How Blue Ladies gave us scoops on Marcos fall
NOW IT can be told, before our memory eventually revises itself, how the “Blue Ladies” and the high-society lifestyle set provided us some juicy, if critical, information about what was happening to the Marcos family during the Edsa People Power Revolution in 1986 and shortly after it.
The information, which eventually became front-page news, left lifestyle editors like us a valuable lesson—never underestimate the potential of the perfumed-set network to be indispensable news sources, no matter that they dwelt on the trivial peripheries of news. By living in the corridors of power, they become, after all, the news itself.
In those heart-stopping days of February 1986, the events were happening so fast that our editors in the revived Manila Times were guiding the reporters on how to peg the stories—because, they said, “events would only overtake you.”
On Feb. 25, disbelief diluted the euphoria people felt upon learning that the Marcoses had fled the Palace. A generation who knew no other life but the one under the Marcos rule could not imagine that the omnipotent leader had fled. Most of these would be the many people who were close to the Marcoses, whose lives the first family not only touched but also shaped.
We were in touch with the friends of the Marcoses and shared their incredulity at the swift unfolding of events.
Some had stayed with the Marcoses until the very end. I remember our story quoting then Cultural Center of the Philippines president, Dean Lucresia Kasilag, as she described how sad the atmosphere was in the Palace at one of the last receptions there.
End in sight
Other friends noted how they had felt the end was in sight even long before the Edsa People Power.
(Interestingly, on Aug. 31, 1983, the day of the funeral of Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., a Mass was held at the Palace. I remember fashion designer Pitoy Moreno—an Upsilonian brother of Ninoy and a close friend of the Marcoses, considered an “honorary Blue Lady”—telling us how he had to line up on the street in the morning to watch the Aquino funeral cortege pass by, and to rush to the Palace for the Mass. Although the Mass didn’t take as long as the funeral parade, which lasted into the night, it was, in Pitoy’s view, like a roll call of friends and associates who remained loyal to the Marcoses.)
Days after the flight of the erstwhile first family, their various sets of friends—the social and cultural establishment itself—were hungry for news about what really had happened and how the family was now doing in Guam.
In the meantime, our editors expected us to give leads about the Marcoses which, obviously, the political writers couldn’t produce, since they were focused on the protagonists of the Edsa revolution and the emerging government.
We stayed glued to the Blue Ladies, the strong, high-profile coterie of Imelda Marcos, they who were the center of social life in the Marcos years. They were called Blue Ladies, after the color the campaigners of Ferdinand Marcos wore when he ran for reelection in 1969 (versus the Osmeña Pearls of presidential candidate Sergio Osmeña, who ran against Marcos). They were the high-society women or the wives of the country’s top businessmen and the Marcos cronies.
It should be noted that the composition of the so-called Blue Ladies changed through the Marcos years, with a few hard-core ones remaining.
A very few of them kept in touch somehow with the family that had fled to the United States. A few others had dropped out of the Palace scene even months before the Edsa Revolution.
It was in one of our conversations with the loyal Blue Ladies that we learned that Marcos had thought that he and his family were being flown to Paoay, not Hawaii. In Paoay, in the north, he believed that they could build their stronghold.
Paoay, not Hawaii
“Paoay, not Hawaii,” the Blue Lady told us, was what Marcos thought. And that became the front-page story. (The choppers landed at Clark, not in Paoay.)
It was also through the Blue Lady grapevine that we got an idea of how the flight to Guam was, and who were on the flight, industrialist and Marcos’ friend Danding Cojuangco being one of them.
Another fashion designer friend gave us the telephone numbers of some of the Palace household staff who were left behind after the scramble before the helicopter flight.
Two of the staff would describe in detail how Mrs. Marcos was giving them instructions one moment, and how in the next, the family would be gone, their private rooms in a shambles. We still remember the sadness with which they made that recollection—“Pinakuha lang sa akin ang brush, pag baba ko, wala na sila,” the female staffer said. Then it was the sound of the whirr of the helicopters that filled the place.
Our fashion-designer friend would relay to us how one of the Marcos children felt upon their arrival in the United States—like falling off a precipice. It was a quote that made it again to the front page for the consumption of a populace that couldn’t have enough of the incredible February.
In time, the Marcoses disappeared from the front page, until it was as if the news consumers had lost interest in them.
They have returned since then, renewed some social ties, discontinued others.
What was interesting was how Imee Marcos, upon turning 60, became the cover of Philippine Tatler last October.
According to a friend of the Marcoses, Imee would have wanted to shoot that cover right at the Palace.
Had Imee’s pictorial concept been followed—a shoot in their old digs—that would have been a surreal teleserye episode, which Philippine politics, in fact, is.
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