Katherine Ellison: The Steel Butterfly Still Soars
Katherine Ellison is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and the author of “Imelda: Steel Butterfly of the Philippines.”
LIKE a cockroach after a nuclear bomb, Imelda Marcos’s charm has survived what should have been a deadly blow. Back in 1986, a popular revolt ended her 20-year reign as the Philippines’ first lady. She fled to Hawaii with her husband, Ferdinand, leaving behind a grisly record of human rights abuses, corruption and, of course, more than 1,000 pairs of shoes.
Last week, Imelda’s notorious designer footwear was in the news again after officials at the National Museum of the Philippines in Manila discovered that part of their collection had been destroyed by termites and mold. A team of curators is racing to contain the damage.
Yet whatever the damage to those Charles Jourdans and Jimmy Choos, the so-called Steel Butterfly’s seductive power remains largely intact, as revealed in the surprisingly sympathetic new musical “Here Lies Love,” produced by the artist and musician David Byrne. The show played to sold-out audiences in Massachusetts last summer and will open at New York’s Public Theater this spring. It’s named after Imelda’s wish for her epitaph, a typically sugary sentiment from the woman who once referred to the Marcoses’ nine years of military repression as “martial law with a smile.”...