Unmasking Imelda

With Carlos Celdran, members of the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu Batch 1985, including multi-awarded  furniture designer and manufacturer Kenneth Cobonpue (fourth from left)

With Carlos Celdran, members of the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu Batch 1985, including multi-awarded
furniture designer and manufacturer Kenneth Cobonpue (fourth from left)

LET’S just say that Imelda Marcos is admired and despised in the same breath. But whichever way you look at it, her antics always make good fodder for gossip among the elitista as well as the masa. Her love for shoes is legendary, and what about the term “Imeldific”? Apparently, what we know is just the tip of the iceberg.

In his one-man show “Livin’ La Vida Imelda,” Filipino cultural activist/performing artist/tour guide Carlos Celdran shares untold stories about the widow of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, and highlights her place in history as one of the world’s most iconic women.

Set during the 1970s in Manila, the show is replete with gossip, historical facts, jokes and impersonations. Here, Celdran weaves in issues surrounding Philippine arts, culture, and international geopolitics.

“Livin’ La Vida Imelda,” which has been played off-Broadway in New York to positive reviews, will be presented for the first time in Cebu (hometown of Celdran’s grandmother) on April 1 and April 2 at 8 p.m., and a matinee for students on April 2, 3:30 p.m, at the Cebu Country Club.

“Livin La Vida Imelda” started in 2004 as a walking tour at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex in Manila before it became a solo act in 2009.

During those years, Celdran studied the Marcos history but most of his research were spent doing interviews and, at times, speaking with the Marcoses themselves.

“Most of it were interacting with people who remember the generation of living the Marcos era. Our batch was the batch right before the revolution. All of our high school was martial law. You won’t find a lot of the stuff I talk about in the books because whoever wrote about it would be killed by the Marcoses”, said Celdran at
yesterday’s press conference organized by the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu Batch 1985 through its SHS-B 1985 Foundation, Inc.

To give a background, Imelda was the daughter of Vicente Orestes Romualdez from the Romualdez family, one of the oligarchies in the land classes of the Philippines. Her mom was a nursing student named Remedios Trinidad. Before that, Vicente was married to another woman named Juana but after her fifth child, Juana died. Vicente was left widowed.

”So what does the  man do presented with a situation of having no particular ways to raise the kids? You have an affair with the maid!

“And that’s the first part— chismis number 1!” Celdran teases.

The cultural activist will also tackle Panfilo Lacson and President Noynoy Aquino, and the rest of the talk surrounding Imelda . After all, as Celdran puts it, “The Filipinos’ favorite pastime is chismis other than merienda.

“In the Philippines, chismis is history. Chismis is more important than facts. Think about whatever you want to think about but back it up with research and facts. In the Philippines it is sometimes tragic that rumors can be more real than reality”, said Celdran.

According to him, the conceptualization of “Livin La Vida Imelda” began when he engaged himself to studying the beautiful subjects of Philippine Architecture such as the CCP Complex, the Film Center, and the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). These buildings are Imelda-comissioned as a metaphor to her rise and fall.  Celdran found himself digging more into Martial Law.

“When I kep talking about the buildings, there always seemed to be an elephant in the room. That elephant was Imelda. None of these existed without her. She was about arts and beauty and culture”, said Celdran.

Asked what Imelda thinks of his performance, Celdran said there were “threats” of her coming to watch the act but it never happened.  “Her daughter and daughter in-law have seen it and I’m still alive,” he said. “I think the Marcoses have heard worse and they’re from people who were actually closer to them. So I think some strange mestizo talking about them is really no big deal compared to everybody else’s talk,” he said.

And how does Celdran prepare to tackle such a complex character as Imelda? He said vocalization helps him warm up for the show, a victory pose, and a shot of tequila—well, sometimes.

Celdran aims to push the people to think objectively especially in the coming elections. He believes that people should know the Philippine presidential system and examining the platforms of the candidates instead of looking at personalities, the  candidate’s popularity.

“Don’t follow my opinion. Don’t agree with me. I just want to start a conversation”, said Celdran.

Celdran is known for his Intramuros tours that journey people back in history and time in a new modern approach. He resides in Manila and does shows of “If These Walls Could Talk” four times weekly.

Tickets for “Livin’ La Vida Imelda” are sold at all Dessert Factory, and Pizza Republic outlets for P1,000 and P2,000, a portion of which will go to the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation (ERUF). Seating is on a first come, first served basis and subject to capacity.

TAGS: Imelda Marcos, Kenneth Cobonpue
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