Imelda's Neverending Role

I'm Barry Petersen and this Letter from Asia comes from Manila.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that there are no second acts in American lives. Well, if he had come to the Philippines we would have humbly introduced him to Imelda Marcos. She is well past her second act. In fact, she's a whole play with no closing date in sight.

I was part of one of those acts back in the 1990s…when we did a story on Imelda. She's a better singer than I am piano player…but, needless to say, we're both keeping our day jobs.

Imelda's day job, these days, is being the poor victim. Gone are the jet setting glamorous days when her husband ruled as a dictator…before they fled in exile to Hawaii.

Sold at auction were many of the thousands of shoes they found in her closets. Poor Imelda said she only bought them to help the Philippine shoe industry.

In fact, the Philippine's poor people could have used the money…still can, in fact.

So the government wants to auction off her jewels, part of the five billion dollars the government says she and her husband stole. Imelda is shocked, shocked and appalled.

"It's not truth that this is stolen money, that it is ill-gotten, that it is taken from corruption or taken from the people, which is the most terribly thing," she said.

She long since moved back to the Philippines, sometimes in the headlines, forever…say her critics, seeking a limelight that faded years ago.

Nelson Navarro is a Manila newspaper columnist.

"Well she's still around, you know. She's like Liz Taylor, Ava Gardner. She's reached a point where she's become part of our popular culture," Navarro explained. "Whether you hate her or dislike her is irrelevant, she's a leading caricature of herself. She goes to openings of little shops. The say she goes to opening of envelopes."

Imelda is fighting the sale of the jewels. If she loses, she can once again play the role she loves so well…the misunderstood victim. I mean, how could her people think otherwise?

by Barry Petersen