Last Sunday, GMA-7 played a special late-night docu on five Philippine presidencies from Ferdinand Edralin Marcos to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in which one of the interviewees was Imelda Romualdez Marcos.
The interview with the "Iron Butterfly" fell on anchorman Mike Enriquez who shot his questions straightforwardly. In response to Enriquez' questions on her extravagance and the Marcoses' "conjugal dictatorship," Imelda quipped:
'Di bale nang conjugal dictatorship so long as it leads to the good, the true and the beautiful... There is no excessiveness in beauty, but there is excessiveness in ugliness.
No surprise there, for she has been known for dropping similar lines in past interviews (wilyfilipino has a list of Imeldific quotes), one of which was quite prophetic:
I was born ostentatious. They will list my name in the dictionary someday. They will use 'Imeldific' to mean ostentatious extravagance.
and another of which may be parsed as a mark of her delusion of grandeur (and fallacious reasoning, a logician might add):
Filipinos who like beauty, love and God are for Marcos.
Well, there is some truth to Imelda's claim that the Marcos' conjugal dictatorship led to the good, the true, and the beautiful. For example, the extensive infrastructure projects like highways, bridges and irrigation systems built during the Marcos years have benefited thousands of Filipinos especially in the Ilocandias. Some old folks in the Cordilleras even claim that today's quality of road building pales in comparison with that of the "Marcos roads" with the latter lasting over a decade and the former usually lasting only over a year or so. Two Imeldific building projects in Baguio City -- the Maharlika Livelihood Center and the Baguio Convention Center -- once had beauty titles to their credit but now have become showcases of Imeldific ugliness (an oxymoron? :) ), thanks to the government's incompetence and the public's apathy.
The flip side of the Marcos coin, however, belies Imelda's claims. The ghosts of the 1,640 "disappeared people" or desaparecidos, for example, still haunt us (not the Marcoses, it appears) with their cries for justice. Some may equate the makeup on Imelda's face with those paradisiacal images of billboards in Manila that once shielded the eyes of Imelda's foreign guests from the ugliness of rotting shanties and reeking canals. Others may claim that only the cronies of Marcos had their fill of the "good, true, and beautiful" which those so-called "Golden Years of the Philippines" offered.
So, what Imelda calls excessiveness in beauty may actually be excessiveness in ugliness.
Ugliness. It seems Imelda's taste is reflected in those "snob appeal" TV commercials. Imelda's ostentatious display of herself seems to send the message that her physical beauty and glib talk must be the standard upon or against which aesthetic judgment must be made. So sori na lang po to the are slow-witted, short, thick-lipped and dark-skinned (aray ko) -- especially those who don't have Imeldific wealth to spend for a facelift and skin bleach (read:Botox, Restylane, Hydroquinone).
But as cultural critics would say, the beauty-ugliness binarism is, to a certain extent, a social construct and may easily become a vehicle for power by the dominant class. So perhaps this Imeldific aesthetic construct needs to be deconstructed in order to counterbalance the domination of elitist discourse in the socio-political life of the Filipino.
When that happens, there will no longer be a need for Imeldific billboards, makeup, and sweet talk.