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25 September 2014

Filipino Films that Should be Made in the Immediate Future, Part 2 (Film #2: "The Imeldific Drag Show")

David Byrne and Fat Boy Slim have already produced a stage musical about the controversial and polarizing Imelda Marcos. Some Filipinos easily became thrilled as Filipino stage thespians were chosen to play key parts in the New York production and the coming London production. For some, it is "Miss Saigon" all over again. This is another proof that the new generation has perhaps forgotten the sins of the Marcos dictatorship and so the apparent return to glory, and maybe to power, of the Marcos clan is well under way. Whether the new Imelda musical presented the great “Maleficent of Shoes” in a favorable or unfavorable light, I suppose it is up to the viewers. But as “The Guardian” critic Alexis Soloski wrote,

“It becomes more difficult to judge or be critical of the characters – dancing with Imelda (played with almost unparalleled sweetness by Ruthie Ann Miles) makes you more likely to sympathise with her and her husband (Jose Llana), despite knowing better.” (Source: The Guardian, 13 April 2013)

U.S. Ambassador allegedly wrote:
“This whole affair was a saccharine
suffusion of sycophancy.”
Byrne and Fat Boy Slim interpret Imelda as a flamboyant “forgivable” individual (quotation mark intended). Imelda is neither a saint nor a sinner but just a tragic/comic literary character akin to a street smart Cinderella who brazenly played the game of life as she figuratively danced on gray areas than on black or white.  Victims and people who valiantly fought the Marcos regime will feel betrayed, but then again, I suspect that Byrne and Fat Boy Slim just wanted to produce a more danceable “Evita” for the millennium than anything else. 

Perhaps, a film antidote to all current and coming poisonous production is needed as swiftly as possible. I think that you do not need to make a full biography of Imelda but just focus on a specific episode in her life that will best encapsulate the Marcos couple’s hold to power, Imelda’s state of mind and regard towards Filipinos, whom she often says she loves. 

Thanks to WikiLeaks, we found the perfect episode. U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines in the 1970s William Sullivan allegedly reported that Ferdinand Marcos had a lavish two-day birthday celebration that included a:

“Military review, fly-by, and rambling speech by president at Camp Aguinaldo, followed by dedication of newly constructed facilities there. This consumed entire morning. Ceremonies resumed 7:00 p.m. that same evening with moonlight parade, reception, serenade, dinner, floor show, and concert (Source: Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy, WikiLeaks)

The culmination of this lavish celebration was a military drag performance during the floor show, ordered by Imelda herself.  Ambassador Sullivan reports:

“All general officers in the armed services (Constabulary Commander Ramos excepted) were required, as part of the palace floor show, to parade in garish female attire. This caused much grumbling among military hierarchy, and wives of service chiefs stood conspicuously in a grim, un- smiling phalanx throughout the hilarity.” (Source: Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy, WikiLeaks)

Ambassador Sullivan allegedly further commented that:

“This whole affair was a saccharine suffusion of sycophancy which reminded me unhappily of the heydays of Sukarno and Sihanouk. Although Imelda was responsible, the president seemed to enjoy it and appeared unaware of the negative vibrations among his courtiers, especially the senior military…” (Source: Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy,WikiLeaks)

Ordering macho Filipino soldiers to wear women’s clothes and asking them to perform in a floor show is tantamount to utter disrespect, especially in a macho homophobic society like the Philippines, and in the 1970s even. The whole idea is insulting. Regardless of your opinions about the participation of the military during the Martial Law years, this whole drag show simply illustrates, in the most farcical way, Imelda’s power. She has never been Cinderella; she is the wicked stepmother or the Evil Queen. She and her husband had abducted and buried Cinderella and Snow White in an unmarked grave somewhere in the boondocks.

Instead of inscribing “Here Lies Love” on her tombstones, Filipinos should inscribe “Lies Love It Here.” These words will be a tribute to a woman who enjoys twisting words to her advantage, and so, we Filipino should play her game.


U.S. Ambassador to the
Philippines in the 1970s:
William Sullivan
Making “The Imeldific Drag Show” is a perfect dramatization of the Marcos excesses at a time when many Filipinos lost their lives fighting a corrupt administration, and many others suffering from poverty and lost of their civil liberties. I think even if you have been brainwashed to believe that the Philippines was better off during the Marcos regime, this particular celebration is enough to jolt you back to your senses.

Like “F/F,” “The Imedific Drag Show” should also go on a nationwide tour, specifically in schools to enlighten the new generation of Filipinos. Certainly, the film should also run for seven consecutive days in commercial cinemas just to qualify for the Oscars. I see a future Oscar contender here. It has everything: corruption, excess, over the top characters and overall ludicrousness. In fact, the would-be director and producer can even hire an American actor to play U.S. Ambassador Sullivan to give some international traction.  Which Hollywood actor should play him? More importantly, who would play "Imelda?"



Filipino Films That Should Be Made in the Immediate Future (Series)
  • Film # 1: “F/F”
  • Film # 2: “The Imeldific Drag Show”
  • Film # 3: “Poque-poque at Patiti: The Senate RH-Bill Hearing” (soon)
  • Film # 4: “Desaparesidos” (soon)
  • Film # 5: “Angela, the Bading Assassin, A Musical (soon)
  • and many more
Other Film Essays

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