Imelda's Truth: Taming Mao and China

Inday Espina-Varona

Posted at Oct 16 2015 11:43 AM | Updated as of Oct 18 2015 07:55 PM

(2nd of a series)

Half of the time, former First Lady Imelda Marcos describes her husband, the ousted dictator, Ferdinand, as the fount of wisdom. At other points of a long interview in 2008, the image is of a wily leader who sends out his goddess of beauty to disarm other strongmen of his era.

And throughout it all, Imelda basked in the glory of love.

IEV: You talk a lot about beauty.

Imelda: It is in our nature and our culture. Like for instance, when you greet everybody, you say, in Spanish, buenos dias, buenos tardes; in German, guten morgen. The first word is good.

How do we say it in Tagalog? Magandang umaga po; magandang gabi po. Maganda, maganda, maganda! We have been brainwashed by our culture to be beautiful.
And to top it all, when I was with the Tasaday, watching the Stone Age Filipinos how they were communicating with one another. I was there with Margaret Mead and Charles Lindbergh.

Charles Lindbergh, after watching all these, saw two people on a promontory, a man and a woman.

He asked me, ‘What are they doing there?’

They were getting married. They were mumbling to each other. And then the interpreter said it was, ‘You and I, we will make a beautiful world together.’

Then Lindbergh said, ‘Imelda, did you hear that? It’s not what we have gained in the process of civilization. It is what we have lost.’


IEV: The Tasaday were branded a hoax.

Imelda: But you see, just recently, National Geographic ... and many historians and anthropologists, they all come to me and say, ‘Mrs. Marcos, why did you close them?’
They had heard of the Tasaday and apparently had sneaked in days or months ago.

I said, ‘Because they are gentle Tasaday!’

When I was asked to write about them, they were so gentle. In fact, Irene, my youngest girl, had a Toblerone. One Toblerone. And then she gave it to one of the children there. Ten years old. She bit a part of it and gave it to the youngest. Bit another part and then gave it, then the next, next, next until all of them were able to partake of that single candy.

I said, ‘See how much they love each other, how much they care, how gentle they are with one another? And then look at that marriage. They did not say ‘to love, to hold, to cherish.’

I tell you, Marcos was a natural Tasaday, a Stone Age man, a natural Filipino. (She then asks an aide to get a framed plaque of love scribbles from Mr. Marcos).
Every anniversary, he would edit our pledge. You know, it is our nature. I am only bringing out what is natural.

IEV: How did you become such a powerful First Lady?

Imelda: I can really say I have no project that failed; even Mao Tse Tung. It’s a puzzle. Was she a brilliant person? No. Was she a genius? No. What did she have?
What Imelda had is common to all — common sense. And common sense is natural to all. What is natural is good. The devil is not in all of us. That is the only democracy. Even the autistic child is good; that is why they are called special because they are not capable of evil.

Here, let me read from Ferdinand. He would always edit. ‘Even death would part us not.’ That was the pledge in 1988 and he died 1999. And look at this, on our 34th anniversary.

IEV: Were you as romantic?

Imelda: I am trying to say that this man’s romance did not stop with me. It was with his country, his people and the world.

You see, he said to me here: ‘To my patiently suffering Imelda, on our 34th anniversary. One day I woke up from a great dream. While still in a daze, as I looked toward heaven to pray, I heard the Lord say, yes it is true and as He further said and ordained, whatever the tears and pain you lived through, you have always said a loaf of bread, the wilderness, were paradise enough. Today I give the gift of gifts. Bring home your beloved Imelda and love her beyond all words. But go, too, and recover from the burdens for the freedom and salvation of a dying land. That freedom is the headmost of man’s desire. Bear the burden bravely, proudly and with dignity. This you have pledged again and again. Go then and fulfill the golden pledge.’ For our country’s freedom we live. We have no selfish personal dream. We come to offer love, life and fortune and even honor...God blessed our adventure and we go strengthened by our love in search for the Holy Grail.’

See, even his love letters to me naka-connect sa bayan at sa mundo.

IEV: So what do you think went wrong? What made your people turn against you?

Imelda: Our people did not turn against us. Remember, Marcos was fighting for the survival of our country.

IEV: Survival from?

Imelda: When Marcos became President it was at the height of the Cold War. When Russia and America and China were fighting in Vietnam, the world was divided. It so happened that we were allowed, and Marcos was completely committed to freedom, justice and democracy; that was the main ideology to the right and the West.

But the reality was we were here in the East and just a few hours away is China. Our geography dictated the reality of our survival. We cannot just go to one side. He had the real big picture.

IEV: Which was?

Imelda: The reason why Marcos was so misunderstood was because the world looked at it from their parochial view, or just one side. No, when you’re President you have a vision for the individual human being, where you maximize that potential, to a national vision for greatness and a global vision that you are a responsible member of the family of nations and work to bring about a new world order.

IEV: So who was responsible for things going wrong?

Imelda: The big powers. We were in the middle. The communists did not like Marcos because he was professing justice, freedom and democracy. And our allies did not understand why we were kowtowing — well, that I was going to China and making mano to Mao and Mao kissing my hand and all of that. Perception is real; the truth is not.

IEV: It was all about China?

Imelda: We just wanted to survive. Marcos said, ‘I cannot fight China, it is a giant.’

IEV: Interesting, that President Arroyo, too, is in a pickle now over China. When you watch her, do you have this sense of déjà vu?

Imelda: I can understand the predicament. The people do not realize that we are already in the cyber age, that we are in the age of transformation, that borders have been knocked down, and you cannot divide the world anymore into red and white. It has to be whole. This cyber age will tell you that we must be one in spirit.

IEV: You were ousted for believing in peace and harmony?

Imelda: We always believed in peace and unity. That is the reason why I built the Cultural Center also, because when I campaigned there were 7,100 islands, so many kinds of dances, of songs, of dialects.

I said, ‘This nation will be great again.’ But how could we be great if we are not united? So the first thing to do is unite. And if Marcos did not do that, at the height of the Cold War, that would have changed the world completely. The political picture of the world would have changed.

IEV: Are you saying you ended the Cold War?

Imelda: This was confirmed by Chairman Mao. Why? You must remember that the Philippines in spite of the fact... you know we are in the center. You can change ideology and religion but you cannot change geography. That alone ... the South China Sea then 40 miles away is the Pacific, the West. We are in the center. And when you are sandwiched, you must find a way out.

My spirit was to the right but I could not ignore the left, which was right next door. I love my right hand; it can write, it can paint, it can do so many things. My left cannot do so much. I cannot even write. Should I chop it off? I love America. I hated communism. Would you chop the left? You cannot even stand if you are not balanced.

IEV: Tell us about Mao. How did you find him?

Imelda: Well, I was very complimented. The highest compliment ever given me was from Mao. I was invited by no less than (then Premier) Chou En Lai. When I saw Mao I said, ‘Thank you for allowing Chou En Lai to invite me.’

He said, ‘What are you saying? I ordered him!’

I asked ‘Why?’

He said, ‘I have been following you, Mrs. Marcos. Since your husband became President, you built the Cultural Center. You have been vilified, ridiculed, persecuted but you finished the Cultural Center. Here I am, Mao, chairman of the People’s Republic of 1.3 billion people at the height of the cultural revolution and you finished the Cultural Center five years ago.’

And then I said, like a child, ‘Why?’

Marcos would not have asked that perhaps, but it takes a child to know more.

Mao said, ‘China, for centuries has not been united. Emperors built the Great Wall; it did not unite China. Here I was Mao, and I said give me a gun and I will give you the village. The gun did not unite China. I am here now at the height of the Cultural Revolution, learning that it is only the true, the good and the beautiful that will unite the people.’

IEV: Mao’s cultural revolution owed something from you?

Imelda: He said that’s why he wanted to see me. ‘I wanted to ask you why you built the Cultural Center of the Philippines.’

Well, when I became First Lady, I asked Marcos: ‘Ferdinand, now that you are President, what will I do?’

He said, ‘as President I will build a strong house for the people. You make it a home.’

So I thought, what makes a home? Of course, love and beauty, the traditions, values, music, art, dance that we had as a people.

So I said, ‘Aha, let’s build a cultural center.’ Plus, when I was First Lady, we had an identity crisis.

IEV: So you think the Filipino people, at least those on EDSA, punished you for Mao?

Imelda: It wasn’t just the Filipino people who could not understand. You know, when you’re inside the forest, you cannot see the forest from without. You only see the trees. That is what happened to the world that time!

And then the press rooting for one country, for America for the west, for this ideology, and on the other side, saying communism is great because of this, this, this — we were in the middle of it.

You know, we were in the eye of the storm at the height of the Cold War. This people did not realize. And I am so sorry, so glad that the Vanguards are giving this award to Marcos.

IEV: Because it’s UP (University of the Philippines) and the school has always been against you?

Imelda: Masama ma ang loob ko sa UP. For years and years, Marcos gave his salary (as President) to the UP College of Law. Hoping that they would study more the deeper meaning of law and the deeper meaning of what Marcos was doing. And then the UP was the one always verbalizing against Marcos. But they saw only the other part. They did not see...

IEV: Just what did people not see?

Imelda: When Marcos became President, there was a confrontation from all sides — the rich and the poor; the feudal lords and the oligarchs, the left and the right, communism and democracy.

There was a religious war. It was total war, on all levels within. And outside, there was the Cold War. When (US President Abraham) Lincoln declared martial law, he had less of a problem — he just had that revolution between the north and the south. It was not even ideological. Marcos had an ideological problem.

IEV: How was martial law to solve all these?

Imelda: Martial law was for justice. There was no justice then. How could there be? Manila was owned by ten families. Sixty-five percent belonged to Manila’s 400. The rest had no land. There was no justice; there was no democracy. There was no freedom. We could only be friends with the friends of America. There were no human rights.

IEV: Martial law brought back human rights?

Imelda: Nine-eight percent of our patrimony belonged to foreigners; the mines, Meralco, San Miguel, all of that belonged to foreigners. It was during Marcos in 1974 that he tried to put all of these together.

But these so-called scholars did not even know their geography! And they could not see that the Christians and the Muslims were fighting. That’s why I had to go to Libya because 35,000 Filipinos, Muslims and Christians, had died already in a religious war. And there was so many NPA killed.

IEV: The NPA grew during Marcos.

Imelda: Because people did not understand.

IEV: Why were you the one sent to all the strongmen?

Imelda: Again, Marcos was wise. He pointed out that the only way to conquer was through the positive. He took advantage that when I was 34 years old. When I was First Lady, I looked good and was presentable. So I was used somehow.

IEV: You didn’t mind that?

Imelda: And then, he knew that I was very sensitive. He told me the roadmap of the solution. But I would even know the character of a person, whether he combed his hair, or brushed his teeth, or in reality... whether he took a bath. He took advantage of my personality and my great sensitivity.

Like for instance, when I saw Chairman Mao, I just saw he was older than me. And even though I did not like communism and I was not a man, but took that difference — he was older — and I made mano.

When I did that and respected him, he kissed my hand. When he was asked why he kissed my hand he said, ‘When she respected me, I respected her in return. I admired her and loved her.’

And he said, ‘And that ended the Cold War.’ With that gesture of respect. That ended the Cold War.

Even Mrs. Mao would say, ‘Mao, every time we speak of Marcos, you smile and look happy. Why?’

And then Mao said, ‘I love Mrs. Marcos, because she is so natural. And that natural is perfection.’ See?” To Be Continued

(To be concluded)

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