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Imelda’s Shoe-Shine Man Never Short Of Work

October 6, 1988

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Bonifacio Santos, whose mother never owned more than one pair of shoes at a time, may be one of the country’s foremost experts on footwear. His job: he shines Imelda Marcos’ shoes.

Santos says it’s a full-time job to polish and buff the 2,400 pairs of shoes that Imelda left behind when she and her husband, Ferdinand Marcos, fled to Hawaii after the February 1986 uprising that toppled his administration.

For maintaining the thousands of dollars worth of shoes, about half of which are on display at the Malacanang Palace museum, Santos earns 2,300 pesos, or $115, per month.

″I know my salary is not enough to buy even one pair of imported shoes like these,″ said Santos, 29.

Soon after the Marcos administration collapsed, President Corazon Aquino’s government announced that the former first lady had left behind 3,000 pairs of shoes, most of them imported.

Eva Toledo, curator of the museum, said later inventories reduced the figure to ″only″ 2,400 pairs, some of which were found in Marcos residences throughout the Philippines.

″I was shocked when I first saw them,″ said Santos, one of 16 children. ″When my mother’s shoes wore a hole in the bottom, she’d get a new pair. That’s the way it is with most of us Filipinos.″

Santos said he spends every Friday brushing the dust from the shoes. The rest of the week is devoted to polishing and buffing. By the time he finishes polishing every pair, it’s time to start all over again.

″I clean the shoes with shoe polish,″ he said. ″I have to use so many colors to match the shoes. We’ve had to wrap some of them in plastic now, just to protect them.″

The collection includes elegant high heels, slippers with giant pompons and one pair with battery-operated, five-inch heels that glow. Most are imported. Imelda’s size, 8 1/2 , is hard to find in a country where the average woman wears a size 6 shoe.

Santos says proudly that his own brown shoes are strictly ″locally made.″

Toledo said the government cannot get rid of the shoes until a court decides who owns them. The shoes, along with millions of dollars worth of property, businesses and other possessions, were seized by the government when Marcos fled the country.

″We will have to continue taking care of them,″ she said.

Toledo said the shoes must be continually polished to prevent deterioration because of high humidity and poor storage facilities.

About half the collection is stored in the basement of Malacanang Palace, beneath Imelda’s former bedroom. The palace is on the banks of the Pasig River, and water is seeping up from the basement floor.

Toledo said that although the Marcos family spent a fortune acquiring personal possessions, they appear to have made little effort to provide for care and maintenance.

″Water oozes up through here and there’s nothing we can do about it,″ she said, tapping her feet on the tiled basement floor.

Santos said that despite his shock at the Marcos’ excesses, he’s proud of his job, which he considers a ″service to the Filipino people.″

″And besides, without a job, I’d go hungry,″ he added.

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