23. Shoes, Shoes, and More Shoes
The Filipino public was fascinated – and repelled – by Imelda Marcos’ apparent addiction to expensive designer shoes. The former First Lady had splurged and accumulated thousands of pairs. When protesters stormed one of her former residences, the Malacanang Palace, they discovered over 2700 pairs of expensive designer shoes in Imelda’s wardrobe. Thousands more were found in other palaces, mansions, and villas throughout the Philippines. A single pair of those pricey pumps could cost more than an entire city block in a lower-class Philippines neighborhood earned in a year. After the 1986 revolt, Imelda’s shoes were displayed at the presidential palace as a symbol of the dictatorship’s corruption.
Eventually, hundreds of her shoes found a permanent home in the Shoe Museum, in the northern city of Marikina. The collection became a symbol of excess in a country where many walked barefoot in abject poverty. However, because life is often unfair, Imelda never paid for her corruption. She was eventually allowed back in the Philippines, was elected to Parliament, and as of 2021, is one of that country’s wealthiest women. She even turned the shoe scandal into an asset and has been a frequent visitor to the Shoe Museum. There, she signs autographs and proudly poses for photos next to display cases of her collection.