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Seeking reelection, Imelda extends Marcos dynasty

MARCOS, Philippines — Twenty-seven years after a public revolt ousted her dictator husband, Imelda Marcos is the Philippines’ ultimate political survivor: She dazzled voters with her bouffant hairstyle, oversized jewelry, and big talk on the campaign trial this week bidding to keep her seat in Congress.

Ferdinand Marcos’s widow is widely expected to win in Monday’s congressional polls. Approaching 84, she is nearing the final chapter of a tumultuous political life in which she once astounded the world by amassing a mammoth shoe collection as first lady of the impoverished country.

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Never showing any remorse for her past, she has against all odds succeeded in orchestrating the rebirth of a political dynasty tainted by allegations of corruption and abuse during her husband’s rule.

‘‘I’m running for reelection,’’ Marcos, clad in her trademark party gown, diamonds, and pearls, proclaimed before hundreds of villagers in Paoay town in northern Ilocos Norte province.

Despite her reputation for extravagance, including expensive shopping trips and lavish beautification projects in a nation where a third of about 94 million people live on $1 a day, Marcos twice ran unsuccessfully for president and won seats in the House following her return from exile.

She is currently campaigning for a second of a maximum three terms to represent Ilocos Norte, a vote-rich agricultural region where many are fiercely loyal to the late dictator because of the money he poured into development.

After lingering until midnight at the town fiesta, Marcos barnstormed farming villages the following morning in the sweltering summer heat, showing off several ‘‘mothering centers’’ she had built to provide health services and livelihood training to poor villagers.

She cradled newborn babies before a tangle of photographers and cameramen in the centers, each displaying a painting of a young Imelda embracing a child at the entrance. ‘‘We care and love you all,’’ reads a sign at the door.

Although she said she still brimmed with energy, her face was puffy and a crew of nurses trailed her to check her blood sugar levels.

Bodyguards stood close by when she alighted from her van or the stairs.

Talks with journalists strayed into the legacy she will leave behind, and she mentioned that she had decided her epitaph would read: ‘‘Here lies love.’’

Marcos said she would not step down as long as she had energy.

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