Imelda Marcos made her triumphant return to Washington last night. And the party wasn't over until the First Lady sang.
For most of the night her eyes were full of tears. Her left hand tightly clutched a frilly black silk handkerchief.
"My countrymen, my friends," she said, standing before an adoring group of 90 people in the Manila Restaurant in Georgetown, "it has been nine years since our last state visit. I came here the last time to inaugurate this restaurant. To have something here to represent the Philippines. Today has become a memorable and beautiful day."
The widow of deposed Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos, in town through tomorrow for the national congressional prayer conference, was the guest of honor for a last-minute dinner given by the local Filipino community. They welcomed her, bearing bouquets of red roses.
And she thanked them with a lengthy, campaignlike speech.
"Miracle after miracle happened" after she prayed for help following her indictment on fraud and racketeering charges last year, Marcos said. First, bail came from "an outstanding American lady," she said, referring to tobacco heiress Doris Duke as her "Statue of Liberty."
"And on July 2, my 61st birthday," she said, "the best birthday gift I ever had. The verdict of not guilty. Divine justice.
"For 35 years, my life really was a fairy tale," she continued. "I lived in Fantasy Island all the time. I garnered all the envy. Then suddenly, I went down to the real world." She paused and surveyed the guests. "But there is where you see the real people."
Stop right there, Imelda. Real people do not have a diamond the size of a walnut sandwiched between two diamond-studded wedding bands. And on the other hand a lump of gold covered with, say, another 50 or so smaller diamonds. And a diamond bracelet on each wrist, a diamond bow to hold up mounds of hair, a large diamond-encrusted brooch, serious diamond teardrop earrings and a gold compact with name inlaid with diamonds. Oh, and perfect black pumps lightly decorated in something looking like, er, diamonds.
"Did you see those rings?" asked New York stylist Antoine Debarras.
"If you admire something she has," said Linda Smith, "you know, she'll give it to you."
"Well, maybe not anymore," said Sabino Lino Reyes.
"I hear the Swiss banks just returned $300 million to the Filipino government," said Debarras. "Can you believe that?"
"She was a former Miss Manila, you know," said Smith.
"She's still very pretty," added Marivic Rosete.
"Except for the weight," said Debarras.
"I hope she goes back to the Philippines," said Rosete.
"Regardless of what happened," said Reyes, "she's a living legend."
Guests dined on milk fish (the national fish) and spicy vegetables named after the Philippine express train -- but Marcos didn't touch a morsel. Mostly she fidgeted with her silverware, her compact, her hankie and her handbag -- a black and pave' pouch with images of the Chrysler and Empire State buildings. Her fingernails were meticulously manicured -- a dusty rose with the moons and tips outlined in white.
After dinner, Ronaldo Puno, 13, and his sister Tami, 12, sang a "novelty song" -- a rap piece they had written for Madame Marcos just that afternoon.
Her name was Imelda
The fairest in the land.
Gentlemen near and far
Sought this lady's hand.
Enchanted by her beauty,
Dazzled by her voice
Was one great man
Who wanted to be her only choice.
Oh, Imelda and Ferdie, Imelda and Ferdie.
This, naturally, brought tears to her eyes.
For the finale, the audience asked her to sing, as is her tradition. She obliged with two Filipino love songs and one American, "If You Love Me."