Manila: Termites, storms and neglect have damaged part of former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos` legendary collection of shoes and other possessions left behind after she and her dictator husband were driven into US exile by a 1986 popular revolt.
Hundreds of pieces of late strongman Ferdinand Marcos` clothing, including the formal native see-through barong shirts he wore during his two-decade rule, have also begun to gather mold and fray after being stored for years without protection at the presidential palace and later at Manila`s National Museum, officials told The Associated Press on Sunday.
The Marcoses fled the Philippines at the climax of an army-backed "people power" revolt which became a harbinger of change in authoritarian regimes worldwide. Ferdinand Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in 1989 and his widow and children returned home years later.
They left staggering amounts of personal belongings, clothes and art objects at the palace, including at least 1,220 pairs of Imelda Marcos` shoes.
More than 150 cartons of clothes, dress accessories and shoes of the Marcoses were transferred to the National Museum for safekeeping two years ago after termites, humidity and mold threatened the apparel at the riverside palace.
They deteriorated further at the museum after the fragile boxes were abandoned in a padlocked hall that had no facilities to protect such relics and was inundated by tropical rains last month due to a gushing leak in the ceiling, museum officials said.
Museum staffers, who were not aware the boxes contained precious mementoes from the Marcoses, opened the hall on the fourth floor of the building after noticing water pouring out below the door. They were shocked to see Marcos` shoes and gowns when they opened the wet boxes, officials said.
Workers hurriedly moved the boxes to a dry room and some were later brought to a museum laboratory, where a small team of curators scrambled to assess the extent of the damage, a process that may take months given the huge volume of the apparel.
Some items have been damaged by termites and mold beyond repair, according to museum curator Orlando Abinion, who is heading the effort.
"We`re doing a conservation rescue," Abinion told the AP. "There was termite infestation and mold in past years, and these were aggravated by last month`s storm."
Imelda Marcos, now a member of the House of Representatives, was not available for comment on sunday.
Her massive shoe collection, including top US and European brands, astounded the world and became a symbol of excess in the Southeast Asian nation, where many still walked barefoot out of abject poverty.