Imelda Marcos now an off-Broadway parody

By Jen Furer

Who would have thought that I would be dancing and singing to a musical about the much-loathed (much-loved too by some) Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos?

On Imelda’s birthday on July 2, I, together with my Makilala TV co-hosts Cristina, Rachelle and Ledy, watched “Here Lies Love,” a musical inspired by the life of this once very powerful Filipina, whose persona will forever be identified with conjugal corruption and shoes. Thousands of pairs of them!

I’ve heard about the musical but not until I met the two lead performers, Jose Llana, who plays Ferdinand Marcos, and Jaygee Macapugay, who understudies as Imelda Marcos, did I consider watching the play. Jose and Jaygee guested on Makilala’s upcoming episode, to air in July.

“Here Lies Love” was created by David Byrne, yes, the same David Byrne of “Talking Heads” band. It’s fascinating to me that Imelda Marcos’s life would be conceptualized and made into a disco musical by a non-Filipino. Byrne is Scottish-born but has lived in the U.S. most of his life.

I learned from the Wall Street Journal that Byrne worked on this endeavor for more than eight years. His fascination had nothing to do with the thousands of shoes Imelda owned but about the disco-loving Imelda. In the interview, he mentioned that he “saw a video of her dancing with the arms dealer [Adnan] Khashoggi under the disco ball in her apartment.”

If you think freestyle gyrating with a shady Saudi mogul is despicable, why would a Filipino watch “Here Lies Love”? I’ve been asking myself that, but I vowed to keep an open mind.

“Here Lies Love” should not be construed as 100 percent factual, although the production included details from the proclamation of Martial Law in 1972 and the People’s Power Revolution of 1986. It’s a reminder what the Philippines went through to get rid of a corrupt political family. However, after watching the play, I wondered, why did the U.S. help them escape? Maybe, to prevent bloodshed? Anyway, David Byrne ended the story with Ninoy Aquino’s funeral and Imelda singing rock-style, “Why Don’t You Love Me?”

Aside from the politics that surrounded the Marcoses, which still brings distress to most Filipinos today, “Here Lies Love” is a fun and highly entertaining musical. The lyrics included actual quotes and transcripts during the Marcos regime.

Jose Llana was a convincing Ferdinand Marcos. He is not quite a doppelganger of the now-deceased dictator, but he could easily pass for one given his ‘kayumanggi’ good looks and pomade-sculptured hair. His facial expressions, vocals, and dance movements were remarkable especially as he portrayed a philandering president.

Jose Llana plays the philandering Philippine president

Jose Llana plays the philandering Philippine president

Jaygee Macapugay plays Imelda Marcos.

Jaygee Macapugay plays Imelda Marcos.

Ironically, Llana comes from an activist family. They left the Philippines and came to the U.S. because of their politics. Jose told Makilala his family received the news – that he was playing Ferdinand Marcos — with hilarity, teasing him, “Couldn’t you have chosen Ninoy Aquino?”

Conrad Ricamora played Ninoy Aquino, his only point of similarity with the opposition senator was a pair of Clark Kent glasses. He was costumed in white throughout the production. He had a powerful voice and sang with clarity.

Jaygee Macapugay, as the coquettish (dating Ninoy, then marrying Ferdinand) and confused (dumped by Ninoy, then cheated on by Ferdinand) Imelda Marcos, was impeccable. I was able to see Imelda’s transformation from the Rose of Tacloban to the all-too powerful First Lady who danced with world leaders, built cultural edifices and enjoyed the adoration of the Filipino masses. That is: Until Ninoy’s assassination.

Overall, I truly enjoyed the musical. I only wished the background music wasn’t too loud because there were times I couldn’t make out the lyrics. And an interesting observation from last night’s show was how the audience was mostly non-Filipinos.

After watching the show, Ledy Almadin commented that she is definitely bringing her daughters to see the play.

Memorable songs of the night: “Please don’t let them look down on us,” “I want to be a drummer,” the song about People Power, and “Why Don’t You Love Me?”

And of course, “Here Lies Love” is stuck in my head until the following morning like a nasty hangover.


  1. RobDH wrote:

    The politics that surrounded the Marcos’s, still brings distress to most Filipinos today, as does the graft and corruption of the all the subsequent (including both Aquino’s’ ) administrations plagues the people even today. Why didn’t they even ask Ninoy Aquino to play Imelda (dress and all)?
    The details from the proclamation of Martial Law in 1971 and the People’s Power Revolution of 1986 may be a reminder what the Philippines went through to get rid of a corrupt political family, only to have them replaced with other corrupt politicians. P.S. The US did evacuate the Marcos at the request of Cory Aquino. The cables are still available at the US Dept. of State.

  2. M. wrote:

    As a non-Filipino I wonder why Imelda and her childern are able to hold government postions and elected office?
    Filipinos have forgotten about the over 20 or more years that the Marcos’s and their helpers had stolen untold of billions of dollars (only God know the true amount of billions of dollars and gold that was stolen?) from the coffers of the government they were in charge of.

    The so called 100 billion scam was just a small change vs what was stolen during the Marcos’s in power in the Philippines.

    I wonder why Filipino and Fil-am journalists have never written much about all the money/gold that was never recoverd by the Pilipino governments that took power after the yellow revolution?

    • RobDH wrote:

      A Lot of the Marcos plunder actually went directly to about 1,324 individuals (US Dept. of State Cable A2142), most of who are still living in the Philippines. Many serve in the opposition to the current administration. Many were allowed to depart for safe haven in other countries. Most of plunder went to the Philippine Senate “Dirty Dozen” who decided to back Cory. She made a deal with the devil, so Marcos could seek asylum in Hawaii. The US never would have evacuated him without the deal sealed. Imelda has never been convicted of anything other than having a ‘shoe fetes’.

    • Couple reasons why the Marcoses still get into office.

      First, when Marcos was president, he favoured the Ilocos region where he was from and put attention to developing it. People from there were and still are the biggest Marcos supporters. When Marcos fled to Hawaii, it helped a great deal that most Filipinos in Hawaii are Ilocanos. (The reason is historical — in the plantation days, they used to ship in workers from Ilocos to Hawaii; today Filipinos are the largest ethnic bloc in Hawaii and most seem to be Ilocanos.)

      Second, there still are people in the country who genuinely believe things were better under Marcos. They believe crime and poverty was down, but arguably it was because Marcos controlled the media and kept hush the bad stuff. Marcos was known to be politically-manipulative. Plus Imelda had her “Edifice Complex” and built grandiose things, so that reinforced the idea that they were helping the country grow — since the media wouldn’t report on the poverty.

      I didn’t like Marcos but Cory Aquino wasn’t that great either. She made bad policy decisions and her administration wasn’t run well. One dumb one was agreeing to honour the loans the Marcos government took from other countries — the Philippines ended up paying back to other countries the money that the Marcoses took. Keeping up with the loans, all while politicians are still stealing, makes it that much harder for the country to get back on track. Before Marcos, it was economically second only to Japan in Asia; because of bad economy exacerbated by the mounting debt, in the 90s the Philippines became the “Sick Man of Asia.” So in the eyes of the Marcos supporters, when Cory Aquino came in and made her mistakes too, they were nostalgic for the good old days when Marcos at least ostensibly kept the peace and kept the country moving forward.

      The media in the Philippines reports on the Marcos stolen wealth quite a bit. Try looking around YouTube, there are a lot of news reports on it, and every few months there’s a new news story reporting some recovered money. Filipino-Americans seem to just be focused on helping their kind reminisce about home and keeping their Filipino identity and bonds together as a community in the US, rather than actually reporting on current events. Or so it seems to me. That’s why the Fil-Am news is never hard-hitting and it’s always the soft stuff.

      I hope Marcos Junior doesn’t get elected but one thing I gotta say for him is that he’s at least smart. He’s an Oxford grad. Their whole family gives me the willies though, and it would be strange if he won because the country still celebrates every year for the anniversary of his father’s downfall. It would be bizarre. The current VP Binay is another terrible one whom I wish would disappear. Binay also has his eyes on the presidency. They’re almost all terrible in their own ways.

    • please also search my articles here that corresponds to my name…MARCOSES one sentence…. in govt. corruption is always a shadow to all, its all about balancing the ill and the legal.. to have a homeostasis…

  3. m wrote:

    regarding the news media, press and journalists in the Philippines and USA. They have been soft on the Marcos’s becuase they have been paid money to insure that they will cover good news about the Marcos-era and Marcos’s family in general. Napoli and her scam helpers have done the same. The Naploi’s were living the high life in Hollywood and, they have been courting with gifts, parties and favors the American and Filpino based journalist living and working in Hollywood until the shit hit the fan.

    Why Fil-Am paper never did hit hard the Marcos clan? Becuase they were bought and paid by Imedla’s helpers in the USA; those loyal to the family becuase, they have benefited from the ill begotten wealth by the Marcos control of the Philippine Govt for over two decades.

  4. RobDH wrote:

    Just like Aquinos’ Ombudsman and COA will never reveal the Pork Scam covering Aquino’s tenure. Too many of his cronies, and maybe family members would at the head of the list to go to jail.

  5. m wrote:

    Sir Rob, the true story about the Napoli 100 billion pseso scam (about 2 1/2) US billion dollars is never going to be told it like it is by the Philippine goverment, scam makers and news media/press.

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