It is close to midnight and Imelda Marcos is dancing in a trademark pink butterfly gown at a small Philippine town fiesta with adoring voters who still revere her dead dictator husband.
At an age when many others are in nursing homes, the tireless 83-year-old is on the campaign trail, aiming to keep her seat in parliament in next week’s mid-term elections and continue her family’s remarkable political resurrection.
“It’s funny because the older I become the more committed I am and the more I feel I can do it,” Marcos said at the weekend from the family’s home in the north of the country before heading to the fiesta.
Ferdinand Marcos’ widow is seen as a certainty to win after first being elected to Congress in 2010, representing half of Ilocos Norte Province, whose voters have stayed loyal to the family throughout decades of tumultuous politics. However, the matriarch has eyes on a bigger prize — a return to the presidential palace as first mother via her son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who is eyeing a 2016 run for the top job.
“You always have dreams for your children, and the more they can serve the people, the better,” Marcos said when asked about her son’s presidential ambitions.
Ferdinand Jr, popularly known by his nickname, “Bongbong,” appears well-positioned for a presidential run after one in three voters nationally elected him to the senate for a six-year term in 2010.
Their political fortunes have come a long way from 1986, when millions of people took to the streets in a bloodless “people power” revolution to end the patriarch’s two-decade rule of the country.
Ferdinand Marcos, his wife and their cronies were accused of stealing billions of dollars. Human rights campaigners said thousands of the regime’s critics were murdered or jailed, while martial law also muzzled the press.
Imelda Marcos’ giant shoe collection and other extravagances — while the majority of the population endured crushing poverty — came to symbolize the excesses of her husband’s rule.
However, the government is winding down a global wealth hunt for the embezzled Marcos billions, and the family has beaten every charge of corruption against it.
At the fiesta in Paoay town on Saturday night, Imelda Marcos evoked her glory days as she paraded around a dance floor.
In between dance numbers on the sultry night, a male politician running for a local post sat next to her and furiously wielded a red fan.
Other politicians stood on stage to publicly express their support, and she delivered the headline speech of the night.
Early the next day she began traveling around the district showing off her public support to a group of journalists via a series of orchestrated campaign events.
At each town the media were guided into “mothering centers,” small clinics she has had built across her district offering a hodge-podge of services from medical care to handicrafts training.
During stops she cradled babies and shared native cakes with old women. Two aides handed out toys and dolls to children, and money to a few adult supporters.
Honesia Aknam, an elderly woman with blackened stumps for teeth, embraced her political idol in the hill town of Nueva Era and later gushed as she showed a 500 peso (US$12) bill that she said a Marcos aide slipped into her hand.
“I’ve not seen her for a while so I came here. She looks beautiful still, like a young woman,” Aknam said.