MANILA – Almost 27 years after she and her family were forced to leave the Philippines' presidential mansion, Imelda Marcos, widow of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, does not conceal her desire for another Marcos to take the helm of the Southeast Asian nation: their only son Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
For the 83-year-old former first lady, having another Marcos as president would hopefully usher in better times for her family, after the so-called People Power Revolution, which culminated in February 1986, ended 21 years of Marcos supremacy in the Philippines and forced the family to flee the country into exile.
In a series of recent interviews with Kyodo News, at a time when political parties have begun identifying their respective standard-bearers for the 2016 presidential election, Marcos, who is currently a member of congress, unabashedly boasted that her 55-year-old son, popularly known by his nickname "Bongbong," has "great potential."
"Bongbong is well-educated and he is prepared. And his record in Ilocos is very good. He has been a good executive," she said.
Between 1998 and 2007, the younger Marcos served three consecutive terms as governor of the northern province of Ilocos Norte, his father's birthplace, now led by Bongbong's elder sister Imee. He also represented the Marcos stronghold in the House of Representatives before becoming a senator in 2010.
"I'd be privileged and happy, not only because I'm the mother, but because he was molded, even as a child, in an atmosphere of service to people. He knows exactly an idea of what leadership is," said the former beauty queen, who wielded immense power during her late husband's dictatorship.
The younger Marcos was only 8 years old when his father, a former senator himself, became the Philippines' 10th president on Dec. 30, 1965.
Over the next two decades of his father's rule, he completed his secondary education in Britain, graduated from Oxford University with a degree in philosophy, politics and economics, earned a master's degree in business administration from the Wharton School of Business in the United States, and became vice governor of Ilocos Norte in 1980 at the very young age of 23.
It was during his many years abroad that his father placed the Philippines under martial law to suppress civil strike and the threat of armed rebellion, a period which lasted from 1972 to 1981.
"My father was always one to comment on current events and history, and the conversations I had with him cumulatively over the years gave me a more complete, if not complex, picture of the context in which martial law was declared," Bongbong said on Sept. 21, 2012, the 40th anniversary of the martial law declaration.
"On a more personal level, I remember people saying how thankful they were for the relative peace and order that followed martial law, the positive image of the Philippines worldwide, the emergence of a tourism industry, the cleaner streets," he added, countering critics' claims that it was the darkest period in Philippine history.
Even so, Bongbong asked the public to "move on and move forward," saying the past cannot be changed and that "blaming others and finding scapegoats are not solutions" to the many problems the country faces at present.
He also categorically dismissed martial law as an option in the present time, and went on to say that his actions and decisions as a public servant "are consistent with democratic principles and participatory governance."
While he admits he is aspiring for the top post, it being the ultimate dream of any ambitious politician, Bongbong has yet to definitely commit to contesting the 2016 presidential election.
"That depends on destiny," his mother said. "As they say, man proposes, God disposes."
However, "success is made up of preparedness and opportunity," both of which Bongbong has, she was quick to add.
Marie Enriquez, a victim of political persecution during the martial law period, expressed disgust with the thought of another Marcos as president of the country, declaring, "Never again!" the rallying cry of many Marcos opponents.
"Up to now, members of that dictator's family have arrogantly asserted they never did wrong. So it's very clear that their agenda, in trying so hard to clean the Marcos name all through these years, is to put the son in his father's place and once again, rob the country's coffers for their personal gain and influence," Enriquez told Kyodo News.
Marcos maintains her family's innocence amid continuing allegations that she and her dictator husband plundered the nation's wealth and violated human rights.
She said their vindication came long ago when she and her children started winning elections starting in the 1990s, and when people began coming in droves to see the embalmed body of her husband in Ilocos Norte.
Almost 24 years since his death, she lamented, he is still denied an honorable state burial.
"I love my country, and I hope it will have a good president. Our government leadership now has no vision. It is not thinking of the children of tomorrow, rather it is focused on punishing its political enemies," Marcos said.
He was apparently referring to President Benigno Aquino III, son of former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. whose assassination in 1983 was blamed on the Marcoses, igniting a people's revolt that led to the dictator's ouster three years later.
Amid the lingering criticisms, the Marcos matriarch said she remains strong and active "because I'm at peace with myself and my God."
"Maybe the Lord is keeping me still alive to show to the world that if we are with the side of the truth, nobody can touch you, even superpowers in government," she declared.
Leaving the presidency to her son, Marcos said she plans to continue serving in the House of Representatives, to which she was elected in 2010, to potentially serve three terms through to 2019.
The flamboyant former first lady, who will always be remembered for the huge shoe collection she left behind when she and her husband fled the Philippines in 1986, she said she does not aspire for a higher position, like being a senator or vice president, as she had already experienced a life of power and privilege.
"There was nothing I could not buy under the sun -- all the jewelry, all the paintings, all the buildings I could afford," she recalled.
The grandmother of eight said that if she is physically able to work beyond 2019, she would serve as a village captain as that would allow her to be directly in touch "with the roots."