Marikina cobblers repair Imelda's shoes

Posted at 09/27/12 3:01 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Cobblers in an eastern suburb of Manila were repairing dozens of damaged shoes on Wednesday, that once belonged to former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos.

Imelda Marcos, who was famous for her footwear collection, left behind around 1,200 pairs when she and her family fled the presidential palace in 1986, following a popular revolt that deposed her late husband Ferdinand Marcos.

Nearly 800 pairs of Imelda Marcos's collection were loaned to a shoe museum in Marikina City, an area once reputed for its flourishing shoe industry.

But the city has suffered from severe storms and in 2009, Typhoon Ketsana flooded 80 percent of the capital, and low-lying Marikina was hit hard.

Marcos's shoes were not spared. Around three dozen pairs were soaked, and 12 of these still need repair work. The shoe fabric was muddied, and soles were falling apart.

Among the damaged pairs were peep-toe wedges, studded slip-ons, and silk sling-backs.

"We're hoping to make the shoes pretty again, but it won't be as perfect, as good as new, because we can't change the materials. If we could, we would, but we're limited to just restoring them-- gluing them back and cleaning them," said the repair shop's marketing manager Sarah Buenaventura.

The Marikina City Footwear Museum annually attracts thousands of visitors curious to see the treasure trove of shoes amassed by the shopaholic former first lady.

Still it took the city government three years before sending the damaged shoes to be repaired.

"This storm was unexpected. We didn't expect the intensity, and the extent of the damage. So some of the shoes of the first lady were damaged by floods," shoe museum manager Jane Ballesteros told Reuters TV.

Lined up in glass display cases, the collection includes local designers as well as world-famous names such as Chanel, Charles Jourdan, Ferragamo, and Gucci.

Her black pumps alone number nearly 100 pairs, filling shelf after shelf, leaving museum visitors wondering if such excess is justified.

"It was excessive. Instead of spending all that money to buy, she could have just given it to the poor, it would have done more good," university student Melvin Panganiban said.

Others are more forgiving of Imelda's indulgences, and say that she made a name for the Philippines, thanks to her love of shoes.

"It's part of Filipino culture, it's part of our history," businessman Jay Pascual said.

Local media also reported this week that a collection of Marcos's shoes and gowns stored in the National Museum in Manila has been damaged by termites and leaking pipes.

A spokesman for the presidential palace said the boxes held no historical significance, though the government has plans to restore them. The National Museum said in a statement that the items suffered serious neglect while being stored in the palace for 24 years, before being moved to the National Museum.

The former first lady, who was known to charm iron-fist rulers such as Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and China's Mao Tse Tung, was criticised for throwing lavish parties, and going on extravagant shopping sprees allegedly at the expense of public coffers.

After returning from exile in Hawaii in 1991, Imelda Marcos, now 83 years old, failed in a presidential bid but made a successful run for congress in 2010.