A question kept going around the room: Where was President Marcos?

As Philippine Ambassador Benjamin Romualdez and his wife, Juliette, greeted the more than 2,000 guests who milled throughout the reception at the Corcoran last night, many wondered where the guests of honor, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda, were.

Imelda Marcos made her entrance. Dressed in a long green gown, patterned after the native Balintawak, with stiff, puffed sleeves, she moved slowly through the jammed first floor shaking hands. The large entourage of Philippine and American press followed her, as did many of the guests.

But where was her husband?

Government officials, White House staffers, Philippine Embassy employes, businessmen and invited guests from both Manila and Washington ate from the bowls of peeled shrimp, the trays of chicken, platters of turkey and from the large mountains of fresh fruit.

Still no President Marcos.

As if playing for time, The Singing Bamboos, with their xylophones and flutes, played "Yellow Bird" during the early part of the evening.

And as the night wore on, Sen. John Warner (R.-Va.) still hadn't seen President Marcos and neither had Attorney General William French Smith or his wife.

"Is he going to arrive?" someone asked his wife.

"Definitely."

But others in the crowd said they'd heard he wasn't. No one seemed to know for sure.

Then the answer came: Marcos arrived, complete with security men leading dogs sniffing for bombs.

He was a little late, but the cameras flashed nonetheless.

Then, as a greeting to her husband, Mrs. Marcos seized a microphone. While her husband watched, she sang. The song was "Feelings."

Many of the guests had already eaten and run.

Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, stayed long enough to get through the first receiving line with Juliette Romualdez.

Secretary of State George Shultz, surrounded by men wired with ear plugs, was moved swiftly up the stairs, back down and out the side entrance, with time enough only to give a rating of "excellent" to the Marcos visit. He stopped to shake hands with Ambassador Romualdez, who also darted through the crowd, wearing formal Philippine garb.

Making just a little bit bigger entrance earlier had been Mrs. Marcos who, three-deep in security, had moved slowly in from the side entrance saying hello to each person in her path. One guest who stopped her said, "You work the crowd like a U.S. politician."

"You never know," she replied with a smile, going along with the joke.

When asked about how the visit had been so far, she said with a sigh, "So far, so good. I'm glad the president was finally able to visit. It was long overdue."