Francisco Malabed, mortician to Marcos and Ninoy, dies at 67

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 22 2017 03:38 AM | Updated as of Sep 22 2017 05:04 AM

Francisco Malabed with some of the make-up he used during embalment at his residence in Manila. Ted Aljibe, AFP/file

Francisco Malabed, the mortician of the late President Ferdinand Marcos and late Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr. has died. He was 67.

An obituary published Thursday in the Philippine Star said Malabed passed away September 18, Monday. It did not say the cause of his death.

His remains currently lie in state at the Loyola Memorial Chapels in Makati City. Interment details will be announced later.

Malabed suffered a stroke in 2011, according to an interview by Agence France-Presse.

He was thrust in the spotlight in 2016 following the controversial burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Malabed revealed that a wax mask covered Marcos' face for the 23 years his corpse was on show, but the body on display was no fake.

"The face the people saw was wax. But for the rest of the body there was no need for that because it was clothed," Malabed told told AFP. "The hair, that's only a wig."

In 1987, a year after Ferdinand Marcos was toppled and sent to exile in Hawaii, Malabed set up his own business that offered luxury U.S.-made bronze caskets and personalized mortuary services.

Business really kicked off when Marcos died in exile 1989 and the family wanted his body preserved for an eventual return to the Philippines.

Malabed shuttled between Manila and Honolulu every month to take care of the body until 1993, when the Philippine government finally allowed it to be flown to the dictator’s northern Philippine hometown of Batac.

He said Marcos, who died from lung, kidney and liver complications aged 72, was disfigured by edema -- the build-up of fluid that causes tissues to become swollen.

Embalming drains blood and other body fluid, which is replaced with preservative solution. But the resulting "shriveled skin did not look good," the mortician said.

Malabed said he received the already embalmed body a week after Marcos's death, but had to repeat the procedure because the face looked "bloated" and he feared it would decompose within a week.

In 1991, Malabed said the widow paid another mortician to work on the face with materials "similar to" the restorative wax used to rebuild the faces of people disfigured in fatal accidents.

Malabed said he last checked the corpse "by hand" on August 8, 2016 pronouncing it in good condition as burial preparations began in secret. He said another mortuary handled the actual ceremony.

'Beautiful even in death'

As a child, Malabed dreamed of becoming an engineer, but he soon followed in the footsteps of his mortician father.

By the time he was an 18-year-old apprentice, Malabed was working on the mangled bodies of US soldiers killed in the Vietnam War, which had been flown to the then-US air base at Clark.

Malabed got his first big break embalming a brother and a sister of Imelda, a job which opened doors to the Marcos family.

But it has not been all Marcos: he also embalmed Aquino, the Marcos family's arch-political foe whose assassination at Manila airport by government forces in 1983 altered the course of Philippine history.

Under strict instructions from the family matriarch, Malabed preserved the body, but made no effort to fix the bullet-shattered face.

Aquino's corpse -- wearing the same bloodstained jacket in which he had died -- became the rallying point for the revolution that ultimately brought his widow to power, and sent Marcos into exile.

For Malabed, a devout Catholic, the identity of a person when they were alive is not important; he treated all his clients equally.

His skills did not come cheap, he admitted, but said the final result was well worth it.

"I make people beautiful even in death."

He told AFP he will be in good hands when called by his Creator.

“My two daughters are also licensed embalmers. They will know what to do,” Malabed said. - with reports from Agence France-Presse