Laziness and nature ended a legend. Termites, humidity and neglect have irretrievably damaged much of the famous collection of 1,220 pairs of shoes belonging to Imelda Marcos, the widow of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who fled with her family to the US after a popular revolt in 1986.
Hundreds of the former Philippine first lady's shoes, bags and dresses have been lost forever, said Orlando Albinion, a curator at the National Museum in Manila.
"It's a shame as Imelda may have worn some of these garments at big official events and as such they have an important place in our history," Albinions explained.
That was a time when the then Philippine first lady was fascinated by her impressive collection of luxury shoes. A true symbol of the excesses of a regime in a country where even today a large part of the population walks barefoot, because they are poor.
But all that ended in 1986, when the Marcos family fled precipitously when a popular revolt broke out supported by the army. An escape in which they left behind a huge amount of personal effects, including the famous collection of 1,220 pairs of shoes from the most expensive brands in the world.
After the overthrow of the dictatorship, the new democratic president, Corazón Aquino, exhibited Imelda Marcos' shoe collection in the presidential palace.
Until a couple of years ago, that collection, along with other accessories and gala dresses, was in more than 150 cardboard boxes that were piled up in the presidential palace of Malacañang, next to the river. There, the prevailing humidity pierced those objects of outdated luxury.
To avoid deterioration, those boxes were transferred to the National Museum. But there the vestiges of the Marcos era were further degraded. They were abandoned in a room closed with a padlock and without protection. They remained there until a few weeks ago, when the room was flooded by the tropical rains of the last month, due to leaks in the roof, those responsible for the museum admitted.
The employees of the site, who were unaware of the contents of the boxes, entered the room when they realized that the water was coming out from under the door and discovered the damage caused by the water on bags, dresses and shoes. Witnesses to the damage say having seen a white Pierre Cardin shoe with the entire heel and sole chewed up by termites or other models totally deformed by moisture or full of mold stains. Despite everything, a group of curators from the National Museum got down to work for a recovery task that seems impossible.
They assessed the damage. A task that could take months due to the size of the collection, according to the “South China Morning Post”. They aspire to repair the maximum number of pieces. However, the members of this team assumed that some of these pieces are unrecoverable. "We are carrying out a rescue operation to try to conserve as many pieces as possible," Albinión pointed out. This curator of the National Museum has recognized, however, that the task is very difficult, since "there has been an invasion of termites and then the mold has taken over everything and the situation has worsened with the rains."
A sad culmination to the statements made by Imelda Marcos during the inauguration of the Shoe Museum in Marikina, the capital of the Philippine shoe industry, in 2001. “They entered my closets looking for skeletons, she said in reference to the popular revolt, but thanks to God, all they found were shoes, beautiful shoes." Now, those shoes no longer exist and the ones that remain are no longer beautiful, they are deformed. The last symbol of the Marcos era was eaten by termites.
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Text and image: AP