[Conclusion of the column. The first part appeared yesterday, Saturday October 23.]
Imelda arrived earlier at the launching. As I expected, a vacant seat was reserved for me beside Imelda, knowing the nose for news of Joe Lad. So I took my seat beside Imelda and the cameras started clicking and rolling. Almost immediately after I was seated, Imelda broke the ice, talking with me, saying: “You know Governor, if not for your mouth in Parliament, we will still be in power today. My only consoling thought is that we are out of power and so are you!”
“Ma’am, that’s the law of life and that’s part of the game,” I replied, almost in a whisper.
“You know Governor, you are really one Opposition leader the President studied very seriously,” Imelda continued. I could appreciate that knowing Marcos to be a serious student of Sun Tzu on the Art of War.
Imelda’s thrust impressed me. It was short and to the point, packing a lesson which everyone should learn. The sharpness of Imelda in knowing the political nuances of the struggle for power in the Philippines is impressive. Her trenchant observation that the people I worked with, in the effort to oust President Marcos, were a bunch of ungrateful power-hungry men and women. As if Imelda was telling me subliminally that if I was persuaded to join the Marcos crowd, I would have been in the circle of power and the pretenders to good intentions who took the country to the road of perdition would have earned their rightful place in the dustbin of history.
No greater compliment can visit a person than an opponent acknowledging his ability to produce strategic results by reason of his God-given talents. Imelda did that to me. Whether it was meant to be serious or an act of flattery never makes any difference. The importance is that it was said and no amount of explanation or interpretation later can alter the observation. Either way, Imelda is quite sharp to know her onions.
My paths in life somehow crossed many a time those of Imelda. A friend and compadre, former Caloocan City Mayor Macario “Boy” Asistio, enticed me to see Imelda to explore the idea of whether I can make representations to PCGG Chairman Camilo Sabio, who is my friend from Cagayan de Oro City from way back when, to settle her problems with PCGG.
Boy Asistio and I visited Imelda at her pad at the Pacific Tower, Ayala Avenue, Makati City. It was an impressive condo unit, with many of the furniture gilded with gold. After we were seated, Imelda started telling her story she was living on the graces of her friends. Of course, that was farthest from the truth, in the perception of many.
Then, she displayed to Boy and me, the pile of gold certificates representing gold kept by various banks in the world. They could not be converted into cash because of the disputes on the Marcos gold and Marcos dollar deposits with the Philippine government. Imelda wanted the matter settled with the government once and for all. Imelda and Boy Asistio were of the opinion that I could help settle the problems considering my long standing friendship with PCGG Chairman Sabio.
As Fate would have it, one evening in the series of meetings with Imelda at her pad, came Imee Marcos, the daughter of Imelda. While Boy and I were conversing with Imelda, out of the blue, Imee asked: “What is this all about?”
Imelda meekly answered: “It is nothing special and it does not concern you.”
Then, Imee thundered, “I know what this is all about. It is to settle our problems with the government. Settle with this government? Not in a million years.”
After a while, Boy Asistio and I left, leaving Imelda and Imee to settle their problems.
My last meeting with Imelda was nothing very significant. Imelda invited the members of the Diliman Book Club to her pad at Global City. Not being a member of the book club, Imelda asked the President of the Club to invite me. It was a two-floor condo unit. She regaled the group with stories of the sources of Ferdinand Marcos’ wealth. She emphasized that the wealth of Marcos was honestly earned by him as a lawyer of gold mining companies and the ability of Marcos to maximize that wealth.
After dinner, she brought the group one floor down to see the certified true copies of documents issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the New York Federal Court that tried and acquitted Imelda for violation of the RICO law. The documents show most of the banks and significant corporations owned by Chinese taipans and other economic empires in the Philippines belong to President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
The documents have some grains of truth in them. After all, based on those documents, Imelda was acquitted. But what really is the source or sources of the Marcos wealth? Only Ferdinand E. Marcos can tell the real truth. But the man is dead and the real truth is buried with him.
What about Imelda? She still looks beautiful and intriguing. She still sounds intelligent. She is congresswoman representing one of the congressional districts of Ilocos Norte, the home province of President Ferdinand E. Marcos. She still has grasp of political intrigues and legerdemain in the Philippines. Many Filipinos think she can be a viable candidate for President of the Philippines. But beyond all those, whatever is the judgment of history and of Filipinos, Imelda will not only be remembered for her luxurious habits and thousands of shoes, she will always be in the minds of Filipinos when they go to the Heart Center of the Philippines, the Lung Center, the Kidney Center, the Children’s Hospital, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Philippine Convention Center, the Folk Arts Theatre, the Coconut Palace, the Makiling Center for Arts and Culture and the many five-star hotels which Imelda encouraged built.
Every time you hear Cecile Licad plays the piano, see Liza Macuja dances, and the other artists she has helped sing better or play well their instruments, you will remember Imelda – the beautiful, regal, intelligent, creative and innovative First Lady of Ferdinand E. Marcos and the Philippines.
To have moments with Imelda, as I earlier wrote, is not only a pleasure, it is a privilege.