Imelda Papin on being a Marcos loyalist

Imelda Papin

There are many ways to view Imelda Papin, who is regarded as “Asia’s Sentimental Songstress.”

From the sociopolitical standpoint, she is not a turncoat. The public moves she makes all seem to involve her political alliances—win or lose—particularly when she sought public office in Camarines Sur and in Bulacan.

She has never turned her back on the Marcoses since she associated herself with them. Even if she is jeered as an avid Marcos supporter, she keeps her cool. Some entertainment writers have set them apart, but she knows where she stands.

As a chanteuse, she is an open book as a Marcos loyalist, even to a fault. Indeed, she’s an extension of the so-called Marcos magic, which is why in her latest outing as a producer of the movie “Loyalista: The Untold Story of Imelda Papin,” from her Queenstar Film Productions, she is eternally breathing and wearing red—the Marcos color.

Imelda Papin 2
The singer (center) with Maffi Papin (to her right), ER Ejercito (to her left) and John (right) who emceed the premiere night of “Loyalista: The Untold Story of Imelda Papin” at SM Megamall last November.

Her story, translated and helmed in reels by Gabby Ramos, is an entirely linear narrative, carefully avoiding onscreen clashes with “yellowtards” (Cory Aquino loyalists) or anyone anathema to her hero.

The biofilm is about her stay in Hawaii, where she joined the exiled Marcoses after the February 1986 “People Power” uprising. It premiered at SM Megamall last November. 

Claudine Barretto plays Imelda Papin overzealously and fanatically, reeking of Marcos idolatry as well. ER Ejercito tackles the role of the former strongman Ferdinand Marcos and parrots him with pastiche.

Gary Estrada breathes life to Bong Carrion, the late husband of Mel (Papin’s pet name), and Alice Dixson portrays Imelda Marcos. Both actors use their best efforts to deliver on their roles. 


Why is Imelda Papin a dyed-in-the-wool Marcos loyalist?

Dave Rojo, former publicist of Vicor Music Corp., traced it back to the long-ago invitations from the Palace: “Naku, noong mga late ’70s at early ’80s, ‘yang mga recording artist ng Vicor at Blackgold, kung imbitahin ang mga ‘yan sa Malacañang ng mga Marcos, particularly ‘yang si Imelda Papin, gano’n na lang.” 

Rojo expressed amazement at how the local talents were feted at the Palace with pomposity and lavishness. He named Dulce, Sharon Cuneta, Anthony Castelo, Lea Salonga, Hagibis (composed of the late Sonny Parsons and Bernie Fineza, Joji Garcia, Mike Respall and Mon Picazo), and Imelda Papin as regular guests of the Marcoses in Malacañang.

According to him, whenever the first lady threw a party by the Pasig River, those close to Vic del Rosario, one of the producers of Vicor with Orly Ilacad, were invited.

He recalled how they were pampered with gifts: “‘Yang Hagibis, pagkagaling sa Malacañang, magpapasikat sa akin ang mga ‘yan. Binibigyan sila ng mga regalo ni Imelda Marcos. Ipapakita ng mga ‘yan sa akin ‘yong mga relos na ginto na may pictures nina Marcos. Alam ko, hindi naman ginto, pero gold-plated.” 

Rojo, who went to the United States and worked there before the 1986 Edsa Revolution, said Imelda Papin became close to the Marcoses because her songs were hits at the time: “Siyempre, sinakyan ‘yon ni Imelda Marcos dahil sikat ang mga kanta ni Imelda Papin sa masa—at magkapareho pa ang pangalan nila.” 

Asked if certain other performers trooped to the Palace for its parties at the time, Rojo said: “No. Hindi sumasama si Celeste Legaspi sa imbitasyon sa Malacañang. Si Kuh Ledesma, hindi rin sumasama. Si Basil Valdez, hindi rin.”

All the famous singers at the time were under contract with Vicor, so Malacañang always called on them.

Aileen Grace Arcilla Papin, the singer’s youngest sister, agreed that “Ate Mel” started becoming close to the Marcoses when she was invited by the then first lady as “guest” in Malacañang.

What did her sister gain from being close to the Marcoses? “Wala (None),” Aileen Papin said abruptly. She said that even when the singer ran for vice governor of Camarines Sur in 1998, she got no financial support from the Marcoses.

But she added that for the singer’s last candidacy, Bonget (President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.) sent a bus: “Nito lang huling kumandidato si Ate Mel, ano lang, ‘yong bus lang ang ipinadala sa Bicol ni Bonget.” 


Imelda Papin’s evolution into a Marcos loyalist did not happen overnight. She said she was apolitical at the time and only wanted to sing, realize her dream of being a recording artist, make a name for herself, and support her family.

“I started being close to the Marcoses when they invited me to sing for the KBL (Kilusan Bagong Lipunan) rally at the time,” the singer recounted.

She said that when the election for the Interim Batasang Pambansa was held in 1978, she was asked to join the nationwide KBL sorties to help in the campaign:  “I was at the peak of my singing career. Kinuha nila akong magkampanya para sa kanila.” 

“And then,” she said, she and her then fiancé asked the then first couple to stand as their wedding sponsors. The singer married Jose Antonio “Bong” Carrion, the late former governor of Marinduque, at the Manila Cathedral in 1982.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a Marcos loyalist?

Ang advantage, I was able to say what I really feel for them,” Papin said, adding that people don’t know the real score. “The disadvantages? You are misinterpreted. ’Yong mga tao na hindi alam ang tunay na kuwento. What’s wrong with being a loyalist? Being loyal to a person … is a virtue. Loyalty to the country, to God, shouldn’t be questioned. But many people misunderstand me. It’s okay with me. I respect their opinions. I feel comfortable about it.”

Has she gained materially from being a Marcos loyalist? “No. As a matter of fact, [we lost the house and lot that we hocked] when we were supporting the loyalists in sympathizing with the Marcoses at the rally in front of Bayview Hotel and the US Embassy,” she said.


One thing I admire in Imelda Papin, on the personal level, is her fastidiousness. As a celebrity photo and video subject, she is very particular about the way she would appear on-cam during pictorials and other visuals.

I remember that when I had to interview her for the erstwhile public affairs show, “Action 9” at the defunct Radio Philippines Network Channel 9 hosted by Angelique Lazo, Ramon Tulfo, Rey Langit and the late Dong Puno. she had just arrived from Hawaii after years of spending life with the Marcoses in exile.

Along with other movie reporters in the early ‘80s, I did all sorts of things for Papin. We served as publicists, retinue in her concerts and other public appearances, troubleshooters, etc., and we developed a certain bond with each other. 

Our group (Lhar Santiago, Obette Serrano, Roland Lerum and myself) was also collectively known as the “Shoulder Bag Beauties” because we were given identical shoulder bags by the late talent manager Dr. Rey de la Cruz, discoverer and handler of such performers as Leila Hermosa, Rio Locsin, Myrna Castillo, Sarsi Emmanuelle, Pepsi Paloma and Myra Manibog.

During my on-cam interview as a star reporter for Lazo’s show biz news portion (she also had Lazo Files, a segment on hard news and current events), Imelda Papin was calling the shots on where to conduct the interview and what facial angle to focus on—but not the questions I would ask, as she knew how to handle them, no matter how controversial or ticklish.

Rojo said Papin would instruct him to take care of her publicity even if he was the one looking after Kuh Ledesma (whom Papin considered her rival at the time). He was handling Blackgold Records, where Kuh was signed up, while Papin was with Vicor.

He recalled that the two singers had a concert at the Araneta Coliseum. “After the show, flowers were handed to Kuh, but none to Mel. She thought the flowers were from Vicor. Actually, they were from Kuh’s office,” he said, chuckling, during an unexpected meeting with Papin at an art exhibit of visual artist and actor Dranreb Belleza at the University of the Philippines’ Art Circle Gallery last August.

According to Rojo, Papin didn’t confront him at the time. As a matter of fact, he said, in their latest encounter after more than 30 years, she was very sweet with him—all bygones were bygones.

Until now, Papin has her own way of asserting herself without being offensive. She puts on her makeup even if there’s an assigned artist to do it. 

She knew and still knows how to drive her own career. The late movie writer Junne Quintana might have been her discoverer and manager, but she also had her own plans for herself.

And she never runs out of strategies to sustain her career and popularity: She produces her own concerts, recordings, TV shows, films, and other media ventures.

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