When it comes to former First Lady Imelda Marcos, there are about as many myths as there are facts.
For every person that alleges that Imelda had 7,500 pairs of shoes, there are those who claim it was only a thousand, maybe even less. There are those who say that she was complicit in the activities of the former dictator, while there are those who believe she only stood for “the true, the good, and the beautiful.”
Perhaps this is the reason why books about the woman known as the “Steel Butterfly” abound. There is Kerima Polotan Tuvera’s “Imelda Romualdez Marcos, a biography of the First Lady of the Philippines”, the only officially approved biography of Imelda. There is Katherine Ellison’s “Imelda: Steel Butterfly of the Philippines”, which the Washington Post called “superb…gripping and graceful.”
And then there is Filipino journalist Carmen Navarro Pedrosa’s “banned” Imelda Marcos biography “The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos”. First published in 1969, it was banned during Martial Law, sold more than 300,000 copies, and was translated into French, Japanese, and Portuguese before going out of print.
But now this “banned” book gets a new lease on life as Flipside Publishing, the country’s leading ebook publisher, releases its ebook version for today’s generation of young Filipinos. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Kobo, “The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos” is now being retold to a new generation and in a new medium.
And what a story it is that Pedrosa tells.
“The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos” starts out with her birth on July 2, 1929, but it delves so much deeper into Imelda’s history — three generations deep. We learn about Doña Trinidad Romualdez, the family matriarch that planted the family’s roots in Leyte and who raised her three sons — Norberto, Miguel, and Vicente Orestes — to become movers and shakers in Manila’s political scene.
Readers are also introduced to Remedios, Imelda’s convent-bread mother who finds herself in an intolerable situation once she agrees to become Vicente Orestes’ second wife. And we find out about the many men who vied for Imelda’s hand before the arrival of Ferdinand Marcos; foremost of these suitors was architect Ariston Nakpil, then one of Manila’s most eligible bachelors.
It’s easy to see why Imelda has a flair for the dramatic, because as Pedrosa tells it, the dramas that Imelda’s family went through over several decades could rival that of any teleserye. There is the almost magical way that Daniel, Imelda’s grandfather, first met Doña Trinidad. Daniel, then a tubercular 20-year-old, was visiting a supposedly miraculous fountain in Pandacan when he saw an apparition — a woman “almost five-feet seven inches in height, with a squarish patrician face, deep-set eyes, and a high, nicely shaped nose.”
There is also the pitiful story of Remedios, who was never truly accepted by Vicente Orestes’ kids from his first wife, and whose life with her stepchildren was so rife with tension that she and her children ended up living in the garage of the Romualdez house in General Solano. It was in this very same garage that Remedios would end up dying, and Pedrosa asserts that this terrible event in Imelda’s life would damage her psychological make-up and whose effects would be inflicted on the Filipino people years later.
Other stories that Pedrosa digs up — like that of Imelda arriving at her cousin Danieling’s house in Manila with only five pesos in her pocket, or of Imelda’s days working at a music store in Escolta — almost make one feel a little sympathy for the former First Lady. It is mostly the strength of Pedrosa’s prose that prevents “The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos” from becoming a puff piece. She narrates all of these events in the objective tone of a journalist covering a news story, and therefore succeeds in providing what all good biographies do — give readers an understanding of the life of its subject.
There is also the added bonus of Pedrosa’s descriptions of the customs and practices of Philippine society at different parts of its history. The process by which Remedios was chosen to become Vicente Orestes’ second wife, for instance, is a fascinating read, involving passed notes, social faux pas, and unwritten laws of taste that readers often find in a Jane Austen novel.
This ebook version also retains the photos and supporting documents that Pedrosa managed to get her hands on during the writing of the book, and if her words weren’t enough, the visual evidence certainly drives the facts home.
With its surprising revelations, objective storytelling, insights into Philippines society and culture, and photos of Imelda’s descendants all the way to the Romualdezes from the Spanish era, “The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos” is a great addition to any young Filipinos virtual bookshelf.