Greed has been said to be human's natural and basic trait; a desire to gain more than what we can handle, be it material, spiritual or a position of power. Imelda Marcos would know this well. After all, it is her name that has become synonymous with the deadly sin. And it is her name that still made the headlines when the likes of Zimbabwe's Grace Mugabe and, more recently, Malaysia's Rosmah Mansor got ousted.
"I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes, I had one thousand and sixty." - Imelda Marcos
The revolution that surprised the world in 1986 or famously known as The People Power Revolution in the Philippines forced the country's former leader Ferdinand Marcos along with his family to leave the presidential residence, Malacañang Palace, and go into exile. With them leaving the palace in such a hurry, what was left? Oh not much, just Imelda's mink coats, hundreds of gowns, a thousand handbags, jewelry and one-thousand-two-hundred-twenty-two pair of shoes.
In the time when many Filipinos were extremely poor and and lived barefoot, the finding, obviously, sparked public outrage. Her excessive retail therapy habit might not be shocking anymore compared to nowadays' rich and famous; still, not anyone can order a plane to make a U-turn to Rome just to purchase a cheese, which is exactly what Imelda did. The Great Cheese Scandal has now gone down as one of the most legendary shopping sprees in history. It's one of many instances that prompted the birth of the term "Imeldific."
Marcos' signature style—updo hairstyle paired with Terno (traditional dress worn by women in the Philippines) with its iconic butterfly sleeves—is as well-known as her lavish lifestyle. It is indisputable that, although she remains a painful reminder of her dictator husband's repressive regime, she's also a fashion icon in her own right.
Presently, a total of 800 pairs of shoes can be found in a museum in northern Marikina City, Manila. Her footwear collection as well as her luxurious jewelries have been recognized as an international symbol of the former ruling couple's excessive spending habits and wealth.
Costing up to US$100/pair, familiar brands such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Givenchy, Chanel, Charles Jourdan and Bally are easily spotted through the glass encasement. During her husband's 20-year reign, the Steel Butterfly (Imelda's nickname), apparently, didn't even think twice before purchasing the same pair of flats in different colors.
Imelda revisited her shoe collection in 2010. It is said that the lady still remembered the cost of each pair. During her visit she might have recalled her glorious years and her famous quote, "They went into my closets looking for skeletons, but thank God, all they found were shoes, beautiful shoes."
But most visitors would probably have another thing in mind: "How is it possible for a woman to own more than a thousand pair of shoes, when even a hundred is already unbelievable to many?"
After years of exile, Imelda came home to the Philippines in 1991 and quickly returned to politics; currently, she's serving her third and final term as a congresswoman representing Ilocos Norte Province. So the real question we should ask would be: Have the wounds from the past been healed? Or have they been merely covered up by the power of Imelda Marcos' persona?
One thing we know now for sure: Imelda and her shoes have left behind a set of footprints that will last, whether for better or worse.