‘Vintage Imelda’: Marcos continued with party despite food poisoning

July 5, 2019 - 1:16 PM
Imelda Marcos waves to the crowd
Former first lady Imelda Marcos waving to the crowd when she was convicted of graft by Sandiganbayan. (Reuters/File photo)

Some Filipinos criticized former first lady Imelda Marcos for continuing her birthday celebration despite the mass food poisoning.

The widow of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos celebrated her 90th birth anniversary on July 3, Wednesday at the Ynares Sports Complex in Pasig City, where more than 2,000 of her and the family’s supporters attended.

The event was a picture of merriment but it took a different turn when hundreds of guests began vomiting, became dizzy and experienced diarrhea minutes after consuming packed meals.

The meals, which consisted of chicken adobo, boiled egg and rice, were brought by supporters who shared it among their fellow Marcos loyalists who arrived early.

The packed meals also came with water bottles bearing Imelda’s name.

Lawyer Larry Gadon, a long-time Marcos supporter, claimed it was “not a catered food” that caused the suspected poisoning.

Unhappy birthday of Imelda Marcos
A young boy is among the dozens of people who were rushed to the hospital due to food poisoning at the 90th birthday of Imelda Marcos held in Pasig City on Wednesday, July 3, 2019. (The STAR/Michael Varcas)

More than 300 people were rushed to different hospitals but the celebration continued despite the incident, with Imelda initially oblivious of the situation.

Reports note that entertainers were performing while some poisoned guests were already being taken out of the venue.

Sen. Imee Marcos, Imelda’s eldest daughter, addressed the remaining revelers, praising them for keeping the gathering “solid” despite the incident.

“The food may have been spoiled, but we remain solid,” she said to them as witnessed in a Facebook live stream.

“Let’s just take care of those who are in the hospital and expect that we will visit each one of them,” the senator added.

Their attitude was condemned by some Filipinos who immediately recalled an event that they said showed Imelda’s steady insistence despite a tragedy—the infamous Manila Film Center construction.

The show must go on: The Manila Film Center tragedy 

In 1981, Imelda Marcos ordered the construction of the Manila Film Center in Pasay City to initially serve as the country’s national film archive.

Being wife to the powerful Ferdinand, she became involved in numerous state affairs as an assemblywoman, governor, Cabinet official, ambassador plenipotentiary and hostess during the Martial Law years.

Manila Film Center
The Manila Film Center as photographed in 2007. (Mike Gonzalez/CC BY-SA)

Imelda wanted the Manila Film Center finished in time for the first Manila International Film Festival in January 1982 so she subjected its workers to a tight deadline that cost them their lives.

A Philstar.com report notes:

“The deadline for the building’s construction was tight, requiring around 4,000 workers who worked in three shifts non-stop for 24 hours a day. The lobby, for example, was only built in 72 hours, when it should have been erected in six weeks.”

“At about 3 a.m. of Nov. 17, 1981, the center’s scaffolding collapsed, burying around 169 workers alive in quick-drying cement. The Marcos administration tried to cover up the accident by not permitting rescuers and ambulances into the site until nine hours after the incident.”

The building was prematurely opened to the public in 1982 and the film festival pushed through despite the tragedy.

Imelda, who wore a Joe Salazar terno in black and emerald green color with layered peacock feathers on opening night, invited foreign actors such as Ben Kingsley, Robert Duvall and George Hamilton to attend.

While she might have perceived the film festival a success, the venue later on became a seedy place that hosted screenings of “pito-pito” and “penekula” or porn films in the ’80s.