• Consult the people about Imelda’s jewels

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    TWO days ago, an Official Gazette tweet announced that Imelda Marcos’s jewelry collection was to be auctioned off. The link brings you to an excerpted article about the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) getting the approval of the Privatization Council to sell seven Marcos properties.

    It also spoke of how the PCGG will seek the clearance of the same council to auction off the Marcos jewelry based on the appraisals of Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

    I say: consult the people about those jewels, talk to the academia, bring in the cultural institutions. Because unlike real estate acquired by the Marcoses, these jewels (as with Imelda’s clothes and shoes), are artifacts of our past that we can learn from, that are critical to our education as nation.

    And if we are smart, it can also be a gift that will keep on giving, a national treasure that we can keep earning from, for generations to come.

    The gift of provenance

    David Warren, from Christie’s, had said late last year: “Provenance is a big seller. People love the story, they love to know something more about jewelry. A lot of jewelry unfortunately carries no story. So when you have something like this where there’s a big story, a big provenance, it’s a provenance that some people are not going to like, it’s a provenance that some people are going to find interesting, that some people will love. It’s a mixture, it’s a mixture of emotions, obviously because of the history behind it. But it’s still provenance, it’s a very big provenance, whatever you feel about that.” (ABS-CBNNews.com, 24 Nov 2015)

    It’s that provenance, obviously, that government has a problem with. The fact that this was ill-gotten wealth by one of the most notorious characters in Philippine history and politics, makes us want to make money out of it now, and get it out of our sight soonest. It seems these jewels are reason for embarrassment, like an ugly part of our past that we would rather not remember.

    And yet it is precisely that dark oppressive violent past that should make these jewels a critical part of our present. It is the dynamic between the beauty of the jewelry, and the crisis of nation during its acquisition, that should make it one of the best education we might receive about Martial Law and the Marcoses.

    There is nothing wrong with keeping these artifacts of one of the most oppressive and violent times in our history. If anything, it is the perfect context for these jewels and its provenance, it is the best reason to keep these jewels and engage the younger generations of Filipinos in an intelligent conversation about our Marcos past, and our political present.

    Beyond artifacts of women

    Elsewhere in the world, this is how famous jewelry and clothing collections are handled: these are exhibited, over and over, in multifarious ways, and allowed to speak not just about the women who owned these jewels, but more importantly, about what these women stood for given the roles they played, the images they portrayed.

    In 2001, the Metropolitan Museum of Art for example, had an exhibit of Jacqueline Kennedy’s jewelry, clothes, and other artifacts from her years as First Lady, which was not just about capturing her iconic style, but about proving her “visual metaphor for her cultural aspirations for the White House. Under her aegis, it would become an exquisite and stylish showplace, and a background for a worldly and sophisticated mix of guests drawn from the realms of arts and culture as well as national and world politics and diplomacy.” (MetMuseum.org, 2001)

    This was merely a selection of what is kept and is exhibited by the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, all year.

    In 2012, an exhibit of Princess Diana’s clothes as a modern princess became part of “transforming visitor’s experience” of Kensington Palace. Another exhibit of Diana’s clothes and jewels traveled North America from 2003 to 2014, one that had also been in her ancestral home in England since 1998. It displayed not just the gowns and tiaras, but also the history of a public icon who went beyond princess. Art handler Graeme Murton said: “It tells a story of a legend, a woman who married into royalty, but used her status to bring people’s awareness – HIV, landmines, things people didn’t want to talk about. Being a princess, she didn’t have to but she did.” (Cincinnati.com, 14 Feb 2014)

    And because you might say how dare I put Imelda in the same league as Diana and Jackie O.! How dare I imagine that Imelda is on the same level as this style icon and this princess!

    It doesn’t take daring to admit to one basic fact: Imelda was First Lady. She was, and is, of course many other things. The latter is what we can discuss in relation to these jewels.

    The fact of culture

    One hopes the PCGG and this matuwid na daan would be more creative, more imaginative, when it comes to thinking about what can be done with these “ill-gotten assets” of the Marcoses. Because there is a cultural response to the political insistence that these jewels must be auctioned of.

    It’s all pretty obvious: as cultural artifacts, these jewels will be cared for by the State, for the people. As artifacts, it can make for countless exhibitions, ones that nation can earn from, but also one that can reveal Martial Law for what it truly was. It was about these jewels and Imelda’s cultural institutions, yes, but also it must be paralleled with the greed and violence, oppression and repression of the Marcos regime.

    A cultural perspective will allow for these artifacts to carry the weight of that past. But also it will allow the present to inherit what it might, for as long as it can, from these jewels. We can earn from this forever, instead of selling it in one go. We can also learn from it forever, instead of losing sight of everything it stands for in our history, and in the present.

    According to Chairman Richard T. Amurao, one of PCGG’s major tasks is “to privatize surrendered and recovered ill-gotten assets of the Marcoses and his cronies with proceeds going to its true owners, the Filipino people.”

    Well if the Filipino people are the true owners of these jewels, shouldn’t we first be allowed to see it? Shouldn’t we have a say in where these jewels will go?

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    11 Comments

    1. Gloria B. Wilhelm on

      HOGWASH! What is there to learn from these jewels? History has all sorts of recorded facts during the dictatorship regime. If these jewels were not auctioned and instead displayed in a museum, her name, which I just cannot say without tasting some vile in my mouth, would forever be connected when relating the story behind these jewels…. who gave each piece to her, where she wore it, what occasion? Hardly would the atrocities during that period be mentioned at all. Let her name be forgotten. I say, get rid of them. And please refrain from comparing the historical value of the treasures and other collections with that from Princess Diana and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Not in her league at all.

    2. Return their properties. Only the yellows and this author believes that they are ill-gotten wealth. The Aquino’s are the real corrupt of this nation.

    3. at bakit hanggang ngayon ay hindi naibebenta ang mga iyan kung totoo ngang sa gobyerno ang mga alahas na iyan???? bakit??? puro publicity lang .. itong mga noytard na dilawan… subukan ninyong ibenta.. iyong mga hospital , mga power plants na sa para sa mamayan ibinenta ng abnoy na presidenteng ito, pati hospital at iba pang ang dapat na unang makinabang ay ang ating mahihirap na mamayan.. Pero dahil sa abnoy nga ang gobyernong ito, inuna nila ang kanilang sarili para magpayaman sa kaban ng bayan… Bakit hindi ba nila alam na si marcos ang pinakamayamang tao sa buong Pilipinas bago pa siya naging pulitika..o ayaw ipaalam na mga dilawan sa ating mamayan ang katotohanan,na may mayaman pa si marcos sa kanila bago ito naging pulitiko…. itong mga dilawan ngayon lang sila naging bilyonaryo ng mawala si Ferdi Marcos, dahil sa kasuwapangan sa kaban ng bayan ng mamayang filipino.. this is the truth,,,, Iyan ang dapat malaman ng taong bayan…

    4. Actritex Reducer on

      Dapt dig deepr about the truth behind the jewlry. Khit cnu tamaan. Our sense of history about edsa 1 is wrong and who cares?

    5. Imelda has been seeking for a settlement on their alleged ill-gotten wealth since anyone could remember. Maybe we should consider asking her just how much is actually involved in this settlement she is pushing for. Those opposed to the settlement assume $10B, the highest of the estimate of alleged Marcos plunder. Why should government settle indeed if the offer is only that much? But what if Imelda quotes something more than that, say $50B or $100B? On Youtube she is seen showing some documents bearing incredible amounts. The media does not seem interested to even take a look, why is that? Why not challenge Imelda to have these documents authenticated? Why do I get the sense na parang media naman ang takot.

    6. Yes, how long will the proceeds last and where will it go ?
      Further, with excessive taxation, Sin taxes and VAT, plus income taxes, the state has
      enough to give away, waste and with a minimal percentage / a bit left over for good governance.

    7. Sooner or later people would get to know the real owner of these jewelries. Discussing now the so caĺled ill-gotten wealth and the marcoses at present political atmosphere under the cloud of this vengeful ill mannered insensitive head of government would only be construed as traditional dirty and garbage tricks to malign political enemies. It could have been better if it was decided at the very beginning of abnoy term to show his toughness and assertion. It just so happened that after 5 years, people come to realized that these two pdynasties are of the same feather all along

    8. So far as I can see this whole Fiasco; is a travesty of justice
      .Shades of “Let them eat cake”
      Here we see so many unknown million; maybe trillions of dollar..Been plundered by this family She is able to auction jewelry …Has a position in govt..Her son even allowed to run for office …This country; and its people surely deserve better than this

      Dr David M Meyer {PhD Psych}

    9. You forget that proceeds from this sale is to benefit martial law victims, return funds to the state et al. We are a very poor country and have no need for these expensive jewels to ogle, as if they were cultural masterpieces.

    10. Naku hija, sila nga ang “people”. Syempre, pag nabenta, mapupunta sa bulsa nila ang pinagbilhan. Looking back, kanino ba napunta ang pera na galing sa PNB (Singapore) na bahagi ng pera galing sa Operation Big Bird? Para lang maisalba ang mas malaking bahagi, binalatuhan tayo ng mga bangko sa Switzerland ng barya na pinag piyestahan naman ng mga ganid na akala nila ay isang malaking “achievement” na. Para lang din yan sa Customs na pinahuli ang sameung container pero ang 5,000 containers ay nakalabas na. So ano nangyari dun sa pera na pera ng bayan, di ba nga yun ang inubos sa fertilizer scam nuong panahon ni Gloria. So natitiyak ko na bago mapunta ang pera sa National Treasury ay gagamitin na yan sa election. Masaya na ako kun naiintindihan nila ang salitang “provenance” at “history”. Those terms are reserved only for those who understands and knows what culture and class is.