Philippines: Imelda Marcos' 90th birthday ends with hundreds falling sick

Some 2,500 people gathered in a sports stadium in the capital Manila on Tuesday for a daylong celebration of Imelda Marcos' 90th birthday, yet the event was not the happy affair that many had hoped for.

After feasting on a breakfast of chicken stew with egg and rice, some 260 guests had to be hospitalized with food poisoning.

"Our ambulances took people to hospital after they complained of dizziness and vomiting. They apparently suffered from food poisoning," said Philippines Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon.

"I wasn't that hungry so I only ate the egg and a little steamed rice. I vomited and an ambulance took me to the Rizal Medical Center where I was given an IV drip. I blame the cook," one guest told news agency AFP after the event. "Everyone knows Madame is blameless since she was not the one who cooked."

The Marcos family offered an official apology and vowed to help those who fell ill.

Reagan's welcome

Imelda Marcos was the widow of former Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose regime was notorious for its corruption and brutality.

Read more: Philippines ex-dictator Ferdinand Marcos buried at the country's Heroes' Cemetery

An international pariah, Marcos was forced to flee the country in 1986 after a peaceful, army-backed revolt ousted him from power.

Marcos and his affiliates reportedly misappropriated at least $10 billion (€8.85 billion) in public funds during his reign.

Imelda Marcos gained notoriety when more than 2,700 pairs of luxury shoes and mountains of jewelry were discovered in the presidential palace after she and her family had fled to the US.

With the blessing of US President Ronald Reagan, the family was transported to Hawaii, where they lived in exile. Ferdinand Marcos died there three years later.

Political comeback

After Ferdinand's death, Imelda and her children returned to the Philippines where they embarked on an astonishing political comeback.

The couple's son, Ferdinand junior, served as a representative from 2007 to 2010 and then in the Senate from 2010 to 2016. Their daughter, Imee, was elected to the Senate in May.

Imelda Marcos ended her third term in the country's House of Representatives last month, a position she held for nine years.

Read more: Filipinos 'outraged' by Marcos' burial

Criminal family with friends in high places

The former first lady is currently free on bail while she appeals a corruption conviction handed down last November. Marcos was found guilty of having used Swiss foundations as a vehicle to funnel some $200 million out of the country while her husband was in power.

The conviction could theoretically put her behind bars for decades, though Marcos has steadfastly denied all wrongdoing.

While the family is reviled by many, it also has admirers, including strongman President Rodrigo Duterte.

Despite public outcry, Duterte recently ordered former dictator Ferdinand Marcos' remains interred at the Heroes' Cemetery in Manila.

js/amp (AFP, AP)

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