Imelda’s sweet sauce

That is the title of a New York Times review on the Broadway musical “Here Lives Love.” Written by Ian Buruma, it goes beyond the usual critique of a musical, as shown on the Public Theater stage. Buruma splices keen insights.
“The audience left happily jigging along with music (by David Byrnes) And I thought to the only time I had lunch with Marcos and Imelda ( in their Hawaiin exile home) Imelda was talking about Ninoy Aquino. ‘’You know’, she said about the man for whose violent death she might have been partly responsible.’He was all sauce and no substance. Marcos: “But honey, that is the essence of Filipino politics.
The pop opera is performed in a made up disco with constantly shifting stages sliding across the floor. The Public Theater audience is coaxed by raucous DJ and pink suited ushers to bopping along with the actorx.
“Filipinos have a word for this,” Buruma writes. Palabas, meaning show or farce. Much in the Philippines is palabas, including, alas, much of its politics. The Marcos dictatorship (1965-1986) was corrupt, kleptomancial, and sometimes brutal, was full of palabas.
“Power was gilded with show and giant parties….Ferdinand Marcos himself was a ruthless operator, more than a showman. He went for the power. His wife provided much of the palabas
In the musical, Imelda is very well sung by Ruthie Anne Miles. Naïve and mawkish, she emerges as “a tinsely fiesta queen.” What follow is a variation of the “The Rake’s Progress”: sentiments are corrupted by increasing power. Delusion ends up bringing her down.”
The show’s pop songs fit perfectly. “The provincial beauty queen becomes a power-hungry pseudo monarch, expecting her people tpo love her shows of wild lavishness, her dances with dictators as much as
she does.
In fact, many of them do —in the way poor people take vicarious pleasure in the abundance of their kings and queens. The musical gives her shenningans a kind of tawdry allure…It was precisely the pop glamour of the Marcos dictatorship that made it so insidious….”
Although the play has the best songs of Benigno Aquino Jr, is the less interesting. The audience keeps bopping until the tarmac assassination.
“In real life, his killing in 1983, on return from exile, was the beginning of another massive palabas: massive street demos, with sentimental pop songs strummed by guitar-playing Freddie Aguilar…One of the slogans,. ubiquitous in the sea of yellow T-shirts was: ‘A Filipino Is Worth Dying For.”
Ninoy Aquino in life is a less saintly figure than he appears in the show. He was a catalyst for a cult that would revolve around his wife: Coarzon ‘Cory’ Aquino. Was Cory’s brand of palabas religious?
“A modest housewife for most of her life, Cory…emerged as the saint of People Power. ..Her newly acquired charisma, backed by the Catholic Church, was one of the factors that brought the Marcos autocracy down…
The stage play could have made more of this. But the ending seems a bit rushed with merely the noise of the helicopters that lifted the disgrace couple from their palace….
“The real sadness of the Philippines is that the carnival of Saint Cory did so little to improve the lives of most Filipinos. Power remains in the hands of a few land owning immensely rich families, including the Aquinos themselves. The current president is Aquino’s son —not a dictator to be sure, which is at least something…

“Imelda is now in her 80s, (she won) a seat in the House of Representatives, with her stolen wealth intact. Her daughter is governor of Ferdinand Marcos’ native province. And the majority of the population is still much poorer than it ought to be.
“And the palabas just goes on, and on, and on.”