Termites, storms and neglect have damaged Imelda Marcos’s legendary stash of shoes, left behind in the Philippines after she and her dictator husband were driven into US exile by a 1986 popular revolt.
Hundreds of pieces of Ferdinand Marcos‘s clothing, including the formal native see-through Barong shirts he wore during his two-decade rule, have also begun to gather mould and fray after being stored for years without protection at the presidential palace and later at Manila’s National Museum, officials say.
The Marcoses left behind personal belongings, clothes and art objects at the palace, including at least 1,220 pairs of Imelda Marcos’s shoes, after they fled the country 26 years ago. Imelda Marcos has since been elected to parliament.
Damaged shoes and handbags at the National Museum. Photograph: Bullit Marquez/APMore than 150 boxes of the Marcoses’ clothes, accessories and shoes were transferred to the museum for safekeeping two years ago after termites, humidity and mould threatened them at the riverside palace. There they deteriorated further as the fragile boxes were abandoned in a padlocked museum hall that was inundated by tropical storm rains last month because of a gushing leak in the ceiling, museum officials said.
Museum staff, who were not aware the boxes contained precious mementoes from the Marcoses, opened the hall on the fourth floor of the building after noticing water pouring out from under the door. They were shocked to see Imelda Marcos’s shoes and gowns when they opened the wet boxes, officials said.
Imelda Marcos’s shoe collection pictured in 1987, the year after she and her husband fled the Philippines. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex FeaturesWorkers hurriedly moved the boxes to a dry room and some were later brought to a museum laboratory, where a small team of curators scrambled to assess the extent of the damage, a process that may take months given the huge volume of the apparel. Some items have obviously been damaged by termites and mould beyond repair, according to the museum curator Orlando Abinion, who is heading the effort.
“We’re doing a conservation rescue,” Abinion said. “There was termite infestation and mould in past years, and these were aggravated by last month’s storm.
“It’s unfortunate because Imelda may have worn some of these clothes in major official events and as such they have an important place in our history.”
Two Associated Press journalists saw a badly tattered box at the museum with damaged and soiled leather bags and designer shoes bulging out. Termites had damaged the heel and sole of a white Pierre Cardin shoe. Other shoes had been warped out of shape or were stained.
Imelda Marcos, who has been elected to the Philippines parliament. Photograph: Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty ImagesAbout 100 of Ferdinand Marcos’s Barong shirts were squeezed tightly into another box, some still attached to plastic hangers. A white Barong shirt on top, with the colourful presidential seal emblazoned on its pocket, had reddish stains and a sleeve nearly torn off.
After the 1986 revolt, the new president Corazon Aquino had Imelda Marcos’s shoes displayed at the presidential palace as a symbol of the former first lady’s lavish lifestyle. The shoes became a symbol of excess in a nation where many still walked around barefoot in abject poverty.