In Yvette Tan’s short story, The Bridge (which is equal parts majestic and creepy), a character known as The Madame orchestrates the construction of a bridge while maintaining her poise and glamor. Sans the supernatural undertones, the character is easily an archetype of Imelda Marcos, probably one of the most formidable women in Philippine history. Her name is one of the few things that the rest of the world associates with our country. Only a few personalities get to have a word created out of their materialistic excesses.
Ramona Diaz’s groundbreaking documentary, Imelda, which won the Best Cinematography award at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, is the most exhaustive character study about the former first lady. This is not all about shoes; this is Philippine history filtered through her proud eyes. Weaving testimonials from journalists (including Conrado de Quiros), relatives, and friends, Imelda succeeds in capturing our heritage and culture which are heavily emphasized by folk heroine Grace Nono’s impeccable score.
Madcap, bold, and hallucinatory, Imelda Marcos’ obsession with beauty and art borders on delusional most of the time, not unlike her First World aspirations. But her amusing New Age remarks reflect the intricacies of society, echoing Alain de Botton’s architectural philosophizing in Architecture of Happiness.
Imelda is the screen approximation of an Ambeth Ocampo lecture: mesmerizing, fascinating and engaging. This documentary should be required in any Philippine History class, along with James Hamilton Patterson’s excellent book, America’s Boy. Don Jaucian