Imelda Marcos Image Credit: AP

Manila: Former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos forced his military chiefs to parade as women during a tasteless, sycophantic birthday party planned by his unstable wife, according to US diplomatic cables.

The US ambassador to the Philippines in the mid-1970s, William Sullivan, wrote a series of blistering criticisms of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos in secret cables that have since been published by WikiLeaks.

In one of the reports, dated September 12, 1973, Sullivan recounted a “two-day blast” of a party for Ferdinand Marcos that he said was at odds with state-controlled media reports that he “spent a quiet birthday at his desk”. “In general, every aspect of the occasion was too much, too long, and in questionable taste,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan wrote that one of the lowest points was when military chiefs were required, under instructions from Imelda Marcos, to perform in a presidential palace floor show “in garish female attire”.

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile confirms this and more in his 750-page book entitled A Memoir, released last September.

In his book, Enrile named the dancing generals as former President Fidel Ramos, Armed Forces chief Gen. Romeo Espino, Philippine Army chief Gen. Rafael Zagala, Phil Air Force chief Gen. Jose Rancudo and Philippine Navy chief Admiral Hilario Ruiz.

Noting how the party began, Enrile said: “There was a lull, and I saw the First Lady walk to the microphone. With a naughty smile, she asked the military to contribute its share to the festivity... The generals were all attired in straw skirts and high-heeled shoes. They were wearing bras…Their lips were painted red with lipstick.”

Noting how this entertained the guests while others were also uncomfortable, Enrile said  the incident was “pathetic, ridiculous, and disgusting.”

He added, “It seemed to me that the First Lady wanted to impress her guests that she was that powerful—that even under martial law, everyone, including the generals of the military, would kowtow to her whims.”

With inputs from AFP