MANILA, Philippines – Her name made synonymous to "extravagance" in the universal language, former First Lady Imelda Marcos was not without noble intentions in doing what she does best -- being "Imeldific."
|Imelda with former Libyan Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi
"To me, it was important that I dress up well," Imelda told lifestyle magazine Metro Society in a recent issue.
"Being tall, I was always sticking out like a sore thumb. And since I was very visible, they would ask me, 'Where is the Philippines?' They thought we were monkeys living in the trees," she said.
"That's why I decided to be beautiful," she added.
Throughout her decades-long stint as the First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda's uncompromised display of beauty and wealth by way of her ternos, her infamous collection of shoes, and the way she carried herself, somehow became an identifying legacy of her husband's regime.
But she was only among the few, if not the only one, who had seen value in making the Filipino "beautiful" in the eyes of foreigners.
"The problem is many of us are ashamed of ourselves and our culture. Kinahihiya natin ang sarili. I always want to look beautiful and the terno make me beautiful," Imelda said.
"I wanted to be an icon, fashionable, and respected so that even bigtime couturiers like Balenciaga would appreciate the Filipina and what she is wearing," she added.
As it was, the iconic fashion designer was not alone in appreciating the Filipina beauty in the person of Imelda. Fidel Castro, Cuban prime minister and Cuban president, would humble himself before her.
"[World leaders] were all kissing my hand. They were bowing to me. They liked me," Imelda recounted.
"Fidel Castro said, 'I drove for only two women in my life -- Imelda and my mother.' Mga driver ko lang ang mga 'yan," she added, smiling.
Now decades since she first wowed the world with her beauty and extravagance, Imelda's legacy is made tangible anew, with ongoing talks of her jewelries, seized by the administration, being put on display and for auction.