



“The Iron Butterfly”

Born: 02 July 1929

Father: Vicente Orestes Romualdez

Mother: Remedios Trinidad

Spouse: Ferdinand Marcos

Children: Irene, Bongbong, Imee, Aimee

Political career

  • 1965 First Lady

  • 1975-1986 Appointed governor of Metropolitan Manila

  • 1978-1986 Appointed Minister of Human Settlements

  • 1992 Lost presidential elections

  • 1995-1998 House of Representatives

  • 1998 Withdraws from presidential race

  • 2010-2016 House of Representatives (Ilocos Norte)   

– Gari Acolola /

Gari Acolola is a Rappler intern.

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