Looking Back

Jewelry, cash, guns in 1986 Marcos hoard

Imelda Marcos, like it or not, is the only Filipina who is truly an international celebrity, though she is recognized worldwide for all the wrong reasons. She set the bar on which others are measured and found wanting, such as Rosmah Mansor, wife of disgraced former prime minister Najib Razak of Malaysia.

Mansor made international headlines last May when Malaysian police raided the Razak residences and carted away truckloads of cash, jewelry and other assets that included 284 signature orange Hermes boxes for Birkin bags. These bags cost from $11,000 each for starter models to $50,000, and are so coveted that they sell for far more on the secondary market, like coveted paintings by BenCab and Borlongan in the frenzied Philippine art market.


Birkins outperform gold and S&P 500 investments, so the “Bag Lady of Malaysia” seems to have invested people’s money well.

Mansor was chided by headlines as an “Imelda wannabe” and called the “Imelda Marcos of Malaysia.” Some others, with a mixture of pride and shame, noted “how Rosmah made Imelda look like a cheapskate amateur.” Her defense, meanwhile, sounded familiar: “As a woman and as the wife of a leader, I have to look made up, neat, and take care of my appearance. It is also embarrassing for Malaysians when other countries make fun of the sloppy wife of Malaysia’s prime minister.”


Those news clips of the Malaysian police carting out the former PM’s ill-gotten wealth reminded many Filipinos of Malacañang in 1986 after the Marcoses fled. We should remember that, in February 1986, US Customs impounded the luggage on a second cargo plane that accompanied Marcos and 88 others into exile in Hawaii.

These “personal effects” included 22 cardboard boxes of cash—bundles of Philippine banknotes in all denominations (P100, P50, P20, P10 and P5), some in brown paper bags, some in “Christmas packs” that came with an engraved (personalized?) Panasonic 8003 Auto Constant Pocket calculator. The cash amounted to $1.2 million.

The 1986 Customs Inventory detailed everything. Aside from cash and jewels were two religious images in two separate crates: a ceramic statue of a seated Jesus, and “one statue infant Jesus of Prague (El Niño), ivory with hammered silver mantle with one diamond gold necklace, one gold cross with chain, one gold medallion and chain, one small box with gold medallion.” No value was given for these, perhaps because they were religious objects.

The contents of “1 Alligator bag, 2 Louis Vuitton bags, 2 Gucci suitcases, 4 suitcases, and 4 attache cases” were itemized. The lone brown alligator bag with black cover contained: “1 diamond-studded hair comb ($44,410); 1 gold crown with diamonds and 22 mabe pearls and cultured pearls ($18,835); 1 necklace with 5 large sapphires, with diamonds and 7 small sapphires (376,990); 1 emerald brooch (8 emeralds) with diamonds ($768,910); 1 tiara with mabe pearl center with diamonds and rubies ($47,105); 1 set comprised of 1 bracelet, 1 pair earrings and 1 brooch consisting of sapphires, rubies, diamonds ($1,487,415); 1 tiara with six s/s pearls and diamonds from Catchpole & Williams, 510 Oxford Street, London, England ($58,286); 1 tiara with diamonds, 1 diamond in center approximately 4k ($30,500); 4 gold earrings ($140); 1 pair diamond earrings in gold setting ($2,745).”

One wonders what happened to the contents of a brown Louis Vuitton Foot Locker Style bag and the “154 assorted video tapes, 17 cassette tapes, and 2 assorted documents” reported to be in them.

An aluminum suitcase also had 37 items that included assorted jewelry: “1 Chopard women’s wrist watch goldset with diamonds and rubies ($5,115); 1 Piaget wrist watch goldset with diamonds ($12,000); man’s gold Rolex watch ($7,500); Filand Quartz watch ($25); Men’s Seiko watch ($75); Men’s Casio watch ($50); Cartier table clock ($500); 1 pair cufflinks ($149,575); 1 pair earrings ($32,865); 150 carats Burmese ruby with diamond brooch ($290,000); Ring from India ($10); Cufflinks (0, no value).”

Along with jewelry came guns: “25 caliber Beretta handgun, serial #76311V; .357 Magnum COP handgun, serial #006707, 4 shots; 9 mm Beretta handgun, serial #B00381Y; 9 caliber Beretta 93R handgun serial #B759272; 9 mm Walther handgun, serial #CW777.”


These were what the Marcoses brought in a hurry. Can you imagine what else would be there if they had packed with more time and thought?

Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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TAGS: Amberth R. Ocampo, Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda Marcos, Looking Back
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