Fake hair and a waxen mask hid Ferdinand Marcos's disease-ravaged corpse as it became a major Philippine tourist draw for 20-plus years, the ex-dictator's mortician reveals.
Frank Malabed, the embalmer of choice for high profile politicians and celebrities, said the Marcos body displayed in a museum in Ilocos Norte was real.
"The face the people saw was wax. But for the rest of the body there was no need for that because it was clothed," the 66-year-old told AFP.
"The hair, that's only a wig."
Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in 1989, three years after the "People Power" revolution forced him from office.
Critics say during 20 years in power he looted state coffers and ordered the torture and killing of thousands of foes.
Marcos's body was embalmed by Malabed in Hawaii. In 1993 it was flown to the ancestral home in the northern Philippines, where it was put in a glass case for public viewing.
Malabed said Marcos, who died from lung, kidney and liver complications aged 72, was disfigured by oedema -- 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.
"Ma'am did not care for that," he added, referring to the widow Imelda.
"She wanted Filipinos to see President Marcos (the way) he looked before, when he was still young."
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.
"I'm a perfectionist when speaking about embalming," he said, later telling the Marcos family the reworked body would be intact for 30 years.
"I'm proud, because he was a 20-year president and not an ordinary person."
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, pronouncing it in good condition as burial preparations began in secret. He said another mortuary handled the actual ceremony.
Courtesy of AFP TV